Saturday, February 25, 2012


living in a tourist city, like vegas, i often get inquiries from friends and foes (never!) on what to do, since i am a "professional."  let's get this straight, i am not a professional; i am a local.  slugging drinks at margaritaville while watching a drunk homeless elvis try to sing jailbird rock on the curb may be some people's idea of a vacation but i rarely experience the strip from a vacationers point of view.  although, now that i mention it that does sound kind of fun.  it's not that locals don't go to the strip ever, heck i live on it, it's just that it is a lot of effort.  if you want to know what i will get off the sofa for (besides to pour a glass of wine) here is my list of places to go/things to see in vegas:

the cosmopolitan hotel
this is where the hip, cool kids hang out. it's small and intimate, not overwhelming, offers a variety of fantastic restaurants, great shows (sometimes free!), and boasts a 3 story chandelier that doubles duty as a cocktail lounge.
eat: STK ($$), estiatorio milos ($$$), holsteins ($), jaleo ($$), the 'secret' pizza place for carryout. no, i won't tell you where it is ($)
drink: the chandelier bar (not the sparkly lounge at the entrance, it's all the way in the back. you'll know it when you see it.)
play:  marquee nightclub las vegas (dj centric, electro-house music). marquee dayclubsmall, more focused on music and drinks and that's okay with me
notes: get an 'identity' card and stock up on points at restaurants, bars, even stores. they add up quickly.
check the events calendar frequently. many great free shows in the casino like quiet corral, aloe black along with fantastic ticketed shows like the shins, justice, florence +  the machine, and foster the people in the next couple of months

city center (hotels: aria, mandarine oriental, vdara, veer)
4 hotels and 1 high end shopping center built to look like a 'city within a city' is definitely a sight to see. the restaurants are lack luster, in my opinion, and the shopping is unattainable for most but, it is still a sight to see and it's connected to the cosmopolitan so it gets points for that.
eat: mastro's ocean club ($$), todd english pub ($)
drink: todd english pub (drink a pint in 7 seconds and it's free!)
play: haze is decent, but you're better off walking next door to marquee
notes: it is 'scented.'

bellagio hotel
the bellagio isn't exactly my scene, but it is a staple in las vegas. this is where i would take my sisters, or family friends for the 'attractions.'
see: the fountains (every 30 minutes 3pm-7pm and 15 minutes 7pm-12am M-F, begins at 12pm on weekends), the botanical gardens (change seasonally), foiri di como (the famed glass ceiling in the lobby by artist dale chihuly)
eat: michael mina ($$$)

mirage hotel
this is a favorite of my out-of-town and off-of-strip friends because the rates are usually quite affordable and it's in a prime location. the rooms are quite nice.
eat: BLT burger ($), Japonais ($$)
play: 1 oak, bare (21+ pool party)
see: beatles LOVE cirque du soleil (trust me, it's absolutely amazing)

caesar's palace
ah, the scene of the infamous 'hangover' 2009. caesar's palace is a place i actually get to quite frequently. it offers shopping, dining, and entertainment on a variety of budgets and for a variety of people. i still get a little lost in this place. please don't ask if it's the real caesar's palace, just chuckle to yourself over it.

eat:  mesa grill ($$), max brenner ($)
play: go see absinthe (raunchy, but hilarious show. inexpensive tickets). if you have a ticket, you'll be granted access to sip absinthe cocktails in the beer garden before hand (excellent photo opps!)
shop: forum shoppes

Paris hotel:
eat: sugar factory ($), mon ami gabi ($$)
notes: no reservations accepted for the patio seating, but wait at mon ami gabi and you'll have prime views of the bellagio fountains. romantic date spot.

planet hollywood hotel
eat/drink: cabo wabo ($) is a cheap spot for margs and bellagio fountain viewing. kind of nice to sit outside when it's not too balmy and watch the fountains.

MGM grand hotel
MGM has very affordable rates, but you could make up for it in taxi fare. taxis are expensive in vegas.
see/play/drink: the pool! both the hotel guest pool and wet republic day club pool are great. lazy river!

that's all folks. if you're up for some recreational activity, this is your spot. great people watching too- once met jimi hendrix's son's parrot here (...if you believe that). fairly inexpensive black jack tables.

this hotel duo is a must see. the rooms here are huge, beautiful, and comfortable. the pool is nice- if it's nice out and i feel like laying by a pool (with cocktail waitresses) and being somewhat social, i prefer the palazzo pool. drinks won't gauge you completely. trick: if you don't want to find a lounge chair yourself, ask one of the girls as they 'reserve' them on their own sometimes to help guests out and they may give you a couple. saves a lot of time and 'parking lot anger.'
eat/drink: sushi samba ($$), carnevino ($$$), B&B ($$$), bouchon ($$$) i heart burgers ($), grand luxe and grand luxe cafe ($), first food and bar ($), lavo ($$)
play: lavo nightclub (one of my faves as a local), lavo brunch, tao nightclub, tao pool (small pool, big party)

encore/wynn  (warning: this website sucks. trust me, wynn/encore are fabulous)
must see. one of the most beautiful hotel duo's in las vegas. elegant, airy, not too crowded. steve wynn is the man, the myth, the legend.
eat/drink: switch ($$), la cave ($$$), parasol up/down lounge
play: XS nightclub, surrender nightclub, and encore beach club. top rated/personal favorites
see: garth brooks puts on a spectacular, intimate performance and  la reve circque du soleil is one of the best shows in town (though it's hard to top LOVE!)
shop: well curated in-house shops as well as leased high-end luxury.

strip clubs: sapphire is the only one i would recommend "if" i recommended strip clubs. spearmint rhino is the most famous, but i don't really understand why.

now, this is where i can really come in handy! do yourself a favor and reserve one evening/night for the best place in las vegas: downtown

fremont west is the 'experience' and is still very touristy but it is the ORIGINAL las vegas- frank sintra, dean martin, rat pack era fun. cheap gambling, cheap drinks, free music, crazy people.
fremont east is the local's scene and burgeoning downtown spot. it is growing like weeds.
you can experience both by telling your cab to go north on las vegas blvd and drop you off at the intersection of fremont and las vegas blvd. go west first, then double back and go east.

downtown (old las vegas) joints i frequent:
the fremont experience- your taxi will know. it's 3 miles north of the wynn. go ziplining! there's a hotdog/pizza place there with a hotdog i created. ask for the 'desert dawg' said in a new york accent. it's chilli and jalapenos.
oscar's- mayor oscar goodman's steakhouse in the plaza hotel
downtown cocktail room- (DCR for us locals) is a speakeasy (sign says 'downtown') off of las vegas blvd near corner of fremont. great seasonal artisan cocktails, fun atmosphere, lots of zapponians.
the griffin- amazing bar! gothic-aesthetic, two indoor firepits, great draft beer, back room for dancing when the occasional DJ or band shows up
beauty bar- fun outdoor garden area with live music in the summer months
insert coins- a video gaming bar (nerd alert!)
vanguard- one of my favorite places to sip wine outside on the patio. also offers great artisan cocktails.
mamacita- trashy mexican late night dining with a disco ball! woot!
le thai- MY FAVORITE place to eat right now!! great atmosphere, great music, great food. i order a 2 on  a scale of 1-5 and most people hate me.

other cool places that you may have to make a point to get to but are worth it:
the lady silvia- a speakeasy located at 900 s. las vegas blvd (hoover and lv blvd) in the soho loft building. once you find it, you will go back many times. it looks like a library in wonderland, and you are alice.
dino's karaoke- the 'last neighborhood bar in las vegas.' the sign reads. it's a stand alone bar on lv bld (rare!!). the guy running it has been doing it for like 50 years and it's so cheasy and wonderful, you'll tell everyone about it. they only k
the artisan- very dark , gothic, artistic hotel. go to the bar and order a cucumber martini. delish.
FIREFLY!!!!!! - my all time favorite restaurant. it's located in the stripmall at corporate drive and paradise (parallel to las vegas blvd). tapas style food, GREAT sangria by the pitcher, very inexpensive prices.
casa don juan- best local mexican. great tamales. jalapeno/cheddar is great, pineapple/raison is amaze. located on main st and california st. (couple minutes from wynn).
red rock- hike red rock mountain. do it. rent a car.
the neon boneyard (neon museum): you must make a reservation for this. do it here.

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