I used to be embarrassed by the fact that Las Vegas is one of my favorite vacation destinations, but whatever: I’m now at a point in my life where I am confident enough to embrace the weird joys of a place where the Mojave glows bright with organized chaos.

You’re not necessarily going to find me dancing on banquettes, but I love Vegas because it allows me to eat well, do some great people watching (the wedding chapel at Caesars is great), enjoy ridiculous activities (ahem, Chippendales), and play slots at both 1pm and 1am in my pajamas. The city exists to entertain! But contrary to popular belief, not all of that entertainment is about binge drinking and losing your money. Disagree? Think Vegas is too much crass, not enough class? Keep an open mind, and allow me to address your concerns one by one.

It’s sketchy.

First things first: safety concerns can be an unfortunate side effect of traveling as a woman, but Vegas is very invested in keeping a reputation as a friendly place. More importantly, casino security is quite strict when it comes to booting rowdy, dangerous individuals. (But one very important note to remember: Always watch your drink, particularly if you are at a club or on the casino floor.)

I have zero gambling experience and am deathly afraid of approaching any tables.

You can go to Vegas and never gamble a single penny. For the rest of us, set a gaming budget for yourself up front and stick to it. As for the games themselves: Dealers are there to answer questions and to guide you through the process, so be upfront with them. Remember, it’s their job to make sure you have a nice experience and to continue to spend money on their table. Beginners would be wise to start with the inexpensive tables; as a naturally cheap person, I’m partial to the $5 poker games. If all that still sounds nauseating, then give slots a chance. According to my Vegas slot insider (I swear, there is such a thing), this year casinos are introducing slot games of both Mad Men and Friends. I don’t know about you, but two hours playing Don Draper penny slots sounds like a night well spent.

I’m not a drinker.

That’s cool — and once you take alcohol out of the equation, your time in Vegas might be much less expensive. For an alternate beverage-based activity, I have had some excellent tea service at both the Petrossian Bar at the Bellagio and the Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental. If you happen to like art, there are dozens of galleries within casinos that typically aren’t crowded; the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is probably the snazziest art destination, but there are some lovely places to visit at the Venetian/Palazzo, the Aria, and the Cosmopolitan as well.

I actually want bottle service for a special occasion, but I’d prefer to not be surrounded by people who look they belong on a Bravo reality show.

Fizz at Caesars Palace is one of my favorite lounges: They have an excellent champagne selection and a reserved VIP section on the second floor that is not soul-crushingly expensive. It’s also owned by Elton John and his husband David Furnish, and the lounge is decorated with their personal art collection. Some other places that tend to not look like they are populated with cast-members from Vanderpump Rules are Laguna Champagne Bar at the Venetian and Parasol Up or Parasol Down at the Wynn.

I’m not sure it’s really worth it to see Mariah Carey or Britney Spears.

Girl, are you crazy? OF COURSE it’s worth it. A number of artists are really embracing the Vegas experience and it makes for a concert atmosphere that is really fuck-all and fun. And don’t forget comedy shows, which are a great entertainment option. I’m rather partial to a series that the Venetian hosts called Lipshtick, which presents female comics like Joy Behar, Loni Love, and Jen Kirkman.

I don’t like buffets or the Cheesecake Factory.

Okay, fine, but the Cheesecake Factory in Caesars Palace is not to be scoffed at! Nevertheless, one of the great things about Las Vegas is that it offers such a spectrum of dining options, from fulfilling cheap eats to legitimately great American restaurants. At New York New York you will find both a Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and Shake Shack. I’m a tapas gal, so I’ve enjoyed both Julian Serrano at the Aria and Jaleo at the Cosmopolitan.

Okay, but I need to eat at a fancy-ish place, and I’d prefer to not spend an ungodly sum of money.

I would strongly consider both Sage at the Aria and Bardot Brasserie, also at the Aria. There are a number of high-end restaurants that offer some entirely reasonable prix fixe menus or special pre-theater options. If you are willing to dine a little earlier (before 6:30), then Le Cirque has a pretty fabulous menu that makes fancy dining affordable. Tell them you’re celebrating a special occasion, and they’ll bring you some free dessert of drinks (or both, if you’re particularly #blessed).

My idea of hell looks a lot like The Strip.

A major misconception about Las Vegas is that it’s limited to its world famous boulevard, beginning at the Mandalay Bay and ending at the Wynn. But lo and behold, there’s a rather large city that exists off the Strip. Downtown is filled with some really cool restaurants to try. If you like tequila then La Comida is your heaven; Le Thai will make noodle fans sing; VegeNation caters to the vegan crowd. Bonus: all these places are bro-free.


Jessica Montoya Coggins is a writer and journalist in New York. She will be in Las Vegas next week and you will probably find her at either the Mad Men or Friends slot machines. Follow her on Twitter: @JessicaMCoggins

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