I recently experienced Las Vegas for the very first time. I choose the word “experienced” rather than visited, because Vegas is truly that sort of destination – one that you experience with all of your senses. A walk down “The Strip,” takes you from Rome to Egypt, then on to Paris, Venice and New York in mere blocks (and along the way I spied Elvis, Captain America and Pikachu). The jangles, bells and whoops of joy emanating from the casinos really get the blood pumping. And, what’s that smell? It’s money, honey.
Of course, Las Vegas wasn’t always the sprawling playground we see today. Founded in 1905 after the opening of a railroad that linked Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, it was a mere whistle stop until 1931. The area really began to grow when work started on the Boulder Dam (now the Hoover Dam). The arrival of an army of young male workers, plus the installation of electricity, made it the ideal spot for entertainment venues such as theaters and casinos (largely built by the Mafia). In 1946, mobster Bugsy Siegel, backed by gangster Meyer Lansky, opened the Flamingo, a swank resort that took its cues from Hollywood. And the rest, as they say, is history.
If you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas, I’ve compiled some highlights you won’t want to miss, from places to stay, to things to do. But, this is a short list. There are so many places to visit, you can’t do it all in one trip!
#1 Place to Stay in Las Vegas: The Venetian
The Venetian will take your breath away.
From the moment you walk through the doors, you are transported into a luxurious hotel and casino with Old World charm and New World extravagance.
The sheer size and scope of the barrel vaulted piazza are impressive alone. But, with the addition of intricate carvings, gilding, larger than life paintings, glittering chandeliers, marble tiled floors, statues, fountains… it’s like all the finest bits of Italy are crammed into one location. Overwhelming? A bit. Stunning? Absolutely!
One of my favorite parts of The Venetian is called The Gallery. This is the shopping area that replicates a Venetian “street” at dusk complete with a central canal and opera singing gondoliers. We dined canalside under twinkling lights and toasted the costumed gondoliers as they would glide past.
To book a suite, visit The Venetian.
Best Place to Party in Las Vegas? Chateau Nightclub & Rooftop
Looking for a real night on the town that doesn’t involve slot machines or blackjack tables? Try the Chateau Nightclub & Rooftop, the only rooftop nightclub in Las Vegas.
Party under stars at the base of the Eiffel Tower at this enormous venue (over 45,000 square feet). And, enjoy stunning views of the The Strip, including the spectacular Bellagio fountain extravaganza, which shows every 15 minutes in the evening.
Although we were there for a private party, there are actually different themes each night. The club’s throwback night, Moon Tower Thursdays, features hits from the 80s and 90s, for example. Chateau Wednesdays, the nightclub’s industry night, offers complimentary admission to locals with worker ID.
Please note, a dress code is strictly enforced (men really do wear jackets, which is lovely). So, check the website in advance, so you’ll be prepared.
To learn more, visit Chateau Nightclub & Rooftop.
THE Steak House is THE Best Place to Eat in Las Vegas
Although our trip to Las Vegas was for business, we found time to have some fun, too. Since my expense account per diem didn’t cover “fine dining,” one night we jettisoned the corporate card and treated ourselves to a proper dinner at THE Steak House, located in Circus Circus.
THE Steak House is everything a traditional steak house should be. Dark paneling, low lighting, cozy seating… I half expected to see Frank Sinatra stroll by. It’s just that type of place.
Add to that impeccable service, high end wine, and of course, some of the best steaks we’d ever eaten! In fact, THE Steak House serves only the finest quality Midwestern beef, dry-aged to perfection in a glass-enclosed room. (This room is viewable as you enter the restaurant and from the main dining room.) The prime cuts are then prepared over an exhibition-style, open-hearth mesquite charcoal broiler. Heaven!
A menu is available on the website to peruse before you go. And, although the prices were high, sharing a plate (for an additional $20) was the best idea for us, since the portions are huge.
Click to make your reservation to THE Steak House.
For the Top Comedy Acts in Las Vegas, go to… Rio
Weary from the hoopla, bright lights and noisy casinos, we opted for a comedy show one night. And, the best comedy can be found at The Comedy Cellar in the Rio hotel and resort.
“The Cellar” replicates the iconic, underground, Greenwich Village, New York City comedy club, with brick walls, low ceilings and casual seating. It’s an intimate venue (only 300 seats) and it even felt more so, since we had VIP seating.
We saw an amazing five comedians in one night. There was great diversity in tone, topic and delivery, and it felt as if each one was funnier than the last. By the end of the night my sides actually hurt from laughing so much.
There are drinks and pub fare available. But, you may want to save your appetite for one of the many great restaurants, also located in Rio.
Note: On a map it’s hard to tell, but Rio is not within walking distance of The Strip, so you’ll need to Uber.
See the lineup of comedians and book tickets at The Comedy Cellar.
Las Vegas Destinations Still on My Bucket List
The Luxor Hotel and Resort. Instantly recognizable by its iconic pyramid, The Luxor is also a destination for amazing and varied shows and exhibits, from The Blue Man Group, to the Titanic Artifact Exhibit, to country star Brad Paisley.
Cirque de Soleil. The high flying acrobatics and artistry of Cirque de Soleil are epic. And, now there are seven different shows available, each with a unique theme.
Hoover Dam. Although not technically in Las Vegas (it’s actually located in Black Canyon about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas) this feat of engineering makes a great side trip. 700-hundred-foot-tall the concrete arch-gravity dam and is truly a marvel of the modern world.
New York, New York. Although the “real” New York is only a short drive away from my home, this hotel and resort offers the best of The Big Apple — Lady Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Greenwich Village — all in one spot. No taxis needed!
High Roller Observation Wheel at the LINQ. is the only way to see it all. Get a 360-degree view of Las Vegas… and beyond. The Observation Wheel reaches 550 feet above ground, making it the world’s tallest.
Viva Las Vegas, baby!
Susan Said… WHAT?! is your guide to real style for the way you live. From fabulous fashion and accessories, to gorgeous gardens, stunning interiors and must-visit destinations, plus the latest products and tips for throwing parties, weddings, and events of all kinds. Susan Conforte McNeill is a wife, mother, author and entrepreneur. Susan is also the co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait! Read more about her in Family Circle Magazine.