Vegas. It’s part of the quintessential American experience. There is no place more synonymous with “a no regrets, wild weekend” than Sin City. It’s a haven where people flock to escape the grind… if only for a few days.
This summer — like every summer — millions will flock to the desert for a getaway. They’ll rage at night, hang out by the pool when the sun is shining, and, with any luck, make all sorts of decisions that would feel borderline regrettable back in the real world. If you’ve got a Vegas trip on the horizon, you’ll want to make sure you hit the best spots to maximize your precious time. That’s why we’re laying out a guide to the best dining, nightlife, and entertainment options available for #Summer18. We’re not going to tell you where to hit the tables, as that tends to be based on where you’re staying as well as your gambling budget (and if you need a sportsbook ranking, head here), but we will tell you what to do for the rest of your trip — from food to clubs to daytime recreation.
We’ll start with what is often the most difficult choice you’ll have to make in Las Vegas: Where to eat. Because seriously, the city has an endless supply of great restaurants. No matter what you’re in the mood for, somewhere on The Strip can satisfy your cravings. Below, you’ll find a variety of options for your culinary excursion through the desert, whether you’re looking for a spot that can handle a large group or a more intimate experience.
YARDBIRD (The Venetian)
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Tucked in the back corner of The Venetian, just past the cashier’s cage, Yardbird offers great Southern cuisine, either in complete meals or as a tapas style dining experience (which I recommend for groups). Our recommendation for a small group is to get a couple orders of the chicken biscuits, mac n’ cheese, fried green tomato BLTs, and fried okra. It’s also hard to go wrong with any of the fried chicken options.
JALEO (The Cosmopolitan)
Jaleo is best known for its paella. As it should be because it’s fantastic. It’s another great spot for a larger group because of the tapas that allows you to sample a little bit of everything, it’s also the cheapest show in the city: They cook all the paella for all to see in the back near the bar.
One of Julian Serrano’s restaurants in Vegas, Lago overlooks the fountains at Bellagio and offers a fantastic tapas style dining experience. On a sunny day, the patio is fantastic for lunch and they have tons of great, lighter options which can be a nice reprieve from some of the more decadent meals you’ll consume in Sin City.
CRAFTSTEAK (MGM) and SW STEAKHOUSE (Wynn)
If you’re looking for an upscale steakhouse experience there are tons of options at nearly every casino on the strip, but Craftsteak at MGM and SW Steakhouse at the Wynn are two of the best around. Both offer high end steaks along with other classic steakhouse dishes for the non-beef eater in your life, but the highlights at both are the thick cuts of beef cooked to perfection.
SW Steakhouse provides some incredible atmosphere, while Craftsteak chooses to wow you with the Wagyu beef.
NOBU (Caesars), MIZUMI (Wynn), and MORIMOTO (MGM)
These three are stalwarts. They’ve been around. Their chefs are famous. And you know what? Sometimes in food that means “bland and boring” but when it comes to raw fish, these three restaurants are able to source some of the very best. That’s crucial when you’re slinging sushi in the desert.
THE BUFFET (Aria) and BACCHANAL (Caesars)
You’ll find little argument about these being the two best buffets in Las Vegas. Dor seafood lovers, Aria’s The Buffet is probably where you’d want to lean. Bacchanal is simply fantastic and the pro move is to go at the tail end of lunch pricing and stick around long enough for them to break out the crab legs and other dinner specialties.
GORDON RAMSEY’S HELL’S KITCHEN (Caesars)
Fans of the show will get a kick out of seeing former contestants from Hell’s Kitchen working in the kitchen (which is not walled off so you can see those familiar faces), but even those who skip the show will enjoy the experience. The Beef Wellington is, unsurprisingly, among the most popular items, but the Tomahawk steak for two isn’t shabby either, and we can’t recommend the brussels sprouts enough as a side (or the meatballs as an appetizer).
BLACK TAP (The Venetian) and HOLSTEINS (The Cosmopolitan)
Let’s lump these two in with each other because they’re both fantastic burger spots with great milkshakes. If you’re looking for a casual, but fun burger spot on the Strip you can’t go wrong with either pick. The shakes at both are great, with some incredibly unique flavors. Black Tap has a birthday cake shake that’s topped with a slice of birthday cake and the coffee and donuts shake (with alcohol) at Holsteins is unreal.
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If you want to venture off Strip in search of some great food at a bargain, Ichiza, right next to the Chinatown Plaza off Spring Mountain Rd just west of I-15, has superb Japanese food — with the highlight being their skewers. It’s among the go-tos for when we want to get away from the Strip and also have a hankering for some meat on a stick.
TACO BELL CANTINA (Planet Hollywood)
Laugh all you want, but if you’re talking value and convenience it’s hard to top this for some late night grub on the Strip. Pricing is the same as any Taco Bell, which is a rarity for chains on the Strip, plus the added delight of a live DJ and frozen margarita concoctions, including the ever popular Baja Blast.
EDITOR’S PICK: Sparrow + Wolf (Off-Strip)
This place is very “new American” and we love it. The menu is thoroughly imagined in the best sense and all the trendy, hipster (but insanely delicious) ingredients are in play: Wood fired oven? Check. Uni and Foie on the menu? Absolutely. Sweetbreads and celery root? You bet. And it’s all bomb.
Start with the hearth-baked bread, which is — quite simply — the best bread we’ve tasted in Vegas. Then move on to the Japanese sweet potato, the sweetbreads, the Campfire Duck, and a whole load of oysters. This is a place to splurge and leave happy before heading back into the fray.
The Sake Rok menu — for both food and drinks — is also a fun, wild ride and their execution is superb. Definitely check out this stand alone location, nestled right in the middle of the strip.
Going to Vegas is an escape for most and provides an opportunity to let loose late into the night. Like choosing a restaurant, the number of options for going out in Las Vegas can be staggering with most every casino boasting a nightclub and various bars and late-night establishments. Here are some of the best for a variety of nightlife desires, from clubs to spots for live music to simply nice bars with strong cocktail menus.
One of the newest clubs in Vegas is also, unsurprisingly, one of the nicest. Omnia features a rotation of massively popular DJs including Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix, and many more, along with a hip-hop room and a patio area that overlooks the Strip for a unique club experience. For those looking to dance the night away, there’s not a better spot.
MARQUEE (The Cosmopolitan)
Like Omnia this is one of the newer clubs on the Strip and also offers some amazing outdoor views of Vegas on a massive patio with cabanas. The outside area offers more of a laid back vibe than you’ll find in many of the clubs, while the inside still offers the booths and the dance floor you’ve come to know and love in a Vegas club.
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Hyde’s biggest draw is the view from the balcony that overlooks the Fountains at Bellagio. If you and your friends happen to have dreams of controlling the fountains and some significant cash, they offer a $250,000 package that includes a 30 liter bottle of Ace of Spades champagne and a button that will shoot off the famous fountains.
DRAI’S (The Cromwell)
On top of The Cromwell you’ll find Drai’s, which regularly features some of the biggest names in hip-hop performing. For those looking for a club with less EDM and more hip-hop, this is probably the spot for you.
ROSE. RABBIT. LIE. (The Cosmopolitan)
If the nightclubs are a bit much for you, then tucked away in the Cosmo up on the second level past the elevators you’ll find Rose. Rabbit. Lie., an incredible spot that’s a restaurant and bar that features some incredible live entertainment. Show up at the right time and you might see someone tap dance on top of a piano while the band plays Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’.”
That’s a real thing that has happened and it’s phenomenal.
THE DORSEY (The Venetian)
Another more lowkey spot is The Dorsey, a more upscale bar right off the casino floor in The Venetian that offers a phenomenal cocktail menu, including a $2,000 cocktail made with 21-year Hibiki, gold leaf, and comes with caviar. You know, for when you need that sort of thing in your life (the non-$2,000 cocktails are great too, they just don’t have gold leaf or caviar).
MONTECRISTO CIGAR BAR (Caesars)
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For those that enjoy a nice cigar, one of the newest spots in Caesars is the Montecristo Cigar Bar, which offers a wide variety of cigars and cocktails, complete with a walk-in humidor where you can select your preferred stick. They also offer a pairings menu that gets you a cigar and a beverage meant to complement each other.
Downtown Las Vegas is in the midst of a revitalization and a walk down Fremont Street from the hustle and bustle of the new downtown hub you’ll find Atomic Liquors, the oldest freestanding bar in Las Vegas. Named Atomic Liquors because people used to sit on the roof and watch the atomic bomb tests, it offers a throwback feel and chill vibes for those looking to unwind and get away from some of the craziness of Vegas.
EDITOR’S PICK: Frankie’s Tiki Room
Look, the tiki trend would be annoying if everyone wasn’t having so much fun. Tiki bars are maximalist and a little bit try-hard, but they Own. That. Shit. And make it feel cool. Step to the bar, order a massive drink over crushed ice, and you’re sure to be stoked you came.
There is literally no better way to escape the pretension that sometimes creeps in on a Vegas trip.
We’ll get to other entertainment and show options shortly, but some of the biggest draws of Las Vegas are the incredible concerts and performers that rotate through the various venues on the Strip, whether as part of a residency or as a one-off visit. Here, we’ll look at the biggest concerts available this summer from July through August.
BARRY MANILOW (Westgate, 7/19-28)
Barry Manilow is at Westgate Las Vegas for two weekends in June and two weekends in July, so after a stop by the SuperBook you can catch him belting out the hits.
LOGIC (Monte Carlo, 7/21)
This is Logic’s tour kickoff and it’s sure to be big. Vegas is a nice way to get a midsummer tour revved up.
GWEN STEFANI (Planet Hollywood, 6/27-7/21)
Stefani will be on stage at the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood one more time (THIS WEEKEND!).
BACKSTREET BOYS (Planet Hollywood, 7/25-8/11)
The Backstreet Boys are indeed back and will take over the Zappos Theater after Gwen Stefani for a run from late July through early August.
BRUNO MARS (Park Theater at Monte Carlo, 7/25-28)
Bruno Mars will perform three shows over the last weekend of July at Monte Carlo.
STEVIE WONDER (Park Theater at Monte Carlo, 8/3-8/11)
After Bruno, the Park Theater will welcome the legendary Stevie Wonder for five shows over two weekends in early August.
LIONEL RICHIE (Planet Hollywood, 8/15-28)
Closing out Planet Hollywood’s summer run of residencies will be Lionel Richie, whose show is appropriately titled “All The Hits.”
REBA, BROOKS & DUNN (Caesars Palace, 8/15-25)
The country music legends will take over the Colosseum to end August.
EDITOR’S PICK: Panic at the Disco (T-Mobile Arena, 8/18)
See the crew do their mid-2000s superstar rock god thing in the city that was really a hub for that scene in that era. This is sure to be a big, loud, fun show.
When you aren’t eating or at a club or at the tables, you still need to find ways to occupy yourself in Las Vegas and for that there are plenty of options. Whether you’re into shows, golf, pools, views, or something a little different, Vegas offers plenty to those not necessarily interested in grinding out a table for hours on end.
THE BEATLES LOVE BY CIRQUE DU SOLEIL (Mirage)
Regardless of what you think of the fab four, you will love The Beatles LOVE show. There are tons of Cirque shows on the Strip, from “O” at Bellagio to Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay, and if you were ever on the fence about whether you’d enjoy one of them, we can’t recommend cirque enough.
For those who are very much Beatles fans, it’s a thrill and you can even purchase a behind-the-scenes tour package for right before the show.
THE HIGHROLLER (The Linq)
The Highroller is the giant ferris wheel behind The Linq. The views of the Strip are simply incredible and the happy hour option to have the bar in your pod makes for a pretty fun half-hour while you stunt on Snapchat and the Gram.
TOP GOLF LAS VEGAS (MGM)
Whether you’re a big golfer or not (and if you are, we’ve got another suggestion coming shortly), this high-tech driving range is a great experience on the east side of MGM, looking out over the Strip with some incredible views. It’s a great spot to take a group during the day or at night — the morning/early afternoon times provide quite the bargain and a great way to work off maybe a rough night. The top floor is for adults only and at night becomes more party than golf. There’s a pool that’s quite nice, albeit smaller but still not quite as packed as some of Vegas’ other pools, plenty of bars and, of course, bays you can reserve to smash some golf balls in the direction of the Strip.
BELLAGIO GALLERY OF FINE ART (Bellagio)
If you’re looking to be a bit more cultured on your trip to Vegas you can stop by the art gallery at the Bellagio where they have a great permanent collection as well as rotating special exhibitions that vary over the course of the year.
BALI HAI GOLF CLUB
If you are a golfer, there are plenty of great courses in Vegas but, after the closure of the Wynn course, only one left actually on the Strip. That would be Bali Hai, just south of Mandalay Bay, it’s a nice track (a bit tight) that provides some amazing views coming back into the clubhouse on the back nine. We’d recommend playing it soon, though — as the newly arrived Raiders want to buy it and turn it into parking for their stadium.
SLOTZILLA AND THE FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE
Downtown Las Vegas has, as mentioned before, gone through quite the rejuvenation and for those looking for a bit more of a thrill-seeking venture Slotzilla is a massive zipline that sends you out over most of the portion of downtown on Fremont Street that is now roofed in. That entire section provides plenty of entertainment for when you’re not soaring over it and, if nothing else, offers some elite-level people watching.
EDITOR’S PICK: Downtown Street Art Tour
At some point, Vegas went all in on street art — in both the official and guerrilla capacities. You can take a tour, but if you wander downtown you’re absolutely sure to see a ton of large and small-scale works by names you recognize. Last year, Shepard Fairey completed a massive piece that was part of DTLV’s continuing rejuvenation project.
The good news is, it’s working. The downtown area is becoming popular for young people to go, brunch, and even stay.
V. POOL PARTIES
The idea of going to Vegas without hitting up a pool party is like going to the moon without planting a flag that will one day be used by crazy people to build ornate conspiracy theories. You just don’t do it.
Here are the best of the bunch (and there are a literal bunch.)
DAYLIGHT (Mandalay Bay)
This is huge. Drinks, DJs, concerts, cabanas. You’re basically talking about Mykonos or Ibiza all piled onto one sprawling pool area. For summer 2018, this spot is pure fire. Seriously, at night you’ll absolutely meet people who are heading to their rooms early (4am) in order to rest up for Daylight. Be there or be square.
WET REPUBLIC (MGM Grand)
The best thing about Vegas is that it’s unapologetically wild. This party verges on nearly-unhinged chaos and wow is it fun. Calvin Harris is playing this weekend, so get ready, go to the gym tonight, and then hit the pool.
BARE POOL (Mirage)
This tops-optional pool started a trend on the strip. It’s not exactly rocket science why this is so popular, but the party is also a ton of fun — and as prone to wild excess and champagne showers as you might expect.
EDITOR’S PICK: Bacchus Pool (Ceasar’s Palace)
If you have the clout, you can let the party come to you at the Bacchus Pool, which is reserved completely for VIPs. It doesn’t have the wild elements that we love, but once you get your fill of those, Bacchus is the spot to chill on a daybed and recount your adventures.
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