Thursday, March 3, 2011

Getting to Know Las Vegas-Tips and Advice for First-Time Vegas Visitors

Most of us vintage bloggers are aware that the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender is coming up fast. This year's event starts on April 21st and ends on the 24th. Many of us, Viva first-timers or not, visited Las Vegas before. However, if this is your first Viva event and/or you have never been to Las Vegas, I have some tips for you that can help make your trip even better!

As a former travel agent who spent over 10 years in the industry and as a gal who has been to Vegas before, I would like to do a post detailing some information about getting around, walking, traffic, using the Monorail, shopping, food, and entertainment.

So, without further ado, here we go!

1. Las Vegas is a party town. It was created for gambling and entertainment back in the 40s. People visit Vegas all year round in search of good times, playing casino games,  shopping, dining, and well, to party.

2. Vegas is pretty much non-stop 24 hours. Casinos are always open. Most restaurants have set hours but they stay open late. Bars and nightclubs are open into the wee hours. The malls, like Caesars Forum Shops and the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, are open to 11 pm and on Friday and Saturday night, until midnight.

3. Gambling is everywhere! You will find slot machines at the McCarran Airport and even the local gas stations! Casinos in all major hotels are open 24 hours. There is smoking allowed on the casino floor but most places restrict smoking to these areas.

4. If you plan to walk the Strip in Vegas, please use the overhead walking bridges and use only designated crosswalks. Also be sure to bring good walking shoes if you are feeling adventurous. You can also use the Las Vegas Monorail System. The Monorail costs $5.00 USD for a one-way trip, $14.00 for an unlimited all day pass, and $30.00 for an unlimited three day pass.

For some reason, there seems to be a lot of pedestrian vs car accidents here. I have been there four times and twice I saw the aftermath of someone bumped by a car. Thankfully, the pedestrian was not seriously hurt.  I suspect the combination of tons of people on the Strip and constant vehicle traffic is part of the problem. I also think a few pedestrians are not paying attention because they have been consuming alcohol.

Alcohol brings me to topic #5: Las Vegas allows pedestrians to openly carry alcohol. For example, say you just got a Miller Lite at Nine Fine Irishmen Pub at New York New York Casino and want to check out Tabu at the MGM Grand. But, wait! I have not finished my beer! That's okay, bring it with you! As long as you are not driving, you can openly carry alcohol.

6. The "Girls to You" guys. Las Vegas, being the entertainment capital, is also known for its adult entertainment and escort services. If you walk down certain sections of the Strip, you will often see guys flipping business cards featuring nude/semi-nude women and a phone number.  These are the escort girls. The guys shout, "GIRLS TO YOU!" as hand the cards out to men walking down the strip.  There are usually tons of nudie cards scattered on the ground due to people tossing them aside once the cards are handed to them. You may also see the "Girls To You" mini billboard on a truck stuck in traffic on the Strip. I am only mentioning this if you are sensitive to these type of things.

7. Speaking of adult entertainment,  Las Vegas also features scores of exotic dancing establisments (Spearmint Rhino), topless revues (Crazy Girls),  sexual-themed shows like Zumanity and Peepshow), and even shows featuring hunky male dancers (Thunder from Down Under and Men of Sapphire). Vegas still offers the traditional showgirl revues at Bally's ( The Show is called "Jubilee!" and they have both clothed and topless showings)

8. Many casinos have shows ranging from comedy, concerts, musicals, magic acts, and impressionists. Check your casino's website for tickets and showtimes.

9. Speaking of casinos, the hotel and casino is literally a world within itself. Many casinos boast several fine and casual dining options, bars, nightclubs, shopping, gambling, high stakes gambling rooms, convention rooms for conferences, entertainment venues, gyms, pools, and even full salon and spa services.  Talk about everything in one place!

Now, if you like to workout when you go on vacation (like me), be aware that you just can't 'waltz in' and use the weights and treadmill like most hotels. In Las Vegas, most of the casinos charge guests a 'per day fee' to use their gym. The average fee is about 25.00 to 30.00 USD. Now, if you are a high-stakes gamer and a VIP, you use the gym for free.

10. Shopping. Now we're talkin'! I love me some shoppin' for sure! I like visiting the Fashion Show Mall, the Caesars Forum Shops, and the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. As I mentioned earlier, most malls are open to 11 pm Monday-Thursday and Sunday. They are open to 12 midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. I, for one, love going to the Sephora at the Venetian! It is HUUUUGE! I am in makeup heaven! This store is bigger than their flagship location in New York City! I find brands there that my local Sephora does not carry. I also love visiting the MAC Cosmetics Pro Store at the Caesars.  This store features MAC's retail collection along with its professional line. Anyone can shop at at Pro store but only Pro members can shop online so if you ever have a chance to visit a MAC Pro store, go!

Las Vegas is also the home of Bettie Page Clothing! The store was at the Planet Hollywood but is going to open at the Caesar Shops in March 2011. Bettie Page Clothing makes cute repro dresses and separates. I know many gals prefer vintage, but I, for one, like the occasional repro piece (especially swimwear).

Because Vegas is a high roller town, you are going to find high-end stores like Chanel, Agent Provocateur, Gucci, Burberry, Bulgari, Tods, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus, and Saks. You can also find Forever 21, Gap, and Bebe. So, if you are a 'rolling in the dough' diva or a 'regular jane,' Vegas' shopping has it.

11. FOOOOOD! I love food. I mean, I LOVE food. If it weren't weren't for the shopping and nightlife, I would go to Las Vegas just for the food! Whether it's haute cuisine at Nine, Jean Georges Steakhouse, or Aureole or chain fare like McDonalds and Maggiano's Little Italy, again, Las Vegas has it! You can even find cafes and diners in many casinos are that open 24 hours. Other than an oversalted alfredo at the Tropicana in 2003, I have never had a bad meal in Vegas. All of the casinos' restaurants are in competition with each other so the chefs are going to put on their best to 'wow' your tastebuds.

12. Crime. Like most places on the planet, Las Vegas has crime. Be careful. Keep valuables in your hotel room safe, stay in the public areas, and do not over consume alcohol to the point you are posing a risk to yourself. In addition, do not be surprised if you occasionally have transients come up to you asking for money. Yes, Las Vegas is bright, shiny, pretty, fun, and lively, but it is still a real city. It may seem like Disneyworld but just be aware of your surroundings, especially at night and especially if you walk the Strip.

13. Heat. Las Vegas is a desert city and if you ever visit the city in the heat of the summer, be prepared for hot temperatures! The average temperature in July and August can go over 100 F! Make sure you drink lots of water, stay in the shade, and if you are sun-sensitive like me, brings lots of sunblock.

However, the temperatures in March and April can vary. I was in Vegas in March 2010 and I was surprised how cold it was! During the day, the temperature was about 60 degrees the week I was there and it was misty and rainy until the day we left. During the evening, the temperature was in thh 40s and I needed a coat.

I did some research regarding the average temperatures for April and it seems Viva days can be in the 70s or cooler. It does get colder at night so be sure to bring a light coat or wrap. I am going to pack a cardigan or two for the daytime and a light wool coat for night. It is always good to have the bases covered when it comes to weather. Moreover, if the forecast calls for rain, be sure to pack a small, compact umbrella in your suitcase! What a shame it would be to get your victory rolls wet!

So, for all you first-timer visitors to Vegas, I hope this post was helpful. Also, to those who know Las Vegas well or those who are Vegas locals, let me know if I missed something.

I cannot wait for Viva and I am looking forward to visiting Las Vegas again!


  1. oooh you're making me miss Vegas, I've been for both VLV and just to visit and I love it. I LOVE the huge Sephora it's heaven!

    I like the shops at the former Aladdin, is it the Hard Rock Cafe hotel now?

    Agree on the food too, ah Vegas how I miss thee!

  2. Great post! I went 3 years ago for my best friends wedding (she got married at the top of the Stratosphere).
    I would highly recommend using the Deuce bus, a 24 hr pass only costs a few dollars and it stops ouside every hotel on the strip, goes down to Old Vegas (which you didnt mention, but is well worth a visit, esp to the neon graveyard!), and all the way back again down the other end to the outlet mall, which is also worth a visit! They run 24 hrs a day every 4 minutes or so. We used it constantly!

  3. I love that Sephora!!!
    My biggest guilty food pleasures when in Vegas are the Buffet at the Rio and being a Mid westerner the Deli at New York New York is heaven to me although I am sure not as good as a real new york deli.

  4. OK how funny word verification on that last post was billy. How funny is that or maybe its just me.

  5. great tips,I need to visit that big Sephora.
    my husband was impressed with the buffets and the prices.

  6. Dollie: Thank you for the comment!

    Fiona: I did some research and found out that the Aladdin is now the Planet Hollywood. I get sad when the vintage places are shut down! Why do people think newer is better?

    Claire: You are so right about visiting Old Vegas! Thank you for mentioning it! I have never been able to get over there yet and I hope to this go around. I also want to check out the Neon graveyard you spoke about. I found their website and it looks very cool!

    Living Vintage: I never been to a Vegas buffet! I think I need to try one when I am there! I especially love breakfast buffets! The Venetian Sephora is just amazing! I almost felt overwhelmed in there!

    La Dama: Gracias for the comment! I love the Sephora! I adore how they have Illamasqua! I wish my local Sephora had it! I think their lipsticks are gorgeous!

  7. I have just downloaded iStripper, so I can have the hottest virtual strippers on my taskbar.