It didn’t even occur to me to rent a car because I assumed the Las Vegas Strip was easy to walk. It’s not. We stayed at the Mandalay Bay, which is on one end of the Strip. On the other end is the Wynn. If you want to eat at The Buffet at the Wynn or shop at the Fashion Show Mall (it has Zara and Top Shop), then that will be tram ride from the Mandalay Bay to the Excalibur, then a 4 mile walk, one-way.
A cab will cost you about $14 but a five-day sedan rental will cost $170. I’d recommend the rental, especially if you can split the cost of the rental with friends. Luckily, Melody’s boyfriend, Chi, has been to Vegas before and reserved the rental for us. Thanks, Chi!
The rental made it possible for us to go on a day trip. The Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon are all within a 45-minute drive of the Strip. You can even drive to the Grand Canyon if you have the stamina for a 5-hour drive each way.
We chose the Hoover Dam because it was a quick and easy drive from the Strip. Also, none of the girls brought sneakers for hiking at Red Rock. We’re definitely going to Red Rock next time though.
The Hoover Dam was completed in the 1930s, so there are lots of Great Gatsby-esque details ingrained in the design: shiny gold doors, retro fonts, and statues galore. Really cool.
The views are breathtaking, which makes for lots of Kodak moments.
Admission is supposed to be $8, but no one asked us for money nor was there a ticket counter. So we got in for free (and so did everyone else, from what I could see). Tours are $30 and gets you access to the power plant. We’re cheap so we skipped that. Parking costs $7 but Chi found a spot across the street for free. So essentially, the entire trip was free versus the $30-$50 per person for a tour on Groupon and the like.
I’d highly recommend driving over and soaking in views of the beautiful Colorado River and reading about the heroic workers and even dogs that helped construct this masterpiece of architecture.
Las Vegas was fabulous! Since it was my first time, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m happy to report that the birthday girl had a blast and that before our trip was over we were already planning a return trip. The following are a few things I made a note of to share with those who are going to Vegas for the first time:
DON’T accept that everything is expensive. Prior to our trip, everyone kept telling us that Vegas was expensive. We did not find this to be true.
I’d previously shared that we got an amazing deal on a suite at the Mandalay Bay. While there were pricey restaurants and shops in the hotel, there were also many affordable alternatives. For example, in the Mandalay Bay, high roller options included Aureole, Fleur, and Stripsteak. For budget-conscious visitors, there was a frozen yogurt and waffle shop that sold food by the pound (59 cents per pound for a delicious, freshly-made waffle and toppings of your choice – huzzah!) and the House of Blues provided large portions and live music at a reasonable cost as well.
Moving onto the Strip: even though there are Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Rolex stores, there were also loads of discount and inexpensive options:
Vegas is very affordable, as long as you don’t lose all your money at the casinos.
DON’T dress to impress on the Strip, dress for comfort. There were mom jeans, socks-with-sandals, and sweatpants a-plenty on the strip. Wear whatever is comfortable and looks good on you during the day – for ladies, maxi dresses, sundresses, shorts, and sandals are more than sufficient to achieve casual chic for Vegas. For men, nice shorts and shirts are practically overdressing. ST wore shorts from Banana Republic and short-sleeve button-down shirts from the Gap with sneakers for most of the trip and he looked like he was dressed to meet President Obama compared to most fellas.
Clockwise: Heading out of the Wynn Buffet 5 pounds heavier, Tommy being nibbled by the polar bear at the Coca Cola Factory, and laughing it up at Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding.
Kim’s wearing a maxi dress and sandals from Forever21 and a denim jacket from Zara while I donned a comfy t-shirt dress from Urban Outfitters and Toms wedge sandals with these nice Elvis impersonators:
Nighttime attire is a different story. If you’re thinking about packing anything with long sleeves or a hemline close to the knee, ditch ‘em. Melody and Winnie assured me that I’d feel overdressed in a long-sleeve chiffon top and pleather shorts. They convinced me to wear this tiny dress and ankle strap sandals to Marquee instead:
Melody’s spikey-shouldered dress is from Forever21, Kim’s pleather peplum top is from Zara, and my two-tone strapless dress is something I bought years ago from Marshall’s. The statement necklace is from Banana Republic and is currently on sale in stores (no longer online).
And they were right. In general, anything with sleeves will make you feel overdressed. Girls are in ultra mini dresses and heels. Guys, bring a blazer. Here we are the next night before partying at 1 OAK:
Winnie’s dress is from H&M (old) and shoes are BCBG (Ross has these in hot pink! So cute and comfy). My peplum top is from Urban Outfitters (on sale for $9.99), leather skirt is from American Apparel (birthday gift), and the pumps are Luxury Rebel via Marshall’s. Melody’s play suit is by ASOS, the necklace is Prabal Gurung for Target, and the shoes are Dolce Vita via Marshall’s. Target has the same exact ones made with synthetic materials.
My outfit was a bit conservative but that couldn’t be helped – my feet were torn up from walking in sandals on the Strip and the top and skirt were all I had left.
DON’T pay to get into a club. Luckily for us, our cousin Winnie is a party animal and had lined up a few nights of clubbing with promoters she knew from previous trips. There are cover charges for most clubs that range from $20-30 for girls and guys. Not only did we get into Marquee and 1 OAK for free, we got free drinks at 1 OAK. Just dress cute/look like you want to party and promoters will just come up to you. We were approached by promoters for different clubs while we were in a club.
DON’T over pack. Take out half of what you plan to bring – you won’t need it. While walking the strip, you’ll inevitably shop and can get anything you didn’t bring.
DO bring your dang walking shoes. When ST and I go on vacation, walking is always on the agenda. We love grabbing a map, circling points of interest, and then hitting those spots throughout our stay. Suffice to say we are avid walkers. Yet, Vegas killed nearly killed us. One night after a few short hours of walking, we got back to the hotel and I had to soak in the jacuzzi for an hour. I’ve never had to do that! Additionally, my ankle swelled up from an old injury. That hasn’t happened in years! I think it was due to the fact that you have to climb up and down stairs in order to cross the street. In Vegas, pedestrian bridges are set up to accommodate the incredible amount of foot traffic without disrupting car traffic.
Definitely pack some pretty flat sandals. I wore a pair of black suede jeweled Nine West sandals that Kim gave me. They were much needed after a toe injury incurred by a night of hard partying. Oh yeah, bring Bandaids for your sore feet! I always tuck a few into my suitcase.
DO pack sunblock. Even in March when the temperatures at night drop below 50 F, the sun is unrelenting during the day. Generously slather sunblock all over your exposed skin, especially if you have tattoos (prolonged sun exposure causes your ink to fade). ST and I spent an hour in the sun by the pool and got burned a bit.
DO eat at buffets! In my opinion, Las Vegas is the buffet capital of the world. Every restaurant has a buffet and they range from average to exceptional. ST and I ate lunch at The Buffet at the Wynn and were amazed at the variety of gourmet eats. We also loved Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan. They’re $41 after tax per person for dinner or $26 for lunch and totally worth it. Plus, if you’re like me, eating at a buffet once will keep you full all day.
DO watch a show. I’ve always wanted to watch Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, so when I found a Groupon deal for $45, I immediately purchased tickets for our whole group. (For some reason, the Groupon can’t be Googled, so just go the Las Vegas Groupon site and scroll down until you find it.) We really enjoyed it and the food was exactly what we expected at a tacky Italian wedding – fattening and yummy. Travelzoo also has lots of low-cost options. Next time, we’re going to watch the iCandy Burlesque and Jabbawockeez shows.
DO rent a car and go on day trips. You’ll thank me for this, just as I thanked Melody’s boyfriend, Chi, for renting a car for our group. The strip is over 4 miles long and you don’t want to walk from one end to the other on foot or pay $14 for a cab ride each way. A detailed post for this tip is forthcoming.
I hope this helps any pre-trip researchers out there.