Las Vegas never really seemed like my kind of place, but I’ve always been curious about it because it also kind of seems like somewhere everyone should try to see at least once in their lives. Due to a last-minute booking for a recent work trip, I ended up with a six-hour layover there, and since LAS is right next to the Strip (I’m not joking – it’s basically across the street from the Luxor and Mandalay Bay.), I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to get a taste of the town. Plus, I got to check off Nevada (hey, #45) on my list of states that I’ve visited. Here are five things that I learned in my four hours in Las Vegas.
The casinos don’t have airport shuttles.
There wasn’t a lot of planning involved in this expedition, so I was unaware that the casinos and hotels don’t have their own shuttle services. I had planned on just hopping on the first one I found, but that plan was quickly scrapped. I inquired at the info desk by baggage claim, and the lady there suggested buying a ticket for the airport shuttle that supposedly departed every fifteen minutes. It was only $8 one way (I couldn’t get a round trip ticket because the pick-ups at other locations have to be scheduled 24 hours in advance.), and I was told it would take me to the Wynn, so I went for it. Well, half an hour later, we were still parked in the ground transportation area. Then I ended up being the 5th of 6 stops. I almost got off when the first stop was the Venetian since it’s so close, but the bus driver assured me he was going to the Wynn soon. We had different definitions of “soon.” He also slammed on his brakes for no reason at one point, throwing everyone in the bus forward. I was in the front row with nothing to catch myself on and wound up with a pretty good bruise on my arm from where I collided with a metal wheelchair loading apparatus. Finally, an hour after originally boarding, I was dropped off at the Wynn. A taxi would’ve cost me at least double, but if you’re in a hurry, just spend the money.
It’s a photographer’s dream.
I recently upgraded to a new mirrorless camera in preparation for my big vacation, and Las Vegas was the perfect place to play with all of its settings. I had beautiful weather, and spent most of my time just wandering around the Strip taking pictures of the casinos and their various gimmicks. I tested out the slower shutter settings on the fountains to catch the flow of the water. I put it in sports mode to catch the flamingos in the Flamingo’s habitat. It was great. And most of the casinos look gorgeous through the lens of any old camera. Vegas is all about the show, of course. I didn’t get to see the Strip at night, but I can only imagine how much fun I would’ve had trying to capture it all lit up.
It’s way better for families than I imagined.
I always had an image of Las Vegas as just a row of casinos where adults went to get drunk and gamble, but I was very wrong. I mean, not entirely – that’s definitely still a big thing, but there was a surprising amount of things for kids to do too. I wandered through a couple of the arcades, and they were buzzing with kids. I also tried to ride the roller coaster at the New York, but when I got up to the entrance, I discovered that it was closed for maintenance. I’ve been told that the Fremont Street Experience downtown is very cool as well, but that didn’t fit into my four-hour mini-vacation.
It’s not that easy to walk the Strip.
Due to the desire to promote better traffic flow and prevent pedestrians from getting hit by cars (I’m assuming), there are a lot of areas where it’s hard to just walk from place to place. There were some normal crosswalks, but a lot of the intersections had bridges that you had to climb stairs or ride an escalator up to. They all had elevators as well, but it seems like it would be a nightmare to try to navigate with a wheelchair or stroller or if you had difficulty with stairs. I had to backtrack a lot to get to bridges that I had already passed because there was no other way across the street. At one point, I had to cut through a little mall because there didn’t appear to be any other way to get past it without crossing to the other side. Once I got to the Excalibur, I couldn’t find any way down to the sidewalk and had to ride a weird little train past the Luxor – where I was trying to go – to Mandalay Bay, and then catch another train from there to the Luxor. There’s a Las Vegas monorail, but it only makes a couple of stops on the Strip, so unless you’re staying at one of those spots, it’s probably only useful for venturing further into town.
It’ll feel familiar even if it’s your first time
Just like my first visit to New York City, I found that a lot of the buildings looked very familiar because I’ve seen them in movies and TV shows. I’ve seen “Ocean’s Eleven” (the Clooney version) enough times that I could probably conduct my own heist, so it was exciting to see the Bellagio and its fountains. The Luxor looked a lot taller when contestants were sliding down the side of it on an episode of Fear Factor, but it was still instantly recognizable. Names like The Venetian and Caesars Palace just rolled off my tongue because I’ve heard of them so many times. It makes for a weird yet cool deja vu sensation that I quite enjoyed.
What surprised you on your first trip to Vegas?
If you’re looking for more tips about planning your visit, check out this guide to Las Vegas from a local.
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I’m totally in the same boat- vegas has never really seemed like my type of place but I’ve always wanted to visit! Love this article!
It’s just one of those classic American experiences. I’m not much into partying or gambling so I didn’t think it would offer much for my tastes. Even just walking the Strip was loads of fun though, and there are so many outdoorsy attractions nearby. I really want to go back for a real visit soon.
Did you ever take the tram? I recently learned about this tram situation and posted a blog about it. $12 for a 24 hour pass… WHAT!? I know. the tram is similar to that of Disney World. Pretty nice and takes you all the way from SLS/ W hotel down to MGM.
I didn’t know that existed. I walked the whole way just wandering back and forth from one side of the street to another so I could see as much as possible. I’ll keep the tram in mind though because I’d like to go back for a longer visit someday.
It’s definitely not pedestrian friendly!! LOL I think they try to keep you in the casinos by designing it that way. I tried to walk to in and out last time I was in vegas and it took way longer because we got lost. There’s a lot you can’t see in google maps!
I Love Vegas! It is an awesome city! You can never run out of things to do regardless of who you are with!
Oh Vegas, I love you and hate you at the same time. In a 2 year span I had been 7 times. Then after 3 more years I was back 2 times in 6 months. Work, Play, you name it I visited for it.
The walking was ehh and I was super thankful for the tram. I never knew how family friendly until my 2nd visit when 3/4 of the plane were all families with small kids.
Such great insight!
What a pain that the shuttle service took so long. That trip sounded like a time waster. But you got there in the end. I think I was about 23 when I first visited Vegas and I felt like it was such a strange place. I loved the water show outside the Bellagio and some of the casinos really were lovely. I was most surprised at the fact that you could carry alcohol and drink on the street.
I go to Vegas every year, I love it and these tips seem spot on! There is a ton to do but getting around is always harder than you think. Plus the casinos are so vast, they look closer than they are.
you can do a lot with some extra hours 🙂
I’m surprised you found it difficult walking along the strip. I visited couple years back so maybe now it’s different, but when I was there, I loved the fact that everything was within walking distance and super easy to get to. Although I do agree carrying a stroller around might be different, but it’s Vegas! Leave the kids at home hahaa.
Vegas never really seemed like a place that I’d want to visit when there’s so many other cooler places but I think it’s a place I should probably check off my list lol.
I love the Vegas Strip! It’s surprisingly fun just to walk about and see the lights galore. That’s enough for me, I don’t even want to gamble because there’s so much eye candy outside!
I’ve only ever been for work and we stayed in the casino/hotel the entire time except to go to another casino’s club! I’ll have to give it a shot as an actual traveler.
Not a huge fan of Las Vegas, though like you, my first visit surprised me. There was more to see and do than I originally thought (as a non gambler). You’re right, lots of bridges and crosswalks to navigate. Overall, an experience!
Vegas is such a surreal place, I can never decide if it’s somewhere I’d want to go back to! Shame it was such a shambles with that shuttle but sounds like you utilised your time there! Your photos are stunning too. 🙂
I agree that everyone should visit Vegas once. In my early 20’s this was a fun place to let off a bit of steam. Vegas is the adult version of Walt Disney World… Everything is designed to pull money out of your pocket. From what I’ve heard from “old-timers” Vegas run by the mob was WAAAYYYY better than the corporation version. At least you had a chance and they understood what customer service is. For example, “junk-its” used to be things that normal folks could afford. You could feel like a VIP as long as you spent a few hours gambling everyday. Now it’s all about the bottom dollar meaning they don’t care unless you come with millions. Now that I’m older I don’t think I’ll ever go back unless I have to. Would rather spend my time exploring NYC if I am going to pay for a plane ticket.
Great article! Thanks for the tips
Loved this! If I have less than 24 hours for a layover I just hang out at the airport, I think you might have inspired me to be more adventurous!
It’s fun to get out and explore if you have enough time. I think six hours is the minimum needed to see anything meaningful. I once intentionally booked a 17-hour layover in Amsterdam just so I could spend the evening in town and get a taste of the city. We had just enough time for a canal cruise, dinner, and a good night’s sleep before continuing our trip home.
No wonder Las Vegas is still the casino capital of the world! Thanks for sharing this.