Yes, the hallmark of any good Vegas vacation includes generous helpings at the buffet (when they return), 4am limo rides and waving goodbye to some cash at the blackjack table. But what makes this town so truly irresistible is its resorts. A hotel in Vegas isn’t just a place to catch forty winks (as if that ever happens). Rather, each one contains myriad attractions and fascinating history. Did you know, for example, that key scenes from the movie Swingers were filmed at downtown’s Fremont Hotel and Casino or that Excalibur is home to a $40 million slot machine win? For a guaranteed good time, here is the one thing you must do at every top Vegas resort. Viva Las Staygas!
Catch a wave: Mandalay Bay
The one thing you don’t expect to worry about in the Mojave Desert is undertow. But at Mandalay Bay Beach, the famed resort’s aquatic playground, it’s worth keeping in mind. That’s because the resort’s 11-acre tropical campus features 2,700 tons of sand, a lazy river, 100 cabanas, day beds and villas, a beachfront casino and a 1.6-million gallon wave pool. There’s also Moorea Beach Club for European-style sunbathing while Shark Reef Aquarium boasts sea turtles, rays and yes, sharks. But don’t worry, they’re nowhere near the wave pool!
Stop and smell the roses: The Bellagio
You thought we were going to say the Bellagio Fountains, didn’t you? Well, the sprawling and upscale Bellagio is definitely renowned for those famed geysers, but also for its lobby adorned with Chihuly flowers, the world’s largest chocolate fountain, and of course gorgeous guest rooms. But what brings us back to this Vegas icon again and again is the 14,000-square-foot Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, a floral playground that changes seasonally including its annual Chinese New Year display—by far its most magical!
Scrape the sky in a bikini: Springhill Suites by Marriott Las Vegas Convention Center
Rooftop pools along the Vegas Strip are like a hard-way bet at the craps table—not as common as you’d like them to be. Plus, they often sit atop low-rise buildings. Not so at Springhill Suites by Marriott Las Vegas Convention Center, whose pool floats atop the 24th floor, the highest on the Strip. The hotel is also within walking distance of the Last Vegas Country Club, The Monorail and the kitschy classic Peppermill Lounge—a Vegas must. Springhill Suites is also an all-suites, non-gaming property featuring complimentary breakfast and no resort fees!
Get roasted: Caesars Palace
If you embarrass easily, sit in the way back at Absinthe by Spiegelworld, the outrageous and adult-oriented theater-in-the-round circus spectacle which happens inside a tent in front of Caesars and is open again with new safety protocols in place. Not that anyone is truly safe from the Gazillionaire, the greasy-haired, gap-toothed ringmaster who hurdles Borscht Belt-style insults at unsuspecting audience members in between seductive burlesque numbers and thrilling high-wire acrobatics. Only a decade old, Absinthe is already a Vegas institution.
Get a roast: Palace Station
Wondering why folks are lined up along the casino floor at all hours of the night at off-Strip resort Palace Station? Because they know sleep deprivation is worth one of the coveted 18 seats at under-the-radar Oyster Bar. The fuss at this round-the-clock eatery are the pan roasts, creamy tomato stews cooked with your choice of seafood (shrimp, crab, lobster), prepared to your preferred heat level, then finished with brandy and served with rice. It’s the single most crave-worthy dish in Vegas and pairs well with buck oysters (available 5–10am daily).
Enjoy the silence: Holiday Inn Club Vacations
If the never-ending Ling! Ling! Ling! of the slot machines has you rethinking a Vegas vacation entirely, know that non-gaming hotels do exist and some are just a stone’s throw from all the action. Take, for example, Holiday Inn Club Vacations which sits in the shadow of the High Roller observation wheel just one block off the Strip and boasts five heated pools, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, a putting green, arcade, fitness center and bar and restaurant. Of course, this resort is family-friendly so don’t bet on it being totally silent.
Say “Je taime Vegas” from atop the Eiffel Tower: Paris Las Vegas
Of all the replicas lining Las Vegas Boulevard, none are as famous as the 541-foot Eiffel Tower (half the height of the real thing), a dazzling skyline icon. There are numerous ways to engage with the behemoth including from the observation deck at 46 stories, at Michelin-starred Eiffel Tower Restaurant on the 11th floor (check out the jaw-dropping views of the Bellagio Fountains), or ground floor via selfie. Better yet, check out the Eiffel Tower Light Show which happens every half hour nightly from sunset until midnight. Viva Paris! Viva Vegas!
Root for the Raiders: M Resort Spa Casino
No other hotel puts as wide a grin on our faces as M Resort. That’s because driving into Vegas from Southern California, its shiny glass facade is the very first thing we see off I-15. But there’s another reason to cheer. The Las Vegas Raiders (Sorry, Oakland!) will soon be tossing the pigskin around at Allegiant Stadium. M Resort nabbed bragging rights as the official team headquarters hotel which makes the resort’s Raiders Bar and Grill (coming soon) the new epicenter of Raiders fandom. Also, M Resort is pretty swank so yeah, there’s that too.
Avoid the crowds: Downtown Grand
Las Vegas is blessed with 310 days of sunshine annually, but if the city’s legendary “day parties” have you convinced that catching a few poolside rays means you’ll wind up doing shots off the back of a drunken coed, we’ve got great news. Citrus Pool Deck, the rooftop pool, restaurant and hangout at the Downtown Grand is the chill Vegas pool of your dreams. We love the deck’s Lifesavers candy color palette, its infinity pool (heated to 83 degrees all year long) and its completely relaxed and mellow vibe. So yeah, it’s okay to be over age 35 here.
Flock to a wildlife habitat: Flamingo Las Vegas and Hilton Grand Vacations at the Flamingo
There are many reasons to love the Flamingo, the neon pink legend that opened in 1946 and is the oldest continuously operating resort on the Strip. Room rates are excellent considering its central location, its Beach Club Pool offers kid-friendly waterslides and it’s withing walking distance of the LINQ Promenade which includes fast casual eateries, plus the world’s largest observation wheel. But we most love the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat, a 15-acre animal sanctuary featuring a flock of Chilean flamingos, ring teal ducks, brown pelicans, koi fish, turtles and resident parrots. Free to the public and open daily!
Sip above the Strip: Waldorf Astoria
Get out your boxing gloves. Every Vegas devotee will argue over where in the city you can enjoy the best view of the world famous Strip. We say there’s none better than from a window seat at SkyBar, the 23rd floor cocktail haven which practically floats above the city at the gorgeous Waldorf Astoria and offers expansive Strip vistas. Keep your eyes focused on the view and not the drink prices (relax, this is a justifiable Vegas splurge) and instead just imbibe and luxuriate while city lights twinkle around you.
Lose your lunch: The STRAT
Formerly the Stratosphere, the STRAT is the tallest structure in Nevada and tallest tower in the United States. Of course, in true Vegas fashion, they installed spine-tingling thrill rides atop it. If you dare, shoot 160 feet into the air at 45 mph on Big Shot, take a 3g spin on Insanity and dangle 109 stories above the Strip on X-Scream. While you’re up there, have a drink at SkyLounge or a bite at Top of the World restaurant after riding the rides. Those wedding bells you’re hearing? They’re coming from Chapel in the Clouds on the 103rd floor.
Have a Bazaar dinner: Sahara Las Vegas
First it was the Sahara, then the SLS and now it’s the Sahara again. But some things in Vegas never change and that’s the culinary excellence of Spanish-American superchef José Andrés who has built himself a restaurant empire. In Vegas, Andrés boasts Chinese-Mexican hybrid China Poblano and upscale tapas bar Jaleo (both at The Cosmopolitan), but it’s BAZAAR Meat at the Sahara, an opulent carnivore’s delight featuring cotton candy foie gras and DIY buffalo tacos alongside Wagyu steaks that carnivores love best.
Get a ticket to ride: The LINQ
There’s a lot to love about the LINQ, the budget-friendly mid-Strip resort that was the Imperial Palace until 2011. For starters there’s winsome Matt Franco, the resident sorcerer whose family-oriented Magic Reinvented Nightly will hopefully soon return to the Strip. There’s also shopping and cheap eats along the LINQ Promenade and an above-ground pool whose see-through windows at each end offers a must-do Vegas photo op. But its biggest attraction—literally—is the High Roller, the world’s largest observation wheel and a guaranteed sunset thrill.
Let the good times roll: Orleans Hotel and Casino
Every Vegas insider knows it’s better to gamble off-Strip. Slot machines odds are better further afield while Off-Strip table games typically offer a lower barrier to entry. Plus, Strip crowds tend to be tourists whereas the resorts elsewhere attract folks who live within close proximity. Enter The Orleans Hotel and Casino, a N’awlins-themed resort about 1.5 miles west of Excalibur and hands down our absolute favorite place in town to roll the dice thanks to affordable table games, ample parking lot and a convivial vibe on weekend nights. Seriously, it’s the best.
Take a hike: Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa
Vegas resorts are constantly locked in a permanent game of one-upmanship, but only one hotel boasts actual red sandstone peaks and Native American petroglyphs in its backyard and that would be the aptly named Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa. Not only does this family-friendly gem in suburban Summerlin feature a bowling alley, IMAX theater and KidsQuest gaming center, but its proximity to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (7 minutes door to door) means you can book horseback and hiking tours right from the resort!
Breathe easy: Park MGM and NoMad Las Vegas
So much about the Park MGM, the center Strip resort that took over the former Monte Carlo in 2018 and includes within it posh boutique hotel the NoMad, is a breath of fresh air. Let’s start with the fact that doors swing open onto the Park Las Vegas, a sprawling outdoor space landscaped with desert foliage and water features. Plus, the hotel boasts top-notch eateries like Eataly, Bavette’s Steakhouse & Bar and Best Friend. But the Park’s biggest perk is that as of October 2020, it reopened as the Strip’s only non-smoking resort—no butts about it!
Live the suite life: Polo Towers by Diamond Resorts
Cheap guestrooms on the Strip abound. But an affordable suite? Unless you’re a high roller, forget about it. Enter Polo Towers, the all-suite resort you’ve probably walked by a hundred times without realizing it. Located next door to Planet Hollywood and across from The Shops at Crystals, Polo Towers features, studios and one- and two-bedroom vacation villas featuring sofas, kitchenettes and balconies that won’t break the bank. Pro tip: Book a free tour of Akhob, the immersive art installation across the street at the flagship Louis Vuitton store. You’ll thank us!
Wizz on the Berlin Wall: Main Street Station
In 1991, Germans smashed the Berlin Wall to pieces. Today, you can pee on it. Sort of. At downtown’s Main Street Station, a staple since 1978, a piece of the Berlin Wall is located within the men’s restroom and has urinals affixed to it. Ladies, you’re not left out. A self-guided tour of the resort also reveals an original Pullman rail car named for “Little Women” author Louisa May Alcott, chandeliers from the Coca-Cola building and Figaro Opera House, stained glass from the Lillian Russell Mansion, and doors and facades from the Kuwait Royal Bank.
Say hello-goodbye to Vegas: Courtyard by Marriott Las Vegas South
We can only imagine how many times Ol’ Blue Eyes (that would be Frank Sinatra) crooned “Come Fly With Me” from the stage at the Sands Hotel (now the Venetian). Alas, every Vegas vacation must end and if it’s a hasty retreat you’re looking to beat, consider booking a room at Courtyard by Marriott Las Vegas South which literally sits across the street from McCarran International Airport. Also, it’s one of the best hotels from which to greet the city—the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign is within strolling distance!
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