It’s was around midnight the first time I entered a Las Vegas casino. I was young. My girlfriend was with me and she had never seen the lights of the strip. It was Thanksgiving and we both had fled our families and took off an adventure that any first year college student would be proud of. With $80 each we stayed in a truck stop motel and we ate pie that first night. We explored Las Vegas blvd like vagabonds free to roam in a place that was not yet ready for us and we were in fact not yet ready for it.
So much time has past since. The girlfriend became a wife and the years compounded experiences and adventures in a kaleidoscope of travel stories and anecdotes. One exploratory trip to “sin city” launched decades of being travelers versus simply being tourists. Las Vegas could do that then and it still can do it now.
Step off a plane or a bus or even your of own automobile and launch yourself into the Las Vegas that most people see but attempt to see it differently. Go past the places that everybody walks into and sit down at the spots that you should be experiencing. Don’t be afraid of a meal at the bar and embrace the concept of sharing a cocktail to save money. Split a slice of pizza and cut that burger in half. It’s all in the name of wandering and experiencing.
Exploring in Las Vegas is different but it is still about experiences and being a traveler instead of a tourist.
Take a look at our idea of where to do Vegas just a little differently.
The Best Wine by the Glass in Las Vegas at Franklin Lounge
Franklin at Delano Hotel Las Vegas. While you could easily take the elevator to the top of this hotel and have a drink at Skyfall Lounge the real treat is at Franklin in the lobby of The Delano Hotel. Walk through Mandalay Bay and look for the signs to this boutique hotel adjacent to the Mandalay Place shopping area. You can’t miss the bar with its deep dark wood hues and wide leather sofas. Sit at the bar and peruse a wine list of by the glass gems. This bar has some of the best wines by the glass on the Las Vegas strip that by the way are impossible to find anywhere else.
What You Should Have: Try the Delano Daiquiri for a fresh crisp cocktail. If you had the bartender add some grapefruit juice it would be like Papa met the President. The bar offers mini Woodford Reserve barrels of double oaked bourbon. Order one and you can keep the barrel and enjoy it at the bar or in your room. Franklin Lounge, Delano Hotel, Open 10am-2am, 702.632.7888
Get Comfortable at Beauty & Essex at Cosmopolitan Resort
Grab a Corner Booth at Beauty and Essex and dissolve into the atmosphere. Once you walk through the pawn shop that doubles as an entrance look for the lounge and find a seat. It’s dark. It’s sultry. It’s sexy. Order a cocktail and people watch. Yes, you could eat but a drink, some conversation and the view in the lounge might be all you need to have a really good time. Beauty & Essex Las Vegas, Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, Daily 5pm - midnight
Secretly Luxurious in Las Vegas
Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas. Being a traveler does not have to translate into being cheap. Yes, it can get expensive when you seek out the undiscovered or the hidden secrets in a city but some experiences are worth it. At the Four Seasons Las Vegas, hidden away off the main lobby at Mandalay Bay Resort, an enclave of luxury exists that must be enjoyed. A level of sophistication occupies the space and a seat in the lobby prompts your senses to consider indulging in the good life. Press Bar is bright with energy and Veranda Bar welcomes you with class and style while still retaining a casual feel. Small plates dominate the menus and cocktails help you capitalize on the feeling of exclusivity as you enjoy the art of exploration in Las Vegas.
What You Should Have: Find a seat on the patio and order a few sharing plates. The Punta Mita shrimp tacos will transport you to a seaside resort and the flatbreads will dazzle you with ideas of the Mediterranean coast. Four Seasons Las Vegas, Open Daily 6:30am – 10pm, Happy Hour 5-7pm (702)632-5121
Caesars Palace Does Classy Well at Guy Savoy
The Cognac Lounge at Guy Savoy. Luxury is on display at Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace from the moment you step in. This is high end world class dining as good as it gets anywhere. However, if you step into the Cognac Lounge you can get a tiny morsel of the experience for a fraction of the cost of a full meal. Experiences are a bit about the atmosphere and a lot about the company you keep. The Las Vegas restaurant is easily among the best on the strip but it is often reserved for the true high rollers. Have a cocktail at the bar or sample their Cognac collection with a little help from the knowledgeable staff. Guy Savoy, Caesars Palace, Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30 – 9:30 pm (702)731-7286
Strike up a Conversation at the Bar at Carbone Las Vegas
The Bar at Carbonne. In a city with no shortage of bars there really should be no reason why you would avoid a meal at a bar. Yes, step up to the bar with the full intent of having a complete meal within arms reach of top shelf liquor. The experience is all about the banter with the bartender and the conversations with patrons ordering drinks. Yes, people will look at your food and ask you all about it but that is part of the fun. At Carbonne, the bar area also has an adjacent dining room and the energy is up a few notches from the rest of the restaurant. The classy look of the bar and a classic cocktail makes for a throwback of an evening.
What You Should Have: If you are just aiming for a shareable pasta dish the spicy rigatoni vodka is comfortably delicious. This would work in front of the television or at a white table clothed pretentious hot spot. At the bar it feels right along with a cocktail. Make it a brown spirit so an old fashioned or a Manhattan is about where you should be. The menu has a shareable ribeye on it and it is good but the veal marsala with a glass of wine is far more appropriate. Carbonne, Aria Las Vegas, Daily 5:30 -11pm (877) 230-2742
A Few More Suggestions for Your Las Vegas Exploration Circuit
- Lunch on the patio at Tableau Wynn is a serving of luxury with a side of relaxation. The sun makes you look younger and the cocktails make you want to ignore your responsibilities. Breakfast should include a Benedict because there is no other place in Las Vegas where such a high calorie count meal feels like it should be on the spa menu. Lunch requires you to share the risotto and the branzino, never question a healthy choice at a restaurant with the views that Tableau affords. Tableau at Wynn Las Vegas, open daily 7am to 2:30pm
- Cocktails at Bound at Cromwell Las Vegas are really about seeing how easily Las Vegas transforms itself. This property was once the Barbary Coast and has become a nice boutique hotel. From a budget dive to an upscale hotel the cocktail program that was brought in goes well with the new atmosphere. Bound, Cromwell Las Vegas, Daily 2pm – 2am
- Take in the view from Level 107 lounge at Stratosphere Tower and ask yourself how you could possibly miss the experience. Exploring Las Vegas must include a spot with a great view and it is really hard to beat what is outside the windows of this lounge. 360 degree view from the top of the iconic Stratosphere Tower. Yes, it might be a little touristy but once you settle and have a cocktail during their happy hours of either 4-7pm or 10:30pm to 1:30am you’ll understand why you ventured to the end of the strip for this. 107 Skylounge, Stratopshere Tower, Daily 4pm -4am
The Only Diner in Las Vegas That You Have to Visit
The Only Place That You Have to Visit If You Want to Consider Yourself a Traveler Instead of a Tourist in Las Vegas. (There are a few more but this is a personal favorite)
Vickie’s Diner is not the type of establishment that you would find in a guide book or on a “Best of” list. It should be but nobody like the idea of torn vinyl booths and greasy spoon menu’s that need to be wiped down. Tourists love a great deal but if that good deal takes you out of your comfort zone it will most likely be ignored. That is a shame because this diner on the north end of Las Vegas Blvd. between Downtown and the strip is open 24 hours and is full of old school history. The pharmacy that was once here is no longer filling prescriptions but the feel of this diner that is rooted in the 1950’s is still very much alive. This spot was once known as Tiffany’s but new ownership changed the name. It didn’t change much of anything else and that is why you’ll go in and get a giant plate of potatoes, eggs and country gravy over the top of a chicken fried steak. The coffee is exactly as it should be for a diner and the service is friendly in the way that a proper diner should smile and take your order while sharing a funny story. Real people serving comfortable food in a spot that correlates with a Las Vegas that existed long ago.
Vicki’s Diner, 1700 S. Las Vegas Blvd. (702) 444-4459