1. Where to Stay
If poker is a priority, go to the Bellagio (from $179). The posh hotel has the city’s premier large poker venue and the smaller, exclusive high-stakes Bobby’s Room, frequented by the likes of Doyle Brunson and Gus Hansen.
Find flashy, new-hotel hype at the Wynn (from $179). You’re still on the Strip, but with a nicer room and sharper service.
Feeling Entourage? L.A. glamour—the 29 villas, the pool, the gym, the butler, and the chauffered Maybach or stretch limos—costs between $5,000 to $15,000 a night at the Mansion at MGM Grand (702-891-1210).
Removed just far enough from the din and gambling, the Four Seasons Hotel (from $245) is Vegas’ best “regular” hotel (read: no casino), with friendly service, taxis on demand, and plugged-in concierges.
For Old Vegas atmosphere, Binion’s (from $39.95 a night, online special through Nov. 30) is a no-brainer: faded décor, low-stakes craps, the quintessential downtown coffee shop, and the birthplace of the World Series of Poker.
Vegas’ best mid-priced bet is the Mirage (from $99), melding quality cardplay with decent rooms and restaurants ranging from the casual California Pizza Kitchen to the newly opened Japonais.
2. Where to Eat
You’re just not a chef if you don’t have a restaurant out here. From a $99 margarita to a $5,000 burger, Vegas feeds on shameless indulgence. But only one meal is worth the sticker shock: the $225 six-course or $360 sixteen-course tasting menu at MGM Grand’s Joël Robuchon. The Parisian wonderchef’s set menu changes regularly, but expect delicious bite-size morsels like duck foie gras in a green-cabbage ravioli.
The best of Vegas’s great steakhouses is Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, where short ribs, lamb shanks, and quail complement the standard cuts; order the charcuterie of artisanal salamis as a starter.
Celebrity-chef outposts crowd the Strip, but San Fran’s Bradley Ogden actually moved here to run his eponymous eatery at Caesars Palace, serving up “Farm Fresh American” fare sourced from small purveyors across the nation.
Lotus of Siam rivals Thai food in Jackson Heights. Skip the lunch buffet and savor dinner.
3. What to Do
Set to Beatles’ tunes, Cirque du Soleil’s new acrobatic production, LOVE, is this year’s jukebox musical for the sophisticated audience. The theater-in-the-round setting does not offer a bad seat ($69–$150, dark Mon.–Wed.), but tickets sell out months in advance. Get lucky for half price at the Vegas version of TKTS, Tix4Tonight, which is next to the Harley Davidson Café and at other locations.
4. Insider’s Tip
Go all-in at TI hotel’s intimate poker room while it’s still new enough to be something of a secret. Players love it for its small crowds, fast beverage service, and cheesy-cool bright-tangerine tables. Call the poker room (702-894-7291) about fifteen or twenty minutes before you plan to arrive to get your name on the list for a cash game.
5. An Oddball Day
Run the New Las Vegas Marathon on December 10. Now in its second year, the marathon’s route goes along the closed Strip, then downtown and along Fremont Street. Tie the knot in a “run-through” wedding chapel or dress up in a sequined jumpsuit and help set the world record for “largest group of marathon-running Elvis impersonators.” Or not.
Get poker-room reviews and tournament schedules at All Vegas Poker.
Score discounted travel packages or tickets to events from Visit Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Events has a calendar of sporting events, concerts, and other city activities.
If there’s a gambling law under consideration or a new performer at a casino, the Las Vegas Blog knows all about it.