Last month I decided to take a vacation. My goal was to escape to someplace warm in the United States. I eventually settled on Las Vegas, mostly because I scored a great deal on a resort. Because this was essentially my first trip to Las Vegas, planning for it has been an experience. I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned so far.
This column is by no means comprehensive. It recaps what I have accomplished so far. By design, it’s aimed at newbies like me.
What to see in Las Vegas
Where do you begin? Good question. A lot depends on how much time you have and your budget. I should mention that my focus is on the Strip and points close by. I enjoy walking, and hoped to do most of my sightseeing by foot. More on that in a bit.
Start by asking friends for suggestions; you’re bound to get a bundle. Some I was offered include the Mob Museum, Bellagio Hotel (its fountains), Freemont Street (culture), Silverton Hotel (a large aquarium), “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign (geeky-touristy, but a must one time), Fall of Atlantis show at Ceasars Palace and the Hoover Dam. Others were added to my list after investigating more. (Las Vegas offers its own web page for newbies.)
I like free attractions. Friends helped there, as noted above, but I also came across a web page devoted to free attractions in Vegas.
Budget – Even though I hope to visit many free attractions, I know I’ll have to spend some money. I also want to take along some cash for tips and smaller purchases. Estimate based on what you intend to see and feel comfortable spending. It’s easy to spend a lot while in Las Vegas, so be smart (and disciplined).
Map – As with any trip, you’ll need a map. I found a good one here (click on the PDF button). Incidentally, this is another good website to follow. You’ll note they suggest walking, but caution that the Strip is more than 4 miles long. Plan accordingly.
With map in hand, I was able to pinpoint the sites on my list and start work on my itinerary. The Mob Museum is located near Freemont Street, for example, so those two locations will be visited together. Ditto for the “Welcome” sign and MGM Grand (home of CBS Television City Research). This sort of planning allows you to maximize your time on the Strip.
Budgeting your time – This is a tough one. I can only offer what my plans are now. They could (and probably will) change after I arrive on Feb. 21. Currently I plan to hang around the resort (Tahiti Village) on Sunday and most of Monday. The resort offers a shuttle to the Strip, so I might hit the Welcome sign and CBS Research, both on the southern end, on Monday. But I’m not sure.
My itinerary currently covers only Tuesday through Thursday. That leaves Monday and Friday as fill-in days. I suggest you do the same: leave some spare time. You may want it for relaxing or visiting site(s).
Bus system – Your feet will hold out only so long. Las Vegas offers a convenient and reasonably priced bus. Known as the Deuce, it runs up and down the Strip in 15-20 minute intervals 24 hours a day. They offer several fare categories. I intend to buy a 3-day pass, as it’s only $20. (Another bus line, the SDX, serves the Strip north to downtown Las Vegas and the convention center.) You can purchase tickets online or from any of the ticket vending machines on the Strip. Note that if you purchase online, the ticket(s) will be mailed to you.
Cabs – Assuming you’re not renting a car, you’ll take a cab from McCarran International. One source for taxi info is the airport’s website; I started there. I reviewed websites for most of the firms, as well as the Yelp reviews. If they are to be believed, Las Vegas taxi firms are in pretty tough shape.
I contacted three about rates to get me to the resort. One firm replied, so I planned to use them. Then I was told that you can’t select the cab company; you’re directed to the first one in line. My resort is close to the airport, so I don’t anticipate any issues. If yours is up the strip a bit, you may need to be diligent during the ride.
Use TripAdvisor – TripAdvisor offers more than reviews of hotels. Its search engine, accessed by that thin box near the top of the page, returns some interesting results. Type in “where to dine in San Diego,” and it comes back with a collection of reviews posted by members. That’s the key: TripAdvisor has become a go-to site for posting reviews and feedback on all sorts of travel-related issues.
That’s it for now, but stay tuned. As I mentioned, I’d like post sometime during my trip. But, that plan is up in the air, too. After all, I’m going to Las Vegas. If the week flies by and I don’t get any work done, well…..
If you’ve vacationed in Las Vegas, I’d like your impressions. Feel free to comment below. And please share this column so others may benefit from what you and I have written. Thanks!
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New Berlin, Wisconsin