Las Vegas for First-Timers

Things every Vegas newbie should try

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Las Vegas equals neon lights, buzzing casinos, gawk-worthy architecture for the masses, and endless indulgences, from sybaritic spas to chef’s tasting menus to movie-worthy nightclubs. Most first-time visitors stay at a casino hotel on the Strip, but die-hard budget travelers might score better deals downtown.

Don’t think that you have to get all formulaic about planning your Vegas itinerary down to the hour or the minute. You can always find something new to do by walking out of your hotel room and taking the elevator down to the casino, then strutting out onto the Strip and checking out what’s going on at the next resort down the boulevard.

If you have never been to Las Vegas before, here are the top 10 experiences that you shouldn’t miss:

1. Get an eyeful of the Strip after dark – it’s a neon wonderland. For picture-perfect photo ops, head to the High Roller observation wheel, Skyfall Lounge at the Delano hotel, the Mandarin Bar at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, or the top of the Stratosphere Tower.

2. Gawk at all the free shows on the Strip, most famously the Bellagio’s dancing fountains and the Mirage’s exploding faux volcano.

3. Treat yourself to a star chef’s meal or splurge on a really good steak like at Cut by Wolfgang Puck at the Venetian or Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas.

4. Speaking of eating, there’s nothing like staying up late gambling or partying, then grabbing a bite somewhere after midnight, like at the vintage Peppermill coffee shop.

5. And who can leave town without trying a buffet? For all-you-can-eat bonanzas, nothing is more over-the-top than Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace (and you’ll pay top dollar for it!).

6. In summer, make sure you scope out Vegas’ pool scene. You can pay to party at Wet Republic at the MGM GrandMarquee at Cosmopolitan, Encore Beach Club, and other trendy spots. Or hang out poolside at your own hotel for free. The Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay, and the MGM Grand have the most mammoth pool complexes.

7. Think about catching a half-price show? Tix 4 Tonight sells same-day discount show tickets on and off the Strip, including popular tickets like Cirque du Soleil (availability varies daily).

8. If you’ve never gambled before, take advantage of the free gambling lessons offered at most casinos, usually in the mornings. It’s a fun way to learn your way around the gaming tables before you start dropping any serious coin.

9. If you love shopping, visit one of the Strip’s glitzy mega malls like Crystals at CityCenter, the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace or the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Palazzo and Venetian. For bargain hunting, catch an SDX express bus from the Strip to the Premium Outlets (North) mall.

10. Do something outrageous, kitschy or naughty, since that’s what Vegas is really all about! People do things here they never thought of doing at home, like firing off a round at the Gun Store or Machine Guns Vegas, racing a Ferrari at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, taking a thrill ride with Sky Combat Ace, or strapping on heels for a Stripper 101 class.

Did we miss something? Feel free to add your own ideas by leaving a tip or hint below.

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