So much to do, so little time
February 9, 2011 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Help me navigate Las Vegas this weekend!

So I'm leaving NYC and heading to Las Vegas tomorrow for a long weekend with my husband, and while usually I would have everything planned out for such a trip, the last minute booking and my super busy week have stopped me from doing much research. I have read previous boards on the subject, but I'm still confused.
We are staying at the Monte Carlo.
Are there any good shows that we should see? That we can get tickets to last minute?
What about not-to-be-missed restaurants that will still have reservations? Buffets to check out? How's the one in our hotel?
What should I do Friday by myself, without a car?
We're not really gamblers, but from what I hear/see, that doesn't mean we'll be bored.

Thank you all!
posted by sabh to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
What should I do Friday by myself, without a car?

There's a great (clean and safe) monorail service to get around without taking cabs and walking along the Strip on its own can provide several hours of entertainment. Heading to the 1149ft tall Stratosphere and taking their elevator is also a lot of fun if you don't mind heights - the views are insane and it's only a five minute walk north of the last monorail station. If you're really into getting the adrenaline flowing, they have some "rides" on top too, but we didn't try those ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 6:12 PM on February 9, 2011

The New York Times had an article about Vegas a couple of days ago ( and I think its suggestions are pretty good. Do you have access to a car on other days? Sam's Town is worth the drive, the animatronic beaver and light show is strangely compelling, but it isn't worth paying for a taxi.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:52 PM on February 9, 2011

Trained cats!
posted by nicwolff at 7:02 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was there 3 weeks ago. The two restaurants that I would go back to were Todd English Pub, in the Aria hotel, and Trattoria Reggiano in the Venetian. The food in both was fantastic, and the employees at the Trattoria Reggiano, which is a very tiny place, made us feel like members of the family. We didn't need a reservation at either place. One place I wouldn't eat is at Pampas, in the Miracle Mile mall. The food was mediocre and the service was worse.

You can walk pretty much anywhere on the strip, if the weather is good. On Friday, you could hit the malls- Miracle Mile, and The Fashion Show Mall.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:10 PM on February 9, 2011

Best answer: Since you're on the Strip, you won't need a car. You can do the Tram or the Monorail, but most everything between the Monte Carlo and the Bellagio/Caesar's is a nice walk, and you'll probably want some exercise to aid digestion of all the yummy food you're going to eat.

I like Batista's Hole in the Wall. It's an old-Vegasy Italian place behind the Flamingo. They bring you insane amounts of food, a big carafe of table wine, and unforgettable atmosphere.

I would suggest breakfast at Bouchon in the Venetian. I wouldn't consider the Wynn quite within walking distance, so I'd cab it over there.

The last time I was there, I stayed at Aria and did tapas at Julian Serrano (who is the chef at Picasso at the Bellagio) It was good, a bit overpriced, but they have this amazing creme brulee dessert served with a ginger basil ice cream. It was heavenly.

I did Shibuya at MGM which was delicious, but sort of over the top. I have a feeling there are probably some better, lower key sushi places around if you do some digging.

If you like sports, check out Emeril Lagasse's Stadium at the Palazzo. They have brilliant game food. Best chili cheese fries ever.

For comfort food, I liked the Irish pub at New York New York - Nine Fine Irishmen.

The Strip is an amazing place to go shopping in high priced designer boutiques. Since you're at the Monte Carlo, you can start with some window shopping at Crystals at Harry Winston, Balenciaga, Hermes, etc. I have to warn you, the design of the mall is...customer unfriendly. Bizarre. There are a couple of good places to eat in there as well; I've heard the Wolfgang Puck restaurant there is good. Then you can pop up to the third floor, take the tram over to the Bellagio, and check out the Conservatory (there was a Chinese New Year display when I was there), the Chihuly ceiling, the giant horse, and watch the fountains (definitely take in a performance at night - they really are lovely). From the Bellagio, you can walk over to Caesar's Palace to do the Forum Shops.

I was by myself and felt fairly comfortable walking around after dark, although it's annoying walking down the Strip on the "seedier" side (the MGM side, as opposed to the Monte Carlo side) because there will be bottlenecks from people stopping to watch the Elvises, the human statues, and the guys handing out the adverts for prostitutes. The other side of the street - the Monte Carlo/Bellagio/Cosmo side of the street doesn't have constant street level access, so if you walk that side you'll be going up and down stairs - which is actually a nice workout. Even if you don't gamble, you can spend several hours just walking through the various casinos to check out the design and general silliness.

As far as tickets, ask your concierge for the name of the discount ticket outlet that's across the street on the Strip, or just call the venue the morning of and ask if they have released any discount seats. You've got a wide variety of Cirque shows - I'd check out Zumanity at New York New York. I think they've extended Twyla Tharp's Sinatra thing - "Dance with Me" at the Wynn.

There's a Titanic artifact exhibit at the Luxor, as well as a Bodies exhibit.

For other insider Vegas info, and restaurant reviews, check out The Strip podcast. It's available on iTunes, so you can load it up for listening before your flight.

Also, don't forget to bring back plenty of soap.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:30 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, I forgot to mention - the bar on the 26th[?] floor of the Monte Carlo is supposed to have amazing views of the City.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:34 PM on February 9, 2011

Bring comfortable walking shoes. This is not up for debate. No matter how well you do with the monorail, or other forms of transportation, you will be walking a lot. The casinos are huge just by themselves, and there's a lot of spots where it's just better to walk to the next casino than to find a ride.

Don't get too drunk and keep your wits about you. Do that, and you'll have a good time! Vegas is fun even if you just go to gawk.
posted by azpenguin at 8:43 PM on February 9, 2011

Best answer: So I'm leaving NYC and heading to Las Vegas tomorrow for a long weekend with my husband, and while usually I would have everything planned out for such a trip, the last minute booking and my super busy week have stopped me from doing much research.

You're lucky in that in Vegas, you definitely do not need to do that to have fun. In fact, having an itinerary might result in an inferior trip. I suggest you just wander up and down the Strip, taking in the weird stuff, stopping at casinos, shops, and restaurants that catch your eye.

If you want a few targets to roughly guide your wandering, Bellagio has a famously good buffet with lots of seafood, Treasure Island has a less fancy but still good one that features tiny pies, there's a Guggenheim in the Venetian, and New York New York has a roller coaster.

Excalibur is fun to walk through even if you don't gamble because it resembles a gigantic Chuck-E-Cheese or Enchanted Castle. And if you haven't had an In-n-Out Burger, there's one within long-ish walking distance there.
posted by ignignokt at 9:57 PM on February 9, 2011

Doh, looks like they got rid of the Guggenheim.
posted by ignignokt at 9:59 PM on February 9, 2011

Best answer: This question would be a bit easier to answer with more info about the two of you. Are you 20's, 30's, 40's, 50+? Big partiers who will want to club-hop, or more lounge/relax types? Do you care about spas? (too cold for the pools still) What kind of dining/drinking are you into?

>> Are there any good shows that we should see? That we can get tickets to last minute?

Vegas shows have a few categories: Cirque du Soleil, impersonator/comedian/novelty acts, Big Names, touring music acts, sexy shows. What you "should" see depends wholly on what your interests are.

Tix 4 Tonight offers last minute discounts. I believe Travelzoo does also. I've never used the discount ticket services personally, because I prefer to get exactly the seats I want to exactly the show/date/time I want. But if I were in your case where you're going to be in LV already and are open to many options, I'd do it for sure. With T4T I think you just walk up to the kiosk and they tell you what they have available that day and you buy.

>> What about not-to-be-missed restaurants that will still have reservations?

It's Vegas, and unless there is a big conference on property, you can almost always get a table. Maybe earlier or later than you might prefer, but them's the last-minute breaks.

Monte Carlo is in the MGM family of properties, so your concierge should be able to book you at any resto on an MGM site (scroll down for list of which hotels are MGM).

I'm hearing really good things right now about Sage at ARIA, MOzen at Mandarin Oriental, Twist at Mandarin Oriental, SW Steakhouse at Wynn, China Poblano at Cosmopolitan, Bouchon at Venetian, Fleur at Mandalay Bay, the Mario Batali steakhouse (can't remember the name). Heard great things about Hash House a Go Go at Imperial Palace, for big tasty breakfast. The Chowhound Vegas board is a great source of up-to-the-minute dining info.

I'm partial to Mon Ami Gabi at Paris, where you can sit and watch the Bellagio fountains (I think the people watching at MAG is superior to most else on the Strip, especially for brunch). Craftsteak at MGM is good. Shibuya is good (though I agree with Dr. Zira that it's a bit too-too).

You might plan on Fontana at Bellagio, if it looks appealing... it's a popular spot for nice cocktails, appetizers, piano, fountain view, but will be closing in late spring and converted to a nightclub, so check it out while you can. This could be good for a pre-show meal.

MIX at Mandalay Bay has a lovely view of the Strip. Go at sunset if you can.

>> Buffets to check out? How's the one in our hotel?

I haven't heard great things about the MC buffet. If it were me, I'd probably walk over to Aria (there is a walkway or a tram? connecting the two properties), Cosmopolitan, or take the CityCenter tram on to Bellagio, or cab it up to Wynn if it were me.

Remember also that if you are staying at one MGM property, you can usually charge back to your room for dining at another MGM property. So if you buffeted at Aria, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, you could probably put it on your final checkout bill at Monte Carlo. Confirm this at check-in though; it might vary property to property.

>> What should I do Friday by myself, without a car

Monte Carlo is on the South Strip. Depending on how much you like walking, you could walk all the way up to the north end (Wynn/Encore) and take in the sights. I personally think Stratosphere, at the far north end of the Strip, is too far to walk.

There is a bus that runs up and down the Strip called the Deuce. You can buy a day pass and ride up and down all day long, although it can be difficult to get on during peak day times because the buses won't stop if they are already full.

There is great shopping at Forum Shops at Caesars. The aquarium at Mandalay Bay is nifty. The lion habitat at MGM is okay if you don't mind seeing wild animals caged inside resorts. Ditto the Mirage exhibits.

Wow, I simultaneously feel like I've provided too much info and not nearly enough. Hopefully MeFite jacquilynne will pop in.... IIRC she's a local and knows loads about LV.

Have fun, and good luck!
posted by pineapple at 10:18 PM on February 9, 2011 [2 favorites]

I ate at China Poblano (in the Cosmopolitan, which is actually quite a neat place), Sage (at Aria), Bouchon (at the Venetian), Holstein's (in the Cosmo), and Emeril's New Orleans Fish House (at the MGM) last time I was in Vegas. None of them will do you wrong.

The goat's-milk flan at China Poblano was killer enough to make me go back there to have it for dessert one afternoon after my initial visit. (They remembered me and Mr. F, too.) Bouchon's brunch is a little slab of glorious white-aproned order amid all the other Vegas anarchy. Sage is intimate, pricey, and absolutely fantastic if you're into knowing the precise origins of your meal. Holstein's is the Cosmo's version of the Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay, only about 20 times better and with a better beer list. Mr. F and I have been doing holiday dinners at Emeril's for the last few years and they never fail to be attentive to our every need.

The Chandelier Bar inside the Cosmo is, uh, something else. The couches are ludicrously huge, the entire thing is done up as a giant walk-in chandelier, and the cocktail waitresses are held to a dress code that wouldn't be out of place in a trashy 1990s superhero comic. Drinks in there are a bit pricey, but it's amusing to go in there and pretend you're like a boss.

(Yeah, I know, Emeril. Trust me, the service is amazing and the food is great.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:05 PM on February 9, 2011

What should I do Friday by myself, without a car?

When it gets dark, get the bus on the Strip down to Fremont Street (the 'old' Vegas where the Golden Nugget is) and see the light show. There's also a ton of other things to see, tacky souvenir shops, plenty of characters. BUT DO NOT WANDER AWAY FROM FREMONT STREET BY YOURSELF. Away from the casinos, the area around there is not too nice.
posted by essexjan at 11:32 PM on February 9, 2011

Response by poster: thanks for all of these suggestions! i'm not too worried about wandering around tomorrow and just exploring by myself. as a new yorker, i'm used to walking everywhere.

oh, and we're newlyweds in our mid 20s.
posted by sabh at 6:15 AM on February 10, 2011

MonteCarlo is a good for no car because of the trams between MC & Bellagio with stops at City Center. You're also pretty near the new Cosmopolitan which is getting great buzz for its bars and nightlife. I was last in vegas right before it opened. Drat.
For buffets, I'd skip MC and do Aria or Bellagio (whose current theme in the lovely conservatory is Lunar New Year so give that a look).
I never thought I'd say this but the Cirque show "O" was worth the pricey ticket. You may try your concierge for Cirque tickets; MC is an MGM property and Cirque shows are at MGM properties. Our day-of seats were great and discounted.
pineapple has great advice. I'll also add I much enjoyed StripSteak at MandalayBay and if you like Thai go off strip to Lotus of Siam. It's wonderful!
posted by pointystick at 6:18 AM on February 10, 2011

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