My Kinda Town: The Best Of Vegas, Part 1

Vegas 2
Best free show in town: Fountains of Bellagio.

By Brad Rutta

As I mentioned in my last blog, I’m a fan of cities with lots of action. So naturally Las Vegas is high on my favorites list.

I know Vegas almost as well as I know my wife – even better, if you ask her. Difference is, I’m willing to share my secrets to making the most of Las Vegas.

Because this story is about Vegas it’s big, and because it’s big it’s split in two. Part one is my personal best-of guide to Sin City, and part two is a list of my favorite Las Vegas restaurants. That’ll appear on Foodie Friday.

I’ve flown a lot of red-eyes and hit a lot of tables making this best-of list happen. Use it well.

Vegas 1Best Hotel: The Wynn. Take two steps onto the property and you’ll agree. But it’s also one of the most expensive places to stay and gamble, so bring your wallet. Luxury comes at a cost.

Best Pool: Mandalay Bay. With its wave pool and lazy river, Mandalay Bay caters to the all-day lounger. It’s as close to sandy beaches as you’ll find in the concrete desert. Rooms are great, too.

Best Fitness Facility: If you’re looking to get your sweat on, Palazzo/Venetian is the spot for you. From the three-story climbing wall to the cardio center and free weights, the facility is the perfect spot to feel the burn.

Best Sports Book: Aria, hands down. The ultra-HD TVs and great food make Aria’s book the spot to be for all big events. Seating is limited, so get there early.

Best Free Show: Fountains of Bellagio are a must-see. They run every 15 minutes at night. Gaze at the water dance and let me know if you’re not absolutely mesmerized. If I steer you wrong, at least it didn’t cost you anything.

Best Show(s): Here’s where it gets hard. If we’re talking circus and acrobatics, Love at the Mirage is visual overload. If you’re looking to see a headliner, the best show is Elton John at Caesar’s, but only because Garth Brooks left town. And here’s my dark horse: If you have a taste for pure dark comedy and aren’t easily offended, the big top of Absinthe outside Caesar’s is for you. If you want to be really daring, sit in the front row.

Best Buffet: Everyone is rating Bacchanal at Caesar’s at the top. I haven’t been – yet. But the Wynn’s food has never let me down, and the buffet is no exception. The variety is spectacular and the quality is … well, it’s the Wynn, so it’s amazing.

Best Dealers: Let’s face it: When you’re putting your money on the line, you want some fun dealers that’ll make it enjoyable. Who’ll do that for you? It’s a matter of opinion, but I give the edge to the crew at the Quad (soon to be the Linq).

Las Vegas, from the High Roller.
Las Vegas, from the High Roller.

Best Shopping: As a man who’s spent countless years of my life holding bags and walking malls, let me tell you: The Fashion Show Mall (the place that looks like a spaceship on the north end of the Strip) has it all. Most of the casinos have luxury down cold, but if you just want some flip-flops or a polo, this mall has a nice blend. On the other hand, if you just crushed blackjack and are in the market for a Patek, Caesar’s mall has more designer brands. Just allow yourself a few hours to figure out where to go.

Best Carnival Rides: I’ve been on the rollercoaster at New York-New York and lived to tell. The High Roller, the world’s largest Ferris wheel, is the new hot attraction, but save your money. You can get free tickets for a suited blackjack at the Quad, and if you ask the pit bosses they’ll comp you drink tickets for the 30-minute ride. Action junkies can bungee-jump off the Stratosphere.

Best Hotel For The Money: The Mirage has the Steve Wynn style with far better rates. Open an MLife card and you can get very good rates on a great hotel. On the South End, Monte Carlo was once a four-diamond establishment, but has a nightly rate that’s a steal in this land of luxury.

Best Downtown Hotel: The Golden Nugget is best for a one-day max, but get out before the carriage turns back into a pumpkin. Any longer and you’ll be a local.

Best Inexpensive Gambling: O’Shea’s is back, and it’s priced for the cost-conscious. You may have to dodge a ball from the beer-pong tables, but everyone has a great time at O’Shea’s. Downtown, I’m going with the worst-named casino in Vegas, the “D” — named after Derek, the owner, from Detroit.

That’s a lot of bests, and it’s probably best for you to check them out for yourself. And the best way to end any travel story about Vegas is like this: Best of luck!

Brad Rutta is director of marketing at Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.