I've done Vegas several times throughout my 20s--from girls trips, to baecations, to visiting family and, most recently, a professional conference. Las Vegas is the ultimate tourist destination (you'll likely see more rental cars than residential cars) but it's always a good time and doesn't have to be cheesy if you know how to do it. As the resident hostess with the mostest in my friend group and someone who loves planning an itinerary, I'm usually tasked with lining up activities when we travel.
Over time, I've picked up a few tricks and found must-visit spots that haven't lost their luster. I also recently made two back-to-back trips that yielded new finds and great photos so today, I'm sharing everything I know about how to do Vegas with you. I'm not a gambler (the most I'll do is blow on your dice for luck like Carrie in that Atlantic City SATC episode.) so cannot speak to the best slots, tables, or anything like that BUT if you want everything from delicious restaurant recommendations to cute outfit ideas to activities, and where to stay in Vegas, start scrolling, sis.
Where to Stay in Las Vegas
I recommend the Cosmopolitan, hands down. Most every resort on The Strip has multiple pools, a gym, onsite restaurants, and fitness facilities. Where the Cosmo stands out to me is its aesthetic. The rooms are very thoughtfully designed and nothing on the property looks out of place. The Cosmo is not home to my favorite Vegas pool party or nightclub but has a great gym, food court, signature bar: The Chandelier (more on that below), and the best buffet in town. The regular guest pools are nice, too. If you stay at the Cosmo, you absolutely must visit the Chelsea Pool and get a Dole Whip from the bar. The other frozen cocktails--margaritas, piña coladas, and frosé are all the rage but the Dole Whip is the slept on frozen you need to try. I already knew I'd love it after trying fresh Dole Whip while in Hawaii, but the Chelsea pool bartenders add rum, which I've come to realize is completely necessary!
I've also stayed at two other hotels: The Flamingo and Planet Hollywood. The Flamingo is cute (pink everywhere) with a retro vibe. Planet Hollywood was a straight up no for me, dawg. I've returned to the Cosmo multiple times and stayed in different types of rooms ranging from the entry level to big baller. Most every room has great views and even the most basic ones are spacious and well-appointed.
Things to Do in Las Vegas
Entertainment of every kind is available in Vegas because, again, it's a city for tourists. Well, it's really a city for gambling but they've got to provide options for people like me who don't partake, right? 🙂
- LINQ Promenade is a walkway between The Flamingo and LINQ hotels that's home to shops, chain eateries like Sprinkles cupcakes and In N Out Burger, and a handful of spots unique to Vegas. You can also go zip-lining here.
- At the end of the LINQ Promenade is the High Roller, which I highly recommend. It's an observation wheel, which is like a ferris wheel for adults. The cars provide amazing views of the strip and you can book a 30-minute ride with open bar for a great time with up to 19 friends. I've done it before with a large group of girls and we got our money's worth. You can also take a one hour yoga class on the High Roller! Check out the groupon options before you go.
- If you're visiting Las Vegas for a bachelorette girls' trip, I recommend Stripper 101 inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. In a private class, you and your friends will learn pole dancing technique and choreography from a pro, get stripper names, and have fun. If you tune into my Instagram stories, you know I love a good dance class so I felt right at home here. 🙂
- Visit the live flamingos at The Flamingo! This wildlife habitat in the middle of the hotel is completely free of charge whether or not you're a hotel guest. There are also fish and other types of birds.
- I mistakenly rode the Big Apple Roller Coaster at Hotel NY NY. I don't do roller coasters but thought it was a kiddie type of ride. It is definitely not. If you are into roller coasters, you'll love it. They snap your picture at some point on the ride. Mine was not cute.
- The Bellagio Fountain puts on a water show every 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the time of day. It's set to music, lit up at night, and an iconic thing to see in Vegas. It's also completely free so you have no excuse.
- Residencies are always going on in Vegas. Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, Gwen Stefani, and Backstreet Boys were in town last time I visited. In addition to residencies, artists make tour stops in Las Vegas just like any other city. They also do appearances at pool parties and nightclubs. Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne, and French Montana were doing shows during my last visit.
- There's no shortage of shows in Vegas, either. From a full slate of Cirque du Soleil options to magic, comedy, Chippendale's, and more.
Vegas Pool Parties & Clubs
Going to a pool party in Vegas is an experience. Each one has a different vibe with sections, cabanas, a stage, DJ, and dancers. Musicians perform regularly, as well. I recommend securing some kind of reserved area--a table, cabana, daybed, etc. The pools get very crowded and free seating is rare. It will be hot so you'll want a seat, some shade, and at least somewhere to put your stuff. Below are the most popular Vegas pool parties, the first five of which I've visited and enjoyed.
- Marquee at The Cosmopolitan*
- Wet Republic at MGM Grand*
- Drais Beach Club at The Cromwell* (best bet if you like hip-hop music)
- Liquid at Aria*
- Tao Beach at The Venetian*
- Encore Beach at Encore
- Daylight at Mandalay Bay
- Venus at Caesar's Palace
- Kaos at Palms
Most hotels also have a nightclub onsite, usually by the same name as the pool/day/beach club. I have personally visited Tao (hip hop, Latin, Reggae, and a bit of house music) and Marquee (strong house, strobe lights type of vibe). You can find Vegas pool party and nightclub outfit ideas here.
Where to Eat in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is home to almost every kind of cuisine at your fingertips. Several celebrity chefs have restaurants on The Strip so you'll find one-of-a-kind dining experiences, as well as more common chains. There are lots of cult favorite restaurants and you likely won't have to leave your resort to experience variety but you definitely should. Most anywhere you eat in Vegas will be pricier than back home so be prepared for that. Despite the abundance, clean eating options are pretty sparse, so if you're trying to eat for abs while there, you'll have to work at it! Not surprising in a city all about excess and indulgence. Here are my Vegas restaurant favorites.
- America Donuts (inside Hotel NY NY) is a cute little bakery with more than just donuts. Get. the. cronut!
- Chandelier Bar (inside Cosmopolitan) is a three-story bar & lounge shrouded in crystals and purple-tinted lights that make you feel like you're drinking inside a chandelier--see here. They have a rotating menu of signature drinks. If you like gin (or even if you don't think you do), get the Snap Judgement. 🙂 There's also an off-menu item--the Secret Drink--that comes with an edible flower and "experience" instructions from your server.
- District Donuts & Sliders (inside Cosmopolitan) is a New Orleans original that serves delicious gourmet donuts, fried chicken, and sliders. I recommend the fried chicken slider and old fashioned donut.
- Eiffel Tower Restaurant (inside Paris Hotel) is an upscale and very romantic restaurant with authentic French cuisine and knowledgeable bartenders. If you like bourbon, ask for the Brooklyn (similar to a Manhattan) but they can make pretty much anything you want. Also, try to get seated near a window facing the strip for an unmatched view of the Bellagio Fountain. I recommend the lamb burger!
- Foundation Room (inside Mandalay Bay) go a bit before sunset for food and cocktails with a golden view of The Strip.
- Gordon Ramsay's Fish & Chips (LINQ Promenade) is a no frills, fast casual restaurant with a simple menu. The options for protein, chips (fries), and drinks are exciting, though. From truffle chips to fried sausage to blueberry pomegranate lemonade. I recommend the fish and chips with curry mango and tartar sauces as well as the sticky toffee pudding pops. Be forewarned, there are five pops in an order. I definitely shared mine. The prices were very reasonable.
- The Henry (inside Cosmopolitan) is a modern, sunny restaurant that serves huge brunch portions. I recommend the brioche French toast.
- Margaritaville (inside Flamingo) has margaritas in every possible flavor, which are super Instagrammable but not very strong. Order the frozen mango strawberry marg and ask for an extra shot.
- STK (inside Cosmopolitan) is a $$$ steakhouse with excellent vibes and a poppin DJ. This is a great pregame dinner spot. Come correct because people are choosing!
- Sugar Factory (inside Planet Hollywood) is another super Instagrammable spot with over-the-top individual and bowl cocktails. They also have a full food menu. I recommend the Strawberry Blonde martini as it's both delicious and beautiful. There's another Sugar Factory, the flagship location, inside Fashion Show Mall.
- Tao (inside the Venetian) is an ornate, multi-story Asian restaurant. It's beautiful inside but also dark and moody so don't expect to get great pictures. Just have a great time!
- Vanderpump Cocktail Garden (inside Caesar's Palace): is a brand new eatery that I fell in love with. If you are familiar with Lisa Vanderpump via Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Vanderpump Rules, or any of her other restaurants, you'll instantly recognize the aesthetic and iconic quotes and photos on the walls. This is a fabulous option for a romantic date night or grabbing drinks with the girls. It does get busy (when we left, there was a line out the door) so be prepared for that. I recommend the gin-based English Garden to drink and the goat cheese balls, salad, and chicken sliders to eat. Prices were definitely reasonable by Vegas standards.
- Village Pub/Ellis Island Cafe (inside Ellis Island Hotel) is a well-known Vegas gem. Go here if you want to escape the pricey meals on The Strip. A meal was like $10 last time I went, including a beer from their brewery and they have delicious fish & chips. This place is no frills.
- Wicked Spoon Buffet (inside Cosmopolitan) is the best buffet in Vegas, hands down and yet another reason I prefer to stay at the Cosmo. You don't have to stay there to dine there, though. The endless food, drink, and dessert options will ruin all other Vegas buffets for you, trust me. I recommend going for brunch.
- Yardbird (inside The Venetian) is small chain with locations in Vegas, Los Angeles, and Miami. It books up quickly for dinner so make reservations in advance or try them for lunch (which is still quite busy, too). If you can get in, go! I recommend the lobster mac & cheese, Southern Revival cocktail, and biscuits with house-made jam--to. die. for.
You can get cocktails pretty much anywhere in Vegas. Even the chain restaurants that don't serve alcohol in your hometown serve alcohol in Vegas.
Best Time of Year to Visit Las Vegas
I've traveled to Las Vegas during every season and, because of the desert-like climate, there isn't necessarily a bad time to go, weather-wise. The summers are HOT and I say that as a born-and-raised Houstonian so you know it's real. Dry desert heat is no joke and an entirely different kind of beast from the hot and humid environment I grew up in. Winters are pretty mild--you can find plenty to do but much of it will be indoors. I would say spring is the perfect time to go because you can enjoy outdoor activities like pool parties without excessive sweating.
Helpful Tips on How to Do Vegas
- Buy a case of water after checking into your hotel room. This is a habit I've gotten all my girlfriends into when we do group trips because hydration is NOT optional. I usually go to a CVS on The Strip. Specifically in Las Vegas, bottled water everywhere outside a store is super pricey--like $6 per bottle.
- Just be aware that promoters will blow up your Instagram the minute you post a pic tagged in or near Vegas. Don't reply to their DMs.
- There are things to do outside The Strip. Freemont Street in downtown Vegas has gaming, great eateries, ziplining, and more. The Grand Canyon isn't far off, either, and you can do anything from a guided hike to a helicopter tour there, should you so desire.
- Pack or purchase sunscreen. The heat is no joke and neither are the UVA/UVB rays. Whether you're exploring The Strip, pool partying, or just ducking in and out of hotels, you'll need sunscreen so don't skimp. Visors and sunglasses help, too. Here are a bunch of really cute ones!
- Be prepared to walk through clouds of smoke in the casinos. You'll really appreciate that first breath of fresh air once you step outside onto The Strip.
- You can't stay in Vegas for too long. I think four days is a good length of time. Beyond that, you'll burn out and probably shrivel up from the heat and decreased water intake!
What's your favorite thing to do in Las Vegas? Let me know below. 🙂 As always, thanks for reading!
P.S. More domestic destinations: