highlights of our Las Vegas get-away
My husband and I use Vegas as a quick getaway when we want sun, warm and good food. It’s a relatively inexpensive vacation (airfare deals can be found and depending on your budget and time of year, nice hotels aren’t too outrageous). It also gives us the chance to get away but we don’t feel like we need a whole week to take it all in.
When to go
We’ve gone to Vegas in February when the weather was pretty mild and required a coat, in April when it’s still cold at home and the 80's and 90's feel like winter is long gone, and in September when it’s still pretty hot – hitting the mid 90's at least. The last couple of years we’ve gone the second week of June and, I don’t know how we got so lucky, both trips have been sandwiched between 105+ days but we lucked out and got 80's and mid-90's. I don’t think we ever plan on being that lucky, but this week has played out well for us weather-wise and it’s relatively quiet from a crowd perspective.
If you can handle the heat, we’ve found going in June gives us the best deals for airfare and hotel, plus it’s less crowded and easier to find reservations for even the hard to book restaurants.
Where we stay
We are creatures of habit and when we find a good thing, we stick to it. We have stayed at Caesar’s (Augustus Tower) the last seven visits and are never disappointed. We like Caesar’s for the accommodations but also because it’s in the center of the strip, making walking the strip convenient. It’s also attached to the Forum shops and restaurants so we can stay inside if we’ve had enough sun and heat. There are plenty of places to eat within the hotel, casino and Forum area but I’ll get to that later. There are also several sundry shops around to grab those necessities you may have forgotten or to grab water or anything else before going up to your room.
Our kids are getting to the age (13 and 9) that we’ve talked about taking them to Vegas, but our getaway and what we do as adults (i.e. we like nice restaurants) would need to change. We would most likely pick a more family friendly hotel like Mandalay Bay (family pool scene and wave pool). There are so many fun exhibits we think they’d enjoy when we aren’t at the pool and the food scene is so varied I think we are close to bringing them. I don’t know if they’d like the heat, but many of the hotels are connected or have short outdoor pedestrian bridges or monorails. So you could really stay out of the heat and get around easily. We tend to cab it if we are going the full length of the strip - but if you plan out which places to see, everything is walk-able.
Where we eat
Prior to every trip we scope out the new restaurants, the best rated restaurants and some that we’ve seen on past trips but haven’t had a chance to try. It’s hard to narrow down but we like to at least have reservations set up (we use the Open Table app) for each night. Some trips we have them set, but then see another restaurant and make a switch. We usually do lunch more spontaneous depending on where we are and what we are in the mood for.
This trip our restaurant choices did not disappoint and we will definitely go back to several. Here’s where we ate at during our most recent trip:
Gordon Ramsey’s Pub & Grill (Caesar’s, lunch) – we’ve been to this pub before and usually use it as our first stop to eat once we’ve checked into our room. A cold beer and some pub appetizers is what we want when we don’t want to think about where to go. This time we tried the sliders, pork belly and crispy calamari. We’ve tried many other items during our past trips and I don’t think there’s anything we’ve had that we wouldn’t repeat. All were very good and, like I said, we always go back.
YardBird (Venetian, dinner) – this casual, hopping place has southern specialities and has the perfect comfort food. My husband had the fried chicken and I had a chicken pot pie. We also had fried chicken on biscuit sliders that were so good I could have just had them for my meal. The prices are reasonable for a dinner in Vegas, and we would definitely go back - even with kids as there were kids of all ages there.
Momofuko (Cosmopolitan, lunch) – the name caught our attention the last time we were in Vegas and this time we happened to remember it and made a reservation. I don’t know that you need a reservation for lunch, but we did just in case. The servers were great, stopped to explain everything they brought to our table and were friendly and efficient. We had a couple of appetizers – spicy cucumbers in a scallion sauce (would love to make at home) and a pork belly bun – and noodles for our main course. I had the chilled spicy noodles that I think I could eat every day of my life and my husband had the pork ramen that had probably the best broth I’ve ever tasted. Definitely a repeat for us next trip.
Gordon Ramsey’s STEAK (Paris, dinner) – this dramatic restaurant brings you through their version of the Chunnel and then you are seated in a very beautiful steakhouse restaurant. The server was very nice and we decided to do the tasting menu, which offered quite a few of the Hell’s Kitchen staples (being former viewers of the show, we were familiar with a few of the dishes). We were seated in a booth right by the kitchen, so it gave us a view of what was going out of the kitchen (and was probably helpful when our tasting menu dinner hit a snag right before the main course so we knew why). All the courses came out soon after we were finished with the prior, but right before our main course (the famed Beef Wellington) the servers were waiting on food. There must have been a party upstairs that hit right before our course was due to be fired and then we waited. And waited. While the first three courses came out within a 20 minute time frame, there was 35+ minute wait to get the main course. If Gordon was there, I'm sure we would have heard him. The dessert was probably my favorite part – sticky toffee pudding. The entire meal was very good, and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you’re a Gordon Ramsey or Hell’s Kitchen fan. I believe our service snag was just that, something random. We weren’t in a hurry and had the entertainment of the kitchen in front of us, so no damage done.
Canonita (Venetian, lunch) – we’ve walked past this Mexican restaurant many times and decided to try it one day for lunch. It’s right along the canal so you feel like you are in Venice, with the gondolas going past but you get to enjoy the best Mexican food. We ordered the chips and salsa, two margaritas (which were fresh and very good, and went down way too fast) and our entrees. I had a chicken burrito which was more than I could eat and my husband had the carne asada. He’s had that at Mexican restaurants before, but he said it didn’t compare to any he’s had. Service was friendly and quick, and the price was very reasonable. If this restaurant was at home, we would be eating here every week. Kid friendly, definitely a repeat contender for next time.
Sage (Aria, dinner) – had we not had Mexican for lunch, we would have kept our reservation for Bobby Flay’s Mesa at Caesar’s. We’ve walked past it many times and it has good reviews, but given what we had for lunch we decided to look for an alternative for dinner. After a search through Open Table (and given the low crowds there were a lot of options open despite it being Restaurant Week) we settled on Sage. What a find. A beautiful, quiet restaurant (we were the only ones in the restaurant for the first 30 minutes but I have to believe given the type of restaurant this is it will still be on the quieter side, server said the third week of June is always quiet). Our servers were charming, on point with descriptions and kept everything coming very nicely. The food was some of the best we’ve had. We started with English Pea soup and I don’t know if the presentation or the taste was better. My husband also ordered the sweetbreads, which I declined but he said the dish was as good as those he’s had in Paris. I had the veal cheeks for a main course, and I’ve only seen that offered on a menu at a 5 star restaurant at a Ritz. If you’ve never had veal cheeks (yes, I know … but they were all ready in the kitchen and would have gone to waste if I didn’t), it’s more tender than a filet. Like really “cut with a fork” without even trying. My husband had the Iberico “Secreto” Pork. Again, a dish you won’t see many times in your life. We would recommend this restaurant in a heartbeat and hope to hit in again on a future trip.
At all of these restaurants we passed on dessert (except for STEAK’s sticky toffee pudding) because we didn’t want to be too full and also there are so many places to get gelato or other desserts so unfortunately I can’t comment on the sweets.
Our breakfasts were pretty low key, eating at Pronto by Giada two mornings (very good breakfast sandwiches, coffee) because it was quick serve. The last morning we ate at Café Americano at Caesar’s as a treat. A very good but somewhat expensive breakfast but you can be in and out in 30 minutes or take your time.
Some other restaurants we’ve enjoyed while being in Vegas (and I’ll note which I’d repeat):
- Emeril’s Delmonico Steak (3x, wont repeat now as we’ve found better)
- Wolfgang Puck’s Cut (1x, repeat worthy)
- Guy Savoy (1x, repeat worthy but set aside $800 for two at least!)
- Wolfgang Puck’s Spago (3x, lunch repeat worthy, just moved to a the old Todd English Olive’s spot at Bellagio)
- Michael Mina at Bellagio (1x, repeat worthy)
- Todd English Pub (3x, lunch repeat worthy)
- Nobu (1x, worth going but not a repeat for us since Momofuko)
- Eiffel Tower Restaurant (1x, worth the view but not a repeat)
- Tao at the Venetian (1x, repeat worthy if only for the potential celebrity sightings)
- Beijing Noodle No 9 (1x, lunch repeat worthy)
- Hofbrauhaus (1x, just like you were in Germany, fun time and fun with kids if they eat the food, taxi needed)
Oh the list could go on for what we’ve tried but I’ll leave it at that!
What we do
We aren’t gamblers, but we enjoy Vegas for the food (I know that’s obvious given what you just read through above), shopping and people watching. We do a lot of walking to see what’s changed, may go see an exhibit and we have done a few shows. Shows aren’t a high priority for us but if there were an entertainer we’d like to see, we would see it. We have done the impersonator shows where Marilyn, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and others come out and entertain us. We have also seen the show at the Flamingo with all the showgirls in the big headdresses. We haven’t seen Absinthe at Caesar’s but it seems to be pretty popular. And my childhood favorites, Donny and Marie, are still at the Flamingo and would be fun to see. There are always A list performers in residency at Caesar’s and I think Jennifer Lopez has started her run at Planet Hollywood.
Shopping can be affordable if you go to the Fashion Show Mall or the Miracle Mile Mall where there are shops you see at home. The shops at the Forum, Bellagio, City Center and the Wynn are upscale and are fun to window shop. If you want to splurge, buy a handbag at Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Guicci and many more drool-worthy shops. There are memorabilia shops in the Forum, with the sports shops usually offering signing opportunities with sports heroes from the past (I.e. Mike Tyson, Pete Rose). At the Venetian is Antiquities that was a stop for Michael Jackson’s shopping trip to Vegas. They play a video of him shopping there. The Promenade near the Linq is a nice walk with lots of restaurants and shops, and The High Roller Ferris Wheel is at the end. They recently added to New York’s sidewalk area, with some restaurants along the side, with park benches and misting water areas to keep you cool in the heat.
Attractions or exhibits we’ve done in Vegas include the Body Works (Luxor and Bally’s), the Mandalay Bay Aquarium, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Titanic (Luxor), CSI Experience, Ferrari exhibit (Wynn), and various art exhibits (usually at the Bellagio). When thinking of bringing kids, most of these are kid friendly. We will definitely checking out the Esports Arena at the Luxor which just opened, as it will appeal to our game loving kids (and my husband).
There are other things to do outside the strip, especially if you make it into a family vacation. Hoover Dam is relatively close and worth a look. A trip to Sam’s Town can get you away from the strip for a few hours. A trip to downtown Las Vegas is a way to see some of the older casinos.
I hope this was helpful. As I said, we love Vegas for so many reasons but mainly because it can be done with three nights away and it never disappoints.