Vegas has had many variations of the same reputation – a place for debauchery and decadence, gambling and drinking–and secrets best laughed about later. The ultimate bachelorette/bachelor party/baby shower/guy,girls’ weekend/getaway to remember, or forget a destination.

It can be all that and more, and it’s usually all of that in just one weekend. For many, a visit to Vegas comes with a stack of assumptions. One might assume that you’re in for a crazy time, full of drunken shenanigans and all-night gambling. I beg to differ – Vegas is truly what you make it. You can absolutely have a vacation full of whatever-happens-in-Vegas antics, OR you can choose a relaxing experience filled with entertainment and delicious food.

Here are some of my Vegas tips and recommendations, all places I’ve been lucky enough to experience that you should  add to your must-visit list!

FIRST, some general Vegas Tips!

Consider booking your stay at a hotel without a casino. Casinos can be fun, but they can also be: crazy, loud, and super smoky. Believe it or not, there are a few hotels right near the strip that don’t include a casino as part of the experience, and you can feel the difference from the moment you enter the lobby. If a more relaxing hotel sounds like the one for you, reserve yourself a room at Vdara Hotel and Spa. It’s my favorite place to stay! The décor is up to scale and eco-centric, the accommodations are top tier, and the lobby is centered around the market and beautiful bar. And enjoy super attractive women as your attendees, as well as non smoky poker rooms and loud blackjack tables. More on accommodations with a list at the end of this post.

Fellas, Lets get this money.

Some of the best Casino spots I’ve ever gone to would definitely be the MGM Grand Casino. From the decorations, the women, and the atmosphere, you don’t get a better feeling of Vegas than from this place. If off the beaten path is more your swing, Encore Casino delivers great slot selection, great drinks and food–without the busy hustle and bustle of the more popular casinos–a definite visit for those wanting to experience Vegas, but not deal with heavy crowds. Another spot that’s sport themed is Mcgallens, just off the strip. Black owned and full of all different games and attractions you don’t readily see to often available–a must visit in checking out Vegas culture.

Ladies, get your spa on.

Everything is grander in Vegas, and spa life is on another level. People come to party hard, and they also want to relax and recover to the max. There are some incredible spa experiences to be had, if you look around for the best spa deals. You may have found a sweet deal at a hotel that’s got a perfectly acceptable spa attached to it, but still I recommend you shop around. Some of the nicest spas in the city have amazing deals and intentionally unique spa menu offerings that you’ll regret not investigating. This is your opportunity to surrender to something new and refreshing.

Make reservations for amazing dinners.

Sure, you can go the all-you-can-eat buffet route, and that’s a solid route to take. OR you can ball out with a truly decadent fine dining experience. Some of the world’s most renowned chefs have incredible restaurant spaces in Vegas. On one trip, I found myself at one of Chef Joel Robuchon’s restaurants. It was one of the most memorable dining experiences I’ve had ever in life. I’ll break down the restaurants more with some specific recs. Just saying, you can make your trip an entirely culinary experience and it will be worth it.

Next level shopping.

Or window shopping. There is shopping in Vegas (which is already over the top), and then there’s The Shops at Crystals, which briefly caused me to re-evaluate my life choices, when I visited once on a press trip. Crystals is luxury to the nth degree, boasting more flagship boutiques than anywhere else in the USA. Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, Tiffany, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, It’s just an incredible place to browse.

Where the liqour at?

There are some really good one of a kind spots to enjoy in Vegas, some in surprising locations. Each one has to stand out, somehow, so you find unassuming places with spectacular features. For example, the Lobby Bar at Aria features a rare collection of champagnes. The Petrossian Bar at the Bellagio features a unique variety of Jack Daniels that’s only served there –most frequently poured on the rocks over their signature diamond-shaped ice cubes. The patio lounge at Vdara makes dope ass Hennessy cocktails. These bartenders are constantly one upping each other to come up with new experiences for a never-ending parade of customers.

Enjoy the art.

While visiting the Bellagio, make sure you look up and around to appreciate the one of a kind artwork by Dale Chilhuy. Continue through the Bellagio gallery of fine art and visit the gallery of legendary photographer Jeff Mitchum. He captures amazing landscapes. Some of his photographs took 15 years to capture, each has an incredible story. Well worth the visit.

Where to stay.

Here are some places I’ve experienced and can vouch for:

Aria Resort and Casino — For a truly luxurious stay in the midst of one of the hottest resorts and casinos on the strip, I recommend Aria. Once I stayed in one of their ultra-posh Sky Suites, and DAMN. The rooms are next level lavish, complete with a remote that can control everything from the television to your curtains and lights. Amazingly luxe.

Vdara Hotel and Spa — Vdara is my favorite place to stay in Vegas, because it’s one of few hotels on the strip that doesn’t include a casino at all. The Vdara is intended as a respite from the sometimes maddening Vegas crowds, and the main focus of the hotel is their eco-friendly, 18,000-square-foot, two-level Spa, Salon and Fitness Center. It feels calm and relaxing as soon as you enter. Fellas most definitely a place to bring your queens.

Green Valley Ranch — If you’re willing to venture off the strip for a luxury stay off the beaten path, definitely check out the Green Valley Ranch. The outdoor pool bar is expansive and amazing and although the pace of things is a little less frenetic than it is on the Strip, you’ll have just as much fun at their casino.

Where to eat on the strip.

There is no shortage of amazing food in Las Vegas. Each hotel has their own signature restaurants and celebrity chefs, and some may surprise you. I’ve heard amazing things about the legendary Steak House at Circus Circus, for example. Here are a few places where I’ve had truly exceptional meals in sin city.

Sage — Expect fresh, inventive American cuisine with international influences. James Beard Award-winning Chef Shawn McClain is in charge here and the seafood is excellent.

Harvest — repeated trips to Vegas taught me that I really love the cuisine of chef Roy Ellamar, any restaurant he’s involved in, I wanna eat at. Harvest is INCREDIBLE, the food is exquisite. Definitely a really great choice for a special splurge night.

The Block 19 Las Vegas Food Hall at The Cosmopolitan is your best bet for affordable, delicious food as you explore the hotels and casinos on the strip, and my personal choice–because I’m usually balling on a budget. That Hattie B’s Hot Chicken will definitely hit the spot after a long afternoon out.

Brasserie Bardot is a great choice for a dark, cozy French brunch experience.

Don’t sleep on Border Grill at Mandalay Bay– the Mexican food and killer drinks are next level. This place is super popular during big conferences. I have enjoyed a few margaritas after a long day there, and the guacamole is amazing.

I basically had to stop myself from writing this post, because there are so many other places I’ve experienced and would recommend to a friend. In summary, visit Vegas, do your own research and enjoy a unique-to-you experience. There isn’t anywhere else like it!

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