A Crazy Person’s Guide to Vegas

I’m crazy. Not that I do things in Vegas that no one else would ever think to do, but that I try to do more than humanly possible. I love that there’s always something new to experience and I take advantage of that several times a year. Here are some of my hotel, bar, restaurant, and show discoveries. My favorites are noted by *

Nightlife and Pool Parties

Vegas has some great parties but they tend to be stressful to get into it. If you’re not getting walked in, my advice is get to the big names at 10:00 and at least get a stamp so you can re-enter. By 11:00 the line could reach a 2-hour wait. Always get on a guest list, research promoters online ahead of time, and if you’re in a group of guys, figure out a way to make your guy/ girl ratio 1:1, without which you may need to opt for bottle service. One promoter I highly recommend is Chris Hornak from www.FreeVegasClubPasses.com. If the night is right, sometimes he offers a free limo pick up from your hotel, free cover, and maybe an open bar.

Pool Parties

Daylight at Mandalay Bay – This party is small but we had the option to float on ridiculous animals, like dragons and chicks. Next time I might pay a little extra to go to Mandalay’s pool, which features a lazy river, a wave pool, and loungers sitting in soft sand.

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Wet Republic at MGM – Depending on the event, this pool party can be raging or mellow, but fun regardless. The venue also features some fierce well-known DJs. Come show off your volleyball skills or relax in a refreshing VIP cabana.

Wet Republic at MGM
Wet Republic at MGM

Palms Pool and Dayclub – When the man said, “Build it and they will come,” he wasn’t referring to this place. Their 4th of July pool party had about 20 people show up, which says a lot for Vegas. It’s pretty but the music certainly didn’t make up for it. The Palms in general is a gamble in the first place, as the cab rides to and from here are never cheap.

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Tao Beach at the Venetian – I have mixed feelings about this place. It’s such a fun party but the venue has a tiny-ass excuse for a pool. How can you expect to have hundreds of sweaty people dancing and drinking in the desert heat and expect them to cram in a pathetic pool? It’s inconsiderate. On the other hand, Tao Beach is exotic with good music, and simple good fun. They have Jacuzzis, which have regular temped water with jets (because no one needs hot water in 100 degree weather). Regardless, it’s a nice touch and relaxing while mingling with foreign douche bags or talking with friends.

Foxtail Pool Club – Foxtail was fun, beautiful, and not too crowded. The “just right” pool party option. We had a blast, in spite of the jerk-face bartenders. I’ll definitely be coming back!

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Hardcore Legit Vegas Nightclubs 

*XS at Encore – I don’t usually smoke, but when I do, it’s at XS. The party on the inside holds a great time but the outside always calls my name. I love to sit in a recliner in the shallow water of the pool and make quick money and free drinks at the black jack tables. XS just feels good and somehow knows how to take my stress away.

*Surrender at Encore – XS’s cousin down the hall definitely offers some competition. This gorgeous club is entirely outside around a pool oasis. The DJ was satisfactory and I could actually breathe and dance freely. XS will always be a great love but there’s something about Surrender that’s more seductive.

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*Tao at the Venetian – If your mission is to dance the night away, Tao will take good care of you. Yes, it’s exquisite but more importantly, it has a few rooms with master DJs and a breathtaking balcony to smoke on. In my opinion, Tao is my favorite club in Vegas, consistently delivering the best times.

Pure at Caesar’s Palace – This is a club with pure elegance, which typically plays good music. If you’re pretty, a bouncer might grab you and place you at a VIP table with strangers. One time, a high-end prostitute bought me drinks for “the best running man she had ever seen,” which will always be my best night to remember. Despite this amazing experience, the rooftop lounge has a great view of the strip and it’s 4th of July fireworks.

Body English at Hard Rock – The night I went, girls were showered with all you can drink champagne. It was nice and fun but definitely not my first choice.

Voodoo Lounge at the Rio – If you’re afraid of heights, you might want to avoid this. If not, take it all in with a massive smoking drink in your hand. Despite its intimate nature, this bar is a great time, worth going out of my way to the Rio.

Voodoo Lounge at the Rio

Mellow

Eye Candy Sound Lounge at Mandalay Bay – If you’re looking to find a chill dance floor with no covers or sweaty bodies rubbing up against you, check out the colorful floor display at Mandalay Bay. The music is phenomenal and an elderly Michael Jackson impersonator might grace you with his presence.

Jackson

Ri Ra at Mandalay Bay – An Irish pub at the Mandalay Bay with some mighty good craic. They import their whiskey, moonshine, and even their waiters and bands from the great country of Ireland. This means the staff is friendly and you’ll soon be feeling warm and fuzzy.

Meh

Lavo at the Palazzo – Eh, skip it. It’s too small and crowded, not worth it to feel like a sardine for the night.

Rain at The Palms – Check this out if you like techno. If not, it might be one of the biggest regrets of your life.

Tryst at the Wynn – It surely has fun possibilities. While I can admire the patio at the grand waterfall, I’d keep walking down the hall to XS or Surrender.

LAX at Luxor – I had fun here. Unfortunately, I don’t remember it all that much but I won’t blame it on the club. The dance floor is small crowded and it’s not the prettiest but the music was well-done, making up for anything and everything, obviously. Still, I won’t be returning while sober any time soon.

Light at Mandalay Bay – When I heard there was a club sponsored by Cirque Du Soleil, I almost had a heart attack. I dragged my boyfriend to wait and watch the aerialists zooming around. I watched girls walk up the walls and then I waited… and waited… and waited. Nothing really happened. Regardless, without the lights this club is probably the dullest, most effortless in Vegas. The music was boring and we soon left disappointed, finding consolation at Ri Ra. This EDM would’ve definitely been more enjoyable:

Next on my list:

Marquis at the Cosmopolitan – The wait for this one can get up to three hours long. There must be something special about it.

Hakkasan at MGM – I’ve heard the music alone is worth the trip. I’d like to hear it for my self.

Strip Clubs

 Spearmint Rhino – I’m not sure what I was expecting. I knew girls wouldn’t be stripping from a flying trapeze yet I thought a Vegas club would be the real deal, offering some glitz and tricks I had never seen before. A limo came to pick us up, it was a nice club, with average looking girls.

OG – Formerly the Olympic Gardens, this strip club has some sweet eye candy for both the men and the ladies. Come to find out I’m not the only one who’s had their bachelorette party here. WARNING: The men here are aggressive, to the point where you will get flipped over and have your face places they just shouldn’t go within ten seconds of saying, “Hello.” I was definitely caught off guard for this experience and managed to laugh through most of the discomfort.

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Hunk Mansion – This has to be the worst name for a male strip club. Anyway, it seems like it’s the best option for a bachelorette experience. Where else can you ride a “six foot dong” and find penis cocktail stirrers?

Thunder From Down Under – I’ve never seen this Chippendale knock off, but I hear its more entertaining, with more masculine men than the Chippendales. I’ve heard this cheesy show is a great time, perfect for bachelorette parties or any group of crazy women.

Restaurants

Breakfast

*Mon Ami Gabi at Paris – Breakfast is served. This French restaurant has the best treats for your morning sweet tooth. The restaurant knows how to make some serious house made waffles, berry French toast that doesn’t require a drop of syrup, and my favorite chicken, Brie, and apple crepes. I love the outdoor patio, perfect for watching various walks of shame.

Northside Cafe – It’s a little too casual for Vegas but the food is definitely worth it. Try one of their amazing Mexican breakfast entrees or some carrot cake pancakes.

Pyramid Cafe at the Luxor – I don’t know many places where you can order creamsicle french toast or s’mores pancakes. It’s not glamorous but its creative menu is fit to cure any hangover.

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Citizens Cafe at Mandalay Bay – I’ve found myself eating here a few times for breakfast. I enjoy their version of a PB&J – banana walnut bread with peanut butter and strawberry jam. Their fresh squeezed mixed juice blends are also yummy, making me feel slightly better about all the other harmful liquids I’ve consumed in Vegas.

Lunch

*The Lobby Bar at Encore – I’m always torn if I should go downtown to reunite with my beloved Dunkin Donuts or journey here to feel like a caffeinated princess. The designer coffee and rock candy stirrers found in this exquisite lobby are definitely first class, warming my soul and snobbery every time. The cafe offers delicious tapas like bacon-wrapped shrimp stacked in a golden leaf tree. My condolence is continuously being offered to Dunkies.

Encore Lobby

BLT Burger at the Mirage – I’m not a fan of burgers but our group loved them. I am a fan, however, of fancy spiked milkshakes. The Night Rider with chocolate liqueur, Kahlua, Oreo cookies, and chocolate ice cream was well-appreciated.

Trevi at Caesar’s Forum Shops – The Forum Shops are charming and this restaurant is conveniently located in the middle of it. You can sit “outside” underneath the fake enchanted sky as you listen to the soothing sounds of the fountain. The Italian food is equally enchanting, if you happen to notice. Trevi Restaurant is a good place to pause in a piece of Vegas magic.

The Grand Luxe at the Palazzo – The Palazzo wanted to build a Cheesecake Factory but could not due to its non-compete with the Mirage. Therefore it decided to make something identical yet better. The fresh hot sourdough bread and Kobe beef meatballs were yummy. I had tapas, including Brie wontons and the dessert list comprised of drool-worthy cobblers and such. It’s reasonably priced and next door to the fantastic show “Panda!”

Happy Hour

*Ra at Fashion Show Mall – I love creative sushi rolls and a good happy hour. Ra has both in a chic setting. I’m obsessed with the Lobster Shrimp Roll drizzled in pesto sauce and I unfortunately will be back here again when I should be trying something new or more authentic.

Grotto at the Golden Nugget – If you’re downtown, be sure to try some wood fire baked pizza here. The pasta, martinis, and desserts are delicious but better yet, you might have a fabulous view of the pool and shark tank water slide.

Dinner

Trattoria Reggiano at the Venetian – The Venetian obviously knows how to do Italian food. Their filet mignon meatballs, pasta dishes, and garlic rolls are so yummy you’ll eat until you sink in a gondola. The restaurant is small but some tables are out in the open, perfect for enjoying the marvelous casino. The trattoria doesn’t take reservations so it’s worth it to go early.

*The Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan – I thought I hated buffets until the Wicked Spoon came into my life. Christmas Eve, I literally waited two hours for a table. Not only is the food fantastic but it’s creatively packaged, some dishes constantly being warmed in tiny individual pans. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I’ll pay the $25 – $35 and savor all they have to offer.  Go for your birthday and you might just get VIP service, skipping the forever-long line.

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P.F. Changs at Planet Hollywood – Yes, it’s a chain but it’s still affordable great food, and if you sit outside on the strip you can see the Bellagio fountains or hear a concert at the Cosmopolitan.

*China Poblano – Winner. This place kills it with every dish, artfully combining Chinese and Mexican food with such passion. I sampled noodles, tacos, dumplings, and their signature fried rice and fell in love every time.

Next on my list:

Mizumi at the Wynn – It offers a teppan room with grills to sit at (an upscale version of Benihanas) with views of waterfalls, koi ponds, and gardens. Mizumi also claims it’s “one of the only two restaurants in the U.S. with certified Kobe beef.” If you’re looking to splurge, I’m still sure the Wynn is the place to do it.

Noodles at the Bellagio or the pricier Red 8 at the Wynn – I love dim sum. I could eat xiao long bao all day, every day for the rest of my life. These two restaurants seem like good options to try, and certainly a different approach to the usual hangover brunch.

Hotels

There are tons of beautiful hotels throughout the strip and nearby. How to decide? It depends what you’re looking for, but I’d say the Venetian is a very safe bet. If you’d like to save a few bucks for all those expensive drinks, opt for the Luxor.

Budget

*Luxor – Depending on the season, this hotel can be anywhere from $30 with drink vouchers to $200. When it works in my favor, the Luxor is my go-to. It’s pretty, close to the action and there’s a free tram to the always fun Mandalay Bay and outdated Excalibur. The location is perfect and I love the simple and chic low-key bars nearby.

D – This newly renovated hotel is great for a budget if you’re looking to experience something different, along with cheap table games. You can check out the “downtown experience,” go zip lining, and consume the tallest drinks in Vegas. The night we went, the rate was $25 including breakfast. If you have a car, the strip is about a 10-minute drive. If you want to stay in downtown and can afford a little more, I’d opt for The Golden Nugget where guests can take a water slide through a shark tank.

Dog Friendly

*Rumor – If your furry best friend just needs to see sin city, this is the best place to rest their heads. Every third Thursday, the hotel features a yappy hour. Yes, this means cheap drinks and treats with your dog. Life can’t get much better than that. The hotel has ample dog relief areas with fake grass. All dogs aside, the hotel is sexy beautiful with a fun pool and hammocks to relax in. It’s slightly off the strip, across from the Hard Rock, yet close enough to the strip.

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Rio – The Rio and its Mardis Gras theme are sort of dingy and still far from the strip. However, the Voodoo Rooftop lounge is perfect bliss, and of course, they’ll let your dogs come!

La Quinta Inn & Suites Airport North – La Quinta and I didn’t get off to a great start. We passed a domestic disturbance next door, the front desk advertised safety precautions, crime warnings, and numbers to call. The Trip Advisor reviews were stellar so I trusted the decision. We stayed 3 nights during the peak season with our two dogs when even the crappy hotels were $100/night with pet fees of up to $100 extra/night. That being said this hotel has some great perks. It has a free 24 hour shuttle to the airport and the strip along with free breakfast. Absolutely no pet fees or deposits. The room had a fridge and the microwave warned up my PF Changs left overs at 3:00am. The pool is quaint and overall a good place for the pups to relax. La Quinta was a good option for my circumstances or for an extended stay with pets but it’s still far enough from the action and doesn’t offer that Vegas experience.

Mid-range

*SLS – This gorgeous hotel has a fantasy rock vibe, with clever keys and monkey details. I loved the Northside Cafe for breakfast, Ku’s handmade noodles for lunch, their chic rooms, and lovely pool. It’s too far from the action on the strip, especially for a first timer. BUT if you have a car and aren’t a big drinker, give it a go.

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Polo Towers – Some people can’t sleep with loud drunkies outside their door. If that’s the case, the Polo Towers is a good option. I stayed here with some friends for a week and definitely put the stove and fridge to good use. The rooms are tasteful, homey, and located on prime real estate. My problem is that it’s only a nice room to sleep in. The price is generally similar to some big exciting casinos, so I’ll probably suck it up for a little more adventure going forward.

MGM Grand – The MGM is a solid hotel with much to offer. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s usually worth the price point. It typically compares with the likes of the Venetian and there’s just no contest.

Luxury

*Wynn/ Encore – Steve Wynn puts serious passion into the hotels he creates and it certainly shows. These are two fascinating buildings to discover, making your stay an experience. The rooms are elegant yet remote-operated. The pool and surrounding gardens are whimsical. The Encore Lobby bar has perfectly brewed coffee, only to be turned up a notch with rocky candy stirrers and enchanting music. You can dine next to gorgeous gardens, pools, waterfalls, or the Lake of Dreams. In the middle, Society Cafe is sexy and delicious. They even wrote us a hand written thank you letter afterwards. XS and Surrender are constant favorites, featuring stunning outdoor sections perfect for playing Blackjack by the pool or smoking that once-a-year cigarette. Tryst, although small, can also be a fun dance floor to check out. These hotels are at end of the strip but with so much awe and beauty, you might not want to leave anyway.

*Venetian – I’ve never booked a room here, but I visit every time. The canals and gelato don’t actually compare to Italy’s yet the Venetian is probably the most entertaining casino. It has great food, amazing nightlife, and sparkling water running through it. The Venetian has it all but if that’s still not enough; it’s in the middle of the strip with plenty of options to get you into trouble.

Venetian

Skip

Circus Circus – Unless you have kids, there’s never a reason to come here. The hotel and rooms in it are dingy. The pool is oh, so sad. The location is too far from anything, making you wish you had spent an extra $10 to stay anywhere else.

The Quad – I’m not sure what it is about this place, but everyone I know who’s been here says it’s the worst hotel in Vegas. It’s cheap and the location is great but it reeks of sadness. We had a dog friendly room that was literally clawed up with fragrant notes of piss. I’d choose something else.

Paris – Just like the city, this casino is equally disappointing. The interior is dreary and underwhelming, making the expensive price tag not worth it.

The Four Queens – Like The Four Queens, many of the downtown casinos feel old and dirty. I’m pretty sure you breathe in second hand smoke from the rug as you walk by. Yes downtown offers some cheap table games and is fun to check out but not to stay – here anyway.

Shows

*”O” at the Bellagio – Each member of this talented cast is scuba certified for the water tank, filled with 1.5 million gallons. There’s even a crew working underwater at all times. Throughout the show, the water level can be shallow enough to walk across or deep enough to high dive. The contortionists in a large fish bowl will always be a sharp memory in my mind. Costumes have to be replaced after so many shows due to the water/chemical damage. One can only imagine the maintenance required when cleaning the tank, which is dumped into the Bellagio Lake. “O” is certainly the most expensive show in Vegas but deservedly so. It’s the only one I’ve come back to.

*”Ka” at MGM Grand – This show is my second favorite with its grand revolving stage. It’s amazing to see ninjas moving swiftly up and upside down, sometimes only having posts to guide them. The strength and use of color is exquisite, forever keeping me captivated, never wanting it to end. I was saddened to hear about the accidental death of one of their aerialists. Even though these talented performers make it look so easy, it really goes to show that they’re still putting their lives on the line for their beautiful craft every day.

“Mystere” at Treasure Island – A great show with hauntingly beautiful music. I feel like this is the heart of all the cirque shows, giving us special few a trip to the show’s roots. “Mystere” is captivating and full of talent as always. If I could only have one night with Cirque du Soleil, it wouldn’t be in my top two though.

*“Jabbawockeez’ Prism at Luxor – If you can appreciate the arts of popping, locking, strobing, animation, waving, and mastered hip hop, look no further. The constant smooth dancing of this incredibly talented group combined with the perfect music mix and special effects definitely warmed my soul. I loved every single second of this and would pay handsomely to see it again.

Jabba

“Le Reve” at the Wynn – “Le Reve” is a beautiful aquatic journey but doesn’t hold a candle to “O,” the other water show in town. The small intimate theater simply doesn’t allow the same depth.

“Pen and Teller” at the Rio – Meh, it was ok. This infamous comedic duo had had little wow factor for a Vegas magic show. I’d opt for Chris Angel’s “Believe” instead.

“Blue Man Group” at Monte Carlo- Yes, this show can be much cheaper, but sometimes you get what you pay for. Spend the extra money and go for a show that has a Cirque du Soleil stamp of approval

*”Panda” at the Palazzo – Discounted tickets were available for this show and I read a fantastic yelp review that peaked my interest, “I have no idea what to say. I’m still processing what I just witnessed. Am I traumatized? In a good way? What the hell are my standards and how do I judge this?” I am also traumatized in a good way and maybe slightly racist for watching this ninja panda and monkey show. In the beginning, I was convinced that my lunch had been spiked with hallucinogenics but then I went with it, getting lost in the beauty. I typically compare any acrobatic show to Cirque shows. While this doesn’t have the flying trapeze or jaw dropping stunts, it more than holds its own. The LCD screens and music combination is a show in itself and whatever “Panda!” lacks in stunts, it makes up for with aesthetics. I truly feel like this is the most stunning show in Vegas with some well-developed razzle dazzle. “Panda!” is a fun journey that warmed my heart and reverted me back into a small child.

PandaShow

“Jubilee” at Bally’s – If you want to see some legit show girls with larger than life feather accessories, this is the place to reconnect with a nostalgic Vegas.

“Crazy Horse” at MGM Grand – Similar to its sister show in Paris, this artistically features some of the finest nude girls Vegas has to offer. I was fortunate to have front row seats for Carmen Elektra’s guest performance and I thought it was all tastefully done, honoring the goddess physique instead of objectifying it.

Next on my list:

Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay – The trailer to this show looks ridiculous. Acrobatic stunts combined with hip hop does not get any better, in my opinion. I can’t wait to see it.

Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace – There’s a lot of hype about this sexual/humorous acrobatic show. I’d like to see for myself.

Zumanity at New York New York – A spicy Cirque show with drag queens and midgets. You’re in Vegas, why not?

Free Shows

Sirens of TI at Treasure Island – Crazy wenches fly through the air and drop into the murky waters of Treasure Island at night. Yes it’s probably the cheesiest show in Vegas but free entertainment isn’t so bad.

The Volcano at the Mirage – Every nightly hour, the waterfall in front of the mirage erupts into a volcano until midnight. The fire is impressive to watch and better yet, it’s free.

**Bellagio Fountains at the Bellagio – The casino features a beautiful free show at its doorstep every 30 minutes until midnight. The fountains are elegantly timed to music. You just cannot leave sin city without taking a moment here.

Bellagio-Fountain

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