Las Vegas is unlike any city in the US. There’s the Strip, which transforms during the night into a massive bloc party with flashing neon sights and over-the-top themed hotels. You can travel from Venice to Ancient Rome in the stretch of a few blocks. When you need a break from the over-stimulation of the Strip, there’s the revitalized downtown area that has plenty of things of historical and cultural significance to check out.
Two days is a perfect amount of time to get a good feel for the city and you can always use the third day to take a day trip beyond the city limits. Here’s the ideal Las Vegas itinerary that mixes touristy destinations with the less-visited spots around town.
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2 Day Las Vegas Itinerary: Day 1
For your first day, go big and hang out on the Strip. It’s like no other place in the US and though it can be overwheming it’s worth checking out once.
Start out with a full first day on the Strip, where drinking in public is allowed and encouraged with yard drinks sold seemingly everywhere. It feels a bit like spring break, but with neon and no age limit. There are a lot of casual restaurants for breakfast, but the Peppermill is a great option to fuel your day with their large orders of fluffy pancakes or hearty omlettes. You can feel the history in this diner, with the cozy booth seating and retro decor. The diner is located on the far end of the Strip, near by Circus Circus.
Afterward, walk off your brunch with a 20 minute stroll to the Venetian. There are many decedent hotels that are worth wandering around, but the Venetian is one of my favorites. From the gondola rides along the Grand Canal (both indoor and outdoor), to the entire hotel design that is reminiscent of Venice, I love all the detail that went into this hotel without feeling two campy. Within the Venetian there is Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery that is worth stopping by for a chocolate almond croissant or a pistachio macaron.
Head across the street to Caesar’s Palace, where you can easily spend a few hours wandering around through the Forum Shops and admire the Ancient Rome decor, including a replica of the Trevi Fountain . Friendly Vegas PSA: if you’re craving reasonably-priced Starbucks coffee, head to the Starbucks in the ground level of the Forum Shops (at the front of the resort), not the one in the Forum Food Court, since the prices are night and day. We learned the hard way with an $8 breakfast sandwich.
Afterward, walk over to the Bellagio, where you can admire the fountain show (for a complete schedule check here). Make sure to also check out the conservatory and garden, where depending on the time of year there’s different floral displays. We visited once during Christmas and they definitely go all out. Afterward hop on the free tram that takes you from the Bellagio to the Aria (just follow the signs through the hotel).
Treat yourself to dinner at Julian Serrano Tapas located in the Aria’s lobby. Everything is good here and the best thing is you can order a bunch of different small plates and share family-style. Personal favorites include the Spanish tortilla and the octopus. The paella is also excellent and worth the wait.
For a nightcap, the Cosmopolitan next door has the Chandelier Bar, one of my favorite bars on the Strip, and a great spot to start your night out at. The bar is themed to make you feel like you are sitting in the middle of a giant chandler, with curtains of illuminated beads hanging from the ceiling. The bar features three different tiers with a different bar at each level, offering signature cocktails that are worth the price.The bottom of the bar has the most energy as it’s on the same level as the casinos, and the higher you go the more calmer it gets.
Vegas has seemly endless choices for clubbing, and XS at the Wynn Encore Las Vegas is a top spot with features like a massive outdoor pool and indoor and outdoor areas for dancing. Top DJs spin on the weekends, so make sure to check out their events calendar. I made the mistake of not buying tickets beforehand, but later learned I could bypass the line if we got on the guest list and could get free or discounted cover charges depending on the event.
If you’re looking to get on the guest list, girls always get in free, but men will get discounts depending on the ladies that are in their party (at least a 50:50 ratio). Make sure to check out the event calendar for Nightswim, where you can bring your suit and actually go in the pool.
2 Day Las Vegas Itinerary: Day 2
Grab a filling breakfast sandwich at Eggslut in Cosmopolitan, before heading over to the The Spa at the Aria to recover with a spa day. A daily pass allows you access to the outdoor therapy pool, fitness center, the wet areas, the salt room, and the heated stone beds. There are also endless complementary beverages and snacks, that helped me feel reborn when we emerged a few hours later. The day passes during the week (Monday-Thursday) are $50, and $100 during the weekend, which is a great cheaper alternative to dropping more money on a massage or spa treatment.
For your last night, head to downtown for a more low-key night. Walk through the Fremont Street Experience, for the bright lights, loud music, and a bit of people watching, before ducking out and heading to neighboring East Fremont, which has a slower pace. This neighborhood is filled with bright murals and has historic hotels like the El Cortez. A few blocks in you’ll see the Container Park, which is an outdoor shopping center made of old shipping containers and cannot be missed with its giant grasshopper outside that spits fire to popular tunes. If you’re lucky, there will be some live entertainment on the stage inside.
For a snack to hold you over until dinner, Aloha Specialties located inside the California Hotel has a great selection of traditional Hawaiian dishes like saimen, loco moco, and plate lunches. Fun fact: Las Vegas is known as the ninth island of Hawaii since so many Hawaiians visit Las Vegas and stay at the California Hotel each year.
For dinner, the Lotus of Siam is an excellent local option that is a quick drive from the bright lights of the Strip. The restaurant specializes in Northern Thai food, with dishes like nam kao tod (friend rice with pits of crispy pork and khao soi (noodles in curry). There are also offerings of popular dishes like pad see ew and garlic prawns.
Vegas has a rich history, and one of the places to see it firsthand is at the Neon Museum, which houses historic neon signs like the original Sahara and Caesars Place hotel signs. The only way you can see the grounds is by booking a tour. There are both hour-long day and night tours available, and I personally loved the nighttime tour since you get the full effect of the selected lit-up signs (plus it’s cooler). Reservations need to be made in advance and can fill up quickly during the busier summer months.
Related post: What To Do During Christmas In Las Vegas
2 Day Las Vegas Itinerary: Additional Day 3
If you have add one more day to your Las Vegas itinerary consider taking a day trip to one of these nearby destinations:
- Red Rock Canyon – only 30 minutes from the city, this scenic area is perfect for a hike or a 13-mile drive to take in the natural beauty of the canyon. Make sure to stop by the visitor’s center for more info.
- Hoover Dam – check out this feat of engineering that is located on the Colorado River. Located 45 minutes from Las Vegas it makes the perfect half-day trip.
- Seven Magic Mountains – this art instillation is quite impressive up close with its colorful rocks towers. It’s about a 30 minute drive south of Las Vegas.
- Grand Canyon – this natural wonder is about 10 hours by car, but if you book a helicopter then it will only take 45 minutes. If you want to go all out, this is a great way to see the canyon with all the creature comforts-champagne, snacks and a hotel pick-up.
Getting Around Las Vegas
It is possible to get around Las Vegas without a rental car, especially if you’re staying on the Strip or in downtown. Rideshare options like Uber and Lyft are also readily available as well and there usually a designated spot for pick-up at each hotel. If your hotel is off the Strip, there are often complementary shuttles to spots like the Strip or downtown.
There’s also a monorail that conveniently has stops along the Strip and is a great alternative if it’s hot or you just want to give your feet a rest from all the walking.
Weather in Las Vegas
Vegas is located in a desert climate, which means it can get quite hot and dry in the summer, though the monsoon season that runs from mid-July through September allows temporary relief. On the flipside, in the winter it can cool down quite a lot. The ideal time to visit is anytime but the summer, since the temperatures can easily reach 100 degrees F or more.
Where To Stay In Las Vegas
If you prefer to be off the Strip, this hotel is great for providing an impressive amount of amenities, while not having to deal with the sensory-overload that come with being on Vegas’ most famous street. It’s nice to come back to the relative quiet every night, but still be a part of the city.
Conveniently located a block away from the Strip, and across the street from the Monorail, this is a great mid-range hotel option for those who want to be near all the action. Each suite room is spacious with a desk, and kitchenette. There a rooftop pool that has scenic views of the city and a continetal breakfast is included.
This hotel on the strip boasts high-tech rooms and plenty to do onsite, including several restaurants/cafes, spa, casino, and pool area. This is a great resort to choose if you want a lot of options onsite and not have to worry about schlepping around the Strip.
What would be on your Las Vegas itinerary?