Las Vegas is a neon adventureland for adults, a place where anything and everything is possible. Naturally, I was ecstatic when my friend called about taking on a girls’ trip to Vegas in honor of her birthday. As an East Coaster who has never ventured out to the opposite end of the USA, I hopped on the birthday wagon immediately and started planning the girls’ trip of a lifetime. However, in a place where possibilities are endless, how does a first-timer decide on a course of action?
Your first time in Vegas can be overstimulating and exhausting. With me as your guide, you’ll be taking the bull by the horns and experiencing Vegas the right way.
Toto, we’re not on the East Coast anymore! Let’s do it, Sin City style.
1. Tour the Strip
Get right into the heart of the city on your first day by taking a self-guided tour. Super touristy, I know, but you can’t jump right into the action before getting the lay of the land first. The Bellagio, The Venetian, Ceasar’s Palace, The Flamingo, New York-New York — your first time on the Strip will be like walking through an enchanted kingdom. A seemingly never-ending kingdom. Every building is farther than it appears, and the Vegas heat is guaranteed to have you in a sweat ten minutes after you’ve left your hotel. Make sure you put your best sneakers on for the day ahead.
2. Hit Up A Pool Party
A hotel pool party is a classic Vegas staple. Whip out your cutest swimsuit, make new party friends, dance your butt off to whatever performer is playing that day, and cool off in the pool. The performers at Vegas pool parties are no joke. Many of them are icons.
My favorite pool parties took place at The Wynn’s Encore Beach Club. We had the privilege of getting up close and personal with Alesso, The Chainsmokers, and R.L. Grimes, all in one weekend. If raging to EDM isn’t exactly your thing and you’re looking for a more laid-back atmosphere, pink-themed pool parties at the Flamingo’s Go Pool Day Club are definitely for you. Depending on the day, the Cosmopolitan’s Marquee Day Club hosts an inviting open bar to complement their pool parties. When it comes to Vegas, every pool party is where it’s at.
The best part? You don’t have to be a guest at the hotels to attend. Just get on the guestlist through one of the many promoters who will aggressively recruit you and your friends on the Strip. Voila! Free entry into not only the pools, but also the concerts! Yes, it’s that simple.
3. See a Museum
Think the magic of Vegas can only be found through gambling and partying? Think again. Dive into the cultural and historical scene of Vegas through one of its fascinating museums. As someone who is obsessed with the Roaring Twenties, I chose to check out the shady side of the decade via The Mob Museum. Because everyone else needed to recover from the latest pool party, I did this attraction solo. It was a great decision on my part if I do say so myself.
I wandered through three immersive floors of glamour, booze, and so much murder. I discovered that the infamous Jewish gangster, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, was heavily involved in building the city that Las Vegas is today. He successfully established the Flamingo Hotel right before his very own murder. Shout out to one of the Tribe: thanks for the epic pool parties, but we definitely could have done without all the gory murders. If you’re not into the mayhem and murder of organized crime, don’t worry. For those interested in more fluffy and visually appealing content, check out the Neon Museum for the gorgeous aesthetics of retro Vegas signs.
4. Go on A Thrill Ride
This one’s for my adrenaline junkies out there! This city is essentially an amusement park, and no amusement park is complete without its rides. The Stratosphere Hotel offers three different rides – Big Shot (drop tower), X-Scream (rollercoaster), and Insanity (spinning ride). If you want to take it to the next level and have more cash to blow, take a leap of faith from a platform 855 feet above the Strip on Sky Jump. If just the thought of any of these rides makes you queasy, consider a ride that is less about the thrills and more about the views – the High Roller Observation Wheel (featured above). After all, the ferris wheel is a classic.
5. See a Show
You haven’t experienced Vegas if you haven’t seen a show. Low budget? No problem! You can find shows for half-price at Tix 4 Tonight, the TKTS of Vegas.
The employees get to see the shows for free, so you could grill them with all the questions you have about different shows. The girls and I really wanted to see Spiegelworld’s Absinthe, but it was way out of our price range. When we expressed our financial woes to the Tix 4 Tonight representative, she highly recommended Spiegelworld’s newest show, Atomic Saloon, for less than half the price of Absinthe. The show was a whirlwind of comedy and acrobatics, a nonsensical combination of wacky meets sexy, and exactly what Vegas is all about. We were in complete tears by the end of the show, and so fired up to start the night festivities.
A Vegas show is truly the perfect pregame for the night ahead.
Fun Fact: Anytime you purchase a ticket a Tix 4 Tonight, you receive a complimentary Vegas Dining Card, a discount card for different restaurants all around the city. Enjoy a discounted dinner before or after the show. For a full list of restaurants and discounts, check out Tix4D.
6. Downtown Las Vegas Events Center
Whether it be a Pride party or a Bikefest, the Downtown Events Center is always happening. During our time in Vegas, the Center hosted an Area 51 Celebration for alien-enthusiasts, sponsored by Bud Light and Collective Zoo. I don’t know much about aliens, but I am definitely a meme-enthusiast and came out in support of the Area 51 meme. Many of the attendees were decked out in alien costumes, and the festival offered alien-themed party favors: video games, carnival games, free body tattoos/face paint, and even free rides! After we went through all the party favors, we made it to the dance floor and rocked out to house music. How is house music related to aliens, you ask? I’m not exactly sure, but let’s just say the celebration was out of this world – alien pun intended.
When you decide you need a break from the nightlife on the Strip, come on down to the Events Center for a wild time.
7. The Fremont Street Experience
Fremont Street presents you with a colorful taste of Old Vegas. It’s a street of shining shimmering splendor that will take your breath away. Begin your night there with the free Viva Visions Light Show, which runs every hour after dark hits. The light show only lasts about six minutes, so you could fit in more sight-seeing right after. Depending on the day, free concerts with high-energy performers are also featured on the street.
You could simply wander around taking in the shiny neon lights and the street performers, or you could pop your head into one of the venues along the way and partake in the revelry yourself.
For those of you on a budget, the buy-in for a game of gambling on Fremont Street is significantly cheaper than at the casinos on The Strip. Apart from gambling, you could ride the street’s Slotzilla Zipline for $25. If the bright lights of Fremont Street have left you speechless from the ground, imagine how magical the street looks from up in the air.
As someone who is less of a risk-taker, I was more about the bar-hopping than the gambling and the zipline. My favorite bar along Fremont was The Griffin Cocktail Club. The bar is dimly lit and boasts edgy fire pits, transporting its clientele to a different era with its sexy, rustic feel. Just when I was starting to feel like I had traveled in time, I noticed a red curtain in the very back of the bar leading to another room: The Cava Cave. All of a sudden, the environment changed from the Middle Ages to modern-day. Dancers swayed back and forth to EDM, while screenings of quirky cartoons filled the walls of the room. It was like entering two different worlds, all in one place. This was my kind of bar.
Whatever your niche, Fremont probably has it. The street is right around the corner from the Downtown Events Center, so you could definitely do it all in one jam-packed night.