February 27, 2013 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Next month, I will be travelling to Las Vegas. For the very first time in my life. I have a whole bunch of Vegas-newbie questions. I’d like to ask you for your help.

1. What will the weather be like in mid-March? Would a dip in the pool be comfortable?

2. What’s the best car rental spot in Las Vegas? Does it cost significantly more to rent a car with GPS?

3. What’s a good beginner-friendly poker room, preferably one with lower limits? I love poker but the unfortunate reality is that I haven’t played in years. I am not World Series material. Not at this point, at least. If it helps, the model I have in mind is the poker room at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Something like that.

4. For that matter, where can we find casinos that hit the sweet spot I’m looking for, that is – reasonably cheap gambling without being seedy or nasty?

5. What’s a good place to play Keno?

6. Where can we find sports book rooms with a wide range of events? Of particular interest would be sports rooms that allow you to gamble on UK football.

7. You know that place in Minnesota where you can drive a tank? And for a little bit extra, you can crush a car with said tank? Do they have a branch in Las Vegas? (This is a long shot, I know. But I thought it was worth a try.)

8. What neighborhoods should we avoid for safety/crime reasons? I live in NYC. I don’t own a car. Walking is my default mode of transportation. Where do I NOT want to be walking?

9. Where can I find a guide to the personality/vibe/crowd of various casinos? If it helps, both of us are middle-aged kind-of-sort-of bohemian nerds.

10. What is the etiquette of tipping dealers when you win? What’s the standard percentage?

11. If I find myself awake before noon, and not in the mood to gamble, where can I kick back with some good coffee and a decent pastry?

12. Where can I find good, cheap craps tables?

13. Tell me about the Las Vegas art scene. I understand that UNLV has a very good fine arts program. Where would I be able to see some good art by local artists? While I’m on the topic, which casinos have the best art?

14. Is Chinatown worth a visit? Are there any good restaurants?

15. Which of the local shooting ranges would you recommend? I'm looking for a beginner-friendly place with a good selection of weaponry.

16. What else should I know? Any other recommendations, advice, or Vegas-related opinions of any type would be most helpful.
posted by jason's_planet to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (27 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
My recommendation on the car is to just get a cab from the airport to your hotel, and rent a car one or two days if you want to do some stuff further out. Most people stay at a hotel on the step (I recommend Bellagio, Wynn or Palazzo), and just walk or get cabs up and down the strip to do other stuff. There's not a lot of driving required for that, and it's a waste of money to rent a car the whole time. But for the non-Strip stuff you want to do (e.g. shooting ranges, etc.), you may need to drive.
posted by primethyme at 4:16 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't forget the soap, a must read for any mefite considering a trip to Vegas.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:25 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 1. Probably too windy or chilly for the pool. But you might get lucky.
2. There's no real "best" car rental - just Kayak or Hotwire it and get the best price from a reputable company. But if you're staying on the strip you may not want/need a car.
3-6. The first thing you should do is walk the strip and explore as many casinos as you want. You'll find a wide range of places, one of which will hit your sweet spot. FYI, most of the minimums increase at night so daytime gambling is cheaper. Also, you can check out Fremont Street, which has a more old-school vibe and is less luxe.
8. Walking on the strip is pretty safe at all hours. Walking on Fremont is pretty safe day and night, but maybe not really late. Walking anywhere else is not that safe at night, and use your judgment during the day (don't wander down an industrial side street). But you won't have much reason to walk off the strip or Fremont.
9. Honestly, look at the websites. You'll get a sense of who they're catering to. You might like the charm of the Golden Nugget. On the strip you might like the ludicrousness of the Cosmopolitan, or the classy vibe of the Wynn/Encore. You might go for that old mainstay, Caesar's Palace. I really recommend you explore the strip on foot, it's one of the best activities in Vegas anyway.
10. When I play blackjack I'll tip the same amount I'm betting if I get a hot streak.
11. My favorite breakfast on the strip is Bouchon at the Venetian. Very good pastries.
12. See 3-6.
13. Steve Wynn is a big art lover, so my hunch is that you'll see good art at the Wynn/Encore. There used to be a Koolhaus-designed art museum at the Venetian; it's not there anymore. I don't think anything has really taken its place.
14. Eh, it's fine but it won't blow you away. A lot of people say the best Chinese in Vegas is at Ping Pang Pong (despite the silly name). Or, you can go to what is arguably the best Thai restaurant in the US, Lotus of Siam.
15. I don't know.
16. If she's gorgeous, alone, staring at you, and it's 4am, she's a prostitute.
posted by malhouse at 4:32 PM on February 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

The part of you that like the tank thing may also like this.
posted by mollymayhem at 4:34 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1. Too cold to swim.

2. If you rent from the airport, it's the most expensive. If you can get to any rental agency that's away from the airport, you will save a bundle.

3. Don't know.

4. "Locals" casinos are the best deal. Station Casinos and the Coast Properties both have several all over town.

5. Don't know.

6. Don't know, but all major casinos have large sportsbooks.

7. No tanks, but you can shoot machine guns at a couple ranges.

8. You probably will not be walking. Everything is too far away. However, if you go to the Stratosphere, stay inside the Stratosphere.

9. Don't know about a guide, but downtown, as opposed to the Strip is probably a lot more interesting for that kind of stuff.

10. The table minimum bet, after a good win or series of wins is acceptable.

11. All hotels have big chain coffee. Starbucks, Coffee Bean and the like.

12. Only downtown. Some of the smaller casinos. Can't recommend one though.

13. There is an art district, close to downtown with a bunch of galleries and the like. Also, Bellagio and the Venetian have some nice, main-stream stuff.

14. Chinatown is NOT worth a visit.

15. Don't know.

16. Comfortable shoes. Don't try to do everything. See some shows as well. The ultra-clubs are amazing. World-class dining is available for a price. Stay hydrated.
posted by nedpwolf at 4:44 PM on February 27, 2013

Best answer: 8) Las Vegas is not a great walking city, especially in the areas surrounding the strip. City blocks are one mile long, and most residential neighborhoods have block walls surrounding them so there's not much to see. Non-strip commerce is mainly conducted in strip malls. Many streets do not have continuous sidewalks, and pedestrian fatalities are a weekly occurrence. Consider taking public transportation or cabs (or if you rent a car, parking will be free everywhere except downtown) instead of setting off on a long walk from the strip into the city. If you want to actively take a walk, consider driving out to Red Rock or Valley of Fire - both have unforgettable views.

9) Cosmopolitan Las Vegas often appeals to bohemians and foodies. It has lots of interesting art, so spend some time exploring the upper levels as well as the casino floor.

13) Art scene roundup from Las Vegas Weekly last week.
posted by zepheria at 4:44 PM on February 27, 2013

Definitely don't need a car to hang out on the Strip- you can walk and there's a great double-decker public bus that goes up and down the Strip 24/7 (The Deuce; I think it was nicknamed that when it cost $2 and the name stuck even when prices went up).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:05 PM on February 27, 2013

Juan Martinez wrote a series of articles detailing his experience walking in Las Vegas - it is fascinating reading!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

posted by zepheria at 5:07 PM on February 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

There is a spacetime warp when it comes to walking in Vegas. Wear comfortable shoes. Maybe because of the massive scale of things, everything is several times further than it looks. If you walk the Strip you will be walking a long time. Don’t walk more than to the casino next door, which will take 20 minutes, not the 2 minutes that it looks like. Take the shuttles between casinos. You will not be being lazy, you will get plenty of walking in if you plan on seeing a bunch of casinos, and I recommend visiting most of the big ones at least to look around.
posted by bongo_x at 5:10 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all very much for your answers so far!

But there's one question I forgot -- who is the best of the corny lounge singers? I know that Cook E. Jarr has won some fame in that field but if I remember correctly, his show is during the weekend and we won't be there to see him.

So who is the best of the corny lounge singers we can enjoy on a weeknight or weekday?
posted by jason's_planet at 5:13 PM on February 27, 2013

1. probably too cold, unless your hotel has a heated pool.or jacuzzi. Lots of them do have spas.

2. There's enough to do and see on the Strip that I wouldn't bother to rent a car, just stay on the Strip and get a cab to and from the airport and you should be good, if you don't mind walking. Just DO NOT stop for the aggressive Timeshare people! Also, if someone hands you a leaflet on the sidewalk, you will probably take it automatically; half of the time, though, they will be for escort services. Which, hey, maybe you're interested in! Just giving you a heads-up, so you don't get she'll-shocked. ;)

3-6 The internet is your friend. Hit the websites for the major resort hotels on the Strip: Bellagio, Venetian, Eyptian, etc. to. figure out who has the best hotel rate for you. Some will be cheaper upfront, but others might include more amenities, a show or dinner deal in the price of your stay, so shop around. Get a throwaway email, and when you get to the Strip, sign up for the various "VIP" programs to get free coupons for gambling and deals all over the strip, which will often include free keno cards or chips to start you off on your poker. You can gather up a surprising amount of freebies that way.

7. no clue

8, You can walk in the malls between the hotels for some fun people watching. Go outside for the little shows they run, like the fountains at the Bellagio, the ship at Treasure a island, whatever they have going these day (I haven't been in quite a while). There are crosswalks (don't jaywalk, they get pissy), and there used to be a monorail, which is mostly safe, too. Stick with the crowds and don't go veering off of Fremont late at night.

9. One guide I like

10. Tip a dealer when he/she changes out and another comes on if you've had luck, minimum bid is a good amount. Tip when you cash out.
posted by misha at 5:36 PM on February 27, 2013

Just saw your follow-up, and throwing this out there: magic shows are fun to watch and you can see a matinee during the week. We don't do the corny lounge singers, sorry!
posted by misha at 5:38 PM on February 27, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you very much for your response, misha.

I tried that link you sent marked with this text:

9. One guide I like

and it appeared to be broken. Perhaps there was something missing?
posted by jason's_planet at 5:40 PM on February 27, 2013

Emphatically seconding bongo_x's advice. One night I walked from the Flamingo to the Wynn, and thence to the Luxor. It took a looooooong time.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:57 PM on February 27, 2013

Best answer: Maybe because of the massive scale of things, everything is several times further than it looks.

OMG yes. We walked from the Strip to the Palms once because it "looked so close". It's not close at all and there's no sidewalk; we were walking in the gutter on the highway.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:23 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, the Ping Pang Pong was absolutely delicious! When I went, we stayed at the Gold Coast (which is the hotel that has Ping Pang Pong). It was cheaper than hotels on the strip and it had regular FREE shuttle trips to it's sister hotel the Barbary Coast which *is* on the strip. Worked out well.
posted by jillithd at 6:43 PM on February 27, 2013

While at the Palazzo, I accidentally walked into a different casino thinking it was part of the building, because the Palazzo tower was so out of scale the smaller building in front looked like it was right next to it.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:31 PM on February 27, 2013

Best answer: How long will your stay be? What's your budget? How loose are your morals? No need to answer these questions here, but they should be considered.

1. Most pools will be open in March. Many are heated. Call ahead of time. Count on it being in the 60-70s deg F there.
2. Airport. Rent one as part of a hotel/airfare/car package from your favorite travel site, if you need a car.
3. Don't worry too much about skill: there are plenty of fish everywhere. I'd check out Bellagio, Venetian, Caesar's. But you really should do a walking tour of the properties and see which ones you like. Most have 1/2 and 2/4 bets with a $200 max buy-in. Most have daily tournaments. I'd avoid the "lower-tier" properties, which will have a higher number of locals playing for booze/drug/whatever money (they also frequent all the other poker rooms-- beware).
4. Luxor, Caesar's, MGM Grand, Mirage, TI are "mid-tier" strip properties I can think of off the top of my head that aren't seedy. Most places on the strip will have $25 minimum bets for table games, but most also will go down to $10 during the daytime and have a few tables at that minimum at night.
5. Not sure.
6. Mandalay Bay, Mirage, MGM Grand. But again, tour the properties. Call ahead to see if they have the type of game you're looking for.
7. Not sure. But there are plenty of egos to crush, playing poker.
8. Anything off-strip. Avoid anything five feet out of the entrance of Stratosphere.
9. Again, check em out. It'll give you something to do and you can scout out the poker rooms/sports books.
10. No standard. Consider your budget and the table minimum. Most properties have tip sharing/pools for shifts, except for Wynn/Encore. You can place a bet for the dealer, too, which might be fun. Say, a prop bet on the cheap in craps or the point, or a line bet on top of yours (meaning: no need to place the full minimum bet for the dealer).
11. Most places have surprisingly decent pastries at their coffee shops.
12. Bill's. I shudder.
13. Wynn/Encore, Bellagio, off the top of my head.
14. No.
15. Not sure.
16. Relax, have fun, take your time. Don't gamble when the sun is out. Don't chase comps. Always have cab fare. Always have cab fare. Always have cab fare.

1. If you are bringing serious money or enough such that you'd rather not talk about it in a public forum, and would like specific pointers or have questions, MeMail me.
2. Remember: nearly everything is negotiable. Everything is a game. You're neither winner nor loser-- you're not even the player. You're the prize. Refer to my guide/acronym "BE A WHORRE" and learn the sexy secrets of manipulating casinos.

Back to being serious: AskMe has a bunch of Vegas-related questions, and I wrote some recommendations here. Above all, have fun. Gamble within your limits. And BEWARE MARCH MADNESS. Everything is more, then, including table limits and hotel room prices.
posted by herrdoktor at 7:37 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

3) Luxor had (it's been a few years since I've been in LV) a really good, n00b-friendly poker room, including times set aside for instruction, with very low stakes

5) Don't play Keno. Really, don't. The odds on that game are so very far out of your favor, they can't even see it.

15) I heartily recommend The Gun Store. Their indoor packages are fun (we did the WWII package last time we were there), and they now have a great selection of drool-worthy outdoor packages (200 rounds in an M249 SAW? YES PLEASE).
posted by hanov3r at 7:48 PM on February 27, 2013

Best answer: I will comment on UK sports betting. I was in Vegas about 4 or so years ago and we were unable to find a bookie at any casino that would give odds for UK premier league teams. I was very surprised but supposedly the demand just isn't there for the bookies to put odds on EPL games. This may have changed since then (I hope they have) but I just wanted to mention it so you're prepared. Also, if you're used to English (fractional) or European (decimal) odds, keep in mind that Vegas uses American (moneyline) odds, which as a person who learned odds on a fractional system, was and still is VERY confusing to me.

Have fun!
posted by young sister beacon at 8:52 PM on February 27, 2013

This is basically Disneyland for grownups. You can literally spend a whole week just walking around loooooking at the casinos and malls. There is something cool and different in every place. We took a cab from the airport to the hotel on the strip. Also took one from the hotel to Fremont Street and back, and walked or rode the monorails everywhere else. Be warned, the cab drivers are crazy drivers. Really make an effort to go in the different hotels because there are some pretty amazing things to do and see. Don't miss Fremont Street or the dancing fountains at the Bellagio after dark.
posted by tamitang at 10:11 PM on February 27, 2013

Best answer: Everyone expects a tip. The elevator operator in the hotel you stay in, your taxi driver, anyone who does anything for you that you wouldn't think of tipping in your hometown. So bring or be able to obtain lots of small bills for tips.
posted by Lynsey at 10:36 PM on February 27, 2013

Best answer: This place, in front of the Paris casino/hotel, if you want your coffee and pastry and don't want to wander off-strip.
posted by troywestfield at 8:44 AM on February 28, 2013

What the others say...all that.

The Golden Nugget is adjacent to a covered Mall--about four blocks long--that contains some neat shops where you can throw money away on stuff to send home. The overhead show at night is entertaining--high rez lights and loud music, pretty awesome sometimes--and street performers set up at the intersections. You can ride a zip-line down the mall. The pool at the GN features a huge aquarium with a water slide that passes through it--sharks and stuff. Restaurants are everywhere. Two of the ones at the GN are very good.

It's cool in May.

The Pawn Stars pawn shop, a few blocks down the street, is just a pawn-shop, and sometimes you stand in line to get in.

I never found a car rental to be useful.
posted by mule98J at 10:42 AM on February 28, 2013

We were there mid-march last year and it was definitely warm enough to swim. It's a crapshoot (ha!) but forecast for this weekend is high seventies so I'm optimistic about our chances of swimming the week after.

Read the las Vegas forums on chowhound for advice on where to eat. Served me well over the years. We like the buffet at the bellagio and the one at the Cosmo if you want to splurge on a buffet.
posted by purenitrous at 9:33 PM on February 28, 2013

Best answer: If you only need a rental car for a day or two, there are Avis locations in several of the hotels. We usually go to the one at Venetian, but there are others. That way you only pay for the days you need and you avoid the airport fees on the rental. Plus, if you have an early morning departure, the last thing you want to do is deal with the rental car return, which can add 20 mins or so to your timeline.
posted by jshort at 5:34 AM on March 1, 2013

Response by poster: Great answers!

I feel well-prepared now. And that's a good feeling to have.

Many thanks! I will dedicate a throw of the dice to you!
posted by jason's_planet at 4:18 PM on March 1, 2013

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