For the last ten years I have done my utmost to avoid going to Las Vegas. Sure, it was fun when I was young, and a ten hour mind-numbing hangover seemed a fair price to pay for an evening of debauchery in a city personified by extreme cleavage, free liquor, Goodfellas, and Wayne Newton.
But then I grew older and more mature. Elegant, I like to think, as opposed to old and boring. I can afford all the top shelf booze I could ever drink, I married the woman I prefer to look at, and nobody really likes Wayne Newton anyway, so why make the trek to the desert? And accordingly I have avoided Vegas at all costs.
But last month business made the city a necessity, and I must admit to a change in attitude. It’s possible to construct a really incredible two or three day visit to Sin City without falling into the traditional Vegas stupor, and if you plan correctly Las Vegas can be an incredible value. Use up the best the city has to offer, and avoid the rest. Here are my recommendations:
- Don’t rent a car. Nobody should drive themself in Vegas. It’s too crowded and in Vegas you will drive drunk.
- Don’t stay at a casino hotel. The twenty minute walk from the impersonal mega-hotel lobby through a massive noisy casino into a hallway maze to find your room is a depressing trek – and designed to get you to drop a couple hundred bucks at the tables as you pass through. Instead, save the money you will lose and book a suite at The Four Seasons. No casino. quiet, great service, excellent pool, great spa, and if you want a casino it is easy to reach the Mandalay Bay. When you are sitting by the pool it will feel like you are at the Maui Four Seasons, but you will pay half the price for a great suite. If you are nice to the doorman, he will hook you up with the hotel’s chauffer-driven Mercedes to take you up and down the strip at no charge. And with all the money you are saving, go out to eat….
- The restaurants are incredible in Vegas! Don’t expect a bargain, as the prices are just as stunning as New York or LA, but most are multi-million dollar palaces that make food a new art form. I particularly enjoyed American Fish at the Aria Hotel. Also, try going “old school” and visit one of the old classic Vegas spots. I love Hugo’s Cellar in the basement of the Four Queens downtown.
- Don’t wait in lines. Vegas is full of long lines for taxis, bars, restaurants…. every doorway as a big line. In Vegas it is acceptable to be a jerk and tip everyone to avoid the line. When you come out of a hotel and see a long taxi line throw some money at the doorman and a Town Car will miraculously appear in front of you. When you see a line at a club, throw out a big tip and ask for a “bottle table”. They will literally throw people out of the way if you agree to pay a few hundred bucks for a private table and a bottle of champagne or premium vodka.
- Go to the Beatles Love show. We have seen it a few times – and it is always terrific. Avoid the new Elvis show.
- Smoke large stinky cigars indoors. Almost every casino has a great cigar shop, and Vegas is one of the last places on earth you can find plenty of cigar-friendly bars.
- Buy a suit at midnight. I love the fact that Vegas has great men’s stores open late. There is a great Tom Ford store in the new City Center. Pop in after several martinnis and a couple bottles of wine and buy a ridiculously expensive suit you will treasure for years. It is a better investment than dropping five grand at the tables.
If you avoid the tables and spend your money having fun you can live like a Soprano for a few days.