By Kevin Wilkerson, PubClub.com Las Vegas Blogger
Here’s all you need to know – what to expect regarding attitudes, customs, transportation, weather and more in Las Vegas.
Myths and Legends of Las Vegas
Yes, it’s true. You can drink, gamble, eat and do just about everything else in Las Vegas 24 hours a day. In fact, about the only thing you cannot find in this town is a clock.
This is a city of excess. When one comes here, he/she is tempted to indulge, if it’s in the pampering, the gambling or the partying. Or all of the above.
This is also a city of convenience. No matter what one desires – be it a beer at six in the morning or a room full of call girls – it can be obtained any place, any time (prices do vary greatly according to one’s desires).
Finally, this is a city of great contrasts. Las Vegas is the only place in the world where you can view $300 million of artwork one minute and eat a $7.99 buffet the next.
Las Vegas is part reality, part fiction and all energy. The casinos, the most elegant of which are located in mega-hotels along a 5-mile corridor known as the Strip, are huge, lavish creations. They are full of lights, but no clocks or windows.
This is all part of the plan so people won’t know (or care) about the time. Casinos look exactly the same at 3 in the morning as they do at 3 in the afternoon. It makes for a pretty carefree existence until you realize the whole point is to make one forget what is going on outside so people will stay inside and gamble.
We provide the true pubs and clubs information in Las Vegas in the PubClubbing section, but it’s important to note that this is a free-flowing, late-night city. There are no laws limiting liquor sales, so clubs can stay open through the breakfast buffets.
The clubs located in the casinos close at around 4 a.m., in the hope that slightly impaired patrons will then hit the gaming tables. Off-site clubs with no gambling revenue to fall back on can stay open until the last person leaves.
There was a day when Las Vegas was one of the most inexpensive places on the planet. There are still good bargains available – room rates can be as low as $29 at the right time of year – but the city has definitely gone upscale, especially on the Strip. Many of those fantastic bargains with which helped identify Vegas as much as its gambling are now gone. The famous buffets, once within easy grasp of a $5 bill, are now reaching upwards of $15-30. It’s still not a bad price for platefuls of food, but not quite the ultra-cheap eats of years past. Those deals are still out there, but you’ve really got to seek them out to find them.
Sex in The City
It’s here. In fact, it’s everywhere.
This is, we are quite certain, the only city in the world that provides free lap dance coupons for strip clubs in the local newspapers.
Look through the phone book and there are 100 pages offering room service of a different kind.
Prostitution is not legal in the city’s limits and in theory, at least, one has to go out of the city limits for such activities. However, hiring an “escort” is as easy as walking out to the street. Here is a great irony of Las Vegas: hookers are illegal yet dozens of people who look like they are playing hookie from high school hand out magazines touting photos and phone numbers of seductive girls for hire.
As if that isn’t enough, magazine racks line the sidewalks offering the same material. The reality of the situation is that if you want sex for hire, it’s available. Then, of course, there are the city’s world-famous strip clubs.
For a look at how to get laid in Vegas, read this entertaining article my Mr. Lay Vegas!
Orientation and Lodging Basics In Las Vegas
Just arriving in Vegas and seeing the Strip brings thrills to many visitors.
Just arriving in Las Vegas is entertaining. By car, the skyline of the casinos suddenly pops out of the desert landscape and captivates the senses. By air, the city’s barren surroundings surrender almost instantly to the buildings and glory of the Strip.
These effects (as is the case with much of Las Vegas) is magnified at night. This is somewhat ironic, considering the place is bathed in sunshine 294 days a year, but Vegas is an indoor playpen, not an outdoor barbecue.
This town is all about overload. It’s this way from the moment you arrive until you drive or fly out of sight. Everywhere the eye looks, there are dozens of signs advertising things like, “Best Steakhouse in Vegas.” “Voted Best Show.” “Entertainer of the Year.” You name it. These ads are everywhere – on the streets, on the tops of cabs, on the back of cabs, even inside the cabs.
After a while, it crosses the mind that not all these messages can be true, as many brag about winning the same award. After all, there can surely be only one buffet “Voted Best in Las Vegas.” Keep it all in perspective. There are dozens of sources for those awards and some may be as out of date as disco balls.
Most people – and they are here by the tens of thousands – have booked rooms through a hotel or a package deal. .There are more than 100,000 hotel rooms in Vegas. And more are always on the way.
Because the hotels prefer you spend your coins in their casino, the rates are often fabulous and the accommodations are first-rate. It is possible, though not always advisable, to secure rooms on-site without advance reservations.
Be aware, though, that rooms in Las Vegas are an example of Economics 101 in its most basic form. That is to say, prices are completely dictated by supply and demand. A $39 rate one night could go for $250 the next if it happens to be during one of the city’s big conventions or any major sporting evens.
Sundays-Thursdays are cheapest, while weekends are 2-3 times more expensive. Still, on the average it is possible to stay in a clean, large room in elegant surroundings for less than $100 a night.
Finally, there are the slot machines. They are everywhere: in the airport, the pubs, convenience stores, grocery stores and especially the casinos. Eventually, their constant “ding, ding” sound will become as familiar as a bar tab.
The Hotels and Casinos/Gambling
Caesar’s Palace. Mandalay Bay. The Venetian. New York, New York. Paris. MGM Grand. Bellagio. The Wynn. We could go on and on, and in fact they do in Vegas. “Spectacle” is the key word here.
Nearly each hotel and casino presents a different “theme” based on a place (New York, Paris, Venice, Rio) or time (Roman era at Caesar’s, Medieval at Excalibur).
They are masterpieces in design and concept, covering entire city blocks and containing fine artwork, frescoed ceilings, sculptures, live animals, exploding volcanos or whatever can be created by their creative masters. Entire shopping malls, restaurants, bars offering margaritas by the yard and complete re-creations of actual cities are contained within their walls.
The purpose of all this is to entice people inside the various casinos to gamble. They might as well have a guy with a hook yanking people off the street.
These hotels are one of the greatest aspects of Las Vegas. Everyone is free to stroll their grounds as if a prince or princes. Even those of modest means can stay in one of the hotels for around a hundred dollars and be pampered like a millionaire. Las Vegas takes courteous service to a level as high as its The STRAT Hotel, Casino & Tower and can put visitors in a virtual reality fantasy that many could otherwise only dream of experiencing.
Gambling is what makes it all possible, and the games run the gamut: blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat, all kinds of poker and the ever-present slot machines. Las Vegas has more slot machines than McDonald’s has hamburgers.
To further dazzle the gamblers, most of the casinos offer free shows built around their particular theme. For instance, there is a mesmerizing dancing water show at Bellagio in a small lake, an entertaining Mardi Gras show complete with live band that rotates around the ceiling at the Rio, a lion habitat at MGM Grand and $1 million around a horseshoe at the Horseshoe Casino downtown.
“Where does it all end,” many people ask.. “Why should it?” I respond.
Enjoy the shows, the glitz – everything these places have to offer. Part the fun of Vegas is walking in and out of the different casinos, soaking in the different themes. It’s a microcosm of the world located within a few blocks.
Just keep in mind that their owners did not build these masterpieces and offer cheap room rates out of the goodness of their hearts. They exist because people gamble, and the odds are in the favor of the casino. As proof, notice that all those moving sidewalks always go INTO the casinos, but never out.
Getting Around Town In Las Vegas
Vegas welcomes visitors with not only open arms but open taxi doors, as well.
Las Vegas has almost as many taxi cabs and Uber/Lyft drivers as slot machines. In fact, there are 2,000 of them on the street at any given time and are often the best method for bar and casino-hopping. Some clubs and casinos can be reached by foot, but the Venetian, MGM, Rio, Mandalay Bay and Hard Rock are all a ride away from one another.
Many of the journeys are less than 10 minutes. The drivers are an interesting mix of people who chat with you, ask you where you are from, if you’ve ever been to Las Vegas and even suggest restaurants, bars and casinos. The information they provide is pretty reliable, though it can vary greatly from driver to driver. It’s better to check often on PubClub.com.
They can be grabbed at any hotel. It’s such a big business there’s a specific line for taxi and ride share riders complete with a valet who hails the vehicle and opens the door, treating you as you were a movie star getting into a limo (be sure and tip him/her a dollar or gaming chip). On busy nights, this process can take up to a half an hour.
Hailing down a ride on the street is surprisingly difficult. Most are already transporting passengers and the empty ones are often harassed by police for stopping in the street. To catch a ride away from a hotel, flag it down in an area where it can turn off the street, such as a parking lot.
When in Vegas – and especially on the Strip – leave the driving to the pros.
Forget about driving. Traffic is terrible. The Strip after dark is like American Graffiti without the drag racing – all vehicles, all the time. For those who must drive, stick to the back side of the casinos around Paradise Road. This thoroughfare runs parallel to the Strip and has only about a quarter of the traffic, meaning it’s almost possible to occasionally reach the speed limit.
The airport is conveniently located about 10 minutes from the Strip, so renting a car is necessary only for out-of-town day trips. Shuttles from the airport are $15 one way to hotels on the Strip.
An alternate form of transportation are the free shuttle buses provided by the casinos. The Hard Rock and the Rio have easily identifiable buses; the latter has pickups at the Information Center and Harrah’s. The Hard Rock pick-ups are at the MGM and Fashion Show Mall.
The Las Vegas Monorail runs from the MGM to the Sahara in 15 minutes, with stops at the Bally’s/Paris, the Flamingo Hilton, Harrah’s, the Convention Center and the Las Vegas Hilton. This is often faster than the taxis and ride shares and is an excellent and efficient way to get to and from conentions. The fare is $5.50 for one ride and $13.45 for 24 hours.An more limited monorail system connects the Mirange and Treasure Island, the Bellagio and Monte Carlo, the Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay, and Bally’s and MGM, all for free.
Yet the easiest way to see Vegas is to walk. Moving by foot is not only efficient, but affords the luxury of stopping into the different casinos along your way. Pedestrian bridges, moving sidewalks (again, always in, never out) and the occasional monorail takes visitors from casino to casino.
Now here’s the really cool part about walking: it is perfectly legal to have open containers on the Strip. The weather is usually sunny and warm, so grab a drink and take a stroll.
Las Vegas also offers public bus service, but no self-respecting PubClubber would ever be caught rolling up to Caesar’s Palace in a bus.
The Tourists In Las Vegas
If you go to Vegas, you must enjoy people, and we just don’t mean fellow PubClubbers. Las Vegas is full of tourists. Even during the “slow” times of late November thru Christmas, the streets and casinos are packed.
There aren’t many kids but there are a lot of parents and grandparents some of whom, it seems, are making their first journey out of Iowa. These otherwise fine folks tend to stop stone cold in doorways, escalators, elevator exits and everywhere else that leads into a larger area in order to gawk at the incredible excesses overloading their senses. This causes people more familiar with such surroundings to ram into their backsides in their attempt to actually go some place.
They also don’t dress particularly well. They wear what you always hope your parents won’t but often do. That is, colored sox with shorts for dad, an old-fashioned dress halfway between the knee and ankle for mom. Then again, high fashion for many Vegas tourists is as lost as money on a poor poker hand. Bad Hawaiian shirts or cheap t-shirts draped over massive beer bellies are as common as Armani suits.
Oddly, these fashion opposites are often standing side-by-side. Once in the clubs, though, the dress is largely to impress.
Pubs and Clubs In Las Vegas –Customs & Rules
It’s always a party in Vegas’ pubs and clubs.
Finding a drink in Las Vegas is almost as simple as finding a place to gamble. The combination of the two is more intoxicating to casino owners than the alcohol is to the patrons, so they make it easy to obtain volumes of both.
In fact, those dropping everything from nickels in slot machines to thousands at the Baccarat tables drink for free (be sure, however, to always tip the waitress at least a dollar).
Vegas is well-suited to caterer to revelers. Alcohol, as is everything in this town, is consumed to the max. There are several free-standing bars and pubs in town, even a few brew pubs. But the casinos don’t let you leave that easily; each has two, three, four or more bars within its grounds.
Among these are the famous (or infamous) cocktail lounges featuring a variety of live bands ranging from excellent to mildly mediocre. Vegas is, after all, the king of the lounge act.
Drinking in casinos and clubs is not cheap, around $5-6 for a beer and $6-8 for a mixed drink. Some of the best drink bargains can be found downtown (Freemont Street) at the older casinos.
While alcohol is available anytime, the bars are sparsely populated until 11 p.m. In fact, the clubs don’t even open until then. They do, however, go strong until after 4 a.m. The drinking age is 21. The dress code depends on when and where one is drinking. Cocktail lounges, pubs and bars are as dressy or as casual personal tastes dictate. Late-night clubs are more discriminating, requiring hard shoes and collared shirts for men and restricting shorts, tennis shoes and t-shirts.
The smoking ban has yet to reach Las Vegas and is not ever likely to find a home here. Cigars are very popular.
The Lingo – How To ‘Speak Vegas’
Las Vegas has a language all it’s own. Here’s how to talk to impress:
• High Roller. Someone we’re not, a big gambler who spends his money at the tables rather than the bars in exchange for a free suite. Good guys to hang with, though. A casino catering to high rollers is known as a Carpet Joint. A low roller, by the way, is known as a Grind, Sucker or Tinhorn.
• Black Chip. A $100 casino chip.
• Boxman. Head man who supervises the craps table.
• Hard Count/Soft Count. Counting the coins from the slot machines/counting the bills from the gaming tables.
• Gaming Tables. The games played on tables, such as craps, blackjack and poker.
• Marryin’ Sam. Wedding chapel minister (yikes!).
• Stickman. The dude with the backscratcher-looking device in craps who handles the dice.
• Stiff. Winning gambler who doesn’t tip the dealer.
• Turkey. Someone who is unpleasant to the dealer.
• Toke. Gratuity (yeah, we think of it as something else, too).
The almighty dollars are king here, but you will need a lot of them. Quarters are important, too, for those trips to the slot machines.
Accessing money is frightfully easy. Dozens of automated teller machines are available in the casinos; just be certain they dispense money at that location. Some require you to take a receipt and fill out forms with the cashiers. We’ve only seen these in the Rio, but if they are there, they could be lurking elsewhere.
Credit cards are accepted here but casinos often require you to join their VIP club in order to cash checks. Restaurants, pubs and clubs all eagerly accept cash, coins, credit cards or even gambling chips if you are drinking in that particular casino.
(Highs) March-May (Spring): 78F
June-August (Summer): 102 F
September-November (Fall): 80 F
December-February (Winter): 58 F
Las Vegas is GMT -8.
When To Go
Unlike many destinations, Las Vegas is pretty much happening any time of the year.
The slowest times are around Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the busiest just before and just afterward with the mega trade shows, Comdex (mid-November) and Consumer Electronics Show (first week of January).
Attending the city during major boxing matches can also be challenging with eccentric crowds, entourages and bodyguards.
Prices for hotel rooms skyrocket during major conventions, but considering the city hosts close to 4,000 per year, the odds are there will be some type of show occurring any time of the season, be it the Charisma Group or the Roller Skating Association. Conventions tend to run Mondays-Thursdays, so weekends are filled more with revelers than folks from, say, the National Association of Demolition Contractors.
The weather in Las Vegas is a cool 66 degrees for a year-round average, but since it is located in the desert, it is subject to extreme temperature changes. In the summer months, it can be flat-out unbearable outside (despite what you hear about “dry heat”). In those times, we recommend the shorts-and-t-shirt wardrobe prevail; thankfully, many of the clubs relax their dress codes accordingly.
From October thru March, it can be surprisingly cold at night. Temperatures in the mid-30s are common in December and January and snowfall is not out of the question. In those months, don’t be fooled by the warm days. As soon as the sun goes and hides behind all those hotel/casinos, the temperature can drop by as much as 20 degrees.
Next Stop On The Las Vegas Party Bus: Pubclubbing In the Bars & Clubs!