7 things to know before visiting Las Vegas

Isn't the Las Vegas Strip fabulous from the air? 

Las Vegas attracts millions of visitors each year ... Here’s what I wish I’d known before going. 

HOTELS: Las Vegas is not only a popular convention and trade show city, it's also a huge sports destination now. When I was there in the first week of December to attend an NFL game, occupancy was at 98% and hotel rates were through the roof. If you're planning to visit during a convention or an NFL or NHL game, it's a good idea to book your hotel well in advance — or even pick different dates. There are a number of sites that list Vegas conventions but vegasmeansbusiness.com is a good place to start.

THE STRIP: The Strip is longer than you think! The "Vegas Strip" refers to a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that's known for its concentration of resort hotels and casinos. With Mandalay Bay at its south end and the Stratosphere at its north end, the Strip is about 4.2 miles (6.8 km) long. The good thing is that with so many hotels here, you'll never not have a bathroom when you need one! 

CAR RENTAL: Some hotels have a car rental agency right on the premises so you can rent a car easily for just one day if you want to do some sightseeing out of town. This will save you renting a vehicle at the airport, paying for all of the days you're visiting AND paying the hefty parking rates at the hotel when you'll probably only need the vehicle for a small part of your trip. You’ll need to ride-share or taxi from the airport to your hotel but you’ll still come out ahead.

RIDE-SHARING: With the congestion and surge pricing often in effect, Lyft and Uber rates can be prohibitive. After the Las Vegas Raiders game I attended, the price to ride-share 2.4 miles (4 km) from Allegiant Stadium to our hotel, Paris Las Vegas, would have been US $40 not including the tip. (Needless to say, we walked.)

MONORAIL: If you've opted to not have a vehicle, the Las Vegas Monorail is a convenient and affordable way to get around on the Strip. The monorail runs from the MGM Grand to the Sahara, with stops at hotels and casinos along the way. It does not go to the Harry Reid International Airport. Monorail schedule and ticket prices are at www.lvmonorail.com.

THE SHOWS: Many of the hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have free shows and attractions that are worth checking out. For example, the Bellagio has a free fountain show that runs every 30 minutes, and the Mirage has a free volcano show. The paid shows are pricey, so read all the reviews because some are downright disappointing IMO. Unpopular opinion, perhaps: I've seen a number of Cirque shows in Vegas and I've found they're never as bendy or thrilling as the ones that come to your town; I think the stages in Vegas just can't accommodate the really cool acrobatics. 

WEATHER: Finally, I think many people know that Las Vegas is located in the middle of the desert so the weather can be very hot and dry especially in summer. But here's something you may not know: Las Vegas can be unexpectedly cool in winter, especially after the sun goes down. I was very glad I had my puffy down jacket when I was there in early December but really wished I'd brought warmer shoes. 


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