Las Vegas, Nevada Travel Guide

Whatever brings you to Vegas – the slot machines, theatrics, razzle-dazzle of the Strip, Cirque du Soleil, or the whole snazzy shebang – the stakes are high. Before subjecting yourself to this chaotic and charismatic intersection of neon lights, reeling revelers, and jam-packed casinos, take a time out with our in-depth Las Vegas Travel Guide.

And remember, while there’s lots to do in Vegas, there’s only one choice for lodging: a Las Vegas vacation rental. With our vast selection of Vegas condo rentals and vacation homes, it’s easier than ever to book Las Vegas vacations.

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What to Do in Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas isn’t just for bachelor parties and gamblers. It’s an endless maze of amusement for all walks of life. So, if you're looking for things to do, Vegas has plenty for your itinerary – no matter who you are.

Las Vegas Casinos

The Casinos

Casinos are the reason Las Vegas rose to such glitzy prominence in the first place! For many Sin City tourists, gambling is the only item on their itinerary. For others, it’s a side note and sometimes just a nice surprise. But whether or not you’re going to Vegas to win the jackpot, the ubiquitous Vegas hotel casino combos are a top attraction. Highlights include, but are hardly limited to, the iconic Bellagio, elegant Monte Carlo, and the massive MGM Grand.

The legendary and classy Caesars Palace may take the cake, though. When you’re in Rome (aka Caesars Palace), don’t feel like you have to do as the Romans. While the high rollers gamble away, you can sightsee from the sidelines. It’s much safer that way!

Free Things to Do in Las Vegas

Saving money is a fine art in the Entertainment Capital of the World, but with this list of free things to do in Las Vegas, you’ll master it in no time!

  • Stroll the Strip

The Las Vegas Strip and all that it contains provides a day’s worth (at least) of distraction from opportunities to spend money. It’s okay to stare – at the street performers, guests shuffling in and out of hotels like the Mirage and Tropicana, busy billboards, celebrities, and flashing lights. The sooner you embrace the sensory overload of Las Vegas Boulevard, the better!

  • Drop your jaw at the Fountains of Bellagio

Soak in the spectacle that is the Fountains of Bellagio – for free. An 8-acre lake is the main ingredient of the show, which combines water, music, and light in an unprecedented and spectacular way. The choreographed fountains have been the backdrop of numerous film scenes and even more numerous marriage proposals.

  • Watch the lions

MGM Grand Lion HabitatSin City isn’t all man-made. Lions are responsible for some of the best free entertainment in Vegas! The MGM Grand Hotel has a ranch devoted to its 31 feline guests, who take turns showing off for the public. Or sleeping for it. There’s no guarantee you’ll see cubs playing together at the MGM Grand Lion Habitat, but even if a big, snoozing cat is all you see, your time is well-spent here because, well, your money won’t be spent here.

  • Take a picture with the largest golden nugget

At the Golden Nugget Hotel in Downtown Vegas, you can take a snapshot with the largest golden nugget ever excavated (well, it was just several inches below the soil when someone dug it up in Australia). Weighing in at 61 pounds, the Hand of Faith Nugget is free for everyone to see. But unfortunately, you can’t bring it home with you.

  • Watch the Masquerade Show in the Sky

This gussied up, high-energy show features singing, dancing, and even a parade of floats above your head. While the tame burlesque numbers may be a little too grown-up for the youngins, the Show in the Sky is simply Vegas at its splashiest. Each show lasts 15 minutes and there are four distinct versions of it that run throughout the evening.

  • See I Lost My "M" in Vegas

If you love chocolate, specifically M&Ms, you’ll love this free 3D, interactive show, located within M&M’s World, a family-friendly megastore devoted to the beloved candy.

  • Peek into the hotels and casinos

You don’t have to be a guest of the Venetian, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Hard Rock Hotel, or MGM Grand, to wander inside each one! And you don’t have to be a gambler to check out each of their casinos, either. Oohing and aahing at Vegas’ extravagant hotel casinos is one of the most popular things to do, and luckily, it’s totally and completely free.

  • Experience Fremont Street

It takes a lot to show up the Las Vegas Strip, but the Fremont Street Experience comes close! The live show/party scene stretches for five blocks of Fremont Street. But what is everyone drawn to? The lights! The free concerts! (And the conveniently located casinos!) The Fremont Street Experience is most known for its high-tech Viva Vision light and sound show, which it puts on every night – it’s a "you have to see it believe it" kind of event.

  • Lose track of time at the Aquarium at the Silverton Hotel

So, we know Vegas has lions, and tigers (courtesy of Siegfried and Roy), but what else? How about 200 species of tropical fish at the Silverton Aquarium? Onlookers are free to gaze at the fish, which hang out in the aquarium and also interact with marine life experts in the underwater show.

If you need more tips on how to budget for your Vegas vacation, check out Vacation Rentals.com’s Vegas on a Budget.

Must-see (and Must-do) Las Vegas Attractions


  • Las Vegas Motor Speedway

NASCAR fans will feel at home at this race track, just outside the city.

  • Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat

The Secret Garden of the Mirage is one of Vegas’ most incredible attractions and for a mere $15 admission – it’s one you shouldn’t miss. The famous animal-loving magicians, Siegfriend and Roy, founded the facility, which places people right in front of bottlenose dolphins, leopards, white tigers, and panthers! 

  • Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay

Lions, check. Tigers, check. Dolphins, check. Sharks? Big check. You don’t have to scuba dive in the Bahamas to see more than a thousand creatures of the ocean up close. Along with the stars of the show, the sharks, Shark Reef is home to green sea turtles, piranhas, crocodiles, and more. 

  • Las Vegas Chinatown Plaza

Craving Chinese food? Then take a taxi to Chinatown and choose from nine amazing and appetizing Asian restaurants. While you’re here, shop for jewelry, apparel, herbs, and even produce from the Far East.

  • Gondola Rides at the Venetian

Venetian Gondola RidesThe Venetian Hotel is Vegas’ version of Italy and it just wouldn’t be complete without gondolas, which regularly float along the Grand Canal. Grab your honey and take a break with a romantic gondola ride; your gondolier may even serenade you. If cheesy romance floats your boat, this is an experience you'll love. But if the thought of passersby watching you and posing in front of you for pictures is embarrassing, skip out on this one.

  • Manhattan Express Roller Coaster

If you’d rather go to New York City than Italy, the New York-New York hotel and casino is worth a visit. One of the best attractions of Vegas’ Big Apple (which is considerably shinier than the real one) is the Manhattan Express Roller Coaster – it takes riders 203 feet up into the air and then drops them 144 feet!

  • The Big Shot 

For even more of an adrenaline rush than the Manhattan Express, go up to the 113th floor of the Stratosphere Tower (the United State’s tallest observation deck) and hop aboard the Big Shot. This whirlwind of a ride is just what it sounds like – riders are slung 160 feet into the air in less than 3 seconds. But it’s the exhilarating free fall afterward that might be the most memorable.

  • Fly-a-Way Indoor Skydiving

If the Big Shot doesn’t do it for you, try skydiving. Don’t worry; you won’t collide with a casino on your way down! Instead, your dreams of flying will almost come true, thanks to the state-of-the-art Vertical Wind Tunnel. Indoor skydiving is a great way to work your way up to the outdoor kind.

  • Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art

Beyond Vegas’ gaudy, and some would say superficial, exterior, is an artistic and creative side. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art features everything from paintings to sculptures, as there’s always a world-class exhibition going on (the gallery hosts two each year).

Go Outside

  • Rock Climbing Vegas

    Red Rock Canyon

Even though you can see the Red Rock Canyon from the Strip, it takes 15 minutes to drive to this natural paradise. If you’re in the mood for a challenging rock climb or a lazy, scenic drive, travel the road less traveled… the road that takes you west of Downtown Las Vegas, and replace those neon lights with beautiful mountain heights (the La Madre Mountain stands 8,154 feet tall).

  • Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort

Well, it’s not technically in Las Vegas, but cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and other winter fun are just a short drive away in Mount Charleston, Nevada. In the summertime, enjoy the view of the mountains from the ski lifts.

  • Swim

Las Vegas' grandiose resort pools are open year-round, with the exception of a few 60 degree days here and there. Favorites include the pools at Monte Carlo and Mandalay Bay. Each has a lazy river!

  • Play Golf

The 300+ days of sunshine a year, gorgeous desert scenery, frequent influx of discerning tourists… when you think about it, Las Vegas screams golf. With every passing year, more and more golfers come to Las Vegas to play on beauties like the Falls Golf Club at Lake Las Vegas and the Badlands Golf Club at the Red Rock Canyon. There are also cheaper, but equally scenic options, like the Painted Desert Golf Club. 

Kid-friendly Las Vegas Activities

You’ve probably figured this out by now, but despite its sinful reputation, Las Vegas is not an adults-only destination. A plethora of attractions that are fun for the whole family litter the city, and many of them are free. For a more detailed guide to family fun in Las Vegas, read our Las Vegas for Kids guide.

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Where to Shop and Eat in Las Vegas

Las Vegas restaurants

Las Vegas Restaurants

From 5-star gourmet restaurants cooked up by celebrity chefs to casual "all you can eats," Las Vegas is filled with restaurants that have one goal: to fill you up.

Buffets make Las Vegas dining relatively cheap. On that same note, you may have to buy new clothes after you gain weight eating at them. The Le Village Buffet at the Paris Hotel, Cravings Buffet at the Mirage, and the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood, are some of the most popular, but you can find buffets all over town. While they’re a good bang for you buck, they’re not all ultra-cheap and patrons are still expected to tip.

Looking for something a little more upscale? Well, you won’t have to look very hard in Vegas. As Las Vegas attracts people from all over the world, it has to offer cuisine from all over the world! Le Cirque at the Bellagio boasts fantastic French dishes; Nobu at the Hard Rock Resort is your best pick for Japanese food; and if you hope to eat famous entrees and maybe see famous people, too, there’s Wolfgang Puck’s Spago at Caesars Palace. 

Or you can keep things simple and tasty at the Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay. Just follow your stomach’s desire!

Las Vegas Shopping

When you’re not playing cards or testing your odds on a slot machine, Vegas still tempts you to spend money. And lots of it! Each hotel has its own line of shops, which range from high-end boutiques to souvenir-filled tourist traps. The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, which include brands like Versace and Kate Spade, as well as the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, are some of the most beautiful to explore, even if you don’t plan on opening up your wallet.

If you’re looking for deals and variety, though, check out the Las Vegas Outlet Center and the Las Vegas Premium Outlets.

For a more detailed Las Vegas Shopping guide, click here.

Las Vegas Nightlife

Nightlife Las Vegas

Laidback Irish pubs, naughty nightclubs, sophisticated cocktail lounges, world-famous dance clubs… whatever your style, there’s a Las Vegas bar or club that suits it.

The Freakin Dog, Double Down Saloon, and Chicago Brewing Company are some of the best places to get a drink and a good conversation going, too. But if all you want to do is dance, the Jet Nightclub at the Mirage, Pure at Caesars Palace, and Studio 54 at the MGM Grand, are your best bets. 

Other favorites? The Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar, the Wynn's outdoor bar Tryst, the V Bar at the Venetian, and the Voodoo Lounge at the Rio.

 

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What to See in Las Vegas

Even if you don’t plan to sightsee in a methodical way, you’ll see plenty in Vegas. Whether you like it or not.

Las Vegas Tours

There are no shortage of Las Vegas tours! The Twilight Tour and Vegas Nights are just two examples of organized ways you can see the Strip. For a more naturally scenic Las Vegas tour, take the Red Rock Canyon Tour.

Las Vegas Concerts and Shows

If you're coming for the shows, Vegas will not disappoint. Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, Elvis, Pen and Teller, Broadway! Vegas shows are unstoppable. For more, read our comprehensive guide to Las Vegas Shows.

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When to Visit Las Vegas

Every single day, fun seekers board planes and pack up their cars for Vegas. While the summers can get scorching hot, most Vegas attractions are indoors and there are many pools to cool off in. That means there’s never a bad time to book Las Vegas condominiums. But if you have a low tolerance for heat, come during the wintertime! Also, check our Las Vegas Events Guide, which will gives you the scoop on everything cool that's happening in Vegas, as well as when it’s happening.

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What to Know About Las Vegas

Gamblers

Learn how to play the games… well! Whether you practice before your arrival or take lessons once you’re here (the Imperial Palace offers free classes), it’s important to know what you’re doing. Craps and blackjacks are less risky games to play, while roulette and slot machines have a high house advantage. To ease yourself into it all, come to the casino during the daytime when it’s less busy, observe the pro players, and ask for tips.

Sightseers

Don’t restrain yourself to the Strip; keep in mind that Vegas is overflowing with attractions and worthwhile things to do outside it – like the Fremont Street Experience and Red Rock Canyon.

Families

Bringing the family to Vegas? Read more about kid-friendly Las Vegas attractions.

Vegas Wedding

Soon-to-be Newlyweds

Getting married in Vegas is one of America’s dearest traditions. But in order to get hitched properly, you must obtain a marriage license from the County Clerk’s Office first (this will cost you over $50). Then you’re good to go to the wedding chapel of your choice and get married – by a priest, Justice of the Peace, or Elvis impersonator!

Safety First

While most hotel casinos meet the highest security standards, Vegas attracts a few bad apples and you should be on the lookout for them, especially if you’ve got kids with you. Stick with a group and don’t carry valuables on you – if you win big at the casino, have casino staff hold on to your winnings for you and escort you to your vehicle when you're ready to return to your Vegas rental.

When driving, stay as focused as possible! Drivers in Vegas are often distracted, confused, intoxicated, or all of the above. Wrecks are always waiting to happen. If you can, avoid driving altogether. But if you must get around in a rental car, make sure to purchase that insurance. For more tips on getting around Vegas, check back soon for our guide to Vegas transportation.

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What to Bring to Your Las Vegas Rental

Las Vegas is an urban utopia, but it’s also smack dab in the desert. Pack lots of sunscreen and stock up on the water bottles when you get here. If you come to Vegas in the fall, winter, or early spring, bring along a light jacket for the evenings, because they cool down quite a bit. You’ll probably want to pack a wide variety of outfits, too, as your daily activities may be very different than your nightly activities.

And last but certainly not least, bring your poker face.

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Getting to Las Vegas, Nevada

There are regularly scheduled flights into Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, so it’s easy to book yours for just about any day. However, don’t rule out the Vegas road trip, particularly if you’re coming to the city for a short weekend. Need more Las Vegas travel tips? Check out our guide to Getting Around Vegas.

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Las Vegas Tourism Services

You name it, Vegas has it. Because Vegas is all about the tourists, and little more, the city’s got a jillion local services to meet your every want and need. Need a babysitter? Need a priest to marry you? Need a tour guide? No problem!

Check About.com's Vegas page for more up-to-date information on the local activities.

Also, check out these other great Las Vegas Resources from VegasSmart.com, which offers tickets and information to casino, shows, golf and tours. A smart guide to Las Vegas.

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Why Las Vegas, Nevada Vacation Rentals?

There’s no doubt that Vegas hotel casinos are the central attraction of Sin City, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay in one overnight. Instead, go with a Vegas vacation rental that’s just as luxurious and amenity-filled, but a whole lot cheaper! For the price you’d pay to stay in a Vegas hotel for one night, you can stay in a Vegas condo rental for a whole week.

Vegas vacation rentals are located all over the city, from right on the Strip to the city’s outskirts. Imagine spending all day playing in the city and then retreating to a totally different natural wonderland when you’re ready to go to sleep. 

As we already discussed, Las Vegas dining is a top thing to do, but it can get rather pricey. With a Vegas hotel, you’re forced to eat out or order room service for every meal. Why not make your own meals every now and then in your own Vegas vacation home? One grocery trip is a lot more affordable than five overpriced fast food meals, or even a single fancy one.

Another thing that really distinguishes Vegas hotels from Vegas rentals, is the latter's ideal for anyone. Whether you're here for one of the many Las Vegas conventions, or you're enjoying a girls' weekend getaway, or you're vacationing with the family -- there's a Vegas vacation rental that's perfect for you and your group.

After reading about Vegas, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. So, if you're having trouble deciding what to do, Las Vegas rentals are a great start... book yours today!

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