There's an expression in Vegas that the locals love to drop: "This town wasn't built on winners." There's some truth to it. As one of the largest tourist destinations, not just in America, but in THE WHOLE DAMN WORLD, Sin City has perfected the art of keeping people happy and entertained while ripping holes in their pockets.
But here's the thing. Most of you are in town for a bachelor/ette party. Or a wedding. Or your best friend's 21st birthday party. You'll be blackout drunk within the first three hours you arrive on the Strip, and you'll stay that way until you leave three days later. You'll lose money, then win some, then lose it all again, all while throwing shade at the one friend in your group who hit it big and responsibly cashed out and never touched the slots again. You won't remember where you ate or the clubs you hit up or the lap dance from Destiny at the strip club because Vegas has a tendency to blur together in the 24/7 madness. And you'll love every minute of it—even the part where you found yourself sobering up in the horror that is Circus Circus—because VEGAS, BABY!
During its days of glory, Las Vegas was where the OG panty droppers went to spend money, chill with their mafia pals, and sometimes sing a song or two. The Rat Pack, Elvis, Tom Jones—all those guys lived that cool AF Ocean's Eleven life. These days, you've got Britney Spears, Celine Dion, and an endless crew of corny magicians running the Strip. Not gonna hate on Cirque du Soleil, though. Those mofos are mad athletic.
It's not all bad. There's still good music and delicious restaurants. The best DJs in the world stop by nightly. And there are worse things to do at 10:30 AM than hitting up a pool party. But if you want to get to know the REAL Vegas, the one with the growing hip-hop scene, restaurants owned by locals, and some damn fine desert and mountain scenery, you might have to venture AWAY from the Strip once in awhile. But don't worry. We'll hold your hand the whole way.
THE LAY OF THE LAND
You may have noticed that in some of our other city guides, we've referenced "neighborhoods we like." Vegas doesn't quite work like other cities. Try asking a local where they live. They'll rarely give you a neighborhood or town. The response will either be cross streets or a compassed version of the city ("I live in North LV."). Away from the Strip, Las Vegas is extremely spread out and development is always stopping and starting, creating new residential zones. For the purposes of this guide, these are the places you should know.
The Las Vegas Strip, aka the Strip
When you think of Vegas or watch movies about Vegas, this is where it all happens. All the major hotels, restaurants, casinos, etc. are situated along or (important to note) just off Las Vegas Boulevard. For example, the Palms and Hard Rock are not on Las Vegas Boulevard, but are often still referred to as being on the Strip. But we're about to blow your mind, because...
THE STRIP IS NOT ACTUALLY IN LAS VEGAS.
It's technically south of the city limits in the towns of Paradise and Winchester. But remember that thing above about neighborhoods/towns not really being a thing? There you go.
A couple warnings about the Strip. First, if you happen to be sober and out-and-about during the day, it's a complete eyesore. The buildings look sad in the sunlight, and the surrounding brown and orange hues will be an aggressive reminder that you're in the desert. But damn, when that town lights up at night, people flip their shit. If your flight comes in after dark, you'll definitely want a window seat.
Second, the Strip is much longer than you think. Depending on your source, it runs between 4.2 and 4.5 miles. Not blocks. MILES. Think about that when you decide to wear your highest, most uncomfortable shoes for a night of casino and club hopping. Nothing will be as close as you want it to be. Just getting from one end of your hotel to the other can take 20 minutes. Please don't be gross and start walking around barefoot. You will step in things that will give you nightmares for years. Go to the nearest pharmacy and buy those cheap flats that fold up and fit in a clutch.
The airport, UNLV, and most of the Strip is in this "town." You will likely go your entire stay without ever hearing the word "Paradise," but if you do, this is what's being referred to.
Fremont/ The Arts District/ Downtown Las Vegas
The original Vegas. Fremont Street houses some of the classic casinos, most of which have seen better days. In recent years, efforts have been put into revitalizing the area. Most of that is thanks to a huge investment from Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, and the Downtown Project. Despite some backlash in the last couple years, it's difficult to deny the impact the change has had for the people of Las Vegas. A good chunk of the new businesses that have sprung up are owned by locals instead of huge corporations, and enjoying a night out won't break the bank. Yes, you'll still find meth heads wandering the streets (and occasionally trying to break into your car), but you'll also find delicious food, the best of the LV music scene, and a community of old and new artists.
Like most large cities, Las Vegas has its own Chinatown. Unlike most large cities, the name is misleading. Businesses are just as likely to be run by Japanese/Thai/Vietnamese/Korean/Mexican people as they are by Chinese locals. The area is made up of shopping centers where the traditional unattractive strip mall architecture is sometimes embellished with Asian touches, but make no mistake, good eats abound.
Better known to locals as "gaming." Gaming, like the quickie divorce, has been legal in Vegas since 1931. You need to be 21 to play. People visit from abroad, especially Europe, and are surprised they can't gamble at 18. If you're underage, you will be booted.
Locals are known to partake in gaming as much as tourists. It's not unusual for someone to say, "I want to party hard tonight. Let's see if we can win the money we need to have a good time" and then hit up the nearest gaming spot for some slots or sports betting (way more fun if your team is in the game). Counterintuitive, we know, but it's been an effective strategy for the legal-aged youth of Las Vegas.
If you hit it big, there are a couple things you should know. First, if it's a non-table game (slots, keno, etc.), you will be forced to pay taxes on it, so expect some paperwork. Second, if you're playing in a bar or anywhere where the serving staff has been attentive, it's customary to leave a large tip in line with how much you've won. Don't be a dick.
We can sit here and recommend one casino over another, but in reality, luck is luck. Whether you're hitting the slots at the airport, in a CVS (because that's a thing), at the Bellagio, or at a rundown Station Casino, may the odds be ever in your favor.
Prostitution is legal in Vegas, right? Let's live out our Godfather dreams and order a bunch of hookers and do blow all night!
Prostitution is technically illegal in Clark County, which is where Las Vegas is located. There are legally operating and highly regulated brothels in Nevada, including the famous Moonlite Bunny Ranch, but be prepared to drive way outside the city. So if you accept a solicitation from that lady subtly-not-so-subtly roaming Las Vegas Boulevard telling everyone it's cool because it's legal, don't be surprised if there are consequences beyond just an STD.
For those of you who prefer not paying for full-on sex but still want some booty in your face, Vegas has no shortage of strip clubs. It's actually overwhelming. Everyone from your cab driver to the hotel staff will try to push different clubs on you (they get a healthy cut from the entry fees), and with so many options, how do you choose? Whether you want full-on nudity (Palomino), a dip in the pool while surrounded by topless women (Sapphire Pool), or just a nice buffet and steak to go with your show (Treasures), options abound.
And yes, Virginia, there are swingers clubs in Las Vegas, many of which are gently blended into strip malls like the delicate flower establishments they are. We can't make promises for how fuckable or STD free the people in these establishments are. Enter at your own risk.
A Note About Cops
It might be Sin City, but you can't get away with everything. Cops here are plentiful and are not to be messed with. Don't think you can make a scene on the Strip or in a casino and not have an encounter. They are EVERYWHERE. Try not to act a fool (in the illegal sense). Have you ever watched an episode of Cops set in Las Vegas? It's ridiculous. They've seen it all and then some, so do your best not to engage.
WHERE TO EAT
Since Vegas is an insanely popular tourist destination, most big name chefs have an outpost somewhere on the Strip: Daniel Boulud (DB Brasserie), Wolfgang Puck (CUT, Cucina, and quite a few more), Gordon Ramsey (Pub & Grill, Burgr, and Steak), Mario Carbone/Rich Torrisi (Carbone at the ARIA), Scott Conant (Scarpetta at the Cosmopolitan). The list goes on. Do any of these places offer the ambiance or impeccable food that the originals do? No. Of course not. This is Vegas. Everything is bigger and glossier. That doesn't mean the food isn't good. It's just not AS good, and it's sometimes way more expensive. So if you're visiting from anywhere that's not New York or LA, here's a chance to experience your favorite celebrity chef's food. If you are from New York or LA, it's not really worth it, and you're probably not feeling the celeb chefs back home anyway. There is one exception.
Rao's Las Vegas is the outpost of a legendary NYC family–owned red sauce joint that holds what some consider to be the world's most unattainable reservation. The place is tiny, and some of the city's most powerful players hold standing reservations, making it impossible for norms like me and you to get in. Rao's Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace, however, has plenty of availability. The Rao family is very much involved with the Vegas operation, so the food is pretty fucking good. The restaurant does have a "business casual" dress code, but as an underdressed tourist accompanied by his wife and young children recently told us before walking in, "They sell their sauce in my local supermarket. Fuck them. I'm wearing my shorts." From what we could tell, no one kicked him out.
A note about Las Vegas buffets: They are everywhere, expensive, expansive, and rarely any good. Buy in at your own risk. If you find one that's not expensive, be twice as wary. However, because casinos want you to stick around and gamble away your hard earned cash, it's pretty easy to come across discount or free buffet vouchers. If you're broke or don't want to interrupt your winning streak for too long, go ahead and put those vouchers to use.
If you're in town for more than a couple days, you'll eventually be jonesing to leave the Strip. That's where this list comes in. Don't be thrown off by how many decent places exist in strip malls. Vegas, like so many other rapidly growing cities, has occasionally fallen victim to cheap cookie-cutter construction.
Yes, the lowercase letters and the period are intentional. So is the delicious food cooked up by Chef Natalie Young. This downtown breakfast and lunch joint is only open until 3 PM during the week and until 2 PM on the weekend, and it does sometimes run out of the more popular dishes, so get there early (by Vegas standards, of course). The deviled eggs and the truffled egg sandwich are life.
Last September, celebrity chef Kerry Simon passed away from multiple-system atrophy. The staff at Carson Kitchen works hard to preserve his memory, and they're doing a hell of a job because the food is really, really good. The space is small with an open kitchen concept, but in the summer, the outdoor patio increases the size. Standouts on a recent visit included the veal meatballs, gyro tacos, and the mac 'n' cheese. Plates are designed to be shared, so take advantage.
Downtown Container Park
Architects are super into making green structures out of giant recycled containers these days. We're not sure why. The acoustics seem terrible and controlling the temperature seems like a daily struggle. Still, we have to admit, they did a decent job with the Downtown Container Park. There's a dope playground in the center that is often overrun by small children (and the occasional drunk adults), so if kids aren't your thing, you might have trouble relaxing around here. But the place has a bunch of decent eats. Some of the better ones include Pinches Tacos, Stoned N Baked, and Cheffini's Hot Dogs.
Pinches Tacos, a small California chain making its way through Vegas, has a sign outside its shop that reads "Real Mexican food by real Mexicans," and the smell inside validates the claim. The tortillas are all homemade, but they do tend to fall apart, so encourage the taco-makers to double wrap those delicious al pastor tacos. The agua fresca and horchata are sweet, but not nausea inducing. Micheladas are made with a choice of Dos Equis, amber, or lager. Just remember that "pinche" is considered a Mexican swear word in most households, so don't go throwing it around like a chingón.
Next door to Pinches Tacos, Cheffini's Hot Dogs is working the specialty hot dog angle. The signature sauces are where it's at, but as an unapologetic carnivore, we were surprised by how much we enjoyed the vegan dog too. If you're really in the mood to give yourself a heart attack, try the salchipapa (deep fried hot dog bits of your choice mixed with some fries and the signature fry sauce).
Newcomer to the Container Park, Stoned N Baked specializes in pizza and brownies (GET IT???). The pizzas range from $7–$10 and cook in five minutes thanks to a tiny oven-of-the-future imported from Naples that blasts the suckers in 800-degree heat. They come out surprisingly light and crispy, and there's a decent selection of fresh toppings. The brownies have stoner names like Heavenly Hash and Magic Bar, but they are, sadly, hash-free. Even so, they sell pretty fast, especially since Container Park employees make repeat visits throughout the day. The brownie flavors change daily, but if you come across the lemon bars or peanut butter brownies, pounce.
For some unknown reason, Rick Harrison, better known as "that guy from Pawn Stars" (Why do we always watch that show on planes? WHY?), decided to open his own mini-container park. The structure is... well... hideous. Hideous. But here are two reasons we can't totally hate on it: Pawn Donut and Coffee and Inna Gadda di Pizza. Pawn manages to fill the void left when O Face Doughnuts closed at the end of last year (RIP) by serving a mix of those fancy artisanal donuts that everyone's into these days (Love Me Tender, a chocolate, banana, and peanut butter concoction, would do Elvis proud) and classic donuts. A few doors down, Inna Gadda di Pizza is the closest thing Las Vegas has to a proper Brooklyn slice. Pro-tip: After Pawn closes for the day, the unsold donuts can be purchased at Inna Gadda for the whopping price of $2.00 for 3 donuts. We can, with some shame, confirm they still taste pretty damn good after 5:30 PM.
There are four locations of this increasingly popular pancake spot. The décor is unimpressive, but the specialty pancakes are on point. Surprisingly, the BabyStacks signature dish is not a pancake at all, but a dish called Lolo Rick's Adobo Fried Rice. The menu description calls it "a traditional Filipino dish made with marinated shredded chicken and rice. All wrapped up in omelette style eggs!" We would describe it as a fried rice burrito with an omelette in place of a tortilla. It's flavorful and enormous. Enhance the experience by upgrading to include a side of the best-selling red-velvet pancakes. It sounds like a disgusting combination. It's not.
The Egg and I/Egg Works
Remember when IHOP didn't serve food that looked like a someone sat on it before putting it in front of you? We don't either. Family owned breakfast joint the Egg and I and its sister restaurants, Egg Works, have been around since 1988 and 2005, respectively. There are six locations all over the city. The large menu features simple breakfast and lunch eats in the huge American portions people expect from Vegas. Some unexpected dishes are included, like Cincy chlli (that cinnamon flavored Cincinnati-style chili that gets served over spaghetti) along with some Hawaiian-inspired dishes. However, their strength is in—you guessed it—the egg dishes.
The Cornish Pasty Co.
Hidden in the desolate Village Square Shopping Center, perhaps best known for housing theGreen Door swingers club, the Arizona-born Cornish Pasty Co. specializes in, well, British pasties. The options are extensive, but the traditional (called the "Oggie"—steak, potatoes, onion, and rutabaga with a side of red wine gravy or ketchup) is a good starter choice. The Bangers and Mash Pasty features some homemade pork and sage sausage that goes down especially well with a cold beer. In addition, there are about 12 vegetarian/vegan options, so meat eaters and veg lovers can dine in harmony. The most expensive pasty is around $11, and there are always leftovers, so it's easy on the wallet.
Lotus of Siam
In the same desolate shopping center as the Cornish Pasty, Lotus of Siam is significantly easier to spot. The award-winning restaurant specializes in northern Thai cuisine and locals go seriously apeshit for the food. Yes, it has the ever-familiar pad thai and pad se-ew dishes, but are you really going to be THAT guy? Be proper and order just about any other dish. The chef, Saipin Chutima, has a James Beard Award for God's sake. Don't waste this opportunity.
This Chinatown sit-down restaurant features a selection of Chinese-American food (chicken and broccoli and those kinds of basics), but also traditional Hong Kong Chinese dishes that include varieties of shark fin soup and clay pot dishes. There are also plenty of seafood and vegetarian options. The imperial peking duck will set you back $48, but it can easily feed five or more people. That's a damn bargain, my friends. The place isn't 100 percent strictly Chinese. Other items on the menu nod to surrounding cultures. For example, you can get the imperial peking duck with tortillas instead of buns and wash the whole thing down with a Thai iced tea.
Down the road from Joyful House is Chinatown's Seoul Plaza (confusing, right?). Much like Chinatown isn't just Chinese businesses, Seoul Plaza isn't just Korean. The small strip mall comes hard with the food game. The best of the lot is a small Japanese ramen place called Monta. The service is super friendly, and the ramen might be the most authentic in Las Vegas. Most people gravitate to the tonkotsu-shoyu ramen (the broth is a mix of chicken and pork), but the shoyu ramen is just as good. If you take the ramen to go, the restaurant kindly leaves boiling instructions on the packaging so you don't fuck it up when you get home.
After all that salty ramen, you're gonna want something sweet. Walk over to Snowflake Shavery for shaved ice. Popular flavors include green tea, mango, coconut, and black sesame, and the toppings range from mochi to Cap'n Crunch. The "small" is huge. The "large" is ridiculous. The "monster" is off the charts, and if you can eat an entire one by yourself, you might want to consider a life as a competitive eater. Vegas is a great place to train for your newfound career.
WHERE TO DRINK
Let's start by stating the obvious: You can drink just about everywhere in Vegas, and you can do it 24 hours a day. Bars, casinos, hotel lobbies, and the sidewalk are all fair game. There are, however, some subtleties to the drinking laws. If you want to leave a bar and take your drink with you, by all means, ask for a plastic cup and hit the streets. But buy something in a glass bottle? Nope. Can't take it with you. Glass and aluminum containers are banned from public places.
Want to drink your plastic-cup-booze near a religious building, a school, a homeless shelter, or a hospital? Well, for starters, you're a damn degenerate. What's wrong with you? Second, you can't. Not allowed.
If you choose to drink on the Strip, expect to spend some cash. If you game long enough and hard enough, you'll probably get some drinks on the house. Otherwise, do what the locals do and sneak in a flask. (You didn't hear that from us.)
So now that we've cleared that up, go forth and walk the line between being shitfaced and suffering from alcohol poisoning, just like so many visitors before you. It's your amoral duty.
A true Las Vegas landmark, Atomic was originally opened as Virginia's Café in the 1940s. Business was bumpy, so when the first atomic tests began in the 1950s, new owners Joe and Stella Sobchik decided to take advantage of incoming atomic tourism by turning the place into a bar and liquor shop. Visitors were welcome to watch tests from the roof. Joe and Stella died within a few months of each other in 2010. By 2012, the bar was reopened, the gaming removed, and the focus switched to highlighting the history of the bar. As the bartender told me on a recent afternoon, "It's part of our culture to see things implode and rebuild." The cocktails are solid, and the beer list is highly curated. Enjoy the best of both worlds with a beer cocktail (Col. Mustard, In the Study, With a Banana is the best cocktail name of all time, but it's also delicious and worth the $11). A kitchen focusing on American fare that will serve the bar is expected to open next door in April.
Despite a giant neon "cocktail" sign in front of the Griffin, there's no cocktail list at the bar. Small fireplaces are scattered throughout the western-meets-medieval space, making it a good choice on those shockingly cold Las Vegas nights. When it's busy on weekends, a secret room in the back occasionally opens up for dancing and deep house music.
The Golden Tiki
Back in the 60s, tiki bars were all the rage, especially in Las Vegas. That's why you'll find them scattered around town. Chinatown's Golden Tiki is one of those bars that can't seem to let go. If we're honest with ourselves, the Caribbean pirate theme is hella corny, and it seems wrong for adults to be drinking out of giant punch bowls while surrounded by animatronic skeletons. Still, the place somehow gives off the comfort of your favorite dive bar. The bartenders are super nice and manage to maintain all kinds of dignity while people are taking pictures in a nearby loveseat shaped like a conch shell. It's weirdly chill, and the super sweet drinks will mess you up quick.
The dark South Main Street bar has velvet upholstered furniture everywhere, but it's the adventurous cocktail list that grabs people's attention. The "No Soup for You" (gin, dry vermouth, veggie broth, sweet potato puree, lemon, celery biitters, and a tomato water ice cube) sounds more like a meal than a drink, and it admittedly tastes like cold, spiked Maruchan ramen broth. If you need some dessert to wash it down, the Colombiana (brandy, apple brandy, apple guava syrup, coconut cream, lime, absinthe spray, and powdered sugar) is the way to go. Or, you know, do what most people do. Just get a cheap beer.
Commonwealth/ The Laundry Room
Commonwealth is basically three bars in one. There's the main bar that you see when you walk in, a rooftop bar, and a cocktail-only space called the Laundry Room. They tend to refer to the Laundry Room as a speakeasy, but if it openly exists and you can make a reservation, it's not really a speakeasy, is it? Either way, Commonwealth is a good place to grab a quick drink with some friends.
Oak & Ivy
It's surprising enough to find a legit American whiskey bar inside a family-friendly outdoor mall (which, to its credit, has a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse adults can play on after dark), but what's truly delightful is when your bartender sprinkles "extra cocaine" (powdered sugar) on your mint julep and then asks, "Wanna try something that really tastes like a gummy?" before sliding a sip of liqueur across the bar. He's right, and you want that.
Frankie's Tiki Room
Mind the skull ratings at this musty Polynesian paradise, where the five-skull Zombie was once limited to two per patron. Throw back a few potions, enjoy some old hula footage and leave absolutely annihilated. Touch the tiki's junk on your way out the door and something exciting might happen. And by might we mean will.
Hit up this indie dance club for dollar beers and tunes your hooves can cry to. Oddfellows excels at the themed party ('90s, anyone?), and no one cares that you've got shit for moves. Or at least you won't by that point.
The Backyard at Gold Spike
The building that currently houses the Gold Spike has been around since the 70s and was gross and rundown forever. Ownership has switched hands a few times in the last few years, but the place has been remodeled, and the backyard is a nice place to booze it up when it's not oppressively hot out, even though the giant Jenga set is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Fun Fact: The 31st cast of The Real World has been housed out of a penthouse at the Gold Spike. Because apparently The Real World is still on the air? Learn something new every day.
Located in the Container Park, the folks at Bin 702 love their wine and spirits. A lot. But they're not snobs about it. They've also got some nice beers on the menu. So go ahead and drink away your sorrows while listening to the screaming children playing on the trippy playground out front.
Herbs & Rye
Technically, Herbs & Rye is a casual, hidden steakhouse much loved by locals for its steak happy hour. So why is this in the drink section? Because anything on its menu that isn't steak isn't worth eating. But the bar? Holy gawd. The drink menu is extensive and will take you through a historic look at the evolution of classic cocktails. We think we learned more from the drink menu than we learned in any of our college history classes. Despite the enormous cocktail list, the bartenders can execute each drink to perfection. Trust us. We've worked our way through a good chunk of the menu and have yet to encounter a shitty drink.
It's an old, haunted biker bar in the middle of fucking nowhere—with barbecue. You're welcome.
WHERE TO LISTEN TO MUSIC
When you think about great music towns, no one ever calls out Las Vegas. In fact, people often think of Vegas as the place where great artists go to collect major cash AFTER their careers have peaked. The public wants to believe it's where music goes to die.
The reality is that Vegas is a great fucking town for local music. Following a show at Bunkhouse (more on that below), rapper Marion Write told us, "We're Vegas and no one looks to us for it, but it'd be cool if this could be acknowledged as a great music breeding town for rock, hip-hop, and country. We have all of it. Vegas is a big entertainment city and has INSANE talent, but never quite gets the props like other cities."
Write's totally correct. The hottest performers have been stopping by regularly for decades. Some of the best DJs in the world have long-standing residencies on the Strip. Countless locals grew up in homes with parents who are singers, musicians, dancers... you think any of that doesn't leave a mark? GTFOH.
It should be noted that quite a few of the bars mentioned in WHERE TO DRINK (Commonwealth, Velveteen Rabbit, Golden Tiki, and the Griffin) also regularly host live music. We've placed them above because they're great places to get a drink as much (maybe more so) than a place for enjoying music. At the end of the day, this is Vegas. There's music everywhere.
Hard Rock Live
Yes, we understand that Hard Rock is a huge corporation. But music is at the core of what it does, so the venue is on point. Big acts come through, but Hard Rock Live is also surprisingly great at promoting undiscovered local acts, especially DJs. That being said, security is strict, and guards will get in your face if you start acting up. Drinks won't come cheap, but that's to be expected with just about any place on the Strip.
The Vegas offshoot of the much-loved Brooklyn venue has been greeted with open arms by the city. The space has maintained an indie quality despite setting up shop in the LINQ Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. This being Vegas, however, there's still the option of VIP and bottle service. Local artists consider it one of their favorite venues not only for performing, but for attending live shows.
The Bunkhouse Saloon
Bunkhouse has always been supportive of local artists, but it never got much shine. Despite the Western theme, you can catch some of the town's best off-Strip music (especially hip-hop) shows here. On a recent night, rapper Marion Write, singers Pyramid Ron and Deena Jeaux, guitarists Dominick Hill and Devrin Allen, spoken-word artist Danni McQueen, along with drummer Josh Gibbs and local artists Goose and Marcus Harris, collaborated on a last-minute secret show to a packed house. There was no cover charge, and the drinks were cheap. The crowd was lively and engaged, but still chill enough that some random dude spent the night painting in a corner by the stage. In a town full of contradictions, Bunkhouse fits right in.
Las Vegas Country Saloon
Continuing on our tour of Western-themed bars that refuse to be pigeonholed, LVCS is definitely not a country saloon. Yes, there's a mechanical bull, and, yes, the décor would lead you to believe as much when the place is empty, but LVCS hosts everything from punk to hip-hop to everything in-between. Maybe you want to see the Dead Kennedys or maybe you want to catch the Men of Steele (Not a metal band. Just a band of male strippers). The choice is yours. The space is a little grungier than some of the other Vegas venues, but that's why we like it.
Catch some local acts while enjoying some local art. Artifice has what it refers to as an "eclectic mix" of musical acts. This couldn't be more true. A typical week this month consists of Las Vegas's longest running "goth, industrial, deathrock, dark 80s" event, followed by a burlesque show the next day. Check the calendar, and check your expectations at the door.
The Olive Hookah Bar
Everything about Olive is weird. It's in a strip mall. It's a lounge. There's hookah. There's an adjoining Mediterranean restaurant. There's live music. What? But the small stage at Olive is where local musicians like to test out some of their new stuff before taking it to larger venues. The weirdly bohemian vibe gives it a coffee shop feel, whether there's a hip-hop act or Latin jazz on the stage.
WHAT TO DO DURING THE DAY (WHEN YOU'RE SICK OF LOSING MONEY)
Vegas is a party city. You knew that well before reading this guide. But if you need a little fresh air and some time away from the slot machines, we've got suggestions.
In the summer, it gets hot in Vegas. Really fucking melt-your-skin-omg-I'm-being-boiled-alive hot. You can stay indoors and enjoy the glory of air-conditioning, or hit up a pool party at any of the big hotels. Some of the biggest DJs on Earth regularly spin at these parties (Calvin Harris, Skrillex, Tiesto, etc.), so they don't come cheap. Depending on the time of day, a ticket can set you back anywhere from $40 to $100. But Vegas is a promoter's city, and promoters get paid by how many people they bring in. It's rare that locals pay to get in. Do your homework. Comb through social media for some contact info. You can always shoot a promoter a text or an email ahead of the party to ask for free tables or entry, especially if you have a large group. A lot of times bottle service or free drink tickets will be included. Just make sure everyone who comes tips the hostess/server at least $20 when the party's over. And don't harass the promoter day-of or expect to sweet talk your way in once the party has started. They have shit to do.
Las Vegas is surrounded by desert, and deserts mean sand dunes. The nearest dunes can be found about 30 minutes away from the Strip near the Nellis Air Force Base. As far as sand dunes go, these aren't the most majestic, but it's still pretty fun to hop on an ATV and ride around.
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is made up of numerous hiking trails that range from "a toddler can do this" to "Am I gonna die?" There's also rock climbing, horseback riding, and other outdoorsy stuff. Marvel at the beauty of nature, but try not to be an idiot by attempting to reach the highest point when the sun is its most aggressive. Unless you're one of those hyper-prepared nature freaks, you will dehydrate and melt into a puddle of death. Stick to early mornings and late afternoons.
What's more patriotic than visiting the Hoover Dam? We can think of at least ten things, but if it was good enough for the Griswolds, it's good enough for you. An estimated 112 people died to make this thing, and the construction kept the city of Las Vegas from succumbing to the Great Depression. Mostly, it's just an impressive and massive structure. Go and be inspired by what man can build. But don't do any of the boring-ass tours. We don't care how impressive the structure is. No one needs to stare at the Hoover Dam for two hours. Ever.
Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort
Oh, you didn't know Las Vegas was settled by Mormon missionaries? Surprise! The Old Mormon Fort is considered a state park, but it's so tiny, we drove past it for years and never even knew it was there. Based on the guest book, it seems like they don't get a ton of visitors on the regs. We mostly like sitting at one of the picnic tables and staring at the weird adobe structure while eating some hangover-easing lunch. Then we pretend that we're, like, way knowledgeable about LV history. It'll cost you a whopping $1 to get in. You've spent $1 on worse things.
Shopping on South Main Street
People love to go on and on about how Las Vegas is soooooo great for shopping, but those people are usually hitting up stores on the Strip or at the local outlet mall that they could easily find back home. South Main Street is covered with vintage and antique shops (Retro Vegas, Vintage Vegas Antiques, Martin's Mart Thrift Shop) with well made, cheap, and occasionally irresistibly weird finds.
On the first Friday of every month, Downtown Las Vegas hosts art walks, vendors, food trucks, and live music throughout the area. It's a great way to get a quick taste of what the creative locals are up to. Make sure to check out the Arts Factory, where especially interesting exhibitions tend to take place.
If you look in the distance and see a snow-capped mountain, you're probably looking at Mount Charleston. It's the highest point in Clark County and offers hiking and some pretty crappy skiing. The view on the mountain is spectacular, and if you're into camping, that's an option. Or just drive the hour back to your hotel room on the Strip. Whatever.
Taxis are easy to come by all over the Strip, and a total pain everywhere else. Wait times can be epic. Las Vegas isn't a taxi-hailing town. Taxi drivers are ticketed on the Strip if they stop on the street, so don't be surprised if they drive right past you while you're flailing your arms around. There are taxi stands everywhere, though, so don't panic. Just walk to the nearest hotel or major attraction.
Uber and Lyft
When Uber arrived in Vegas well over a year ago, it wasn't allowed on the Las Vegas Strip. Signals were blocked, so you had no prayer of even making contact. Last Spring, despite protests from the taxi and limousine companies, the Nevada State Legislature legalized both Uber and its competitor, Lyft. There are designated drop-off/pickup points at airports, and like the taxis, you can't just order a car from anywhere on the Strip. Find a designated pickup spot.
RTC/ The Deuce
The unfortunately named Deuce is probably the least expensive and most convenient way to travel along the Strip. The double-decker buses are run by the Las Vegas bus system (RTC) and run day and night making stops at almost all the major hotels. A two hour pass will cost you $6, but $8 will get you all-access for 24 hours. So spend the extra deuce for the all day Deuce.
Las Vegas Monorail
The Las Vegas Monorail runs adjacent to Las Vegas Boulevard, dropping people off fairly close to seven major points on the Strip. A single ride is $5 and a 24-hour pass is $12, so it's not exactly a bargain, but Nevada residents get a small discount at customer service booths.
Some casinos offer free trams between themselves and sister casinos. They don't leave as often, but it's a cheap way to get around.
Rent a Car
If you plan on doing anything AWAY from the Strip, just rent a car. Las Vegas is a sprawling city, and parking isn't too hard to come by.
A Warning About Parking
There are garages all over the city that promote free parking. These garages are only free if you're staying at the hotel, but they don't mention that in the fine print and will charge you outrageous parking prices. You're better off paying to park in a public lot.