Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips. This article was updated September 28, 2020.
Las Vegas fans, rejoice: The city has mostly reopened to tourism, although venue capacity limits and other safety measures are in place. So when you do eventually head back, why not do it right? This time, go beyond just cruising the Strip at night in bumper to bumper weekend traffic. To be a real Las Vegas pro, you have to dig in and knock out all the essential Sin City experiences. Once you’ve checked each of these Las Vegas bucket list items off your list, consider yourself a true Vegas insider!
Snap a selfie in front of the welcome sign
Do this first, as it’s on the way in from the airport. It’s a classic. While there’s typically a little line, we recommend standing off to the side where you can skip the queue and get a cool angle that will net you more Instagram likes anyway.
Take a limo to a nightclub (once they reopen)
While Las Vegas clubs were still closed as of this writing, it’s never too soon to start dreaming, and nothing is more quintessentially Las Vegas than stepping out in style in front of a posh Vegas resort. Presidential Limo offers special packages geared toward the ultimate Vegas nightclub experience: Visit one lounge, three clubs and get express entry to all with your limo transport starting at $69 per person.
Tour the Neon Museum at night
While many museums in the U.S. remain closed due to COVID, the outdoor Neon Museum is back—though at limited capacity, so book your tickets well in advance. Here’s what to expect: This Insta-gold museum collects vintage Vegas signs and throws them all into a giant boneyard where knowledgeable docents lead lively tours that illuminate the history of Vegas. At night, the working signs light up! An overflow boneyard offers up “Brilliant!,” a whiz-bang music and light show that will make you cry happy tears for the wonderful world of Vegas. It’s 30 magical minutes.
Indulge in an all-you-can-eat buffet (when they return)
Unfortunately, due to coronavirus, the Las Vegas buffet may never be the same again. Most are still closed and those that are open have modified their service so that customers choose what they want on their smartphones and have wait staff bring the items to their table. But Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan is an outstanding choice and open at the time of this writing (sushi and gelato for breakfast, anyone?); it’s also worth the price. Meanwhile, the Buffet at Aria is temporarily closed but in the past, you could expect nearly a dozen different buffet stations (think dim sum, unlimited crab legs and a carvery boasting a 75-pound beef steamship).
Say goodbye to some cash
It wouldn’t be a Vegas vacation without sacrificing at least a little part of your paycheck to those one-armed bandits (i.e. slot machines). Prepare to gamble (and lose) cheerfully. Half the fun is making a foolish bet or two, so go ahead and bet $5 on your favorite number on the roulette table at one of the Strip’s cheaper resorts like Excalibur or Luxor. You might not walk away a winner, but imagine the great story you’ll tell if you do! And just remember, casinos are currently running at limited capacity and face masks are required.
Take a gondola ride
In the ’90s, Vegas kicked its mimicking phase into high gear. This was the decade that saw the opening of Paris Las Vegas, the Luxor and New York-New York. But it was Italophiles who rejoiced the most with the 1999 opening of Sin City icon and The Amazing Race pit-stop prize The Venetian. Best way to admire the resort’s detailed frescos and Italianate architecture? Via gondola, of course! Sit back, relax and get selfie ready as you and your sweetie wind your way through one of Vegas’s most opulent resorts.
Lose your lunch atop the STRAT
Every Vegas visit requires at least one adrenaline rush moment and the top of the Strat (formerly the Stratosphere) delivers in spades. The Big Shot will catapult you 160 feet into the air and back down again. Next, check out Insanity, where you’ll spin 64 feet over the edge of the Tower. Conquered that? The X-Scream will launch you headfirst 27 feet over the tower, where you’ll dangle 109 stories in the air.
Catch the water show at the Bellagio Fountains
Another great outdoor attraction for these times: The resort’s fountain show is synchronized to the songs of Sinatra, Lady Gaga, the Beatles and more, and it’s one of Sin City’s few free attractions. Up the ante by dining al fresco at Spago in the Bellagio and you’ll get a front row, semi-private view of the fountains while you nosh on Wolfgang’s Puck’s signature Italian cuisine.
Book a room with a Strip view
Keep the party going long after you return to your room but keep in mind, not all Strip-view rooms are created equal. Here are some good ones: A Strip view room at Mandalay Bay on the south end of town means having the entire Strip laid bare before you; if you want a view of the “Manhattan” skyline, book a Strip view room at MGM Grand.
Get soaking wet (when pool parties return)
Pool parties are a Vegas staple but, unfortunately, most remain closed due to the virus, while a handful of others have reopened as adult pools and lounges. But once things return to normal, you’ll see that the only thing rowdier than a Vegas nightclub is a Vegas pool party. The MGM Grand’s Wet Republic party is one option, where the flirtatious fun in the sun includes champagne that’s always flowing from their 95-foot-long bar; the Wynn’s 60,000-square-foot space is one of the top spots to do it, and they often have celebrity DJs on hand to pump up the volume. Dress code: Fashionable swimwear.
Fly like Superman
Ziplining is old news. But ziplining while lying in a Superman position, shot out of a slot machine and soaring above old Las Vegas downtown? That is Vegas. Do it at the SlotZilla Zipline and while you’re downtown, take in sights like the Fremont Street Experience, the Mob Museum and Container Park.
See a Cirque show (when they return)
Las Vegas shows are all cancelled for the time being but we’re really looking forward to productions like Cirque du Soleil safely returning soon.The fascinating circus shows ruled the Strip in the evenings, serving as magical thrillers with stunts and moves that are beautiful, dangerous and exotic. At one point, there were more than a half dozen Cirque shows in rotation, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. Adults-only Zumanity at New York-New York was one of our faves, thanks to its scenes that are a little more Vegas-y than the others, but there’s no doubt that The Beatles LOVE at the Mirage is a crowd favorite while O at Bellagio is positively sublime.
Take a hike… literally!
Broke and hungover? The greater Las Vegas area is a nature lover’s paradise. Just 20 minutes west of town is stunning Red Rock Canyon National Park; 75 minutes by car is the majestic Valley of Fire State Park. Both will make you feel like you’re on Mars. Too wobbly to walk? At least drive 15 minutes south of town and check out Ugo Rondinone‘s majestic and Instagrammable art installation Seven Magic Mountains (on view through 2021).
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