Layover New Years Eve in Vegas
December 20, 2022 7:41 AM   Subscribe

My family (all 18+) have a 5 hour layover in Vegas New Year's Eve. We get in at 10:30 pm. Need recommendations for travel to a great buffet and good spot to celebrate the change of year (provided no delays.)

We have never been to Vegas, not interested in drinking or gambling, but would like a buffet and maybe see any fireworks etc. for the new year, if we can make it in time. Previous Ask Metafilter is from 2011, so please give me an update.

Would like to leave our carryon in lockers at airport behind security so we don't have to recheck it if possible. Does this exist?

Taxi, Uber, shuttle...what is the best way to get to the strip and back?

How long are security lines early in the morning if we get delayed in Vegas? Do we need a full 2 hours, or is 1 generally enough? (I know my local has a wait of 15 minutes, BWI you often need that full 2 hours.)

What else am I not thinking of that we should be aware of?

Thanks for helping us celebrate! I wanted to avoid travel on New Year's Eve, but couldn't justify the cost increase in tickets.
posted by 101cats to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (11 answers total)
How long are security lines early in the morning if we get delayed in Vegas? Do we need a full 2 hours, or is 1 generally enough? (I know my local has a wait of 15 minutes, BWI you often need that full 2 hours.)

The last time I was on a first in the morning flight out of Vegas, the line for security was very long even before it opened and they suspended pre-check and checked EVERYONE with drug dogs, and it wasn't a holiday weekend. Maybe they're a little less tightly wound as pot slowly goes legal in more places, but I would plan on needing the full time and maybe a little more, sorry. :(
posted by joycehealy at 8:26 AM on December 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

This is not the answer you want to hear, but I don't think you should do this.

New Year's Eve is one of the busiest days in Las Vegas. You're going to have to wait for everything: taxis, restaurants, bars, anything at all. The Las Vegas Strip and surrounding streets will be jam-packed. You may be hard pressed to get from the airport to the strip and back again in time to make your flight, even if you never leave your taxi. I have had a 1+ hour wait for a taxi in the past. The waits for a taxi, Uber or Lyft on New Year's eve will be long.

If you really want a buffet, you may be out of luck. If you land at 10:30, you're looking at getting to the buffet at 11:30 or later. Most of the buffets will be closed by then. For example, the Caesars Bacchanal buffet closes at 10:00. Also, many of the buffets may be reservation only or sold out. I looked at reservations available for Bacchanal, and they have no available reservations for New Year's Eve. If you do find a buffet that's open that late, there may very well be a 1+ hour wait without a reservation. Many of the buffets closed permanently during Covid, so the ones that remain are busier as a result.

Anywhere interesting to ring in the New Year is probably either already sold out, or extremely expensive. McCarran airport is close to the Las Vegas strip. As an alternative, you may be able to find somewhere in the airport that you can see the fireworks on the strip.

Harry Reid airport (Las Vegas International, formerly McCarran Airport) does not have any baggage storage.

TSA wait times might not be bad. You'd be better off if you have TSA pre-check or Clear. My intuition tells me that security wait time might be slightly lower than usual, because people are more likely to arrive on the 31st than leave, and it's also a Saturday, so again, you have more people arriving than leaving. This doesn't show any times between 10 PM and 4 AM though, so I'm not sure if security is even open those hours.

Usually, the fastest way to get a car from the airport is to go to the limo stands and ask for a sedan or SUV. Usually there is no wait. This will cost around $80 for a trip to the strip, which is a lot more than a taxi or uber, but much less waiting. Lyft or Uber will usually be faster than standing in the taxi line. But this is typically not available coming back. And on New Year's eve, there's no telling how long the taxi line will be or the wait for a Lyft or Uber. I would strongly consider booking a car in advance from one of the limo companies, at least for the trip back from the strip to the airport. In fact, I would probably book the car for the entire 3-4 duration and just have them wait for me, so there's no risk of the car being late to pick you up.
posted by cruelfood at 8:32 AM on December 20, 2022 [17 favorites]

If you don't want to worry about waiting for a taxi and getting stuck in traffic, you could walk, if everyone in your group is willing and able. It's about 2 1/2 miles from the airport to the strip, so that would give you an hour to see the town. Probably not enough time for dinner, but you could grab a snack, and it might be more fun than staying in the airport.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:27 AM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

In vegas last weekend. TSA was about 45 minutes when we left on wednesday early afternnon. The day we arrived (sunday) though people were waiting 2 hours. i wouldn't think that would be the case at 2 am New years but they probably arent fully staffed then either.

if i did this i would probably find a place off strip to grab a bite or watch fireworks if you can. traffic, both foot and auto on the strip will be crazy.
posted by domino at 9:47 AM on December 20, 2022

You can see the Strip from the airport—if you want to see fireworks you could always just look out a window without needing to go back through security.
posted by babelfish at 10:01 AM on December 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Las Vegas Boulevard closes to traffic around sunset on New Years Eve and many hotels restrict entrance to reservation holders only; it will not be easy to get around, especially right after midnight. And please do not walk to the Strip from the airport on New Year's Eve - the route is not safe or well lit and drivers can be inattentive.

If you really want to leave the airport, you might consider Panevino or one of the restaurants at the nearby Town Square Mall.
posted by zepheria at 1:38 PM on December 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

... but if it were me, I'd order a snack at the Ruby's Diner at the top of the escalator near the D gates before they close at midnight and enjoy the view of the fireworks from there. Wishing you a happy new year and safe travels!
posted by zepheria at 2:04 PM on December 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Unfortunately New Year's Eve on the Strip is absolute madness. It seems like 5 hours should be plenty of time but sadly, I agree it isn't.
posted by Threeve at 2:05 PM on December 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

The Strip is essentially blocked off at 6pm on NYE, the resorts won’t let you in unless you are a guest, you won’t be able to get into anywhere with a buffet in time. The street is a party prison that is difficult to even walk. Taxi/Uber, etc can’t get within a half mile.

But honestly, I wouldn’t leave the airport. I’ve seen lines at LAS more than 2 hours and it wasn’t even a holiday.

Find a good vantage point at the airport to watch the fireworks. You’ll have trouble finding a better view.
posted by Ookseer at 2:32 PM on December 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Seconding against walking in a dark, unfamiliar area that's not pedestrian friendly on a night renown for heavy drinking.

Honestly, if I were you, I'd be trying to plan the swankest evening I could at the airport because if I went off-site, I'd be constantly worried about missing my flight out (and I'm that guy who's comfortable arriving at the gate 10 minutes before boarding during normal times).

But if you really want to consider options, I'm not saying this is a good plan, but here is one possibility. I'm familiar with Vegas in general, but will happily defer to locals regarding NYE specifically. Fogo de Chao is 1 mile from the strip and is doing what they call a Cocktail party (with heavy hors d’oeuvres) that you might be able to make most of and still looks to have tickets available. It is expensive. It's not a classic Vegas buffet. However, under ideal circumstances, it's a 15 minute trip from the airport and might be far enough afield from the Strip that traffic won't be ungodly. It's a reasonable walk to the Strip if you really have your heart set on seeing it (I wouldn't).

One question for you to consider is how Covid-averse you are in light of whatever you have planned for after NYE. Is this the start or end of the trip? If you have something big planned for the first week of January, I would opt for a very conservative and safe path to avoid being sick during it. I know way too many people who were triple/quadruple vaxxed who still got infected at outdoor events this year, and would not be willing to be packed into the Strip or Fremont Street on a major party holiday. YMMV.

What are your options for having a really nice New Year's Day dinner as an alternative to trying for this?
posted by Candleman at 8:13 PM on December 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! This was very helpful. It looks like we will probably grab some food at the restaurant at the airport and call it good. Maybe even try to get some sleep in a chair for a few hours. Getting home on time is a higher priority than seeing Vegas. I didn't even want to go through Vegas but was hoping to make it a little more interesting because we had to be there.
posted by 101cats at 8:01 AM on December 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

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