Sports

A Sports Fan’s Guide To Visiting Las Vegas

Las Vegas has always been a destination for sports bettors, as thousands have flocked to the desert to watch and bet on big events for decades. However, the relationship between sports leagues and Las Vegas was once icy, as sports betting was considered taboo and a risk to the integrity of the game — despite European sports leagues having figured out long ago how to make it work in harmony.

That has all changed rapidly, as anyone who has watched a professional or college sporting event in the last five years can attest to. Every league and network partner has a deal with an official sportsbook (or a few), with betting lines scrolling across the screen, proudly displayed and updated in real-time, no longer requiring analysts to offer a wink like the Swami or a “closer than the experts think” like Lee Corso when they expect an underdog to cover the spread. As sports betting spreads across the country, with 34 states adopting legal sports gambling, the market has grown, but Las Vegas remains a destination like no other — and leagues are starting to embrace it like never before.

The NBA began the dalliance with Vegas years ago when they put Summer League in town (dipping the toe back in after the disaster that was the 2007 All-Star Game), which has grown from six teams to all 30, as fans now pack the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion every July to watch top draft picks and journeymen alike vie for roster spots and try to make a name for themselves prior to training camp. Summer League’s success showed even young pros can handle Vegas just as well as any big city, and the town’s infrastructure for hosting thousands of visitors makes it a natural fit for leaguewide events.

Since then, the NHL, WNBA, and NFL have all come to town on a permanent basis, with the Golden Knights, Aces, and Raiders calling Las Vegas home now, and each of those leagues has brought its All-Star games to the city in the past two years. Most recently, the city played host to the 2022 NFL Draft, as more than 100,000 fans descended on the Strip for the three-day festivities at the end of April, with the NFL gleefully announcing it was “all-in” on Las Vegas.

The relationship between sports and Vegas has changed dramatically in recent years, and as the city tries to plant its flag as a premier sports destination, the various resorts and casinos in town are making investments to make their properties stand out to sports fans coming to town. The Draft was just the precursor to a monstrous year-plus coming up for Vegas sporting events, most notably including an NCAA Tournament Regional in March 2023, an F1 race in November 2023, and the Super Bowl in February 2024, as the new infrastructure of Allegiant Stadium and T-Mobile Arena, coupled with old favorites like the MGM Grand Garden Arena allow Vegas to play host to just about any sporting event of any size.

As a long time veteran of going to Vegas for sports reasons, having covered nine Summer Leagues and made dozens of pilgrimages to the Strip for NFL Playoffs, March Madness, Ryder Cups, and college football Saturdays, I’ve been somewhat unknowingly compiling a database of where to go (and when to get there) to best enjoy a sports weekend in the desert. After being invited out to take in Draft weekend by the LVCVA, I got to visit a few more places and also see how these big tentpole events go down in Vegas (because, with all due respect to Summer League, the Draft crowd dwarfs the number of people that come out in July).

Here, I’ll share my favorite sportsbooks, places to watch games, and golf courses to unwind on, as well as some advice for navigating a sports weekend with (and, more dangerously without) reservations and plans.

SPORTSBOOKS

A major sports weekend in Las Vegas typically starts and ends at the sportsbook — although less so for an event like the NFL Draft — and depending on your group’s size, you’ll need to plan ahead to be able to watch games together. Long gone are the days where most seats in the book are first-come, first-serve (especially on a big weekend), so know the policies of where you’re going ahead of time and if you can afford it, reservations will save you headaches and time on gamedays. A group of 6+ effectively requires you to book a fan cave or booth somewhere, but it’s worthwhile if you plan on spending your day posted up watching games. For just a few people, there are still places you can slip into without a reservation, but be sure to arrive early and stake your claim hours before the start of the biggest games that day. The best advice I can offer is to set up a mobile account when you arrive in town (whether at the book you’ll be watching from or a few so you can shop lines) so you aren’t beholden to the lines

Circa

The newest and biggest sportsbook in Las Vegas is worth the pilgrimage to downtown. The three-story screen is truly a sight to behold and with ample seating options (all seats require reservations for major events like the NFL Playoffs and March Madness, but stadium seating is open for non-premium game days) and a screen that puts every game within easy view for every seat, it makes it hard to beat for an immersive experience. One of the perks of the Circa book is that they built the casino around the sportsbook being the centerpiece, which means tables and virtual games are mere steps away, some still providing a view of the screen for when you want a little break from your spot. There is also Stadium Swim, which we’ll get to later which is its own, unique experience.

Reservations can be made online here.

Westgate SuperBook

The longtime favorite for many, the SuperBook remains one of (if not the) best books in Las Vegas. It too boasts a monstrous screen that they shuffle games around on and the seats aren’t quite as plentiful, but are quite comfortable if you get there in time to snag one (for an NFL weekend, plan on at least two if not three hours before kickoff). Booths are available for reservations and for the biggest events, they’ll open up the theater with stadium seating to watch games projected on the big screen, with concessions down below. The updated food court area (RIP SuperBook Deli) provides a number of food options, although you’ll want to plan on a 30-45 minute wait on busy days and like just about everyone else, they have their own mobile app to allow for live betting without having to fight the lines.

Reservations can be made via email: SuperBookBooth@wgresorts.com

Caesars Palace

caesars sporstbook
Caesars Sportsbook

The updated Caesars sportsbook is my vote for the best on the Strip, with a new screen that, while not as big, rivals that of Circa and the SuperBook for quality. There aren’t as many seats at Caesars as the other two, but for big events they’ll break out the risers and put seats behind the bar, as well as adding fan caves for March Madness and Super Bowl. Reserving a seat is a near must for any football weekend, much less a big event, but it’s as good of a centralized location as it gets on the Strip to watch games. It also has a leg up on the food scene around it, with a number of great restaurants and the Caesars food court a short walk away featuring a Bobby’s Burgers, Earl of Sandwich, Tiger Wok & Ramen (a personal favorite), and more that you can take back to your seat.

Reservations can be made online here.

Venetian

The Venetian book isn’t the most popular, but it’s one of my personal favorites for a few reasons. For one, every seat has a desk and outlets, which is a nice perk for a writer but also for anyone that will be on their phone a lot. They also have a quality screen and most seats, even for something like the NFL Playoffs, aren’t reserved — you still need to get there a couple hours early to claim them, but they’re there. Maybe the best thing going for the Venetian book are the food options. Black Tap is right behind it, Noodle Asia is next door and you can walk over and place a to-go order that’ll be ready in 20-30 minutes, and Yardbird is a two-minute walk and now features online ordering that you can pick up at the bar. For someone who wants to hunker down for a day and just watch games, Venetian’s hard to beat — also, they will sometimes open a pit of blackjack tables right behind it so you can light a little extra money on fire while watching the games.

Wynn

The Wynn book is a lovely place to watch games, with a big, bright wraparound screen and comfortable seating as one would expect from the high-end establishment. It’s similar in size to the Venetian book and they’re investing plenty into it as they launch WynnBet. There aren’t as many food options, but there is a sports bar-type spot in the book that’ll whip you up some delightful chicken tenders. As is the case with most places now, you’ll want to look into reserving a seat if you plan on being at the Wynn for games, but it’s as visually appealing a book as you’ll find on the Strip.

Reservations can be made via phone: (702) 770-3365

Mirage/Mandalay Bay

For as much promotion as they’ve put behind the BetMGM app, the physical MGM books on the Strip are somewhat surprisingly lagging behind in amenities. Mirage is, for now, the best, but with that property set to be closed and demolished to become the new Hard Rock in the coming months (the plan is this summer, but it could get pushed as these things can take time to complete transitions), the best MGM book resides at the far south end of the Strip at Mandalay Bay. It’s a large book, with lots of seats (not the most comfortable, but plenty of options), and it’s a favorite of locals for a reason. Not a ton of amenities, but if you want a place to watch games, Mandalay typically has a spot for you.

Reservations can be made online here.

Red Rock

If you want to dig in with the locals, head out West to Red Rock, where you can slip in early and grab a seat in the first-come, first-serve book. As it becomes more difficult to find open seating for events like March Madness, arrive early enough and the Red Rock book will happily accommodate you. You also might bump into some Vegas royalty in the betting line, as I’ve found myself waiting for a window with Brent Musburger on a March Madness Thursday at 6:30 a.m. local. The food court has some solid options — no one would kick a Capriotti’s sub out of bed — and sometimes it can be nice to step away from the Strip.

Cosmopolitan

The smallest of the books on this list, but also one that I’ve found often has some seats because it’s just not a hot spot for sports betting. The Cosmo book has nice screens, even if not the biggest, and any book where you can jump upstairs and snag some Hattie B’s to-go earns some extra points with me. There’s also a pool table, some tabletop shuffleboard, and a pit of tables right there to help pass the time.

Reservations can be made online here.

PLACES TO WATCH GAMES

The sportsbook experience on game days isn’t for everyone, as it’s going to be either a big-time commitment to get there early to grab seats or a big financial commitment to get a booth or cave that can come with a hefty food and beverage minimum. Luckily, with the sports boom in Vegas, there’s an ever-increasing number of places you can go to watch games a bit more passively, while enjoying food, drinks, cigars, sun, and more.

Stadium Swim (Circa)

Stadium Swim is as unique an offering for sports fans as there is in Las Vegas right now, a true one-of-a-kind in a place where as soon as something gets popular, many more pop up. The giant screen (wisely placed on the west side of the pool to avoid afternoon glare) offers quite the view from the many pools (on multiple levels), daybeds, cabanas, and chairs. There are betting windows, bars, and a poolside casino for when you need to see some cards and step out of the sun. My best advice for Stadium Swim patrons is to bring plenty of sunscreen, that sandals are a must — the fake grass is somehow hotter than the concrete pool deck and will roast your feet — and to put food orders in well ahead of time, but the beef sliders are worth what can be an hour-plus wait.

Reservations can be made online here.

Eight Lounge (Resorts World)

Resorts World is the newest casino on the Strip, lying way up at the north end just past Wynn (and on the opposite side), but it is worth the trek. One of the jewels of Resorts World is Eight Lounge, a cigar bar located just past the casino floor that features some of the best vibes in Vegas for watching a game (or enjoying a nightcap after). It has all the perks of a cigar lounge without the heavy haze that typically floats through the room, thanks to a state of the art ventilation system that cycles all of the air in the entire place every four minutes, leaving it almost startlingly clear considering most everyone has a lit cigar.

During sports events, the lounge turns all the TVs to games and provides a laidback atmosphere to take in games while working a cigar from their extremely well-stocked humidor, with a staff that will help you get into the right stick for your tastes. They also feature a robust cocktail menu, as well as select food offerings from Brezza, the Italian restaurant next door. Eight also offers a good chance to spot some stars in your midst, as their 56 locker members include the likes of Charles Barkley, Mark Davis, Charles Woodson, and Marshawn Lynch (who might hop behind the bar and make drinks).

Reservations can be made online here.

TopGolf (MGM Grand)

On the other end of the Strip is TopGolf at MGM Grand, where you can get a bay for up to six of your friends and watch games on the big screens located on the backside of the range (as well as a TV in your bay). At a peak of $95 for an hour on Friday/Saturday nights, it’s a pretty solid value if you have a sizable group and it’s hard to find that much space to stretch out anywhere in Vegas — while getting a chance to get some cuts in and work on your swing.

Reservations can be made online here.

Beer Park (Paris)

The best views of any sports bar in Las Vegas belong to the rooftop of Beer Park at Paris, where you overlook the Strip across the street from the Bellagio fountains. Beer Park also boasts its own betting windows, allowing even those without a mobile app to wager while enjoying the drinks, food, and views. The patio will, sometimes, be closed off in the north corner as it also doubles as an ESPN set (as it did for the NFL Draft), but there’s ample seating inside as well, with tons of TVs.

Reservations can be made online here.

Dawg House (Resorts World)

The nominal sportsbook at Resorts World features betting kiosks and some couches in one nook of the sports bar that is, otherwise, filled with hightop tables and bar seating. It’s a good place to watch a game, and tables can be reserved for a fairly small fee and a $25-50 food and beverage minimum per person. For a smaller group (3-4) it is a more economical option than some of the fan caves or booths at bigger books, with solid food and drink specials for game days.

Reservations can be made online here.

Money, Baby! (Virgin)

One of the newest spots in Vegas is at Virgin (formerly the Hard Rock) off the Strip, and it takes some searching to find it but when you do it’s a pretty cool spot on the second floor of the hotel (past the cashier’s cage and up an escalator), with a patio that overlooks the pool and a large area of booths and couches inside a wall of TVs and a DJ booth, who spins during commercial breaks of big games. The food offerings come from chef Beau McMillan (for any fans of Food Network) and there are plenty of specialty drinks and cocktails.

Reservations can be made online here.

Walk-On’s (Harrah’s)

Likewise tucked up an escalator, Walk-On’s is where the old Tobey Keith’s is in Harrah’s up on the second floor as you head out to the parking garage. The chain originally out of Louisiana has plenty of TVs, some unique food offerings like alligator alongside sports bar classics, and, maybe its best selling point is you likely won’t need a reservation to get a seat and hunker down for watching some games — the strawberry lemonade is also quite refreshing.

GOLF

Vegas is a top golf destination for a reason, with tons of highly rated courses and some that aren’t on Top 100 lists that still provide a fun experience. Here I’ll highlight a few of my favorites on the Strip, near it, and some that will require a bit a drive to reach that will help you pass the time when games aren’t happening.

Wynn Golf Course

Yes, it’s as spectacular as it looks, whether you’ve seen it out a hotel window or on TV for The Match. Yes, it’s going to cost a pretty penny, but if you have the means, it’s a worthwhile play, even just to check it off your list. After the late-September overseed, it reaches its peak, but I’ve played in July and it’s as pure a course as you’ll find anywhere, much less on the Las Vegas Strip. The caddies are knowledgeable and will help you get around — and also step in as a photographer from time to time — so be sure to budget the $50+ tip for their hard work on top of the greens fee.

Tee times can be made via phone: (702) 770-4653

Bali Hai

The other golf course on the Strip provides a different viewpoint, coming from just south of Mandalay Bay, and is more of a desert course, with a bit of rough and a lot of gravel to capture wayward shots. It’s always a fun course, but because it’s easier to get on (and cheaper) than the Wynn, you can bank on a 5-hour pace of play if you are playing during peak season.

Tee times can be made online here.

Paiute Resort

Paiute Resort requires the longest drive of any of these from the Strip, but is a worthwhile experience. The Wolf Course is the gem, but all three present unique challenges and some truly stunning views from the very north edge of Las Vegas, sitting between mountains on both sides. The challenge at Paiute is, like most desert courses, the lack of forgiveness for missing fairways, compounded by high winds that can sweep through from the mountains and really wreck havoc — I have shot a 76 and 91 on the Wolf in successive days here, based purely off of wind.

Tee times can be made online here.

Las Vegas National

On the value side of things, Las Vegas National is a lovely course just a few miles from the Strip that is almost always on my list when I’m out for Summer League because I don’t want to pay $200+ every single time I play. It’s kept in good shape, plays for a reasonable cost, and the staff is very accommodating to larger groups and folks who might just want to come out and get a cart to ride around and hang out. While it can get slow in the afternoon, it offers some cool views on the holes that venture back towards the Strip, but if you go for a twilight round, it’s not a lock you’ll get all 18 in.

Tee times can be made online here.

Angel Park

Out towards Summerlin is Angel Creek, which also provides a good value option when you want to play but aren’t looking to spend a ton. The Mountain Course is my favorite, with a good test of your ball-striking but with a bit more forgiveness off the tee than some desert tracks, and they also have a par 3 (Cloud 9) that you can play under the lights as well.

Tee times can be made online here.

Cascata and Shadow Creek

It’s a Vegas golf list so I’m going to include the big two. Cascata, anyone can get on (for $450-$600 with dynamic pricing), but they do have a deal with Caesars if you’re staying at a Caesars property. To play Shadow Creek you must be staying at an MGM property and be ready for quite the greens fee, but they’re two of the top courses in the area for a reason, as they are always immaculate and present some stunning golf holes.

Cascata tee times can be made online here.
Shadow Creek package reservations can be made via phone: 1-866-260-0069

Reflection Bay

Out at Lake Las Vegas, Reflection Bay is a gorgeous course that feels different from most any other Vegas courses due to its position on the lake, meaning you’re more likely to lose a ball in water than you are gravely desert. It’s a bit of a trek from the Strip, but for a very different course than you typically play in that area, it’s worth a drive out.

Tee times can be made online here.

TPC Las Vegas

This isn’t the TPC the PGA Tour calls home for the Shriner’s Open (that’d be TPC Summerlin, which is a private course), but TPC Las Vegas is a terrific desert track that will, once again, challenge you tremendously off the tee. It’s closed until September 2022 as they do some work on it, which means it ought to be in pristine condition later this fall and will have some new looks to it.

Tee times can be made online here.

Uproxx was invited on a hosted trip to Las Vegas by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for reporting on this piece. You can find out more about our policy on press trips/hostings here.

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