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Las Vegas

Photo by Lisa Brewster

Las Vegas Itineraries

Las Vegas for Bachelors and Bachelorettes

Las Vegas for Families

Las Vegas for First-Timers

Las Vegas in 24 Hours

Las Vegas Off the Beaten Path

Buzzing casinos, sultry nightlife, glam shopping, and star chef's restaurants aren't all that Sin City promises

Many places  claim to be the city that never sleeps, but nowhere is that more true than in Las Vegas, aka “Sin City.” Time loses all meaning and everyday life takes on a dreamy (or quite possibly a drunken) haze when it’s after midnight and you’re strutting down the world-famous Strip under the beckoning glow of ritzy casinos’ neon lights. You can pretend to be anyone and star in your own fantasy here, or just slip into the background and watch the chaotic carnival of humanity parade past. Anything feels like  it could happen in Vegas, and even if you realize that’s mostly an illusion, it’s still a tantalizing thought.


The Vegas Strip

Even if you know nothing else about Las Vegas, you’ve definitely heard of The Strip. It was there that mobster Bugsy Siegel opened the infamous Flamingo casino hotel, and later Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack whooped it up at the Sands. Vintage properties are in short supply these days, though. Stretching ever upward with sleek skyscrapers, the 21st-century Strip is all about the next big thing, whether that’s a high-flying chef’s restaurant, a lavish boutique hotel, or a fashionista’s dream shopping mall.


Downtown Las Vegas

Downtown, Fremont Street is Vegas’s original gambling quarter, where sawdust gambling halls and brothels once shacked up right next to the railroad tracks. Today, Glitter Gulch has been transformed into the Fremont Street Experience, a sound-and-light canopy that arches over a merrily drunken party scene. Starry-eyed newbies rarely make it this far north of the Strip. That’s quite all right with the blue-haired granny slot jockeys, cowboy poker studs, hard-core bikers and college kids who all find cheap ways to amuse themselves downtown.

A short walk east, the neon-lit Fremont East Entertainment District is one long block of coffeehouses, art galleries, cool bars, clubs cocktail lounges, and more. This is where you’ll find local hanging out during the day and after dark when the neon signs glow. Another place where you’ll find locals is in the 18b Arts District, south of downtown. The best time to visit the arts district is on First Fridays, a monthly festival with art gallery openings, after parties, and more.


Las Vegas as a Base for Nearby Road Trips

If you’re an outdoorsy type whose skin crawls at the thought of being cooped up inside smoky casinos all day, don’t dismiss Las Vegas quite so fast. This city makes a convenient hub for a Southwest road trip, or even just a week spent visiting the Grand Canyon and southern Utah’s astounding national parks such as Zion and Bryce Canyon. Even closer to the city are the painterly desert landscapes of Red Rock Canyon, the evocatively named Valley of Fire, and recreational Lake Mead, which backs up against the art-deco masterpiece of Hoover Dam.


Las Vegas Itineraries

All right, so are you ready to take your first trip to Las Vegas? Start with our must-do itinerary Las Vegas for First-Timers.

Just making a quick stopover in Las Vegas? Or eager to make the most of your first day? Use our expertly planned Las Vegas in 24 Hours itinerary.

Convinced that you’ll hate Las Vegas because there’s nothing to do here besides spend money in casinos? Check out our Las Vegas Off the Beaten Path itinerary for hipsters, artists, history and kitsch lovers, daredevils, and barflies.

Trying to plan the best bachelor/ette party weekend in Sin City for all your friends, but afraid it’ll be a bust? Take advantage for our insider knowledge in the Las Vegas for Bachelors and Bachelorettes itinerary.

Thinking of bringing the kids to Las Vegas, but not sure if you should? Consult our Las Vegas for Families itinerary.


When To Go

You can visit Las Vegas year round, but when you choose to go can greatly influence how much you enjoy your trip (or not). Summers are scorching hot in the desert, and winters can be cold, windy, and rainy. Weather-wise, the best times to visit Vegas are late spring and early fall, when temperatures are balmy.

But weather isn’t the only factor to consider. Festivals and annual events like the National Finals Rodeo in December or the Electric Daisy Carnival in June can send hotel rates soaring and make everywhere on the Strip more crowded. Huge conventions like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) during early January have the same affect.

More than anything else, visiting Vegas on a weekend versus weekdays will make the biggest difference. Weekends are busy, wild, expensive, and far more crowded. Weekdays let you save money on hotel rooms, secure restaurant reservations and show tickets more easily, and experience fewer traffic jams on the Strip. (Just note that even weekdays can be expensive and crowded when the biggest annual conventions are in town.)

How long you spend in Vegas is up to you. Some people fly or drive in just for 24 hours, while others stay almost a week. The average trip lasts for a weekend, stretched up to five days if you’re in town on business or take scenic excursions to the Grand Canyon and Utah’s Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. A week in Vegas is way too long for most people – the sybaritic insanity of Sin City is best dallied with for just a few days. Any longer than that and the never-ending non-stop ding-ding-ding of casino slot machines may drive you mad.

How Much Time To Spend

Few people spend more than a weekend in Las Vegas, unless they are die-hard gamblers or they are visiting for a week-long convention. Two or three full days spent wandering the Strip is plenty, even if it’s your first time here.

Add another day to explore downtown, off-the-beaten-path attractions like the Neon Museum, or places just outside the city limits, such as Hoover DamRed Rock Canyon, and the Valley of Fire.

Plan on five days, possibly up to a full week if you also want to take overnight excursions to superstar national parks in the region, including the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon.

High and Low Season

Vegas doesn’t really have high and low seasons. Hotel room rates go up and down like the stock market, depending on what events and conventions are happening then. You should absolutely check average hotel room rates for your travel dates before booking your flight. This could make a difference of hundreds of dollars in your trip budget.

Winter (from late November through early March) tends to be the slowest time of year, followed by the hottest summer months from June through August. Those times are when you are likely to find the best deals on hotel rooms, with the exceptions of holidays like New Year’s Eve. Many shows and some restaurants close for a week around Christmas.

Year-round, weekends are almost always more expensive and crowded than weekdays. Hotel rooms are often double or triple the price on weekends, while weekdays let you stay in a much nicer room or suite for the same price as a basic double room on a Friday or Saturday night. On the Strip, a two-night minimum stay on weekends may apply.

Tip: Go to the MGM Grand website and attempt to book a room by clicking ‘Flexible Travel Dates.’ This will pop up a calendar showing at a glance which days of the month will be the most expensive and which will be cheapest. As a general rule, all casino hotels raise and drop their rates on the same days, so the pattern you see in the MGM Grand’s online booking calendar will generally hold true everywhere else on the Strip and downtown.

Weather and Climate

For today’s weather and a five-day forecast for Las Vegas, click here.

Spring & Fall

In Las Vegas, the most temperate months of the year are April, May, September, and October. Daytime highs average in the 70s°F with overnight temperatures comfortably in the 50s°F and 60s°F. March tends to be chillier, with daytime highs in the 60s°F and overnight lows in the 40s°F. Hotel pool and pool clubs stay open from mid-March or April through September or early October.

Summer

Vegas gets dang hot. On the Strip, most days the temperature peaks above 100°F (38°C). Because it’s a concrete jungle, temperatures remain in the 70s°F even after midnight. Tip: Remember to stay hydrated. Downtown’s Fremont Street Experience has a built-in misting system that’s a welcome relief on summer days. Otherwise, hit Vegas’s pool clubs. Occasional late summer rainstorms during July and August usually pass quickly.

Winter

Vegas gets colder than you might think. Daytime highs only reach into the 50s°F in December and January, and the low 60s°F during November and February. Looking out your hotel room window, you may see snow on the mountains around the valley (nevada means snowy in Spanish). Occasionally, it even snows on the Strip! Mostly, though, expect strong winds and chilly rain and sleet. Plan on taking more buses and taxis or driving instead of walking.

Tip: Most hotel pools are closed from November until March, although a few of the bigger resorts keep at least one pool and hot tub open year-round (ask when making reservations). Some thrills rides and attractions (for example, the Stratosphere Tower) don’t operate during rainy weather, which is most common between November and March, but also happens during late summer “monsoons” in July and August.

Events and Holidays

Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening in Las Vegas. For more events and festival listings, pick up one of the free tourist magazines available everywhere on the Strip and downtown. Or get your hands on a free copy of Las Vegas Weekly, the city’s alternative tabloid newspaper, which also has a searchable online events calendar.

Tip: Looking for more events than what we’ve listed below? The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA) online calendar puts all of the events happening from here to eternity at your fingertips. It’s just one click away!

10 of Las Vegas’s Top Annual Events

March: NASCAR Weekend
April: Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend
May: Vegas Uncork’d
May: Helldorado Days
May-July & November: World Series of Poker
June: Electric Daisy Carnival
October: Professional Bull Riders (PBR) World Finals
November: Aviation Nation
November: Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon & Half Marathon
December: Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR)
December 31: New Year’s Eve

National & State Holidays

January 1: New Year’s Day
January (third Monday): Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February (third Monday): Presidents Day
March 31: César Chávez Day
March/April: Good Friday (two days before Easter Sunday)
May (last Monday): Memorial Day
July 4: Independence Day
September (first Monday): Labor Day
October (second Monday): Columbus Day
October (last Friday): Nevada Day
November 11: Veterans Day
November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
November (fourth Friday): Family Day
December 25: Christmas

Time Zone

The state of Nevada, including Las Vegas, is located in the Pacific time zone (GMT-7).

To check the local time in Las Vegas now, click here.

Daylight Savings Time (DST) begins in spring on the second Sunday in March, when clocks are advanced one hour. In the fall on the first Sunday of November, clocks shift back one hour to standard time. With few exceptions, the entire country (including Nevada) participates in this ritual of “springing forward” and “falling back.”

What To Pack and Wear

By day, T-shirts and shorts or jeans are the norm for Las Vegas tourists on the Strip and downtown. Only some high rollers seen in casinos still dress up like they’re on the set of Ocean’s Eleven. Do pack a slinky dress with strappy shoes or a collared, button-up shirt and pants for going out to high-end restaurants and nightclubs. A swimsuit is essential not just for seasonal hotel pools and hot tubs, but also spa visits year round. Be sure to bring a lightweight jacket or sweater in spring and fall. In winter, pack a warm, waterproof jacket, a hat, a pair of gloves, and possibly an umbrella,

All of the usual advice applies to packing for a trip to Las Vegas. Remember to bring chargers for all of your electronics, including car chargers for any road trips. A GPS isn’t necessary if you’ve got a mapping app on your smartphone. If you’re traveling with children, bringing your own car safety seat can save you money. Otherwise, book ahead to rent a car seat (it’s legally required for infants and small children) from your car rental agency.

Don’t forget to pack all of the prescription medications you might need in clearly labeled containers, along with copies of all of your prescriptions (using the generic names of drugs). Tip: Take back-up photographs of your prescriptions, including for medications, eyeglasses, and contact lenses, as well as any letters from your doctor(s), then store the images on your smartphone or in the cloud, in case you accidentally lose the originals.

A passport and often a valid U.S. tourism visa is required for foreign citizens who arrive from abroad, including from Mexico or Canada.

What it Costs

Las Vegas can be a reasonably cheap or extremely expensive place to visit, depending on your travel style and when you go.

In general, downtown is cheaper than the Strip and weekends everywhere are more expensive than weekdays. Everything costs more from Friday through Sunday in Vegas, including airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, spa treatments, nightclub cover charges, all-you-can-eat dinner buffets, and plenty else beside. Travel during the week and you might spend only half as much for the exact same trip. Things will be less crowded then, too, although you’ll miss out on some of the buzzing excitement that the weekend brings to Vegas.

Low rollers If you are staying in very cheap casino hotels, eating mostly take-out meals or fast food, getting around on public transportation, visiting only free attractions, and limiting how much you drink or go out at night, you can get by on about $75 a day. Be kind to yourself and budget at least $100 per day to really enjoy your trip, however.

Average spenders If you are renting a car to get around, staying at a nicer casino hotel or in town on a weekend, plus you plan to see a few major sights and attractions, take in a show, and go out to restaurants, bars, and clubs, plan on spending $200 a day ($300 or more if you like to shop, splurge on activities like spas, or gamble at all in the casinos).

High rollers If you are a luxury traveler, $500 a day will only begin to cover the essentials like staying in four-star casino hotels, eating out all three meals, enjoying entertainment and nightlife on the Strip, doing some casino gambling, and getting around town in taxis or limos.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in U.S. dollars ($).

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $21-50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $51 per person

Sleep
$ => Rooms starting under $100 for a double on weekdays
$$ => Rooms starting between $100-$200 for a double on weekdays
$$$ => Rooms starting over $200 for a double on weekdays

Eat
$ => Up to $15 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $16-$30 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => $30 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)

Shop
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
$ => Tickets less than $50 per person
$$ => Tickets $51-100 per person
$$ => Tickets $101 per person

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Airfares

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need them to be low, they’re high. And when prices dip, what happens? You have no free time to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from online booking websites like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type in your destination and the dates you are watching, and boom! When there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your email inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline websites.

That said, it’s advantageous to also visit an airline’s own website before booking. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator sites. Most airlines share time-limited, super-discounted specials via their social media pages or in email blasts. So it pays to be their “friend” or subscribe to their e-mail lists.

Besides the major international players such as American, British Airways Delta, United, Virgin Atlantic, and AirCanada, airlines that serve McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas include Alaska, Allegiant, Frontier, Hawaiian, Interjet, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and Virgin America.

Car Rentals

Do you need your own wheels in Las Vegas? That depends. If you’re staying on the Strip and planning on doing most of your shopping, eating, gambling and sightseeing along Las Vegas Boulevard, the answer is no. Even if you’ll be spending time downtown, it’s easy enough to take a taxi from the Strip or catch an express bus.

But if you’re looking to explore out of town, say a day trip to Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire or farther afield to the Grand Canyon, then being able to drive yourself around will save heaps of money as opposed to taking tours, especially if you’re traveling with a partner or your kids.

Major international car rental agencies have desks at McCarran Airport’s off-site rental car center. Complimentary shuttles leave every five minutes from the airport curbside outside baggage claim on the ground level. Alternatively, major casino hotels often have car rental desks, usually near the lobby, although you’ll usually pay more for the convenience of having your rental car delivered to where you’re staying.

Reserve well in advance for airport rental car pick-ups, especially on weekends or if you’re looking to lock in the best rates and guarantee rental car availability. Economy cars rent from $25 per day or $135 per week, excluding taxes, fees & insurance, but can easily cost double that on weekends. Airport rental-car booths are open 24 hours daily.

Tip: For independent car rentals farther away from the airport, Fox Rent a Car is inconveniently located (you’ll have to board a second shuttle from McCarran’s rental car center), but sometimes it’s cheaper. For luxury and exotic sportscar rentals nearby the airport, try Las Vegas Exotic Rentals or Dream Car Rentals.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to Las Vegas goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other countries. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000. U.S. travelers should check if their medical insurance at home will cover them while in Las Vegas.

Trip Interruption For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to cut your trip short, the insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage (up to a certain amount only).

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a storm-prone area during winter, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case.”

Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include free concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz, and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkely, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International, and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregator sites like InsureMyTrip.com and Squaremouth.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight; it’s often contracted with the above major players.

If you have pre-existing health conditions Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But they also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain timeframe after paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance If you buy your airfare or make other travel bookings with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

For more information, contact the US Travel Insurance Association.

Exchange Rates and Currency

Exchange Rates

The U.S. dollar fluctuates against other world currencies, but its value has steadily risen since early 2015. For current exchange rates, click here.

Currency

U.S. dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills. They are all the same size and color, so non-Americans may have a tricky time telling them apart. The $2 bill is in circulation but rarely seen.

Coins in wide circulation include the penny (one cent), nickel (five cents), dime (10 cents), and quarter (25 cents). The 50-cent and one-dollar coins are seen occasionally.

Smaller businesses may not accept $50 or $100 bills, so have twenties or smaller bills in hand. ATMs usually dispense $20 bills. All casinos have automatic bill-breaking machines that change $20, $50, and $100 bills into denominations as small as $1 bills.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

Bring cash. Lots of cash.

Seriously, cash is the best thing to travel with in Las Vegas. Traveler’s checks have fallen out of use, ATMs are in short supply on the Strip and downtown, and credit cards won’t get you a poker tournament buy-in.

That said, most locals do not carry a large amount of cash with them on an everyday basis, and neither should you. Walking around a casino with a large wad of cash like a big shot is not unusual, of course. Just keep a close eye on your wallet or purse, which is much easier to do when you are sober.

ATMs

If you withdraw cash from an ATM machine, most banks apply a surcharge of around $3 per transaction. In casinos, ATMs charge exorbitant transaction fees of $5, sometimes more. On the Strip, you’ll find the lowest transaction fees at bank-owned ATMs inside shopping malls including the Fashion Show, the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, and the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. There’s a Wells Fargo ATM on the south side of Harrah’s outdoor Carnaval Court near the liquor store. Downtown, you’ll find banks with 24-hour ATMs on side streets south of the Fremont Street Experience. But we wouldn’t recommend walking those streets alone after dark.

Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, banks in Las Vegas will allow you to get cash without an extra charge. Major retail outlets such as pharmacies and supermarkets will allow you to get a limited amount of cash back (usually around $40) when paying for your goods with your debit card – this is an easy way to get some cash while on the go without paying a surcharge.

For international visitors, ATMs generally give the best currency-exchange rates when withdrawing cash using a bank card.

Credit & Debit Cards

Having a credit card will simplify everything, from renting a car to paying for your hotel room security deposit to buying show tickets. In Las Vegas, the most commonly accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard, followed by American Express and occasionally Discover, Diners Club, and JTB. Using a credit card to get a cash advance from ATMs usually requires a PIN number and involves ridiculous fees and unfavorable exchange rates.

If you’ve only got a debit card, things won’t be easy. Hotels, bars, restaurants and anywhere else you might want to use your card will put expensive holds on your account that quickly add up and may take days or even weeks to fall off. For hotels and car rentals, call ahead to make sure that a debit card will be accepted at hotel check-in or when you pick up your vehicle. Having a debit card does come in handy for getting cash back at convenience stores such as pharmacies on the Strip and downtown.

Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card issuer before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. This same advice goes for U.S. residents traveling out of state. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card declined when you try to use it in Las Vegas. You should also call your bank or credit card issuer immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card – which doesn’t help if it is lost or stolen. Make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access, for example, by taking a photo of the back of the card and storing it on your smartphone.

Recently cards with embedded chips to deter counterfeit fraud have been issued. Banks and merchants that don’t offer chip readers may be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details about your specific cards.

Traveler’s Checks & Currency Exchange

Traveler’s checks are rarely spotted, like an endangered species. You can cash traveler’s checks at the cashier cages inside casinos and at currency-exchange offices along the Strip. Various fees may apply, especially for cashing traveler’s checks in currencies other than US dollars. You may be able to pay for restaurant meals and hotel stays using USD traveler’s checks, but many small businesses, shops and fast-food outlets refuse to accept them. The most commonly accepted brands of traveler’s checks are Visa and American Express.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

SALES TAXES, LODGING TAXES & HIDDEN RESORT FEES

In Las Vegas, the combined state and local taxes on all retail goods and services is 8.1%. Sales taxes are not usually included in display prices, unless otherwise stated.

Lodging taxes are 12% This tax applies whether you are staying at a full-fledged hotel, a private vacation rental, or a hostel. Taxes are not usually stated up front in the advertised room rate.

Neither are mandatory nightly “resort fees” (from $10 to $35) being charged by many hotels, including almost every property on the Strip and downtown. Sometimes this fee covers internet access, parking, and a few incidentals, while at other times it’s merely a surcharge for amenities that would otherwise be free, like local phone calls.

Beware that third-party booking agents, especially online, often don’t include resort fees in their reservation charges, so you may be unhappily surprised by the final bill when you check out.

TIPPING

Tipping is a cost you must build into the budget for any trip to Las Vegas.

Dining Out
In most places, servers work for below minimum wage and live mostly on tips, so consider the ramifications of your tipping decisions. If an automatic gratuity (usually 18% for groups of six or more people or at buffets) has been applied to the check, do not double-tip.

Buffets Leave at least $1-2 per person behind on the table for the server who brought your drinks & cleared your plates
Restaurants 15-20% (if your meal is comped or discounted, be sure to tip on its full value, not your actual receipt total)

Hotels & Spas
Bellhops $2-3 per bag (minimum $10 if you’ve got a lot of bags or if someone carts all of your bags up to your room)
Concierges Information is free, but tip up to $20 for hard-to-get restaurant reservations, show tickets, etc.
Housekeepers $3-5 per day, left daily with the card provided
Room service Same as restaurants, 15-20% (but only if a gratuity and service fee are not already charged, so check your bill)
Spa & salon services 15-20% (but only if a gratuity hasn’t automatically been applied)

Transportation
Airport skycaps
 $2-3 per bag, minimum $5 (but $20 if you want to skip straight to the front of the airport taxi line)
Limos $5 per person (minimum $20)
Taxis 15% of the total fare, rounded up to the next dollar
Valet parking attendants $3-5 when they give you back your keys (but if they leave your pimped-out ride up front, give ’em $20)

Drinking
Bartenders At least $1-2 per drink, up to 15% to 20% per round
Cocktail servers At least $1 per drink while you’re gambling in a casino

Casinos
Casino dealers Too many different opinions on this one. If you do tip, custom dictates either tossing the dealer a chip from your winning pot (in poker) or placing a side bet for the dealer to collect if it wins (for other table games).

Other

How do I save money on hotel rooms?

Whether you’re looking for a high roller’s suite or a basic crash pad, Las Vegas has almost 150,000 hotel rooms to choose from. Here are some tips for finding the best deals:

1. Book early, and book often.
Nothing will cut your room costs as much as making reservations far in advance, then periodically rechecking room rates online to see if they’ve dropped (surprisingly, they often do). If you find a lower rate online, try calling the hotel to ask that your reservation be adjusted. Note this usually won’t work if you use popular online travel booking websites.

2. Score an upgraded room for less, or maybe even for free.
It can be as simple as asking for one politely when you check in. A discreetly folded-up $20 tip offered to the front desk clerk often works, though you’ll never know until you try. When you check in, inquire if there are any upgrades available, perhaps dropping a hint that you were hoping for a room with a Strip view or a Jacuzzi tub. Upgrades are more often made available to guests who are only staying one night or who are members of the casino’s players club (free to join, with no membership fees or other obligations).

3. Watch out for mandatory resort fees!
These nightly surcharges vary from $10 up to $30 or more plus tax, depending on which property you will be staying at. So that you’re not surprised, we detail resort fees (if any) and exactly what they cover at the end of each hotel review, but keep in mind that all of this information is highly subject to change.

4. Find the cheapest rates online.
Some casino hotel websites, including all properties owned by MGM Mirage and Caesars Entertainment, let you look at a pop-up calendar of basic room rates across several months, letting you instantly zero in on the cheapest dates. Trends that hold true for one casino hotel’s room rates usually apply to every other hotel in the same neighborhood (e.g., on the Strip). Hotel websites frequently offer special deals for online bookings, as do hotels’ social media pages.

5. Pay less on weekdays than on weekends.
Weekday rates often double or even triple on Friday and Saturday nights. Some weekends are more expensive than others, depending on special events such as championship boxing bouts, NASCAR races, rodeos, superstar concerts and musical festivals, and popular holidays like New Year’s Eve. Beware that business conventions can make even some weekdays expensive.

6. Visit Las Vegas during off-peak times.
The hottest summer months (June through August) are usually less expensive in Las Vegas, as are the coldest winter months (December through February), with the exception of New Year’s Eve and major events like the National Finals Rodeo (NFR). Room rates typically hit rock bottom between Christmas and New Year’s, when many shows are “dark” (i.e., closed).

What about Discount Passes and Other freebies?

Those so-called “tourist information” booths on the Strip are really just selling overpriced tours or even worse, timeshares – avoid them. Nightclub promoters who stalk tourists on the Strip are looking to sell VIP passes that are actually worthless or available for free elsewhere. At several hotels and resorts, aggressive timeshare sellers will try to reel you in with promises of free hotel stays, buffets, slot machine play, etc., if you just agree to hear their one-hour, hard-sell pitch. Even at wedding chapels, you might feel pressured to buy add-ons to your wedding ceremony package, anything from videography to floral bouquets. Usually the limo ride to the wedding chapel is free (don’t forget to tip the driver), but the free limo rides advertised by strip clubs are usually a bait-and-switch tactic.

Some tourists are tempted to buy the Las Vegas Power Pass for sightseeing. It’s expensive and it won’t pay off unless you spend all day driving around the valley and visit some not-too-great attractions. The only way you might save money is by buying a one-day pass and visiting at least four different expensive attractions on or nearby the Strip. There’s a similar dining pass available, called the Las Vegas MealTicket. Want to overpay and eat at some of the dullest restaurants in town? Then go ahead and get it.

Where do I find free WiFi?

If you don’t want to pay $10 to $20 per day for Wi-Fi internet access in your hotel room, bring your mobile device or laptop and get online for free at:

On the Strip
Cosmopolitan – on the 2nd level near the shops and restaurants
Crystals – on the 2nd level of CityCenter’s shopping mall
Denny’s (3001 Las Vegas Boulevard South) – just south of the Riviera
Excalibur – outside Krispy Kreme donuts, upstairs from the casino
Fashion Show – at the Apple Store and Starbucks
Forum Shops at Caesars Palace – throughout the mall and at the Apple Store
Mandalay Bay – at the food court near the Shark Reef Aquarium
McDonald’s – including near Harrah’s
Miracle Mile Shops – at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Monte Carlo – at the food court
Planet Hollywood – at Starbucks and the Earl of Sandwich inside the casino
Paris Las Vegas – at Café Belle Madeleine
Palazzo – inside the hotel, possibly in the lobby & casino
Venetian – inside the hotel, at the food court, and sometimes in the lobby & casino
Wynn – at Zoozacrackers Deli and in the casino’s poker room and race & sports book

Downtown Las Vegas
Beat Coffeehouse – for customers only; in the Fremont East Entertainment District
Main Street Station – near the hotel lobby & casino players club desk

Around the City
Clark County public library branches
McCarran International Airport – in all public areas
Town Square – all around the mall, including at the Apple Store

Transportation

The most popular way to get to Las Vegas is to fly. Many people do drive, however, especially from Southern California. Long-distance Greyhound buses are a less comfortable option that can save you some money, but typically buses take much longer than driving yourself. Even for those on a tight budget, airfares to Vegas are often cheap enough that it only makes sense to fly, given how much time you’ll save by doing so.

Driving around Las Vegas takes more time and can be more of a hassle than you’d expect, since traffic jams can occur on the Strip at any time of day or night. Vegas traffic is worst on Friday and Saturday nights, when everyone wants to cruise the neon-lit Strip, and on Sunday afternoons when everyone is trying to get out of town. Renting a car isn’t necessary if you’ll just be staying and playing on the Strip or downtown. Having your own wheels is handy for trips out of town, whether to nearby Hoover Dam or all the way to the Grand Canyon. Parking at many casino hotels in Las Vegas is free, but don’t forget to tip the valet attendants.

Taxis and public buses are plentiful on the Strip, as well as between the Strip and downtown. Public buses can be slow-moving, so where express routes are available, use them. The private monorail system along the Strip is expensive and inconveniently located on the far back side of casino hotels on the east side of the Strip. When traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard is bumper to bumper, however, the monorail is a faster alternative.

On foot, keep in mind that distances can be deceiving on the Strip. What looks like a short 10-minute walk can actually take a half hour, given all the semi-inebriated crowds, the traffic overpasses with slow escalators and broken elevators, and the summertime heat. Free trams between some casino hotels on the west side of the Strip will help speed you along.

Getting There

By Air

Most people fly into Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport (LAS), then take a taxi, limo, or shuttle bus ride to the Strip or downtown. It’s possible to use public buses to get to and from the airport, but that usually requires making at least one transfer and takes much longer (up to an hour or more). To reach McCarran’s off-site car rental center, board a free shuttle bus outside the airport’s main terminals on the ground level.

By Car

Without traffic delays, Las Vegas is around a four-hour drive from Los Angeles, 4.5 hours from Phoenix, five hours from San Diego, six hours from Salt Lake City, and 8.5 hours from San Francisco. On weekends, traffic jams on the I-15 Freeway between California and Las Vegas can cause delays of up to two hours or more heading eastbound to Vegas on Friday and Saturday nights and westbound back to California on Sunday afternoons and evenings.

When you drive back into California from Nevada, sometimes you’ll have to stop at an agricultural inspection station. To avoid spreading agricultural pests and blights, you may not bring any fresh fruit, vegetables, or plants into California. If you do have any of these items in your car, declare them to the agricultural inspection officer and you’ll usually be allowed to surrender them with amnesty (that is, they’ll make you throw them away as long as they don’t suspect you of intentionally smuggling contraband into California).

By Bus

A Greyhound bus is often the cheapest way to reach Las Vegas from major cities across the USA, but it’ll take the longest. Buses arrive at a grimy bus terminal downtown adjacent to the Plaza casino hotel, one block away from the Fremont Street Experience.

By Train

Already subject to repeated delays, a high-speed rail link between Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas has been in the works for a long time. With new Chinese investors, it’s possible that construction of the new rail line could begin as early as fall 2016. But don’t hold your breath.

Getting Around

By Car

Do you need your own wheels in Las Vegas? That depends. If you’re staying on the Strip and planning on doing most of your shopping, eating, gambling and sightseeing along Las Vegas Blvd., the answer is no. Even if you’ll be spending time downtown, it’s easy enough to take a taxi from the Strip or catch an express bus.

But if you’re looking to explore out of town, say a day trip to Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire or farther afield to the Grand Canyon, then being able to drive yourself around will save heaps of money as opposed to taking tours, especially if you’re traveling with a partner or your kids.

Major international car-rental agencies have desks at McCarran International Airport’s off-site rental car center. Complimentary shuttles leave every five minutes from the airport curbside outside baggage claim on the ground level. Alternatively, major casino hotels often have car-rental desks, usually near the lobby, although you’ll usually pay more for the convenience of having your rental car delivered to where you’re staying.

Reserve well in advance for airport rental car pick-ups, especially on weekends or if you’re looking to lock in the best rates and guarantee rental car availability. Economy cars rent from $25 per day or $135 per week, excluding taxes, fees & insurance, but can easily cost double that on weekends. Airport rental-car booths are open 24 hours daily.

For independent car rentals farther away from the airport, Fox Rent a Car is inconveniently located (you’ll have to board a second shuttle from McCarran’s rental car center), but sometimes it’s cheaper. For luxury and exotic sportscar rentals nearby the airport, try Las Vegas Exotic Rentals or Dream Car Rentals.

Tips: Stay away from the I-15 Freeway during morning and evening commute hours. Take surface streets, such as Industrial Road or Dean Martin Drive. Avoid driving on the Strip on Friday and Saturday nights or on Sunday mornings. To drive across the Strip without actually intersecting it, use the Desert Inn Rd. super-arterial, which connects the Las Vegas convention center with the Chinatown area immediately west of the Strip and I-15.

Parking

Casino hotel self-parking garages and valet parking stands are open 24/7/365.

Valet parking at many casinos (except at MGM Resorts International properties) in Las Vegas is free, although a cash tip of $3 to $5 is expected ($20 for keeping your luxury sportscar up front). Hand the tip to the valet attendant who retrieves your car when he or she gives you back your keys. If you lose your valet parking claim ticket, don’t panic! Showing photo ID and filling out a short, but legally binding form with all the necessary information will let you get your car back reasonably fast. You’ll need to be stone-cold sober, of course.

In downtown Las Vegas, valet parking stands can be trickier to find. That’s because Fremont Street is closed to vehicle traffic between Main Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. Some casino valet stands put up “For Hotel Guests” only signs when things get busy. We’ve usually had the best luck finding valet parking at Main Street Station casino hotel, a short walk north of the Fremont Street Experience.

On the Strip, self-parking at casino garages is often free, except at MGM Resorts International properties. Gargantuan casino self-parking garages along the Strip can be confusingly laid out, so jot down where exactly you left your car before heading inside. Downtown, smaller casino parking garages typically aren’t free, but they offer discounted rates when you get your parking ticket validated inside the casino at the cashier’s cage (no gambling or purchase required). Time limits of a few hours usually apply. Unlimited parking for downtown casino hotel guests is usually free – just show your room key when exiting the garage.

By Bus

They may not be flashy or swift, but public double-decker Deuce buses offer an affordable and scenic, if slow way to roll along the Strip any time of the day or night. On board, informational video screens help visitors get exactly where they want to go and frigid air conditioning is a blessing in the hot summer.

The Deuce stops approximately every quarter-mile along the Strip. Look for the signposted stops and bus shelters on Las Vegas Boulevard. North of the Strip, Deuce buses travel along Las Vegas Boulevard to the Fremont Street Experience. Deuce buses operate 24 hours, and are scheduled to run every 15 to 20 minutes. But traffic jams along the Strip can mean waits of up to 30 minutes or more until the next bus comes rolling along.

Much faster Strip & Downtown Express (SDX) buses arrive approximately every 15 minutes between 9 a.m. and midnight daily, connecting the Strip with downtown’s Fremont Street Experience and the Premium Outlets and Town Square shopping malls. Northbound stops along the Strip include Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Paris Las Vegas, Wynn/Encore, Sahara/SLS, and the Stratosphere; southbound stops include the Stratosphere, Sahara/SLS, Fashion Show mall, Bellagio, Excalibur, and Mandalay Bay.

An all-access pass for Deuce and SDX buses costs $6 for two hours, $8 for 24 hours, or $20 for 72 hours. You must buy tickets before boarding either online, from ticket vending machines on the street, or from select local vendors. All public buses are wheelchair-accessible.

By Monorail & Tram

Tired tootsies? No problem.

On the west side of the Strip, you can hop aboard free trams that operate between: Excalibur, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay; the Monte Carlo, CityCenter, and Bellagio; and the Mirage and TI (Treasure Island) casinos. These free trams may not run in rainy weather. They also don’t operate 24 hours, so you can’t count on them after say, 10 p.m. on weeknights or midnight on weekends.

The Las Vegas Monorail, which runs along the east side of the Strip and out to the city’s convention center, seems convenient, but it’s also expensive.  The USA’s only privately owned public transportation system, this sleek, zero-emissions monorail travels 3.9  miles in just 15 minutes. That’s oh, at least a half-hour faster than it would take you to drive or ride in a taxi down the Strip on any given weekend night.

So, what’s the catch? There are only 5 monorail stations on the Strip, all hidden behind casino hotels: the Sahara/SLS; Harrah’s/The Linq; FlamingoBally’s/Paris Las Vegas; and the MGM Grand. Expect an annoying walk through a confusingly laid-out casino just to reach any of these stations. The monorail also stops are at Westgate Las Vegas (formerly LVH, and before that, the Las Vegas Hilton) and at the city’s Las Vegas Convention Center, east of the Strip.

A single-ride ticket costs $5, or pay $12/22/28/36/43/56 for a 1/2/3/4/5/7-day pass. You may save 10% by buying tickets in advance online here. Children under six years old ride free. Trains arrive every four to 12 minutes between 7 a.m. and midnight on Monday, until 2 a.m. from Tuesday through Thursday, and until 3 a.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. The entire monorail system is wheelchair-accessible.

By Taxi

Taxi stands are available at all casinos, hotels, shopping malls and even bigger nightclubs and restaurants. It’s actually illegal to hail a taxi on the street in Las Vegas. All taxis are metered and fares are set by Clark County: $3.50 at flagfall, then $2.76 per mile and $0.54 per minute while waiting in traffic. Tip: Some taxis don’t accept credit cards, so ask first when getting inside.

At McCarran Airport, you can join the taxi queue outside baggage claim. (If the wait looks too long, you may be able to tip a skycap $20 to collect your luggage at baggage claim, then head straight to the front of the line.) Taxi fares average $20 to $30 to the Strip, $25 to $35 to downtown (airport surcharge $2.00). Warning! Tell your airport taxi driver not to use the I-15 freeway long-haul connector tunnel unless you want to overpay!

If you feel you’ve been scammed by a taxi driver, register your complaint here.

By Limousine

Limos cost around $50 to $150 per hour, plus tip.

Whether you’re coming to Las Vegas for a long weekend of bachelor/ette shenanigans, or maybe just want to impress your date, it’s a cinch to book ahead for a limo ride from the airport or along the Strip. Several companies compete to provide limo services. Ask your hotel concierge for recommendations, or contact Presidential Limousines, a well-reviewed company. If you pick up a limo at the airport, you’ll pay at least $100 round-trip for a sedan and over $140 for a stretch limo that seats up to six people. Be sure to make reservations in advance and don’t forget to tip.

If you’re a big-time player (aka “whale”), some casinos provide free limo service to/from the airport. Many wedding chapels offer couples a complimentary round-trip limo ride from their hotel to the chapel. Most strip clubs  will give bachelor parties a free ride from the Strip (no complimentary return trip, sorry).

Even when limo services are free, you’re still expected to tip the driver. A minimum of $20 or 20% should do the trick.

Transportation Hubs

McCarran International Airport (LAS)

Las Vegas has one major commercial airport, McCarran International Airport (LAS), a short drive southeast of the Strip. Getting into and out of the airport – it’s one of the USA’s top 10 busiest – can be a time-consuming proposition. If you get stuck waiting for a flight, the airport has free Wi-Fi, a plasticky indoor play area for kiddos, historical aviation displays, and slot machines with reputedly very bad odds.

The airport’s outlying gates are connected to the main terminal by free, wheelchair-accessible trams. Complimentary shuttles between terminals 1 and 3 (every 15 minutes) and from the terminals to McCarran’s off-site car rental center (every five minutes) leave from the curbside outside baggage claim on the ground level.

You can join the taxi queue outside as well. (If the wait looks painfully long, you may be able to tip a skycap $20 to collect your luggage at baggage claim, then head straight to the front of the line.) Taxi fares average $20 to $30 to the Strip, $25 to 325 to downtown Some taxis don’t accept credit cards, so ask when getting inside.

Tip: The ride sharing services Lyft and Uber are authorized to pick up and drop off passengers at McCarran Airport, which is another way to skip the taxi queues.

Warning! Tell your airport taxi driver not to use the I-15 freeway connector tunnel unless you want to overpay. This is called ‘long-hauling.’ It’s illegal, but common practice among drivers who want to scam tourists who don’t know any better.

Airport limousine and town car rates start at $50 per hour minimum, not including airport or fuel surcharges or a tip for the driver. You may be able to save money by booking online in advance, which also guarantees availability.

Airport shuttle buses are slower but cheap, charging at least $7 per person to the Strip or $8.50 to downtown. Only a few shuttles run 24 hours. Booking ahead for airport arrivals is optional, but advance reservations are required for the return trip to McCarran. Most shuttle buses stop at between three and five hotels to drop off or pick up passengers, which means it could take almost an hour to reach your destination.

It’s possible to save a little money by using public buses to get to and from the airport, but that usually requires making at least one transfer and can take up to an hour or more.

Discounts and Passes

An all-access pass for public Deuce and SDX buses costs $6 for two hours, $8 for 24 hours, or $20 for 72 hours. Buy tickets before boarding either online, from ticket vending machines on the street, or from select local vendors.

For the private Las Vegas Monorail, a single-ride ticket costs $5, but multi-day passes are available ($12/22/28/36/43/56 for a 1/2/3/4/5/7-day pass). You could save an additional 10% by buying tickets in advance online.

Background

Las Vegas might seem like a simple place to figure out. It’s all about booze, sex, and gambling 24/7/365, right? Wrong. (Sort of wrong, anyway.)    On the one hand, more than 41 million tourists flood into this desert metropolis every year. Most of them are looking to let loose and just have a good time. The catch phrase, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is popular for all the naughty reasons. Sin City has a reputation for being the place to have a dirty weekend getaway and where bad behavior is positively encouraged. But that’s just the outsider’s perspective. Las Vegas existed long before the mob muscled their way into this cow town starting in the 1940s and eventually made the Strip notorious for crime and corruption. Nowadays, Las Vegas has grown far beyond its Wild West origins into a modern city, one of the fastest-growing metropolises in the U.S. at the start of the 21st century. Dig a bit deeper beneath the glitz of showgirls and the glowing neon lights of the Strip’s casinos to discover a city much more complex than the one you’ve been imagining.

See below for a list of recommended books to bring with you on the plane; movies to get you in a Vegas mood; for list of Las Vegas lingo to know; for the lowdown on sex workers in Las Vegas; for laws about alcohol, smoking, bars, and nightclubs; and for more websites and maps to help you navigate the Strip and beyond.

Culture

Sex Workers

Despite its reputation as “Sin City,” Las Vegas does not legally allow prostitution. In fact, prostitution is illegal everywhere in Clark County, which covers most of southern Nevada. That said, there is a thriving black market for paid sex work. You’ll see ads for escorts and exotic dancers “direct to your hotel room!” plastered all over the Strip and downtown, both in magazines and on cards handed out by “card slappers” who stand on the crowded sidewalks. None of this is legal, however.

Nevada’s only legal brothels are located in a few outlying rural areas, the closest of which is over an hour’s drive from Las Vegas in Pahrump. Before patronizing these legal brothels, consider that some of the women working in them are not there by their own choice. The brothels, which are mostly trailers and shacks at the side of the highway and locked behind barbed-wire security fences, often act as havens for illegal sex trafficking, unpaid sex work, and rape. For an eye-opening look at Nevada’s legal prostitution industry, read Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women (2002) by Alexa Albert.

Etiquette

Smoking laws

In the U.S., the minimum legal age for smoking or purchasing tobacco is 18 years old.

Las Vegas has a half-hearted municipal smoking ban. Smoking is prohibited inside movie theaters, shopping malls, indoor areas of restaurants, and bars that serve food. You won’t find any  casinos that totally ban smoking, but many poker rooms do. Some casinos have instituted no-smoking table games and slot machine areas, though they’re usually pervaded by the same smoke that fills the rest of the casino.

Many hotels in Las Vegas claim to offer non-smoking rooms, but you won’t need a bloodhound’s nose to sniff out the fact that sometimes these rooms have been recently smoked in. To guarantee smoke-free rooms, check into a 100% non-smoking hotel or condo property, which include:

Vdara – at CityCenter on the Strip
Cosmopolitan – all guest rooms and suites are non-smoking, but smoking is allowed on balconies and terraces
Signature Suites at MGM Grand – just east of the Strip
Platinum Hotel – just east of the Strip
Elara – formerly Planet Hollywood Towers, just east of the StripRenaissance Las Vegas – east of the Strip, near the city’s convention center and monorail station

Tipping

One unquestionable rule of etiquette? that all Las Vegans abide by: tipping is not optional.

Bars, Nightclubs & Booze

In the U.S., the minimum legal age for drinking or buying alcohol is 21 years old. Most bars and all nightclubs strictly enforce this policy, so expect to be “carded” at the door before you enter. That means you will need to carry photo I.D. to prove that you are of age (for example, show a U.S. state driver’s license or your international passport).

Cuisine

Eating in Las Vegas is an adventure. Often it’s an overpriced gamble, especially on the Strip, where high-flying menu prices don’t necessarily guarantee a high-quality dining experience. For low rollers, those cheap all-you-can-eat buffets and $9.99 steak-and-seafood specials still exist, but they’re getting harder to find.Here’s how to get the most bang for your buck while dining out around Vegas:

1. Don’t judge a restaurant by its chef’s name.
Most of the superstar chefs who have opened branch eateries in Las Vegas – think Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali and other famous TV faces – don’t actually run their kitchens behind the scenes.

2. Avoid the cheapest buffets, both on and off the Strip.
Perennially popular buffets that are worth shelling out more cash for are found at better casino hotels, including at the Cosmopolitan, Wynn, Caesars Palace, Bellagio, and (for breakfast and brunch) Paris Las Vegas.

3. Make reservations in advance, especially on weekends.
OpenTable is a free website and mobile app that lets you make reservations instantly. Be prepared for waits of up to an hour to be seated at buffets, especially for Sunday brunch (show up early). Most casino hotels have 24-hour coffee shops dishing up diner-style grub that are crowded usually only at breakfast.

4. Avoid buying overpriced snacks and drinks at hotel shops.
Whether you’re staying on the Strip or downtown, it may be worth the trip to a convenience store or pharmacy to save money, especially on booze. You can stock your hotel room at the ABC Store, CVS, or Walgreens, all of which have branches on the Strip and downtown on Fremont Street.

5. Dress codes are rare.
Except at the most posh and expensive dining rooms, where a jacket may be required for men, there’s usually no dress code. You can wear T-shirts, jeans or shorts, athletic shoes, and ball caps almost anywhere on the Strip or downtown.

Language

Gambling & Casino Slang to Know in Las Vegas

all in – to bet everything that you’ve got
ante – the minimum bet that every poker player has to put into the put before the cards are dealt
bad beat – an unexpectedly bad loss at gambling
bankroll – all the money that a gambler has to play with
bluff – when a poker player wants others to think she or he has a better hand than they actually do
comp – free or complimentary (as in, “the drinks were comped by the house”)
dark – the day(s) of the week on which a stage show isn’t performed
edge – an advantage (as in, “the house always has an edge”)
eye in the sky – casino security, specifically omnipresent video cameras
high roller – a gambler who places big bets; also called a “whale”
low roller – a small-time gambler; also called a “grinder”
marker – an IOU to the casino for money owed by the gambler
RFB – complimentary room, food, and board given to regular gamblers by casino hosts
stickman – the casino dealer handling the dice at the craps table
toke – a tip or gratuity

Recommended Reading

Gambling, Entertainment & Going Wild

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 
(1971) by Hunter S. Thompson
Inside Las Vegas (1977) by Mario Puzo
Rat Pack Confidential: Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey and the Last Great Show Biz Party (1998) by Shawn Levy
Fabulous Las Vegas in the ’50s: Glitz, Glamour & Games (1999) by Fred E. Basten & Charles Phoenix
Cult Vegas: The Weirdest! The Wildest! The Swingin’est Town on Earth! (2001) by Mike Weatherford
Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women
(2002) by Alexa Albert
Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions 
(2002) by Ben Mezric
One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey ‘The Kid’ Ungar, The World’s Greatest Poker Player (2005) by Nolan Dalla & Peter Alson

History & Architecture

The Green Felt Jungle
 (1963) by Ed Reid Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form (1972) by Robert Venturi, Steven Izenour & Denise Scott Brown
The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America (2001) by Sally Denton & Roger Morris
Las Vegas: An Unconventional History (2005) by Michelle Ferrari & Stephen Ives

Fiction & Literature

The Desert Rose
(1983) by Larry McMurtry Leaving Las Vegas (1990) by John O’Brien
Casino (1995) by Nicholas Pileggi
Literary Las Vegas: The Best Writing About America’s Most Fabulous City (1995)
Beautiful Children (2008) by Charles Bock

Movies

Whether you prefer silly rom-coms, film noir, edgy drama, biting satire, or odd documentaries, plenty of movies filmed in Las Vegas will satisfy your curiosity about Sin City. Here are just a few of the classic flicks, old and new:

The Amazing Colossal Man
(1957)
Ocean’s 11 (1960)
Viva Las Vegas (1964)
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Rain Man (1988)
Bugsy (1991)
Honeymoon in Vegas (1992)
Casino (1995)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Showgirls (1995)
Swingers (1996)
Hard Eight (1996)
Mars Attacks! (1996)
Vegas Vacation (1997)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Pay It Forward (2000)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
3000 Miles to Graceland (2001)
The Cooler (2003)
21 (2008)
The Hangover (2009)
Behind the Candelabra (2013)

Soundtrack for a Road Trip

If you want to channel Old Vegas and the days of the Rat Pack, put these songs in your listening queue:

Luck Be a Lady (Frank Sinatra)
Ain’t That a Kick in the Head (Dean Martin)
Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley)
What Kind of Fool Am I? (Sammy Davis Jr.)
Volare (Dean Martin)
Ring-a-Ding-Ding (Frank Sinatra)
Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby (Louis Prima & Keely Smith)
Ace in the Hole (Bobby Darin)
The Lady Is a Tramp (Frank Sinatra)
My Way (Frank Sinatra)

For a more danceable EDM anthem, flip on Calvin Harris’s hit track Vegas. If you’re ready to rock out, play the album Sam’s Town by the Killers, the most famous band to ever come out of Vegas.

Websites and Maps

Websites

Las Vegas Weekly and Vegas Seven
The city’s free alternative tabloid newspapers have the low-down on local politics, entertainment, restaurants, and nightlife

QVegas
Free online edition of the city’s free monthly magazine for the LGBTQ community and gay / queer travelers.

The History of Las Vegas
The Las Vegas Sun reports on everything you ever wanted to know about Sin City, from the Rat Pack and Howard Hughes to atomic testing out in the Nevada desert.

Classic Las Vegas
Read the fascinating blog of this nonprofit organization dedicated to 20th-century pop culture in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Death Watch: The List
Which casino will be imploded next? Which ones are being sold and desperately rebranded? Find out here first.

Maps

Las Vegas Strip & Monorail Map

Deuce and Strip & Downtown Express (SDX) Buses Route Map