Best Bets in Las Vegas

With only a long weekend in Las Vegas, you have to play your cards right. Try these eight ways to make the most of your time in Sin City.

Hotel Hop

The Strip is still where most of the city’s action is centered. Visit the Eiffel Tower, Venice canals, Brooklyn Bridge and the Sphinx in a single day (well, replicas at Paris, New York-New York, the Venetian and the Luxor, respectively). The Bellagio boasts a fine art gallery and famed water shows with fountains choreographed to music. You can even glimpse wildlife: Check out the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, the Flamingo Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo and Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. And don’t miss the city’s latest development, CityCenter, with the Aria, Vdara and Mandarin Oriental hotels—and sleek, urban architecture in place of themes.  

Go to the Circus

Cirque du Soleil is practically synonymous with Las Vegas, so don’t leave the city without seeing at least one show. Mystere is a classic Cirque production—colorful and acrobatic; find it at Treasure Island. O, at the Bellagio, is a surrealistic, fantastical water-based show with synchronized swimmers, high divers and more. At the Mirage, The Beatles LOVE uses master tapes from Abbey Road Studios to bring the band’s music to life. KA at the MGM Grand combines martial arts, acrobatics and Capoeira dance. And the decidedly more adult Zumanity, at New York-New York, mixes innuendo and eroticism in a cabaret-style performance.

Place Your Bet

It may sound obvious, but you haven’t really done Vegas until you’ve laid a little cash on the line. Some hotels earn reputations for specific games—say, poker, blackjack, craps or roulette—so ask around. But the floors of the Hard Rock, Mirage, New York-New York, Encore, Cosmopolitan and Aria are considered consistently good, and the Bellagio’s high-stakes poker room is legendary. Then again, if a modest slot machine is calling your name, perhaps it’s your lucky day.

Destination Dine

You don’t need to go far to spot a celebrity—chef, that is. It seems every big name has an outpost in Las Vegas. There’s Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand, Guy Savoy’s Savoy at Caesars Palace, Emeril Laagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian, Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Las Vegas at Caesars and Thomas Keller’s Bouchon at the Venetian, to name just a few. Some even have more than one eatery, among them Mario Batali (B&B Ristorante and Enoteca San Marco in the Venetian and CarneVino Italian Steakhouse in the Palazzo) and Tom Colicchio (Craftsteak and ’Wichcraft at MGM Grand). If there’s a chef whose food you love or have always wanted to taste, satisfy your craving here.

Shop Around

The upper echelon of designers also represents in Vegas. The city’s shopping centers read like the who’s who of fashion.  Get to know Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors and Tory Burch. Browse Chanel, Gucci, Fendi and Dolce & Gabana and ogle the sparkle at Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston, DeBeers and Chopard. Unlike the uncertainty of the casino tables, if you plunk down a couple hundred (or thousand) at one of these shops, you’re sure to come out ahead—with a fantastic handbag, watch or pair of heels.

See a Star

For a true celebrity encounter, take in a star-studded show: Celine Dion at Caesars Palace or Garth Brooks at the Wynn are contemporary legends, while Barry Manilow at Paris or Donny and Marie Osmond at the Flamingo offer a dose of older-school Vegas. For a less authentic but highly fun experience, opt for a celebrity impersonator show; two good choices are American Superstars at the Stratosphere and Legends in Concert at Harrah’s.

Get on Up

Break away from the poker games or designer shops and treat yourself to an incredible view of the city. Visit the Eiffel Tower restaurant, eleven stories up in Paris, or MIX, a restaurant and lounge on the sixty-fourth floor at Mandalay Bay. Go eight hundred feet above the Strip at the Stratosphere; if you’re really brave, try the three thrill rides on top of the hotel. Or ride the roller coaster at New York-New York for dynamic views complete with twists, turns, dips and dives.

Katie Vaughn is managing editor of Madison Magazine. 

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