The vibrant Las Vegas lights draw visitors from every end of the Earth. It’s a city of unlimited pleasures, designed to please virtually any type of tourist – from those celebrating milestones or chasing thrills, to those searching for a moment of bliss under the sun. No matter the reason you’re here, it’s vital to stick to a rough schedule to avoid losing track of time. Here is how everyone can rock a weekend in Vegas.
Rise with the desert sun and don’t dawdle. The heat rises fast, so throw on comfortable shoes and head out onto Las Vegas Boulevard. Get the obligatory photo at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign out of the way first, then grab breakfast at the Broken Yolk Cafe. If you’re not on foot or don’t mind a quick cab ride, it’s worth the wait to start the morning off with a steak and egg sandwich at the chef-driven Eggslut. With some fuel in the tank, you’re ready to walk the Strip and take it all in.
As the sun gets higher in the sky, you’d do well to explore the Strip indoors. There are underground passageways connecting many of the Strip casinos (Paris and Bally’s, for instance) allowing you to gaze and gamble without the glare of the sun. While you’re trying to cool down, why not go for a swim? Most hotels have a sparkling swimming pool, but only Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay gives you the option of swimming with more than 30 sharks. Dry off, and if you’re now craving seafood, let Water Grill in Caesars Palace load you up with a plate of shucked oysters.
A little gambling is a laid-back way to let your lunch digest, and the Strip has seemingly infinite places to play. Stay in Caesars if you’re looking for a good sports book, but head over to Bellagio for their high-limit poker room. ARIA is a sure-bet for slots, while the Golden Nugget lets you sift through a number of table games. Prefer the old-school way to burn through a pocket of quarters? The Pinball Hall of Fame is as retro as it gets.
As the night falls, the Strip comes alive. Your time in the moonlight can be filled in every way imaginable, though it’s recommended that you first take a moment to marvel at its beauty. The Stratosphere Hotel & Casino and Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay offer great views of the Strip, while the Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck at Paris Las Vegas offers that, plus a bird’s-eye view of the dancing Bellagio Fountains.
And now, into the night. As you consider your potential plans, mull it over with a fine-dining experience only Las Vegas can offer. Twist by Pierre Gagnaire will also offer views of the Strip from its 23rd floor as you savor every bite of duck coated in black currant and chocolate, with a wild mushroom casserole on the side. It’s the chef’s only location in North America. If you feel the need to work off those extra calories, dance until the sun rises on the rooftop deck of Terrace Afterhours Nightclub. Prefer to kick your feet up instead? Casa Fuente Cigars is a relaxing place for coffee, cocktails and, of course, cigars.
Sleep in – you’re on vacation, after all – and head over to Vesta Coffee Roasters for a nitro cold-brew coffee. You might as well grab a tartine toast or breakfast sando while you’re there since you’ll be spending your morning shopping on and off the Strip. Fashion Show Mall has around 250 stores to browse and hosts weekly fashion shows, so you can gain some garment inspiration. If you’re dead set on finding the best deals, hop off the Strip and into the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets for discounts galore. Don’t let souvenirs slip your mind – Bonanza Gift Shop’s 45,000sqft (4,181sqm) of space has a gift for everyone on your list.
Once again, the sun is high in the sky and you might want to duck inside for a few hours. Get to know the historical side of Las Vegas with a visit to one of the many museums in town. In true Vegas style, you can expect to find over-the-top exhibits, including the Erotic Heritage Museum, Museum of Selfies and Zak Bagans’ the Haunted Museum. For a more local-centric educational experience, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum charts the history of the area from the days of the dinos to the present day.
The Hollywood Car Museum and the Mob Museum are arguably two of the can’t-miss museums in the city, but many say the Neon Museum should be your number-one stop. Vintage casino signs from decades past fill this glitzy open-air graveyard. Some are restored, others show their Sin City scars, but all offer an interesting account of the city history. Ready to break for lunch? Head into Peppermill for a Sin City BLT topped with an egg, mayo and avocado between two grilled slices of Texas toast.
No two nights out in Las Vegas are the same. Skip the Strip and head north to the local haunts downtown. The Fremont Street Experience provides both a wild and relaxed night. Free live music performances and light shows fill the street, pumping out a soundtrack with a steady backbeat provided by the several casinos in the area. You can see it all from above with a ride on the SlotZilla Zipline. Too much attention for your liking? Sneak away to the Laundry Room speakeasy within the Commonwealth for a quiet drink.
With a little liquid courage, you may want to shuffle over to the Cat’s Meow and belt out your favorite karaoke songs. Celebrities have been known to pop in and sing a few tunes, so you never know who might take the stage. With the acclaim of the crowd, you deserve a nightcap. Whether you make the drive or order delivery to your hotel, a baker’s dozen of Pinkbox Doughnuts full of sweet OGs, Doughcros, Good Fellas, Fancy Pancys and Showoffs will end the night just right.
Up and at ‘em early or hitting the snooze button until it breaks? Either way, the all-day breakfast menu at eat. makes it a great place for Sunday brunch. A cup of Mothership Roastworks freshly brewed coffee will perk you up while you wait for your truffle egg sandwich to make it to your table. Grab another cup to go; you’re going to need the energy for your next stop.
Las Vegas is far more than an urban playground; it’s also a wonderful place to explore diverse landscapes. There are plenty of parks within the city, but if you’ve got a set of wheels, venture just outside town and you’ll be rewarded with the magnificent Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This part of the Mojave Desert is less than 20mi (32km) from downtown and offers hours of hiking and biking. Spend a few minutes snapping photos, or a few hours alone with your thoughts.
Between the heat and the hike, you’ll be ready for some grub, so you might as well check off another Las Vegas must-do: a visit to a buffet. Bring your appetite to Wynn Las Vegas and bounce between the carving and seafood stations until you’ve tasted all 90 items on the buffet. With the buffet down, you can loosen up your belt at Blondie’s Sports Bar & Grill. Slide into this college-style bar to watch the game, sip a few brews and see if you’ve still got your beer pong skills from college.
How does one spend their last night in Vegas? With a show, of course. You can’t go wrong with the classics such as Penn & Teller, Cirque du Soleil or Australia’s Thunder From Down Under; or take in a tribute show, such as the Rat Pack Is Back. There’s just something about the sounds of Sinatra, Sammy and Dino that really bring out those Old Vegas vibes.
With your time in Sin City coming to a close, it’s the simple pleasures that will give you a few final memories. Spend that lucky dollar you’ve kept folded in your wallet at the roulette table in the MGM Grand, and grab one last highball at Bound Bar in the Cromwell. Before you zip up your luggage and make your way over to McCarran International Airport, grab one last longing look at the Strip from the High Roller Observation Wheel at The LINQ. Don’t forget to flick a coin into the Trevi Fountain at Caesars Palace, hoping that your wish to return to Las Vegas comes true.
Need some more inspiration? Culture Trip’s got you covered, with a list of unusual things to do in Las Vegas and these day-trip recommendations. If you’re still looking for a place to rest your head after all that exploring, book a stay at one of the best hotels in Las Vegas, or enjoy Sin City views from a room with a balcony. Unwind with a drink at the best bars in downtown.
Lauryn Wilder and Clayton Mory Schuster contributed additional reporting to this article.