How to Spend a Weekend in Las Vegas

How to Spend a Weekend in Las Vegas

Known as the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” it’s hard to get bored in Las Vegas. Still, for those who are planning their first weekend in Las Vegas—as well as for those coming to Vegas for their first time for a convention—it might be daunting to figure out what to add to your Las Vegas itinerary beyond the casino floor.

No matter what you’re hoping to do in Las Vegas, you can probably do it here. So, where can you find it all? This is where we step in and show you the way. Here’s all you need to know about the best ways to spend a weekend in Las Vegas.

A Quick Introduction to Las Vegas

Over the decades, Las Vegas has evolved and morphed to keep up with travelers’ varying interests. During Vegas’ earliest days, prospectors offered cheap land and refunds on train lines to draw in new investors and residents. During Vegas’ mid-century glory days, the mafia bosses took advantage of Nevada’s loose gambling laws and brought in big-name entertainers to bring the masses into their casinos. But once other states began to allow legal gambling later in the 20th century, Las Vegas hotels changed their game by adding family-friendly attractions sporting elaborate themes, and ultimately upping their game by introducing world-class dining, shopping, nightlife, and live entertainment to this stretch of the Mojave Desert.

Today, Las Vegas is much more of a multi-faceted and multi-dimensional destination that offers just about everything you can imagine. On the Las Vegas Strip, you will find one of the world’s premiere collections of casino resorts, celebrity chef restaurants, designer boutiques, piping-hot nightclubs (and cool pool day clubs), and an ever-flowing sea of humanity on and off the street. Since there’s always so much happening on the Strip, it’s easy to understand why so many visitors tend to stay there the whole time.

But if you’re feeling more adventurous, there are plenty more things to do in Las Vegas beyond the Strip. In fact, Downtown Las Vegas has become the place to discover a different side of Vegas, one that overflows in art, culture, and cutting-edge indie-rock vibes. And for plenty more surprises, you can make your way to the suburbs. Here, you’ll find some amazing hidden gem restaurants and relaxing hotels and resorts. Plus, some of the most beautiful public lands and open spaces this side of the Rocky Mountains.

Let’s Get Your Party Started

Whether you’re coming to Las Vegas with your special someone, bringing the whole family, or just flying solo, you have plenty of options for letting loose and having fun all around town. Here are a few of the best options to your own Vegas party started.

Family-Friendly Fun

If you’re looking for more family-friendly things to do in Las Vegas, look to the suburbs for inspiration. If you’re coming with kids (and, for that matter, “kids at heart”) who love the great outdoors, head to Red Rock Canyon (about 18-20 miles west of the Strip) for 31 miles of hiking trails, a 13-mile scenic road to drive or bike, a wide range of ecosystems and native wildlife, and its iconic 180 million-year-old Aztec Sandstone rock formations. Another great option is Sloan Canyon near Henderson (about 16-19 miles south of the Strip), which has the Petroglyph Canyon with over 300 rock art panels with some 17,000 design elements that provide a window into local indigenous history and culture.

For family-friendly activities in town, Springs Preserve (about 4-6 miles northwest of the Strip) has 180 acres full of fun and fascinating surprises, including a treasure trove of natural and human history at the Nevada State Museum, a seasonal butterfly habitat (open during spring and fall), a creative reimagining of early Las Vegas with Boomtown 1905, one of the nation’s premier botanical gardens, and a full playground and splash pad.

Meanwhile on the Strip, The Adventuredome at Circus Circus offers some of the best theme park action you’ll find in Vegas—from classic midway and arcade games to sophisticated roller coasters, indoor rock climbing, bungee jumping, and 18-hole mini golf. For shows, Excalibur’s Tournament of Kings, Treasure Island’s Mystère by Cirque du Soleil, and MGM Grand’s Jabbawockeez are safe and fun for kids of all ages.

Romantic Rendezvous

Perhaps the most iconic romantic rendezvous spot is right in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. The Fountains of Bellagio wow viewers with an epic water show that combines water shooting as high as 460 feet into the sky with a medley of pop music to accompany the waterworks. Bellagio provides free viewing areas for everyone to enjoy the show. But be prepared for potential blockage and/or construction closures on the street side of the fountains (more on this later). Want to guarantee a great view and up the ante for the perfect date night? Consider booking a table at one of Bellagio’s fountain-view restaurants for dinner.

For another truly memorable and uniquely Vegas experience, take your partner on a gondola ride at the Venetian. Not only will your gondolier row you through the surprisingly charming canals of the Grand Canal Shoppes, but they’ll also serenade you during your journey! For a bonus romantic experience, head to Laura Kimpton’s LOVE art installation at the waterfall atrium (where the Venetian meets its sibling resort Palazzo) for a selfie that will give you all the warm fuzzies.

Sin City Thrills

For the ultimate nightlife experience that actually stretches into the daylight hours, Wynn often has the Strip’s hottest parties. Not only does it have the award-winning XS Nightclub featuring A-list DJs spinning the most mesmerizing tunes, but it also has Encore Beach Club, which throws the Strip’s most tantalizing pool parties. And for a top-notch supper club experience featuring great live music performances, Delilah is where it’s at.

If you prefer an intimate bar over a huge dance floor, Vegas has plenty of these, too. Not only does Atomic Liquors in Downtown’s Fremont East district have an impressive (and, at times, explosive) backstory, but it continues to serve up stiff drinks and a wide array of local craft beers in a uniquely cool setting. Staying in Fremont East, Oak & Ivy at Container Park specializes in hand-crafting the finest whiskey cocktails, and Commonwealth has both a main lounge that’s itself quite the showstopper and The Laundry Room speakeasy that has exceptional craft cocktails worth hunting for.

The Best Bets for Good Eats

Contrary to what you may have heard in the past, you don’t have to spend your weekend in Las Vegas searching for edible content at the buffet stations. In fact, you can find all sorts of good eats on and off the Strip, from five-star restaurants with the most esteemed celebrity chef pedigrees to hidden holes in the walls serving the tastiest surprises.

Fine Dining on the Strip

Ever since Resorts World debuted on the north Strip in 2021, it’s quickly become a foodie favorite. For elevated fine dining, Kusa Nori serves phenomenal sushi and mouthwatering teppanyaki, and Genting Palace offers the most refined Chinese fine dining experience that you might find anywhere. (Whatever you do, don’t miss their dim sum!)

For Italian fine dining in a truly iconic setting, it’s hard to beat Sinatra at Encore. The kitchen serves timeless classics like spaghetti with clams and lobster risotto, and the dining room elegantly pays homage to Vegas’ Rat Pack history. For the most elevated French cuisine in town, try Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace for creative, seasonal, and very luxurious tasting menus. And when you want the ultimate dinner with a view, it’s hard to top Picasso at Bellagio: Feast on Chef Julian Serrano’s innovative take on classic French and Spanish dishes in a dining room full of original Pablo Picasso works of art. Plus, some tables sport amazing views of the Bellagio fountains outside.

Good Food Can Be Quite Fun

When you’re in the mood for a more contemporary version of “fine art meets fine dining,” Superfrico at the Cosmopolitan combines “Italian-American Psychedelic” grub (such as square pizzas, eggplant parm rollatini, and beef cheek rigatoni) with night-long avant garde circus performances, all-vinyl DJ tunes, and even a year-round Ski Lodge!

When it comes to food halls, Resorts World’s Famous Foods Street Eats may be Vegas’ best, as it’s stacked with great vendors. Top highlights include Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Streetbird for Nashville-style hot chicken, Geylang Claypot Rice for the most authentic Singapore-style rice dishes this side of the Pacific Rim, and Pepita’s Kitchen for stuffed lechon and other Filipino favorites.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Doesn’t Have to Be a Gamble

No matter your preferred Las Vegas itinerary, you will find plenty of hotel options to fit your plans. The Las Vegas Strip is where you will find massive mega-resorts. Downtown and the suburbs have a mix of large casinos and smaller hotels. Center Strip and Fremont Street (Downtown) casinos tend to be the busiest and most festive. And suburban resorts are good for travelers seeking a more relaxing getaway.

Luxury on the Strip

Resorts World offers great value for comfortable accommodations that still feel up-to-date: You can occasionally find Las Vegas Hilton rooms under $100 per night, and for a little more you’ll discover larger rooms and suites with extra amenities at Conrad Las Vegas. Staying on the north side of the Strip, Wynn and Encore continue to lead the pack in five-star luxury, as they pair generously sized and appointed rooms and suites with impeccable service.

If you prefer an elegant Strip hotel that abounds in adult-oriented fun and games, the Cosmopolitan has the only hotel towers featuring rooms and suites with balconies, and a wide array of enticing dining and nightlife options is just a short elevator ride away. And for an upscale resort that’s great for the whole family, Mandalay Bay has three hotels, a massive pool complex with a sandy beach and a wave pool, the famed Shark Reef Aquarium, the House of Blues music hall, and a great collection of bars and restaurants.

Cool Finds Off-Strip

If you’re a history buff who craves an authentic Old Vegas casino, you need to check into the Golden Nugget Downtown: The casino itself still looks and feels very old-school, but the hotel now has a great lineup of newer rooms and suites in their Rush Tower. For fresh, new takes on Downtown Vegas, Circa is an adults-only casino resort with the massive Stadium Swim pool complex and sportsbook, and Chef Todd English’s English Hotel is a non-gaming boutique hotel in the Arts District that’s anchored by his buzzy new Asian fusion restaurant the Pepper Club.

Heading west of the Strip, Palms Casino Resort offers top-notch amenities, and often without the Strip’s top-shelf prices. And for one of the best values you’ll find anywhere in the valley, the Orleans almost always offers incredible bargains on rooms and suites.

Everything Else You Need for Your Best Weekend in Las Vegas

Here are a few more tips you can use for a better Las Vegas trip. Vegas’ signature resorts and attractions have become pricier in recent years. However, there are still ways you can save money and peace of mind.

Watch Out for Hidden Fees and Markups

One thing to keep in mind when you book your hotel is that room rates often appear cheap. But they may not include resort fees and other add-ons. You will need to pay close attention to the fine print, as the final charge may not always match the advertised rate.

Once you’re at your hotel, prepare for additional upcharges. If you plan to drive around Vegas during your trip, note that free parking is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Either take advantage of your hotel’s valet service, or check the list of casinos still offering free parking if that’s something you consider a priority. Meanwhile inside your room, beware the temptation of snacks and drinks at the minibar. Not only do they cost extra, but they’re usually priced far above the market rate.

While large casino resorts typically have their own gift shops and convenience stores, goods here are also priced well above typical market prices. A far more affordable alternative is the ABC Store. This Hawaiian import carries everything from T-shirts and sundries to snack foods and liquor, and their prices are likely the best you’ll find anywhere on or near the Strip.

Check the Calendar

Because Vegas has all sorts of activities happening throughout the year, hotel room rates and other prices often vary. If you’re coming to celebrate during major holiday weekends like New Year’s, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July, expect to pay extra. Prices can also spike during large business conventions like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, as well as during major sports events like Formula 1 in November and the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in December.

Speaking of Formula 1, preparations for the 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix led to a cascade of closures and traffic jams for much of the year. Much of the infrastructure is now in place for future Grand Prix races. As a result, Strip venues probably won’t suffer as many construction-related closures and delays. But the Strip and areas around the convention center will likely continue to experience some traffic hiccups in the weeks leading up to Formula 1.

Finally, keep in mind that Las Vegas has four distinct seasons. If you’re hoping to save money with a winter or early spring trip, note that most pools are closed during that time of the year. On the flip side, if you’re doing a summer trip, plan outdoor activities like hikes, bike rides, and longer walks during the early morning hours, and don’t be surprised if morning sunshine gives way to afternoon storms during the Arizona monsoon season.

This May Be Your First Weekend in Las Vegas, But Will It Be Your Last?

It’s always easy to have a good time in Las Vegas. But it can be hard sometimes to decide how you want to have a good time. Hopefully now you have a better sense of where to go to find everything you want to experience.

And, hey, after you conquer your first weekend in Las Vegas, you might soon want to come back for more.

Interested in reading more inspiration for planning your next getaway? Check out this guide to experiencing Ventura, California like a local.

22 thoughts on “How to Spend a Weekend in Las Vegas

  1. So many people think of gambling when they think of Vegas, but I’ve been there more than once, and there’s so much more to it than that!

  2. I never realized that Las Vegas was so family-friendly! I always think of slots and shows. This was a great read!

  3. Your weekend guide to Las Vegas is spot on and incredibly detailed! I appreciate the mix of classic attractions and unique off-the-beaten-path suggestions, making for an unforgettable escape to the city.

  4. These are nice place suggestion for the family who are planning to stay in Las Vegas when they have time because Las Vegas is a city that is very alive that is why it is important to have a plan before going there.

  5. Yes definitely, in the chaos of awesomeness that is Las Vegas it is best to have a guide to find your way. Will definitely make use of this next time I am there.

  6. These are great recommendations for places to stay, and dine, and what to look out for while in Las Vegas. Many people usually miss the hidden fees due to excitement or being in a hurry.

  7. WOW, loving this post. I just told my husband the other day we need a trip to Vegas. You laid everything out perfectly for someone like me, as a first-time visitor! I’m sure Vegas can be overwhelming.

  8. This is an awesome guide on how to spend a weekend in Las Vegas! I’ve never been there and didn’t realize there was so many things to do there.

  9. It just dawned on me that the last time we were in Vegas was before the pandemic. We have to get back!

  10. I have been to Vegas so many times but I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to things to do there.
    I love your post because it puts everything in one place for me and I will certainly be using some of your recommendations. Thanks!

  11. I enjoyed the comprehensive guide to enjoying a weekend in Las Vegas, covering everything from luxury accommodations on the Strip to cool finds off the beaten path. The detailed recommendations for hotels, activities, and tips for saving money provide valuable insights for anyone planning a trip to Vegas.

  12. Wow! Thanks for the details and suggestions for Vegas. I would love to see some of the trails at Red Rock Canyon.

  13. Planning a weekend in Las Vegas sounds thrilling, and your tips are super helpful. I can’t wait to try out some of these suggestions on our next trip there.

  14. I do love the idea of the adults only resort! It sounds perfect like the perfect base for a girls holiday.

  15. Las Vegas sounds like so much fun! I was supposed to go for my cousin’s bachelorette, but she ended up wanting to go to British Columbia, instead.

  16. Whenever I hear about going away to Vegas, I never hear about family friendly activities! Going to a canyon sounds like so much fun.

  17. Las Vegas is definitely a great place to visit as a tourist. Glad to know that it has family friendly restaurants as well!

  18. A weekend in Las Vegas is an interesting experience, my partner and I planning to experience as a couple going there haha.

  19. Our weekend guide to Las Vegas is spent on. I did most of the things you listed and loved each one of them. There’s so much more than just gambling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.