LAS VEGAS - TraveLife’s June Kuniyoshi has been a regular visitor to “The Strip” for the past decade and shares her inside info on everything from cheap hotels and restaurants to $9-a-day rental cars. Here's June's Top 10 Vegas tips:
1 Rental cars come in handy (taxis in Vegas can be pricey) and can be found for as little as $9/day at priceline.com and other travel discount sites. Other reasons to hire a car in Vegas: day excursions to malls and other points of interest at your own convenience; when you check out of your hotel at 11 a.m. you’ll have a safe place to keep your bags before boarding your plane back home. All hotels in Vegas have free valet parking but, of course, tips are expected when picking up your car.
2 Hotels can be booked for as little as $29 a night for lower tier properties such as Stratosphere and Tropicana during the off season. Top tier hotels such as Bellagio and Wynn can be booked for as low as $159 (off-season of course). But beware! Vegas hotels fluctuate with the supply and demand theory and can be priced as high as $500/night (during large conventions and holidays). Before booking value-priced hotels, check the location because cheaper hotels tend to be off The Strip and you could end up 20 minutes away from the action. Don’t be shy to ask for an upgrade when checking in - you could end up with a killer 1,500 square foot suite, as I did recently, for the same price.
3 Shopping on The Strip is fantastic, from the high-end stores such as Hermes, Channel and Prada, to the usual suspects like Gap, Bebe and Coach. Both types can be found at Ceasar’s Palace. Hidden Gem: Las Vegas Premium Outlets, 875 S. Grand Central Parkway. There you’ll find designer stores offering items at less than original price.
4 Dining in Vegas is no longer cheap. Long gone are the days of the $5.99 buffet. This is now home of the “fine-dining foodie” where noted chefs Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse strut their strudels. Even buffets start at about $10 for breakfast and $30-plus for dinner. Head for the Grand Lux Café at Palazzo, P.F. Chang’s at Planet Hollywood and Pink Taco at the Hard Rock Hotel for affordable middle-class fare. If you are the type that is willing to spend a small fortune on meals try STACK at the Mirage, Little Buddha at the Palms and Sensi at the Bellagio. Most hotels also offer mall-style food courts in case you lose all of your money gambling.
5 Entertainment in Vegas is never-ending. Too many shows to name but “The Beatles Love” show by Cirque du Soleil is truly breathtaking and my favourite in Vegas. Check lasvegas.com for a complete list of shows. Hidden Gems: the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay and the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel are the best venues to catch a concert. Each holds a maximum of 2,000 and draws the biggest bands in the world, including the Rolling Stones, Coldplay, the Killers, Depeche Mode and Metallica.
6 Drinks, like food, are not cheap in Vegas, although deals can be found. Expect to pay between $8 and $15 per cocktail. Drinks in a casino CAN be free if you are gambling, but remember, the lower the bet, the less likely a server will be in that area of the casino. They usually hang around table games, though. Big tips also insures their reappearance. Hidden Gem: Fat Tuesdays margarita bars, located in a variety of hotel shopping areas, have the most potent $1 Jello shots.
7 Club life is extreme but not for the faint of heart. Cover charges can be as high as $50 – after a one hour wait in line. To avoid both of these party killers make friends with hotel employees who might have connections at clubs, and talk to the club promoters that walk The Strip. They can put you on guest lists. It also helps to be a young, attractive woman because promoters are told to fill the clubs with beautiful people. Remember to dress to the nines as the hot clubs in Vegas, such as Pure, TAO, Jet, Tryst and LAX, can rival any in L.A., South Beach or New York.
8 Gambling should be played at a level you are comfortable with. Don’t get bullied into playing for more money than you’re prepared to spend. Set yourself a gambling fund before you arrive and stick to it!
Quick tips: a) Don’t be fooled by 1 cent and 5 cent slot machines. They always have jackpots flashing above them that require you to play $1 to $2.50 minimums per spin. You’re better off playing a 25 cent machine that requires 3 coins per spin to win jackpots. b) When playing table games, ask players who look like they know what they are doing for help. It is usually in their best interest to help you as most table games are set up as players vs. the dealers/house. c) If you win large, make sure you tip the dealer as they are payed relatively low wages and tips are pooled together and split among all the dealers. Note: In the case of large wins, $1,200 on slot machines and about $10,000 on table games, the IRS (U.S. taxman) will take up to 30 per cent on the spot. When you get back to Canada you can contact IRS agents in Toronto and get a “W7” form, which will get most of the tax back.
9 Attractions worth checking out around Vegas include the Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand, the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio and the grandest of them all, the Fountains at the Bellagio.
10 When in Vegas, kick back, relax and tan. At least eight months of the year, temperatures range between 25C to 40C, so pools are good places to see and be seen. Nothing can top the majestic pools at the Bellagio or Wynn but Mandalay Bay offers a real sand beach complete with a giant wave pool, the only one of it’s kind on The Strip. Young Hollywood stars can be spotted hanging out pool side at the Palms or the Hard Rock Hotel. Actually, if you want to party at a pool, the Hard Rock offers a party called “Rehab” every Sunday, from April to September. Cover charges apply, but this is one of the only hotels that allows guests not staying at its property to lounge around its pool.