Travel Guide: Las Vegas


Once upon a time I traveled to Vegas so often the running joke was that a billboard with my picture welcomed visitors to the city and that I was the unofficial mayor.  That was roughly 10 years ago and clearly lots of things have changed since my Vegas socialite heyday (but I still have a good laugh when Facebook reminds me of those posts) but I have still spent a fair amount of time hanging in Sin City recently.  While my itinerary has certainly shifted away from crazy pool parties, late dinners, and all night clubbing I still have some favorite spots whenever I visit.  These days the agenda is more about great drinks, amazing food, shopping, and rose…yes, always.

Where to Stay

With literally hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms on the Las Vegas Strip picking a place to lay your head can be a daunting task…especially if it’s your first trip.

Bellagio has long been a favorite of mine for great reason.  It’s located right smack in the middle of the Strip making it easy to access anything, the gardens are breathtaking, the restaurant selection is one of the best, and the service is honestly second to none in my opinion.  If you are looking for a total VIP trip book a Penthouse suite and take in the fountain show from the comfort of your suite, there is even a channel with music synced to the show. Pro Tip: if you book a Penthouse you have complimentary car service from McCarren and a special VIP suite for check in and complimentary snacks.

For lifestyle hotel lovers check out SLS on the North end of the Strip or Cosmopolitan located at city center.  Each of these hotels spotlight chef driven cuisine, unique room product, high energy nightlife, and fabulous pool vibes.

For the luxury lover….Encore, Wynn, The Venetian and Palazzo are for you.

For the cliche Vegas experience…MGM Grand, Mirage, and Treasure Island are a must.

If what you want is a throwback to Vegas days past take a look at Tropicana, it’s one of the last hotels remaining from the Vegas Strip that the Rat Pack frequented. One of my favorite things in the Summer is playing swim up Blackjack at the Trop pool. Fun Fact: this is the very first hotel I stayed in while visiting Vegas.

Where to Eat

Thanks to dozens of chef owned restaurants all over the Strip there is no shortage of amazing culinary delights to choose from.

Egg Slut at the Cosmo is a favorite for a grab & go option.  I always order for The Fairfax…eggs, caramelized onion, chives and brioche.

Bardot inside of Aria is my weekend brunch stop.  Think of a delightful French Brasserie (and Michael Mina in the kitchen) with duck confit and eggs, escargot, and everlasting rose…yes, everlasting rose.  Your welcome.

Also inside of Aria is Herringbone, a social driven, poolside brunch experience that can’t be missed.

Another favorite of mine is Bouchon inside of the Ventian.  I love all things Chef Thomas Keller and Bouchon is no exception.  The space is light, bright, and airy.  The food is undeniably delish, and the rose is crisp.

Mon Ami Gabi at Paris is a go to spot for me anytime I’m in town.  The patio is right on the strip overlooking the Bellagio fountains and it reminds me of a (not so) quaint French bistro.  They do a delightful brunch menu and a perfect lunch with lots of salted butter and baquette plus rose, (sensing a theme)?

Stripburger was always a quick lunch favorite for me…they do great burgers and sides plus their cocktails are perfectly appropriate for Las Vegas!

I adore sushi so naturally I always want to indulge when on a trip.  Katsuya, Nobu, and Yellowtail are two of my must try spots for any Vegas adventure.

Umami Burger at the SLS is a great lunch or casual dinner spot for a BOMB (did I really just say BOMB??? It’s like writing this has taken me back to 2008…) burger.

Speaking of burgers, last year I ventured downtown to Fremont Street (more on that in a moment) with Chris and stumbled upon The Kitchen at Atomic Liquors.  We bellied up to the bar, ordered an amazing dinner, and chatted with the chef.  A must visit even if it is off the beaten path.

Scarpetta inside of Cosmo serves up the best spaghetti I have ever experienced.  It is so fresh and packed full of basil..yum!  Oh, and the bread basket features this heaven sent Stromboli with salami, basil and mozzarella.

OKAY.  Listen up foodies.  If you have not experiences Momofuku and Milkbar then run, don’t walk to your dinner reservation IMMEDIATELY!  Honestly, David Chang is a culinary genius and his pork buns are divine.  Wrap up your meal and grab a piece (or two) of Chef Christina Tossi’s Birthday Cake from Milkbar and say thank you.

No judgement on this next one…the very first time I went to Vegas was back in 2001 when I was 19 (I hear you judging!).  My friends and I found our way to this sort of food court area inside of New York New York that is designed to look like the streets of NYC and grabbed some pizza.  IT WAS SO GOOD!  I have tried to make a stop late night at least once a visit.  It’s the perfect post drinking, pre-bed meal!

Where to Drink/Nightlife

I offer this advice with a small disclaimer.  At 25 I was completely in the know as to the hottest clubs and lounges in Sin City.  At 36 I am more up to speed with the best hotel lounges to sip on some champagne.  And remember, when in doubt, belly up to any hotel/casino bar and just enjoy the people watching!

Chandelier Bar at Cosmo is a new “must” for Chris and I.  We always make our way there even if it’s only for a drink.  The lounge is multi level and designed to feel like you are inside a chandelier which is really cool.  I suggest the top or middle level for the most princess like vibe and a glass of bubbles.

We also really enjoy ending the night at Bond on the Casino level of Cosmo. It offers huge windows overlooking Las Vegas Blvd and the people watching is pretty unreal.

Atomic Liquors is the oldest freestanding bar in Sin City.  Just do yourself a favor and go.

I used to be an avid club goer but after my favorite spot closed in June (RIP, Bank) I am not as into it.  With that being said I do enjoy some bottle service from time to time and Hyde at Bellagio is the perfect spot.  It’s very intimate and has stunning fountain & strip views.

While we are discussing amazing views, the Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay is a must!  Located on the 63rd floor it’s a throwback to a classic night out.

Where to Get Some Sun

Yes, this is a real topic.  In Vegas a day at the pool is about so much more than just a lounge chair and some water.

If the day club scene is what you are craving be sure to check out Liquid, Encore Beach Club, and Wet Republic.  Fair warning…do not think that you can simply show up to one of these pools without a reservation or knowing someone to get you in.  The lines are long, the admission is high, and a million girls will get in before one guy does.  Connect with a Concierge or VIP host to coordinate any kind of nightlife or day club needs.

There are also some options for a more intimate, adults only pool party situation.  Let’s be real, we all want to indulge in some good old debauchery while in Sin City from time to time, am I right?  Tao Beach, Moorea Beach Club, and Bare Pool are my personal faves.

What to Do

Besides the obvious answer of drinking and gambling, which let’s be fair, will happen, there is plenty to keep you occupied in Las Vegas!

I have never been but the Neon Boneyard (more commonly know as The Neon Museum) is HIGH on my must list.  It is home to hundreds of old neon signs from the city.

Another thing I have never done but want to is a helicopter tour of the city at night.  I have been in love with Vegas at night since my very first trip and to see it from above would be so unreal!

There is no shortage of world class shopping all over the Vegas including the Bellagio Shops, Wynn, Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian, and Fashion Show Mall.

Take photos at the Vegas Sign.  Yes, I know it is kind of cliche and very touristy but honestly, I have done it a few times with friends and they are some of my favorite photos.  I suggest going after sunset when the sign is lit up.

During the Holiday season the Cosmopolitan turns their Boulevard Pool into an outdoor Winter Wonderland.  There are firepits to roast marshmallows, hot toddys to keep you warm, an outdoor skating rink, and “snow” every night.  It’s my favorite thing to do with Chris that time of year.

Go a little lowbrow and head downtown to Fremont Street.  It is “Old Vegas” complete with cheap drinks, street performers, cheap meals, and zip lining.

Take in a show (or two).  Whether it’s a Cirque du Soleil show or one of the many big name residencies you will not be disappointed.

If you have any other questions or want more customized recommendations feel free to email me!

XO, Niki

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