The city of Las Vegas is about as well known and recognizable as any travel destination on the planet. It’s a place where glittering resorts rise out of the desert, and where attractions range from touring rock bands to skyscraper-high amusement rides. While there are certainly other casino resort hubs in the U.S. and around the world, there’s just nothing quite like Vegas — which remains more or less the unofficial casino capital of the world.
Simply put, there’s no shortage of things to do if you ever find yourself visiting Vegas. In fact, the issue if anything is that there’s too much to do — to the point that it can be tricky for travelers to pick and choose while visiting.
There is ultimately no correct way to go about it, but to give a hand to people who might have Las Vegas on their travel lists, we’re taking a look at some of the “must-do” activities once there.
1. Play Real Poker
Casinos are still the beating heart of Las Vegas, and while they’re packed with all kinds of games, it’s hard to top poker. Aside from slots (which if we’re being honest aren’t all that fun), poker is the game most people associate with big, fancy casinos. For this reason alone, it’s actually quite a thrill to sit down at a real table in Vegas and try your luck (and skill!) with a professional dealer and live opponents. It may well still be the case that there’s no better place in the world to play poker.
With that said, you do have to put some thought into how and where you play. First and foremost, you’ll need to brush up on your poker terminology, so that you don’t balk at phrases like “big blind” or “heads up,” which come up fairly frequently. Similarly, you’ll want to refresh yourself on basic rules and etiquette, so that the flow of the game doesn’t surprise you (it all feels a little different at a real table than in an app or online!). And then most importantly you’ll need to decide where to play! Places like the Bellagio, the Wynn, the Venetian, and the newer (but spectacular) Aria, for instance, are all known for housing particularly high-quality poker areas. There isn’t a huge difference, but things in these rooms just feel a little more elevated. It’s the true Vegas experience, at least with respect to gaming.
2. Relax at the Pool
If you aren’t particularly familiar with Las Vegas, this may sound like a simplistic idea, and something you can do at any vacation destination. In a strict sense that might be true, but the pools in Las Vegas are different. As is only fitting alongside such spectacularly over-the-top resort properties, these are gigantic pools with huge decks, themed designs, and often bars, restaurants, and concert stages around their perimeters. Whether it’s the Mandalay Bay’s full artificial beach, the Caesars Palace pools styled to look like an Olympian oasis, or Circa Las Vegas’s “stadium swim” pool set before a 40-foot LED screen showing sports, these pools have a lot to offer beyond the ordinary.
3. Go for a Hike
If there’s a surprise on our list, it’s undoubtedly the recommendation to go for a hike! We touched on the value of day trips from primary destinations in another travel post regarding Glasgow, Scotland. And in that same vein, hiking and outdoor exploration are becoming very trendy options around Sin City. Particularly as new generations sample Vegas for themselves, many tourists are looking for more than just endless hours as the slot reels, poker tables, bars, and clubs. Younger people are seeking more varied experiences, and in the effort a lot of them are discovering that there are some incredible hiking spots right around the city.
Without getting into an exhaustive list (it’s actually fun to research trails on your own), there are hiking opportunities in Valley of Fire State Park, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and even around the perimeter of Lake Mead. All of these are easy daytime outings from Las Vegas, and most of the trails can be managed in just a few hours. It’s a great way to get out of the city and enjoy some physical activity so that you can appreciate the luxuries of Vegas even more thereafter!
4. Enjoy Dinner and a Show
This may be a broad suggestion, but it’s also essential. There are incredible places to eat all over Las Vegas, and seemingly just as many amazing shows to see. You might head to an upscale Chinese restaurant before hitting a late-night comedy show; you may check out a renowned steakhouse before taking your seat at Cirque du Soleil; or perhaps you’ll enjoy a menu by a celebrity chef en route to a pop concert. Whatever the case, a night out along these lines — while a bit of a splurge — is another defining Vegas experience.
You’ll find plenty more to do in the end that isn’t on this list. But if you work in some poker, a bit of pool time, a hike, and a fun night out with dinner and a show, you’ll have checked the essential boxes for a modern trip to Vegas.