Tips for Traveling to Las Vegas

Millions of people travel to Sin City every year with the slogan of “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” fresh on their lips. We have been to Las Vegas at least a half-dozen times over the years and we have some great and some not so great experiences while we were there. Obviously, the city is known for its over-the-top casinos, star headlining shows, and celebrity chef restaurants. If you decide to make the trip to Las Vegas, here are a few suggestions that we have to hopefully make your trip a better one.

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Fountains at the Bellagio
  1. Don’t Bring Children to the Strip – Before everyone with children gets upset with us, let us explain. There was a time when Las Vegas tried to cater to families, adding rollercoasters and themed hotels like Excalibur. Those days are gone. Unless you really want to stroll the streets where strip club representatives constantly hand out cards with nude women and men, dancers and show girls wearing almost nothing stand on the street ready to take pictures with tourists and encourage them to attend their shows, and rolling billboards with half-naked people are at every intersection, the strip is not kid-friendly. Las Vegas is an adult playground, people wander the streets with drinks in hand at every hour of the day and the activities are designed for adults out to have a good time and let loose. There is nothing wrong with that, but in our opinion it not a place to bring children. There are places in Las Vegas that you can take the kids, it just shouldn’t be the strip.

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    New York, New York and Excalibur
  2. If You are Going to Gamble, Give Yourself a Budget – Not everyone who goes to Las Vegas gambles as there are plenty of other things to do other than play one of the many games of chance that are available. Gambling can be fun, but for some people it can also be a little addictive as it seems like the big win is one hand or spin away. Set yourself an absolute limit of what you are willing to lose and don’t exceed it. If and when you have spent that amount, you are done, no matter how lucky you might feel about the next big chance.

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    Giving it a Spin
  3. Go During the Off-Season – At popular times of the year, Las Vegas can be extremely busy. There are conventions with business travelers, bachelor and bachelorette excursions, international tourists, as well as your typical vacationers. If you want to get the best prices on hotels, shows, and other entertainment, consider going in October through the end of December, before Christmas as Christmas through New Year’s Eve is quite popular. There might not be as many headliners with shows during the off-season, but most of the year-round shows are all still running and you can get better seats at better prices. You might even be able to take advantage of the half-price, last-minute, show tickets and actually get seats that are worth the price.

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    Even Las Vegas does Christmas, Somewhat
  4. Don’t Take Pictures with the Costumed People on the Street – In our opinion, this is true around the world, not just in Las Vegas, but these people wearing tattered costumes that look similar to popular characters and otherwise dress up to entice tourists to take photos and then demand money are con-artists. If less people would pay to have their photo taken, or worse yet, pose their children with them, and then give them money, then less of them would be on the streets. If you want pictures with costumed characters, go to Disney World where they are actual actors.

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    Characters in the Foreground
  5. Take Advantage of Free Activities – These days there aren’t too many of them to be found, but there are some free things to see and do when you are in Las Vegas. There is the fountain at the Bellagio, the volcano eruption at the Mirage, and the Fall of Atlantis at the Caesars Forum Shops. The casinos themselves have elaborate displays that are well worth taking the time to see and some of them change from year to year. Even walking the high-end shops between the casinos like the Forum Shops or the Grand Canal Shops in the Venetian are truly spectacular. And then, since Las Vegas attracts such a wide variety of visitors, there is always people watching.

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    Volcano Eruption at the Mirage
  6. Pace Yourself – Not to sound like your parents, but we too often see people that are inebriated or fighting heat exhaustion. We get it, people go to Las Vegas to let loose, have some fun, and sometimes push their boundaries. Not every night in Las Vegas should end up like the movie The Hangover. We aren’t saying don’t have a good time, but perhaps you shouldn’t start with a cocktail in two-foot glass at one-o-clock in the afternoon. Also, remember that Las Vegas is in the desert, that means that it gets hot, really hot. It also means that the air is very dry and it is easy to become dehydrated and alcohol does not provide hydration. What happens might truly stay in Vegas, but it is better if you at least remember it.

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    Walking the Shops
  7. Book Popular Shows in Advance – Many of the really popular shows either sell-out, or at least the desirable seats do, weeks in advance during the busy times of the year. If there are particular shows that you want to see during your visit to Las Vegas, go online and book them prior to your arrival. Nothing would be more disappointing than arriving for a special weekend only to find out that you can’t get tickets to that one show you’ve always dreamed of seeing. Obviously that means paying full price for your tickets, but if you want the most memorable Vegas experience, it will be well worth it.

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    Show Signs Everywhere
  8. Be Prepared for the Cost – With more and more millennials visiting Las Vegas who are less inclined to throwing their money away by gambling, the town has responded to the changing culture by seemingly raising the prices on everything. The food is more expensive, drinks are more expensive, shows are more expensive, activities like the CSI Experience and the Mob Museum are more expensive. By now you get the theme, Las Vegas is expensive. If you take the time to look around, you can find some deals, some happy hour food and drink options, and don’t be afraid to get off of the strip. Most importantly, just know that things will cost more than a lot of other places, so prepare your trip budget accordingly so that your wonderful dinner out doesn’t end with stress over the final bill.

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    Rack of Lamb
  9. Tell Your Taxi Driver Not to Take the Highway – There are two ways for the taxis to get you from the airport to the strip. One is the overland streets and the other is the highway. They claim that the highway is faster, but we have not found that to be the case. Taking the highway and going through the tunnel will cost you more, regardless of whether it truly saves you a few minutes or not. It can as much as twice the price, so if you have the patience and time, tell the driver not to go through the tunnel or take the highway.

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    Light Traffic on the Strip, Very Unusual

Las Vegas, A Food Destination

We took advantage of some time off to take a trip to Las Vegas once again. Vegas is an easy trip from Colorado as there are a lot of inexpensive flights and, since we have a timeshare there, inexpensive rooms. This was our fifth trip to Las Vegas, but for us, it isn’t about gambling or even the glitz and glamour.  We actually used our trip to have some down time, relax, enjoy some incredible food, and simply connect with one another.  And yes, we stayed on the Las Vegas strip, albeit in the Trump Tower, which allowed us to get away from the noise of the casinos.

Fountain Outside of Caesar's Palace
Fountain Outside of Caesar’s Palace
Statue of Liberty at the New York, New York Casino
Statue of Liberty at the New York, New York Casino

If you haven’t been to Las Vegas lately, you might be surprised by all of the top chefs with restaurants in the casinos.  Las Vegas has gone through several transformations over the years.  Obviously, everyone knows about the early days when Sinatra, the Rat Pack, and the mob ruled the town.  Then, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, they tried to become a family friendly destination.  After losing millions in revenue, it was a return to the original formula as they rolled out the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” campaign.

Thai Calamari
Thai Calamari
Cheese Board
Cheese Board

Now, it is definitely a destination for “foodies”.  Wherever you turn, you’ll see signs and billboards for the famous chefs and their restaurants.  You see names like Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Giada, Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck, and many, many more.  You may have to fight your way through the casino floors and the incessant ringing of the video slot machines, but you’ll be well rewarded if you do.  The days of the cheap buffet and the nickel steaks are definitely a thing of the past.  The food is fantastic and, depending on the time of year, you’ll want to make reservations if you want to enjoy the creations of your favorite chef.  Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll even see your favorite chef in person or perhaps another celebrity enjoying everything that the Las Vegas strip has to offer.

Deviled Eggs
Deviled Eggs
Foie Gras
Foie Gras

Obviously, there are also a ton of shows, with every large casino offering some sort of Cirque Du Soleil extravaganza.  Magicians, comedy acts, and a plethora of singers.  Night clubs too, can be found to meet every style and taste.  But there are other things to do as well.  There is the top of the Stratosphere, the CSI Experience, the Titanic Exhibition, the Bodies Experience, Mob Museum, Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, Pin Ball Museum, helicopter tours, tours to the Grand Canyon, and much more.  We’ve done many of these and they are all well worth a try, although many of them can be quite pricey.

Fountain inside of the Wynn
Fountain inside of the Wynn
Paris Hotel and Casino
Paris Hotel and Casino

As we mentioned before, this was a relaxing trip for us, so we made our way through several restaurants.  The highlight was dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant with its spectacular views of the Bellagio fountains.  We also ate at Gordon Ramsay’s Pub, Emeril’s Plate, the DB Brasserie, Cucina by Wolfgang Puck, the Nine Fine Irishmen, and many more.

Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas Strip
Caesar's Palace
Caesar’s Palace

If you’re thinking about going to Las Vegas and have never been before, you really should go, at least once.  Every time we visit, we always see something that we haven’t seen before.  Vegas isn’t just about gambling and shows, but from our perspective, it is an adult destination.  We see a lot of families walking along the strip, taking pictures with the many costumed characters, but you’ll also be constantly barraged with flyers for strip clubs and adult shows.  So, definitely visit Las Vegas, but in our opinion, you should leave the little ones at home.

Rack of Lamb
Rack of Lamb
Beef Wellington
Beef Wellington
New York, New York Casino and Hotel
New York, New York Casino and Hotel

Cripple Creek, Colorado

We drove out to Cripple Creek, Colorado, last week while we were up in the mountains to look at the gorgeous autumn foliage.  Cripple Creek is an interesting town located in the mountains of Teller County and is well worth the drive to visit if you have the chance.  The biggest draw for tourists to visit Cripple Creek is that many of the historic buildings have been converted to casinos, but that certainly isn’t the only reason to go there.  In addition to the casinos, the town holds a variety of events throughout the year geared to bring tourists to the area, some of which are quite unique and fun.

Mural on Building
Mural on Building
Main Street in Cripple Creek
Main Street in Cripple Creek

This was our first time back to Cripple Creek in several years.  On our first trip to Cripple Creek, we went up specifically to play a few slots and generally just to see what the town was all about.  This was before we started going to Las Vegas on a somewhat regular basis, so we weren’t used to the “video game” style slot machines.  We stuck a dollar into one of the first slot machines that we came across and pulled the handle (yes, we were old school).  The rows of characters spun and stopped, then spun and stopped again, then again, and again, and again.  After several minutes of spinning and stopping, a message appeared that an attendant had been notified to assist us as the blue light on top of the slot machine started flashing and bells started ringing.  Our first experience with free spins turned out to be a good one.  We put a dollar in on this trip as well, but without the same success, so that was the extent of our gambling this time.

Historic Building
Historic Building
Cripple Creek
Cripple Creek

Cripple Creek was first settled in the mid 1800’s, but it was the discovery of gold that put Cripple Creek on the map.  After the discover of gold in 1890, people flocked to area and by 1900 more than 50,000 people lived in the gold camp.  Although most of the mines have long since closed down, there are still working mines in the area.  There is even an old ghost town near by that is definitely worth a visit.  Today, the town relies mostly on tourism and gambling rather than mining, but for those who come to gamble, there is still that hope that they might be the ones to strike it rich.

Saloon Bar
Saloon Bar
Casinos
Casinos

Some of the events that draw people to Cripple Creek are the Ice Festival in February with a variety of beautiful ice sculptures.  There is the “Top of the World Rodeo”, which is the highest elevation rodeo at 9,640 feet.  There are ghost walks throughout the year and, in September, there is a cemetery tour.  But probably the most unique event that the town holds every year is “Donkey Derby Days” which occur in June and this year was the 84th occurrence of the event.  There are certainly plenty of reasons to come and enjoy the food, the atmosphere, the scenery, and if you’re in the mood, the gambling.

Cripple Creek Nestled in the Mountains
Cripple Creek Nestled in the Mountains
Farm Outside of Cripple Creek
Farm Outside of Cripple Creek

Although we didn’t spend the night, there are several hotels in and out of many of the casinos.  There are also several restaurants and the town is definitely growing.  This was just a day trip for us from Colorado Springs, but the weather was perfect, the scenery gorgeous, and we had a wonderful time walking the streets, sticking our noses into some shops, and having  a quick bite to eat.  For whatever reason, we don’t think of going to Cripple Creek very often, but we’ll have to make sure it isn’t as long between this visit and our next.