Visiting Las Vegas – Part 1

I’ve recently returned from a vacation in Las Vegas. It was my fourth visit there in several years. That’s often enough to qualify me as an Expert on tourism in that fine city.

So of course, I am now going to spew all manner of unsolicited advice at you.

The first and most important thing that I have to tell you is…

GET THE HECK OFF THE STRIP

Sure, it’s the largest collection of resort hotels, casinos, and entertainment venues you are ever likely to see. But it’s also overpriced, overwhelming, and overrated. It’s good for strolling at night, but you’ll be too busy dodging traffic and other tourists to really enjoy it.

If you poke around a little bit, you’ll note that room rates at hotels Downtown (which is actually “Up town” – to the north from The Strip) are around half of what a room goes for at one of The Strip’s monsters. So, since all you are likely to be doing in your room is sleeping, washing, and dressing (you didn’t come to Las Vegas to work, did you?), get a less expensive room and you’ll have more money to spend on fun.

Personally, I stay at the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino on Fremont Street. It advertises itself as an “historic” “boutique” hotel. Those are euphemisms for “old” and “tiny”. Yes, the rooms are clean and all that, but the fittings are showing their age, and there’s no room for amenities that you might expect (like a coffee maker and mini-fridge). No room service, either – but if you get hungry in the middle of the night, put some clothes on and go down to Du-pars (open 24/7) on the main floor. You want night life? Right outside is one of three stages of the Fremont Street Experience.

Fremont Street knows that people do need to sleep, so their many shows shut down around 1 am. But the casinos (and a number of places like Walgreens and Starbucks (there seems to be at least one of those in every Strip hotel)) never close.

I can hear you asking, “OK, so I get a less expensive hotel room Downtown. How do I get to The Strip?” It’s easy! Las Vegas understands that tourism is their primary industry. Not only do they want visitors to be able to get from place to place, there are also something like 2 million residents in the area that need to get places, too. Las Vegas has an amazing bus network.

For the tourists, there’s the SDX (Strip-Downtown Express) and “The Deuce” which connect the Downtown area with The Strip. The former is, like it’s name suggests, and express route with limited stops along The Strip. It runs from 9 am to midnight. The latter is a local which stops at practically every hotel on The Strip and runs at 15 minute intervals around the clock. Oh, and for those of you who travel light and aren’t on a tight schedule, the WAX (Westcliff-Airport Express) connects Downtown with the airport. Two bucks gets you a ride on it.

To take advantage of the buses, spend $20 and get yourself a three-day All Access Pass (seriously, that’s what they are called). One of these babies lets you ride any route at any time, and it’s good for 72 hours.

Now that you’re in a hotel, and know how to get around, you should still get off the beaten path and check out some of the non-standard touristy things. I’ll get to those next time.

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