This beginner’s guide to Las Vegas will teach you everything you need to know about Sin City, afterall, it’s a place like no other.
We’ve been to Vegas multiple times over the years, and honestly, the city is always changing. There’s always something new to experience and something new to learn. Maybe that’s why we love it.
In the middle of the Mojave Desert, the gambling capital of the world isn’t often somewhere you’d think of as a budget destination, however, it definitely can be.
Many of the tips in this beginner’s guide to Las Vegas we didn’t know on our first trip – I wish we had.
So, I hope the lessons we’ve learnt you can implement on your own trip to Vegas to save you time, and money whilst also enhancing your overall visit to this incredible city.
What To Do On The Strip, and Nearby
There are a huge number of different things to do in Vegas, and we’re sure that there always will be! The trick, however, is knowing which things to start with if this is your first time in Vegas.
We’d always recommend taking a little tour of the city on your first time anywhere, and Vegas is no exception. There are a lot of tours on offer, but one that really stands out from the crowd.
The Las Vegas Lights Night Tour departs from Bally’s Box Office Entrance Bus Ramp and lasts for around three and a half hours. That’s a great length of time for a tour on your first time in the city – it’s not so long that you struggle to keep your eyes open, and neither is it so short that you feel like you haven’t learned anything. Ideal!
Over the course of the tour, you get to see the Mirage, the Fountains of Bellagio, and the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign. As with any good tour, the guide points out great spots that you should pay attention to, and lets you know when you would be wise to take photos.
For the whole tour, the price is $49.99 per person but changes seasonally. For a lengthy and in-depth tour like this one, that’s certainly a great price!
After you’ve toured the city and learned a good bit about the local culture and history, you might be in the mood to spend some time taking photos sure to make all your friends back home jealous. Well, Vegas is great for that!
Celebrities spending time in Vegas virtually invented the idea of bragging via selfies, and a number of spots have embraced that and offer free photo locations. For example, iSnap photo booths have popped up throughout Sin City! They have been confirmed to be present at both the Palms and downtown at The D. If you’re right in the middle of things, though, there’s one at the MGM Grand!
The fantastic thing about these booths is that they’re a great way to brag while not spending any money, allowing you to inform all of the people you connect with via social media that you’re in Vegas, and you’re having a great time.
How To Nail Shopping in Vegas
One thing that you might find horrifically oppressive in Vegas is the heat. It’s something that a lot of people simply don’t expect! Well, what better way to assuage that heat than to spend some time within a delightfully cool, almost frosty, mall, knowing full well that you’re never more than five minutes away from your ice cream. Heaven in such heat, surely!
To indulge in a healthy bit of retail therapy, you’ve got a lot of options. Vegas is a big city with a lot of cash running through it – there will always be malls.
One of the most impressive malls, however, is the Fashion Show Mall at 3200 Las Vegas Blvd South. It’s open from ten am to nine pm every single day, aside from on Sundays, when the opening hours are eleven am to seven pm.
The mall is truly sprawling – there are over two million square feet of shopping real estate for you to peruse, including seven anchor stores – seven!
Aside from seven sprawling stores that form the backbone of the mall, there are an additional two hundred stores on top of that, ensuring that your every purchasing impulse is catered to. More than thirteen million shoppers per year visit this mall, which just goes to show how much there is on offer.
Of course, we’re all about making sure that you get the most out of any and all vacations that you take, including this one to Vegas. Therefore, we’d recommend checking around to see if your hotel offers a shuttle service to and from Fashion Show. A number of hotels do, and they typically offer it for free, as well!
Maybe we’re a little preoccupied with thinking about all the things you could buy, but surely having less money spent on taxis means more money to spend on shopping, right?
What Are The Best Ways To Get Around Vegas?
There are some great ways to get around the town when you’re in Vegas, our favorite is probably the monorail! We mention it a little later on in the article, so we won’t go into detail – but it’s really cool, plus it’s free! What’s not to love about that?
Another great, free way to get between different hotels is by using the corridors that many different hotels have constructed. If two hotels are owned by the same parent company and they’re fairly close together, there’s every chance in the world that you can travel between them through a cool, relaxed corridor.
These corridors have a wonderful range of eateries and retail shops, plus they’re air-conditioned too! In a town as hot as Vegas, any place with air conditioning is worth spending a little time in.
A number of hotels also offer shuttle services to various different locations around the town, which can be really handy. Generally speaking, you won’t need to pay for the shuttle services that your hotel is running, but this isn’t always the case – make sure to check!
It can be really handy to use a shuttle service in your hotel because you can simply plan when you’ll be coming down from your room, hop straight into a bus, and then you’re at your destination before you know it. Easy!
Of course, there’s every chance in the world that you’re looking to spend a little money on your trip to Vegas, and you want to feel like Frank Sinatra when you do it. If this sounds like you, then rest assured – we get it! There’s something so enticing about the idea of living a deeply luxurious life in Vegas, complete with your own limo…
That’s right, a limousine! There are a number of limo renting companies throughout Vegas, but one that regularly shines above and beyond the competition is Presidential Limousine. If you’re in town for a big occasion or to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or something similar, rent a limo!
A great option could be to surprise the group that you’re with a limo that will drive you from your hotel to your theatre show, meal, concert, or anything else. How luxurious!
Okay, this final tip isn’t one that will really help you to get from place to palace, but it is certainly one that will help you make head and tail of the Vegas sprawl. The town itself, not to mention all the Casino Properties, is huge and sprawling. There are a lot of different places that you could get lost in, including within the casinos themselves.
A number of casinos and hotels offer maps on their site that will allow you to find your way around much more easily. The handy thing about these maps is that while they aren’t as interactive as Google Maps or an equivalent service, they’re much more user-friendly.
They often show you specific places that you’re likely to want to go, and they’ll show you guest-only pathways that will make things much easier for you. Check your hotel’s website to see if there’s one available for you!
Where Are The Best Places To Eat In Vegas?
In such a city as Las Vegas, there are always going to be amazing places for you to go and eat – always! Because Vegas started life as a desert, there’s no real native cuisine to try out. This is actually a good thing for us, as it means that you can happily hop in and sample a hundred different delights from around the world in one evening!
Here are a couple of spots that we really like:
Metro Pizza is a great spot to go for an amazing slice or ten – and goodness me to we love pizza. Their happy hours, which are different depending on which day you attend, allow you to score some half-price pizzas with little to no effort, safe in the knowledge that your food will be wonderful.
Not only is the pizza some of the best in Sin City, but they bring out spectacular bread for you to snack on while you wait. While that sounds like a small perk, just wait until you try the bread – it’s really good!
Black Bear Diner is the perfect place for a fantastic Las Vegas breakfast and brunch food. While they do serve lunch and dinner, we really appreciate the amazing biscuits, which are so buttery and crumbly that you might think you’ve died and gone to heaven.
Most enticingly of all, the parking lot is always filled with local plates. That’s a great way to know that the food inside is utterly delicious, plus it won’t break the bank. We can’t recommend them enough!
A final spot that we’d really recommend checking out while you’re in town is The Yardhouse. While the food is utterly amazing, the most spectacular thing about this place is their huge taproom! At any one time, they have 130 to 140 beers on tap, which is a selection that speaks for itself. Any beer lover would have a wonderful time here!
The menu itself is a little pricier than some of the other spots on this list, but the food is to die for. Not only that, but the service is spectacular! That’s a given in Vegas, so you know it must be incredible for us to be mentioning it. The thing that always blows us away is the fact that the servers are somehow always right there when you need them, but when you don’t need them, they seem to disappear. It’s like some kind of extremely polite magic trick!
How To Make Your Money Go A Little Further In Vegas
1. Drinks (Inc Alcohol) Are Free When You’re Gambling In The Casino
When playing in the casino you’ll be approached by a cocktail waitress offering you drinks.
These drinks are free!
Sure you have to pay to play on the slots or at the tables, however, you’ll get the experience of gambling without the expense of drinks. This is a great way to save money in Las Vegas, or at least make your money go further!
Helen and I tend to play together on one machine at just 25 cents a go, in return, we’ll get an alcoholic drink each which would otherwise cost us around $5 each. Just don’t forget to tip the cocktail waitress!
2. You Can Get Free Hotel Stays, Buffets & Shows With MyVegas
MyVegas is a mobile and Facebook game operated by MGM Casinos. In return for playing games, you’ll be rewarded with points.
These points can then be converted into a whole host of rewards including free hotel stays, buffets, shows, rides on the monorail and even cruises!
Better still, it’s not actually as hard as you think.
We managed to exchange our coins for multiple stays at various MGM properties during our stay (including the Bellagio) and as these rewards also include the resort fee we had nothing to pay.
3. The Grand Canyon & Hoover Dam Are Just A Day Trip Away!
If there’s a day trip you take during your time in Vegas, make it a trip to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam.
The West Rim and the Grand Canyon Skywalk are located 120 miles from Vegas. This journey takes around 2 and a half hours by car. Alternatively, the South Rim is around 250 miles from Vegas and takes around 4 hours, this is considered by many as the true Grand Canyon experience.
The ultimate way to see the Grand Canyon is on a helicopter flight. This experience doesn’t come cheap, but it’s totally worth it!
We opted to take a bus tour to the Grand Canyon Skywalk which included a stop at the Hoover Dam as during this visit we were travelling with my elderly parents.
4. The Bellagio Fountain Show Runs Everyday From 3pm Until Midnight
The Bellagio Fountain show is one of the most Instagram-able spots in Las Vegas, and it’s easy to see why. This free performance is set in the 8.5-acre man-made lake and takes place daily from 3pm until midnight.
You’ll find that it’s much easier to get a front-row view of the fountains during the afternoon (at which point the fountains run every half hour) than it is on an evening (at which point the fountains run every 15 minutes).
However, there’s something much more magical about seeing the performance in the dark. To get the best view at this time arrive early and walk away from the main strip to either side of the hotel entrances where you’ll find there are less people.
For the ultimate experience book a table with a fountain view at one of the restaurants inside the Bellagio that look directly out onto the lake.
We upgraded to a one-bedroom suite during our stay at the Bellagio and while we had the view, we didn’t have the music (as the windows are so thick to block out excess noise) which really adds to the overall experience in my opinion.
5. Ubers & Lyfts Are The Cheapest Way To Get Around
Places are definitely further away than at first they may seem in Vegas. The strip, for example, is 4.5 miles long, which is somewhat impossible to walk in the blazing desert heat.
If you’re looking to easily travel from the airport to the strip or between hotels then ordering an Uber or a Lyft is definitly the way to go.
Personally, I’ve found Lyfts are more affordable and you can use our code CORA86601 for a discount on your first ride.
6. Save Big Bucks On Gambling, Shows & More With Players Clubs
Even if you don’t plan on doing much gambling during your time in Vegas, you should still sign up for all the casino players’ clubs and reward programmes.
Swipe your reward card everywhere you go within a property and with every purchase you make.
Even just having the reward card can often be seen as a benefit when applying for upgrades, and discounts. An while you might not get enough points to get any freebies on your first trip, you should buy your second.
I know from personal experience we didn’t bother with this on our first trip, however, I quickly came to regret this decision after our second and third trip having missed out on some big savings.
7. ATMs Charge BIG Service Fees
It’s not hard to find an ATM in Vegas, there are at least six on every casino floor. However, the cost of withdrawing cash from them comes at a price.
ATM service charge fees in Vegas run between $3 to $5 per transaction. Which of course, makes withdrawing $40 for dinner a waste.
Instead, try and pay by debit or credit card wherever possible and only use cash when gambling in the casino and for tips.
If you do have to withdraw from the ATM then plan your expenses so you can minimise the number of withdrawals you’ll have to make during your trip.
8. There’s More To Vegas Than Just Gambling, It Has Some Quirky & Super Interesting Museums!
If you’re a fan of quirky museums then you’re in luck because Vegas has some of the best!
Some of my favourites include;
The Neon Museum – One of the Instagram hot spots just outside of the city. This 2.62 acre site features signs from old casinos and other businesses.
The Mob Museum – An extensive display of items from law enforcements battle against the bad guys both in the US and worldwide.
The National Atomic Testing Museum – Home to a vast amount of documentation on the history of nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site, in the desert north of Las Vegas.
If you’re wanting to make most of the Las Vegas attractions then you can save big bucks by investing in a Las Vegas Pass.
9. If You’ve Got Time & On A Budget, Take The Monorail
The Las Vegas Monorail runs 3.9 miles starting at the SAHARA hotel and finishing at MGM Grand Station on the strip.
With a 1-day pass costing just $13 per person, it’s an affordable way to get around – especially if your hotel is one of those with a Monorail station attached.
We personally took great advantage of the Monorail when staying north of the strip at The Westgate. I estimate that over our 3-night stay here we saved at least $50 compared to booking Lyfts.
10. Make The Most Of Jetlag & Visit The ‘Welcome To Vegas’ Sign Early
One of the major sights in Las Vegas is the ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign which is located about one mile south of Mandalay Bay.
Queues here often run around 30 minutes during the day, however, if you happen to have jet lag come here as the sun rises to be first in line – and see one of the most awesome sunrises in the world.