As we mentioned before, our latest trip to Las Vegas was really about getting some down time and relaxing. When traveling to Las Vegas, food is always a highlight of any trip and this trip was no different. We went to a few of our favorite places to eat, but also purposely chose to go to some places that we hadn’t eaten before. Obviously, there are a plethora of celebrity chef owned restaurants, each one having multiple restaurants in several casinos, but there are other choices that are not as expensive.
One of the places that we returned to was The Yardbird at the Venetian, a restaurant specializing in eggs and chicken. We had fried chicken with hot sauce, chilled spiced watermelon, and a fresh baked biscuit. Another place that we returned was Jardin in the Encore, which has an open-air feel overlooking the pool area as well as some creative meal choices. We also went back to Gordan Ramsey’s Pub in Caesars, which offers traditional British fare and a nice variety of beers and ales.
One of the new places that we ate at was a Mexican restaurant called El Segundo, which is at the Fashion Show Mall and features wonderful food at reasonable prices as well as happy hour margaritas. Another new restaurant for us to eat at was Morels in the Palazzo where we had quiche and a very large omelet as well as two for one drink specials.
We always love a good deal on Oysters, so we even had a dozen oysters at the Oyster Bar in Harrah’s, which was nicer than restaurants in Harrah’s used to be. All in all, we enjoyed a wonderful variety of food and even found a few bargains along the way. The buffet seems to be making a comeback as several casinos offered them as well, but since we aren’t heavy eaters, it doesn’t make sense for us to sit down at an all you can eat buffet. Las Vegas has so many food options that you could spend a month on the strip and never eat at the same place twice, although you might go broke in the process.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are a lot of restaurant choices in Las Vegas, many of them coming with a fairly hefty price tag. On a previous trip to Vegas, we found Grimaldi’s Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria in the Venetian and since we love New York style pizzas, it has become a favorite place for us to stop when we are in town. The atmosphere is casual, the prices are very reasonable, and the staff is extremely friendly.
Obviously, the food is what is most important and Grimaldi’s pizza is definitely a worthwhile treat. The original restaurant is famous in New York City and their coal brick-oven pizzas have a distinct taste and flavor. Obviously there are plenty of other offerings such as calzones, salads, and traditional Italian dishes, but we chose to have one of their traditional pizzas with extra mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, and mushrooms.
We sat at the bar where we had a couple of glasses of wine with our pizza and watched some sports on the television. The bartenders and waiters who came up to the well for their drinks were all very nice and quick to start a conversation, crack a joke, and genuinely seemed to enjoy their jobs. We even recognized Eric, one of the bartenders, from a trip to Las Vegas a couple of years ago. If you want to get out of the casinos and have good food at a price that won’t break the bank, Grimaldi’s is an excellent choice. Don’t have time to sit down for a meal, you can also order the pizzas to-go and take it back to your hotel room.