You know how some people can see their favorite band hundreds of times, because the show is never the same? From the set list to the improvised guitar riffs, each one is individual, surprising and unforgettable. That’s exactly how it is for me and Vegas.
I’ve updated 13 guidebooks about Vegas, and cover the city constantly, so I’m in town up to eight times a year. And every time, I have an experience that beats my wildest expectations in a uniquely different way, and one that couldn’t have happened in any other city in our fine nation. Each visit feels like falling in love all over again. Here, in no particular order, are a few of my faves.
Seeing a Concert in an Awe-Inducing Space
Las Vegas has theaters that, rather than being just a backdrop to a concert, represent destinations onto themselves. The new Park Theater at Park MGM is one such place. Sweeping staircases, crystal chandeliers and a wall of windows are just a few of the exquisite touches that stood out to me the first few times I visited. I also love the intimacy of this space. There are only 5,200 seats, which means nobody is more than 150 feet from the stage. Whichever musical act you’re lucky enough to have snagged tickets for, you can guarantee the show will feel magical, immediate and unforgettable.
Witnessing Theatrical Magic
There’s a moment in every Cirque du Soleil show when I close my eyes because I simply can’t bear to watch what these incredibly talented people are doing with their bodies. In O at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, it was the jump scene, when the acrobat leaps 60 feet into a stage full of water. In other shows, it’s been something more subtle: A human pretzel, perhaps, or something similar. I’m not a show guy, but these performers can lead me to the same place time and time again. That alone is pretty special. Add in the feats of derring-do and it’s downright awesome in the truest sense of the word.
Surrounding Yourself With Natural Wonder
Another favorite spot in the hinterlands: the Hoover Dam, which is about a 30-minute drive from the Strip. I’m a bit of an engineering geek, so I love the hour-long Bureau of Reclamation tour that winds into the powerplant and passageways that are inside the dam itself. For a different way to experience the site, rent a bike in Boulder City and bicycle (downhill) on the River Mountains Loop trail to the Alan Bible Visitor Center and follow the Historic Railroad Trail through five old train tunnels to the dam.
Experiencing the Splendors of Luxor
They don’t have elevators inside Luxor—instead they have “inclinators,” which take you up on the inside of the pyramid on an incline. The first time I rode one, I refused to believe it’d be any different. Boy, was I wrong! The experience mimics the one you get on a ship at sea. The quirk is totally Vegas.The inclinators aren’t the only unique aspects of life inside the pyramid. Another of my favorite destinations is the HyperX Esports Arena — a former nightclub reborn into a gaming paradise where you can be captivated watching whiz kids compete, or take to the consoles yourself. There’s even a vintage video game cocktail bar. Win, win, win.
Sipping Tea While Drinking in the View
Afternoon tea in the lounge on the 23rd floor of the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas is an exquisite affair, with the requisite finger sandwiches, scones, tea and goodies. What makes the experience particularly memorable, however, is the view — from your comfortable perch, you can see straight up Las Vegas Boulevard all the way to the The STRAT Hotel, Casino & Skypod. No matter how many times I go, it still takes my breath away.
Submitting to Supreme Pampering
Shaving isn’t something I take too seriously. When I actually trim my facial hair, I do it myself. But after a recent winning streak in Vegas, I splurged for a decadent straight-edge shave in the barbershop at Wynn Las Vegas Barbershop. The Master Barber warmed my face with a hot towel, then covered my mug with homemade shaving cream. He did his thing for the better part of an hour. It was the closest shave I’ve ever had.
Toasting Your Good Fortune High in the Sky
Many cities have giant observation wheels, but Las Vegas is home to the world’s largest. One of the quintessentially Vegas experiences in the 550-foot-tall High Roller is something called the Happy Half Hour. Basically, it’s one full rotation in a pod with an open bar. Sipping a superbly mixed drink while marveling at the views of the Vegas Valley felt like I was kicking indulgence into overdrive.
Finding Quirky Camaraderie in a Speakeasy
Speakeasies are all the rage in Las Vegas now, but there was a time when the only one was the The Laundry Room, tucked inside downtown’s 6,000-square foot cocktail bar, Commonwealth. The first time I went in, a friend and I stayed for hours, hanging with the bartender and sampling craft cocktails. At the end of the night—as a joke, really—I requested the pianist play a song from Sesame Street. He obliged. We all sang it together. It was absurd and random and wonderful. In Las Vegas, it didn’t surprise me at all.
Relishing a Retro-Tinged Night Out at the Peppermill
Neon lights. Sunken fire pits with bubbling fountains (seriously). 1980s music videos playing on loop. Giant scorpion bowls filled to the brims with sweet tropical drinks. This is the Peppermill, in all of its kitschy, 1970s glory. The first time I came to this North Strip diner and bar was after a long night of partying and clubbing on the Center Strip. It’s now a critical stop on most of my return adventures — and a quintessential part of the Vegas experience I’ve come to know and love. I recommend it to all my friends headed to the city for the first time. After all, part of the magic of Vegas lies in paying it forward and sharing your one-of-a-kind discoveries with your favorite people.