The Functional Adult Woman’s Guide to Las Vegas Nightlife

Illustration for article titled The Functional Adult Woman’s Guide to Las Vegas Nightlife

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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Image via Shutterstock.

Flygirl is Jezebel’s travel blog dedicated to adventures big and small, tips and tricks for navigation, and exploring the world at large. Have a story or an idea? We’re always taking submissions; email us with “Flygirl” AND your topic in the subject line. No pitches in the comments, please.

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DISCUSSION

I live in Las Vegas. Sadly, I downloaded our bank account from since we moved here, and we’ve spent around $15K eating out in the last year. M Life (MGM’s rewards program) bumped our status because we spend so much money on food. It’s a bad place to live as a foodie.

My recommendations for Vegas newbies/where I take people who visit.

Lunch: Mon Ami Gabi @ Paris. Sit on the patio and take in the Bellagio Fountains. Never disappoints a guest.

Favorite dinner/show combo: Mesa Grill at Casears then Absinthe after. Absinthe is a fun smaller cult like show with a little bit of everything.

Favorite cirque show: Zarkana by far for the acrobatics. Ka has the best story. O at Bellagio is expensive and intersting, but I almost fell alseep after a big meal. Same for Le Reve at Wynn. Something about water and the music in these shows.

Favorite cocktail bar: Mandarin Oriental’s bar. Great views, and awesome cocktails.

Favorite brunch: Border Grill @ Mandalay. Bottomless tapas style mexican fair, and it’s a big local favorite. People say it’s the only brunch that will bring them down to the strip.

Favorite hotel to stay (splurge): Wynn/Encore. You’ll never want to leave.

Favorite steak: Botero at Encore or Cut at Palazzo.

Biggest tourist trap: High Roller. Okay fine, go do it. But for godsakes, DO NOT PAY FULL PRICE. Livingsocial has good deals on the High Roller if you really want to do it. Also, the happy HALF hour ride is a waste of money. How many can you actually drink in 30 minutes? One of the girls in our pod got motion sickness and vomited, so we were stuck in a pod for half an hour with vomit. Good times.

Best place to shake your booty: Foundation Room @ Mandalay is fun. Awesome view of the Strip. Avoid ultra clubs if that’s not your thing, trust me. They are so crowded, I’ve been pickpocketed at the fame XS in Vegas because it feels like you’re at Mardi Gras where you move with the crowd. Marquee at Cosmo has a large outdoor area that helps with this feeling, but unless you’re getting bottle service, go to one of the many lounges/bars and have a drink. Most will even have live music at night, so you can still have fun. Just not EDC fun.

Best tip: Join both Total Rewards and M Life before coming. That covers most of the big hotels on the strip, and you’ll get lots of discounts on food. I played $5 in slots at Flamingo and Total Rewards gave me a room comp.

Best tip 2: CALL DIRECTLY TO BOOK SHOW TICKETS!!!!!!!!! Ticketmaster is not your friend here. Use ticket master to find the seats you want, then call. Not only do they always have some special going, but the service fees are cheaper. If you book cirque tickets through ticketmaster, you will be paying more. Also, see tip #1 - be a rewards club member! We’ve saved hundreds on hundreds booking directly.

Gambling: Don’t be afraid to sit down at a blackjack table during the day and tell the dealer you’re a newbie. They’ll help. You can ask them, “what does the book say?” and they’ll tell you what the rules say to do. And if you’re not a drunken fool, they’ll usually help guide you to make smart moves. Just don’t play craps. With blackjack you don’t lose money as quickly, so you can play, lose $20, and move along. With craps, you can be out $100 in one roll. No thank you.

Edit:

Oh, and yes the Hoover Dam is worth it. Super cool! If it’s not boiling hot, Red Rock Canyon is great for hiking. If you’re staying for a while, google Mt. Charleston. Right outside of Vegas, and at a high enough elevation that it has a ski resort.