Las Vegas Travel Guide: Where to Stay, What to Eat, and More

In spring 2020, the Las Vegas Strip was devoid of people.

A drive down the famous street lined with mega resorts and their glitzy lights was reminiscent of a drive through a post-apocalyptic city in any number of dystopian movies. The cause of that desertion — the COVID-19 pandemic — only amplified that uneasy eeriness.

Fast forward more than a year and one of the nation’s tourism magnets is open and bustling. The city’s economy is buzzing again, just like the slot machines inside the famous casinos. Flights from nearly everywhere into Las Vegas are cheap, and lodging can be, too. And food and drink prices off-the-Strip aren’t as outlandish as inside the mega resorts.

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Las Vegas needs tourism. The city’s economy is almost entirely devoted to the hospitality industry. But the important thing to note is there’s much more to Las Vegas than conventions, gambling, and parties. Whether it’s sitting in an electric Vegas Golden Knights game, exploring the nearby desert and mountain landscapes, or checking out the surprisingly vibrant beer scene, there’s plenty to do off-the-Strip, if that’s not your cup of tea.

Vegas is so much more than most people realize. It’s slowly shedding the negative perception many hold, thanks in part to an incredible food scene beyond the hotels, a growing arts community, and the national attention the new professional sports teams bring.

Where to Stay

Las Vegas has very obvious places to stay if there for some gambling and partying. There’s the massive resorts on Las Vegas Boulevard. The famous row of hotels regularly seen on TV and in movies — the likes of MGM Grand, Bellagio, Caesars Palace. There’s also Old Vegas; the nifty older hotels on Fremont Street. And then you can go further into Las Vegas, including posh resorts like Red Rock.

Four Seasons Las Vegas

Las Vegas Four Seasons
Four Seasons

Part of Mandalay Bay complex, the Four Seasons is at the very southern end of the Strip. The Four Seasons is one of the only non-gaming hotels in the city. The non-smoking property, also a rarity in Las Vegas, is perfect for a quiet getaway in the middle of a noisy desert. The resort has a five-star spa and a private pool. But the option for a more raucous environment is there, too. Hotel patrons also have access to the massive Mandalay Bay pool system, which includes a real sand beach, a lazy river and three pools. Restaurants within the complex include Charlie Palmer Steak, Border Grill, and Libertine Social. There’s also the House of Blues and the Shark Reef Aquarium.

  • Nearest Airport: McCarran International Airport
  • Time: 10 minutes by car
  • Distance: 3.2 miles

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Probably the most chic resort in Las Vegas, Cosmo has it all. The atmosphere is upbeat and the décor stylish. While it has all the normal table games, its gambling floor isn’t nearly as loud and obtrusive as most of the other Strip hotels. Tucked all around the hotel are swanky bars and restaurants. From David Chang’s Momofuku to the ultra hip STK, the fine dining is excellent. Then there’s the food court Block 16 Urban Food Hall, with incredible options from across the country. Up for a club — hit Marquee. Down for a concert — trendy artists slip through The Chelsea all the time.

  • Nearest Airport: McCarran International Airport
  • Time: 8 minutes by car
  • Distance: 3 miles

Best Airbnb in Las Vegas: Entire House

Las Vegas Airbnb
Airbnb

With so many hotel options in Las Vegas, it can be hard to pin down a great Airbnb. The good news is that residential neighborhoods envelope the Strip and keep everyone within a quick drive — you have to drive pretty much everywhere in the sprawling metropolis. If Airbnb is a necessity, this expansive house in the posh Summerlin neighborhood is sure to please. The house bumps up against the mountains that line the western edge of Las Vegas. The backyard pools offer a cool respite after a day hiking at Red Rock Conversation or Mount Charleston. Golf is nearby, and so is downtown Summerlin, an upscale shopping area with plenty of good eats. In the summer, catch the Triple A Las Vegas Aviators at one of the best minor league ballparks in the country.

Where to Eat

The Strip is a land of extravagance and indulgence, restaurants included. The beauty of being known as a culinary hotbed for years has helped spawn a new movement of off-the-Strip restaurants that are worth stopping in. In fact, many are far superior in experience and quality — especially in terms of value — than most of what you’ll find on in the mega resorts. There are dozens of amazing off-the-Strip restaurants that are don’t get enough attention in the shadows of the resorts. Here are just a few great options.

Best for Asian: Lotus of Siam

Lotus of Siam
Lotus of Siam

It is arguably the best Thai food in the U.S. Lotus of Siam isn’t on the Strip, but its two locations are close enough to make it a worthy stop. Plus it delivers. There’s no going wrong with any order, but it does tout itself as a Northern Thai place, so the best bet is staying in the “Northern” section of the menu. The Khao Soi with crispy duck is a go-to. There is also a massive Chinatown district on Spring Mountain with dozens of excellent restaurants to satisfy an itch for any Asian cuisine.

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Read more: Thai Cuisine Guide

Best Bar Grub: 595 Craft and Kitchen

595 craft and kitchen las vegas
595 Craft and Kitchen/Facebook

Most bars in Vegas feature gaming computers in the bar and smoking. 595 is not one of those places. The beer bar would feel normal in any beer-centric city, and it routinely has one of the best tap lists in the Valley. Aside from the beer — and a stellar cocktail list — 595 checks in with some incredible food. The burger might be the best in Vegas, while the hot chicken sandwich will ensure some serious sweat.

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Best Italian: Esther’s Kitchen

Esthers Kitchen
Esther’s Kitchen

Chef James Trees was nominated for a James Beard Award, and for good reason. His rustic take on classic Italian dishes are second-to-none in Las Vegas. Just try not to fill up on the fresh-baked sourdough bread at the Arts District restaurant. It’s hard to go wrong, whether it’s going for one of the house-made pasta dishes, pizzas or a “dish of the moment.” A neat list of amaros is worth checking out as well. Trees also has two other restaurants, Ada’s Wine Bar and Al Solito Posto.

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Best Seafood: Other Mama

Other Mama
Other Mama

Like Trees, chef Dan Krohmer earned a James Beard nomination for his quality work off the Strip. Other Mama is situated in a strip mall a few miles west of the Strip. Whether its fresh sashimi, a selection of oysters, or a plate-like chicken-fried lobster, most items on the menu are can’t-miss.

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Best American: Main Street Provisions

Main Street Provisions
Main Street Provisions

The Arts District has exploded in recent years, with coffee shops, breweries, restaurants, and more joining a variety of awesome antique shops. Main Street Provisions popped up during the COVID-19 pandemic and do not disappoint. Self-described as modern American comfort food, it’s a bit misleading. Start with the Baba-Choke-Ganoush & Hominy Hummus served with fry bread, before moving on to the main dishes, like the honey lavender pasture bird, roasted seafood soup, or a selection of steaks. Nearby there’s Good Pie (great pizza), the aforementioned brewery offerings (try Able Baker), and Soulbelly, a BBQ joint by chef Bruce Kalman.

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What to Do

Cool Red Rocks: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon
Travel Nevada

Look to the west pretty much anywhere in Las Vegas and a red section of mountains should be apparent. That’s the aptly named Red Rock Canyon is a geological wonderland. It’s a few minute drive from Downtown Summerlin, about a half-hour from the Strip. Within the park, there’s a 13-mile drive that stops at big red towers, a fault, seasonal waterfalls, and ancient petroglyphs.

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Quick Trip to Mars: Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire
Travel Nevada

Approximately 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas is a portal to another world. Valley of Fire has formed 130 million years ago and is an awe-inspiring landscape that looks like it came straight out of a painting. Like in Red Rock Canyon, there are ancient petroglyphs scattered throughout the park, as well as animals. Be careful in the summer, however; it gets hot.

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A Need for Speed: Exotics Racing

Exotics Racing

A great thing about Vegas is the catering to aspirational living. At Exotics Racing, anyone can drive some of the most expensive cars in the world. Five laps around the track with a McLaren is $399. A drive in a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Audi R8 is $299.

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An Alpine Experience: Mount Charleston

Drive a little bit beyond Red Rock and you’ll reach Mount Charleston. Sprouting from an area of low basins, Mount Charleston is the most prominent peak in Nevada and the eighth-most prominent in the U.S. Surrounded by wilderness that includes plenty of wildlife, including horses and mountain lions, the mountain features incredible hikes, camping, and even skiing — the snow cap is visible for nearly half the year from the Strip.

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Checking In With the Boss: The Mob Museum

Mob Museum
Travel Nevada

Organized crime is nearly synonymous with Las Vegas, so it makes sense that there’s a museum dedicated to the mob in Sin City. Opened in 2012, the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement has the perfect setting in the old federal courthouse. The exhibits track organized crime throughout American history — it even has the wall the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre happened against. Oh! And there’s a speakeasy in the basement.

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How to Save Money on Your Trip to Las Vegas

Experiences

Often called “America’s Playground,” Las Vegas is a hotbed for various culinary offerings, unique scenes, and other forms of entertainment. There are casinos, restaurants, and lavish hotels everywhere which makes this town a perfect place if you want to celebrate with friends. But if you’re looking for a different atmosphere during your stay, Airbnb.com also offers experiences like hot air balloon rides and helicopter tours near the Strip. You can still experience the over-the-top fun Las Vegas is known for, but also away from the everyday hustle and bustle of the town.

Hotels

Choosing where to stay when visiting Las Vegas is probably one of the most fun aspects of planning your vacation. This town is known for its wide variety of accommodation with each offering unique experiences for its visitors. Booking.com, Kayak.com, and Hotel Tonight provide discounts when booking a hotel accommodation in the Strip that will surely suit your every need and desire.

Vehicle Rentals

While Las Vegas offers good public transportation, there’s no better way to go from one place to another with a car. If you’re planning to take a trip to Mount Charleston or the Valley of Fire, it’s best to rent a car for convenience and to save some cash. Kayak.com is a helpful site when looking for the best deals for car rentals.

Read more: Why are Car Rentals Expensive?

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