Las Vegas for Beginners

Las Vegas for Beginners - HH Lifestyle Travel

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Las Vegas is larger than life in every way. A neon jungle, heaving with people, indulgence and excess. Las Vegas isn’t a place you go to relax, unless your idea of relaxation is 24 / 7 activity and no sleep. But that is the joy of this manic city – it’s where you go to live hard for a few days before escaping to the surrounding desert landscapes! But I do think you should visit Vegas at least once in your life. Here is my guide to Las Vegas for beginners.

Arriving into Las Vegas

Flying into Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas is a breeze. You can even play the slots while waiting for your luggage at the carousel. There are tram lines that go from the airport to the Strip, but we found it easier to just get a taxi, Uber or Lyft to our hotel. Las Vegas isn’t really designed for walking, even places that look close are deceptively far away – it’s the scale of the place! We took private hires everywhere and with two people the prices are comparable to the public transit and skytrain.

Where to stay in Vegas for the first time

Las Vegas has a hotel for every budget, and for every taste and proclivity. A smorgasbord, you could say. For your first visit, I would recommend staying on or near the Strip – just to help you see more and orientate yourself. At the top end of the budget, places such as Caesar’s Palace, The Bellagio, Four Seasons and Wynn Las Vegas punctuate the Strip in fine fashion.

Mid-range hotels on the strip include New York New York (make sure you ride the roller coaster), and the Luxor. Between the Strip and Downtown, the Stratosphere is a good option. Try the Golden Nugget for a mid-range hotel downtown on Fremont Street. I have stayed at the Stratosphere, and loved the huge suite we got for a fraction of the cost it would’ve been on the Strip.

It is easier to find budget accommodation a little outside the Strip, however there are some options in town. The Days Inn, Ellis Island Hotel, and Excalibur (good for families) are central and get decent reviews. You can also choose to rent an apartment or house in the suburbs – we found this a good option when we visited with family.

Things to do in Las Vegas for Beginners

The Bellagio Musical Fountains

Seeing the Bellagio Fountains dance along to ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by the Beatles was one of the most memorable Vegas memories I have. These beautifully choreographed fountain dances are free to watch and enjoy and draw a crowd morning, noon and night. The fountains run every 15 or 30 minutes every afternoon and evening (timings can change with inclement weather).

Bellagio Fountains - Las Vegas for Beginners - HH Lifestyle Travel

The Fremont Street Experience

I love downtown Vegas. It is on a smaller scale and has that ‘old Vegas’ vibe about it. Fremont Street East is great for reasonably priced bars, cheap eats and vintage neon. I especially like the Downtown Container Park. A mall created out of containers, with fire-breathing junkyard sculptures outside. This is the gritty end of town – it’s a fun night out!

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The Fremont Street Experience is a pedestrianised area at the west end of Fremont Street. For 5 blocks, you are dazzled by an overhead light show, a huge zip-line, live music and outdoor bars. Grand old lady casinos like Binion’s and Golden Gate offer cheap 1c slots in a retro setting. With the delightfully grim moniker “Glitter Gulch”, Fremont Street is an assault on your senses, but in a good way.

Take the hassle out of picking attractions by buying a Las Vegas Explorer Pass!

Take in a show

There’s nothing like seeing a show in Vegas. I saw Zumanity by Cirque du Soleil at New York New York and it was spectacular. Tickets can be expensive, but keep an eye on the sale sites for last minute deals. Visiting mid-week can sometimes be cheaper, and some hotels offer discounts on the shows they host.

Stratosphere Observation Deck

Every time I visit Las Vegas I head up the Stratosphere Tower to see the view over Vegas at night. It is such a whimsical neon view, a quiet way to experience the chaos of Las Vegas without being among it. If you are staying at the Stratosphere, your entry to the observation deck is free.

There are some scary-looking rides that take you outside the safety of the enclosed observation deck. Things that tip you over the edge, and a roller coaster too – no thanks! I have ridden the New York New York roller coaster once, and that was quite enough scary rooftop fun for me!

View from Stratosphere Tower - Las Vegas for Beginners - HH Lifestyle Travel

The Strip

One of my favourite activities on the Strip is to visit the Vegas versions of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Sphinx, and the Venice canals! The Eiffel Tower and Arc are at the Paris Las Vegas Resort, which also has whole Parisian style streets inside. The faux-sphinx sits at the entrance to the Luxor, toward the southern end of the Strip. Inside the Venetian Hotel are replica canals, in which you can take a gondola ride! The scale of these faux icons is epic, and typically over the top!

The Strip - Las Vegas for Beginners - HH Lifestyle Travel

Gambling – I’m not going to advise where the ‘best’ places to gamble are, because casinos and slots are literally everywhere. I’ve even seen slots in the bathrooms. Go forth – spend spend spend!

The Neon Museum

Neon is part of the framework and the lifeblood of Las Vegas. The iconic Welcome to Las Vegas sign must be one of the most photographed signs in the world. The Neon Museum is where old signs come to die and it is a fascinating graveyard. Make sure you book well ahead of time, as the popular night tours book up quickly.

Fremont Street neon - Las Vegas for Beginners - HH Lifestyle Travel

Where to eat in Vegas

I have had everything from cheap hotel buffets to diner food and English afternoon teas in Las Vegas. Like with hotels, there is something for every budget.

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We had the all-you-can-eat steak dinner at Paradise Buffet on Fremont Street for a mere $14 + tax each, and it was delicious. I can absolutely recommend the nachos from Nacho Daddy (multiple locations in Vegas). Just as advertised, there were no dry chips, and the flavour combos were fab. I also recommend the Tea Lounge at the Waldorf Astoria for a posh afternoon tea experience.

Nacho Daddy nachos - Las Vegas for Beginners - HH Lifestyle Travel
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Las Vegas for Beginners

Las Vegas will leave you exhausted and craving quiet, or perhaps that’s just the introvert in me talking! It is frenetic, huge, and full of every kind of person you can think of. It is a melting pot of humanity. This can be an incredible experience or overwhelming – it depends on your mood and capacity for chaos. I love it for a few days at a time, then I end up running away to the desert to recover! I hope you found my guide to Las Vegas for beginners helpful to kickstart your Vegas experience.

Read about our road trip along Route 66 from Kingman to Seligman, an easy trip from Las Vegas!
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All photos & content © Hannah Henderson and may not be used without permission (sharing this blog post is fine, though!). Images shot with a Canon DSLR T3i Rebel + Canon EF-S 24 mm f/2.8 STM Lens; and an iPhoneX.
Las Vegas for Beginners - HH Lifestyle Travel

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I'm Hannah Henderson - Travel Writer : Foodie : Photographer : Super-planner : and Twitter aficionado. A Kiwi based in France, by way of Scotland!

13 thoughts on “Las Vegas for Beginners

  1. Shannon says:

    Nice article Hannah! I used to visit Vegas a lot for my career, so i’ve experienced a few days & nights of chaos, and I did take the ride on top of stratosphere, I think its called Big shot, and wow! Anyway, enjoyed your blog post!

  2. Heather says:

    Las Vegas is so much fun! I have been twice, for a bachelorette party and for a couples weekend. Both visits were a completely different experience. All the highlights you mentioned are absolutely a most do for first time visitors. I did ride the rides on top of the Stratosphere Tower and it was terrifying, lol. All the vegas shows are top notch and i’d love to get back again soon to see some of the new additions.

  3. Vaisakhi Mishra says:

    Vegas is so much fun!!! Been there twice and have enjoyed both the visited, even when I don’t like casinos. I am so glad you mentioned Fremont Street. People usually don’t visit the area, but the experience of sipping on cocktails while walking under the neon CANOPY with some show on is just amazing 😀

  4. Kate F says:

    Wow, Hannah, you’ve nailed it! I’m always very overwhelmed when reading about Vegas, NY and California but you’ve made it as simple and easy to understand, esp. for beginners. When blogs are like this, it’s worth subscribing. I can feel you speaking calmly while welcoming the chaotic vegas, you’ve made it a safe river to the first timers. Thanks!

  5. Indrani says:

    Sounds so much fun! The grand lighting and buildings surely charms all. I was quite surprised they have good food options too.

  6. Ava says:

    I used to go to Las Vegas often but it has been many years now since I’ve been there. Like you, the introvert in me tries to avoid chaos like you find in Las Vegas; however, your thorough review almost makes me want to visit again. There are so many new hotels and activities that might warrant a future trip.

  7. Kathleen says:

    I so agree with you on the craving quiet. I’ve been a few times. We stayed at Planet Hollywood one time, on one of the top tower floors and it was so great to just go there to get away from the crazy. Having said that, I watching the people was an education in itself. we enjoyed going in all the different hotels to explore. They are all so different. The luxor gave me the creeps though. I think because it was so dark. I’ve been to two shows and loved them both so much. You don’t have to be a gambler or drinker to enjoy vegas for a few day. I am neither.

  8. Linda says:

    Las Vegas seems to be a place that people either love or hate. A guide for first time visitors is a great idea. Many people think that Vegas is just about gambling. But sights like the Bellagio Fountains are some of my best memories too. Wandering around to see the variety in the hotels is a great idea. As is taking it in from the Stratosphere. We wanted to go on the rides there, but ran out of time! You know we are not afraid of heights! I agree that Vegas is good for a few days at a time. After I gamble my $20, I always find something new to see or do.

  9. Rosemary says:

    Vegas indeed can be overwhelming and its great to be able to get out of the chaos from time to time. I spent 3 months in vegas last summer and grew to love it. and in particular when we got off the strip.That said, downtown las vegas and the bellagio fountains are two of my favorite activities.there is more to vegas than gambling!

    • HHLifestyleTravel says:

      So true – gambling was about 1% of my stays in Vegas – there is so much more to it. I stayed in the suburbs on my first visit and liked it a lot!

  10. sherianne says:

    I tend to visit las vegas at least once a year. I love to go to the shows and check out the street art. The food scene has changed so much over the years, you really can get anything in Vegas, even really good poutine!

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