Las Vegas Travel Guide

Las Vegas Travel Guide

Curation by Yasmina Rodríguez, words by Laura Tucker

A dazzling den of vice and decadence at the base of the Mojave Desert, penned in by mountain ranges on all sides, is Nevada’s capital Las Vegas. While blinking neon signs advertise big-budget shows and dice-jingling high rollers take five at swanky restaurants, Las Vegas’ desert setting, on the doorstep of The Grand Canyon, allows visitors to balance debauchery with appreciation of its unrivalled natural wonders. Uncaged and sprawling, Las Vegas’ vibrant districts warrant days of exploration, by helicopter, from the rooftop infinity pool or on foot at strip level. Non-judgemental and inclusive with a young nightlife scene taking much advantage of the pink dollar, Vegas is an LGBTQ+ dream. In addition to liberal laws, Pride week celebrations and a gay rodeo, the city pack numerous gay icons onto its stages, including big names like Celine Dion, Elton John, Britney Spears and even Lady Gaga. Wanna know what to do in Las Vegas? Let our definitive Las Vegas gay travel guide give you the lowdown.

The best hotels in Las Vegas

When it comes to over-the-top luxury, Las Vegas has accommodation options in reams. We’ve put together our Las Vegas gay city guide to the best hotels to help you decide. First up is the 5-star Encore at Wynn Las Vegas a place of velveteen and floral glamour with a casino connected to the Wynn Resort and Encore pool nightclub. The best thing about Encore is that they even have a “Pride Concierge” acting as your official Las Vegas gay scene guide, advising on where to go, what to see and how to party in the gayest of styles. Another 5-starrer is the household name Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas, where privacy and seclusion can be expected. Many VIP guests stay long-term here, taking advantage of the quiet 23rd-floor atmosphere, far away from the flashing lights and roulette-wheel clinking down below.

Over on the South Las Vegas Strip, the M Resort Spa & Casino awaits, ready to provide non-stop upscale entertainment to its diverse clientele. As well the fabulous full-service spa and spacious gaming floor, M Resort also offers many dining options, five bars and even an on-site bakery. Travellers looking for classic decadence and modern styles should consider centrally located The LINQ Hotel based close to the High Roller Ferris Wheel. Despite standing amongst all the craziness, LINQ provides guests with a light and airy atmosphere with unparalleled views of the mountains as well as the strip. On-site facilities include a full spa and gym, a museum of classic cars, various delicious eateries and bars, an outdoor pool, and, of course, a casino. More affordable than the above and one of the top gay vacation spots is Luxor. Aside from hosting an infamous gay pool party every Sunday in summer, Luxor also boasts its iconic 30-story pyramid living space.

Photo: Pxhere

Photo: Pxhere

Luxor Hotel | Photo: Yasmina Rodríguez

Luxor Hotel | Photo: Yasmina Rodríguez

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Recommended hotels in Las Vegas
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Gran Canyon | Photo: Yasmina Rodríguez

Gran Canyon | Photo: Yasmina Rodríguez

Things to do in Las Vegas

In a city designed for leisure and entertainment, lacking things to do in Las Vegas is a near impossibility. If gambling your life savings like a wannabe high-flier isn’t something that appeals, there is plenty more to keep you busy (and smiling) while in town. Memorable experiences are big in Las Vegas and some of the best options involve a little adventure. The Fighter Pilot Experience is a top pick for anyone who has dreamed of being in Top Gun and wants to head out in an Extra 330LC aircraft with a professional fighter pilot in the driver’s seat. While holding tight during the flight, remember to open your eyes and enjoy the incredible mountain and valley views of the Mojave Desert. Or how about a helicopter trip? The Las Vegas Strip Helicopter Night Flight is a great choice, offering glittering night views of Sin City’s downtown skyline and beyond with the added luxury of a glass of champagne while in the sky.

Back down on earth, Las Vegas’ brilliant shows will continue to wow you. Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity is one of the hottest new shows on the boulevard right now, showcasing high-energy acrobatic performances in addition to a decent hit of sexiness to get your blood pumping. While it’s not hard to catch a live performance in Las Vegas, from magic shows to resident comedy gigs, you may be surprised by the number of A-list musicians who come to Vegas for extended runs with high production values and intimate settings only found in Vegas’ casino showrooms. Concerts coming soon include those from the likes of Celine Dion, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez and Bruno Mars.

Photo: James Kresser

Photo: James Kresser

After a full day of soul searching and spending, a trip to a spa is a must. The Encore Spa is a particular favourite, and, after crossing the golden lantern-lit corridor entrance, you’ll discover a whole world of poolside pampering including classic massage treatments, gold wrapping and even Chakra balancing. If the pull of the pool continues, make a point of visiting the Temptation LGBT Pool Party operating every Sunday in summer at Luxor Hotel. Featuring bare bodies hotter than the nearby Nevada Desert, a range of sick beats and luxurious cabana lounge areas, there really is nowhere else to be on a Sunday. If you are a guest of the hotel you can also get a half-price entry!

To escape from the bright lights and infinite vices of the city, plan a day trip to see one of the seven wonders of the world and the best of all Las Vegas points of interest; the Grand Canyon. The nearby Hoover Dam is a common stop-off point for a photo sesh, but the canyon, complete with its new, leg-buckling skyway, will be a highlight of your trip. If you won big the night before you might also consider taking a helicopter tour over the whole region!

Photo: Christian Buehner

Photo: Christian Buehner

Photo: Cedric Dhaenens

Photo: Cedric Dhaenens

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Recommended experiences in Las Vegas
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Public Art in Downtown | Photo: Ken Lane

Public Art in Downtown | Photo: Ken Lane

What to see in Las Vegas

Not all Las Vegas sightseeing means travelling far out of the city. Did you know it’s even possible to tour the world without ever leaving the strip? Thanks to the many preposterously themed hotels based here, there are numerous world-famed replica attractions to be seen, such as the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas, the gondolas of St. Mark’s Square at the Venetian and even an uncanny version of the Statue of Liberty at New York-New York. Other cool themes include the Detroit themed ‘D’ at Fremont Street, the prime spot for a Coney Island hotdog or a Michigan-famous Zingerman’s coffee. Those still on the hunt for a spectacle should head to Bellagio’s, a supersize Italian villa with its world-famous dancing fountains. With over 1,000 geysers across the eight-acre lake fronting the resort’s strip location, Bellagio’s fountain is a real marvel, erupting every 15 minutes after sundown.

Another jaw-dropping sight on our list of what to see in Las Vegas is the Stratosphere Tower, an unmissable addition to the skyline, rising over 1,100 feet above the ground and boasting various adrenalin-packed thrill rides on its rooftop, including the SkyJump, Big Shot, X Scream and Insanity. But it’s not all terror at the top – the tower is also home to an outdoor observation deck with unparalleled views – just tune out the screams! Now onto the culture, of which Las Vegas has a surprising amount. Among the futuristic and often hilarious architecture on the strip, Las Vegas’s streets also double up as a real outdoor art gallery. In downtown Las Vegas especially, street wanderers will find the city’s walls covered in bright and oversized street artworks, started by a team of international artists back in 2013, refreshed and added to each year.

Of Vegas’ best museums, downtown’s Neon Museum is a corker, home to a huge collection of illuminated vintage signs. Opt for the guided tour to learn more about the town’s commercial legends and the quirky characters responsible for them. On a shadier note is the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, known by most simply as the Mob Museum, telling the story of America’s mob history. Housed in a 1930s neoclassical build, formerly a US Post Office and courthouse, the Mob Museum is an interesting place that highlights the individual characters, key criminal events and overall culture and fashions that have shaped America’s underworld over the ages.

Photo: pxhere

Photo: pxhere

The Neon Museum | Photo: Ken Lane

The Neon Museum | Photo: Ken Lane

Where to eat in Las Vegas

Las Vegas indulgence stretches from the spas and casinos all the way to the delectable cuisine, of which there is much of. Internationally influenced and diverse as heck, Las Vegas can treat you to a wild variety of tastes each day, depending on your cravings. For world-class, freshly prepared Japanese sushi, Yellowtail can’t be beaten this side of the Pacific. The elegant restaurant and lounge serve up traditional and contemporary Japanese dishes, paired with an extensive array of speciality sakes best enjoyed while gazing down at the iconic fountains of Bellagio. Using the best seasonal fish and ingredients flown in from around the world, award-winning Chef Akira Back ensures sushi gluttons will not leave disappointed.

From Japan to France, your next meal can be enjoyed in true Parisian style at Bardot Brasserie. In addition to classic yet elevated fare such as onion soup and cave-aged gruyere, Bardot also boasts an impeccable cocktail menu and bar style dining. Next up we’ll head to the French Riviera at unlikely heights. The 64th-floor Rivea combines French flair with Saint Tropez glam, complete with Champagne bubble light fixtures and some of the best views across Vegas and the Red Rock Conservation Area. Another continent-spanning concept is sophisticated seafood restaurant Blue Ribbon, presenting cosmopolitan American fare with a French vibe, such as the huge seafood platter, served up alongside a $1000 dollar bottle of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006 (optional, of course).

Photo: Klara Avsenik

Photo: Klara Avsenik

To celebrate more of the joys of Asia, visitors should try America’s first Michelin-Award winning Chinese restaurant Wing Lei. The dining room here bursts with a fusion of bright white, deep jade and decadent gold design, complementing the signature cocktail menu and fine cuisine, such as the awesome Imperial Peking Duck. Next, Vegas takes us to Latin America with its pan-Latin brunch restaurant Chica, creating sophisticated comfort food in the perfect setting for a date or group outing. Over a basket of arepas take your time deciding between the dulce de leche French toast, lemon ricotta donuts or hangover-curing huevos rancheros. VegeNation meanwhile is a top choice for its plant-based menu spanning international influences, from the African yam stew to the picante pineapple pizza. Make sure to save room for dessert because the chocolate tacos are to die for.

For some down-to-earth creature comforts, try Carson Kitchen, an urban yet casual eatery based inside the former mid-century John E. Carson Hotel. A throwback to Las Vegas’ yesteryears, the building is home to an eclectic mix of tenants ranging from tattoo artists to Pilates instructors, with the tasty Carson Kitchen nestled in among them. Also sharing the space are various swanky cocktail joints complete with a rooftop patio and courtyard fire pit areas. Back on the strip for one last jaunt, you won’t regret visiting the Peppermill, a timeless restaurant and lounge featured in a number of Hollywood movies. The neon-lit booths and seating around the fire-pit fountain make for an interesting setting to enjoy the unique cocktails, elegantly served.

Photo: Jay Wennington

Photo: Jay Wennington

Shopping in Las Vegas

Shopping in Vegas is a joyfully indulgent experience sure to make you feel like a VIP if only for a day. Our first recommended stop is the luxury Via Bellagio, a place sure to excite even the most devoted label fiend. In addition to an impressive roster of designer brands from Gucci and Armani to Prada and Fendi, you’ll also discover Via Fiore, the place to go for Bellagio-themed merchandise, leather essentials and even artisanal homeware. The city’s only boutique belonging to top fashion and fragrance label Tom Ford,  can be found at The Shops at Crystals, on 7,700-square feet of sumptuously designed space, featuring ready-to-wear, made-to-measure, fragrance and beauty collections.

For craftsmanship and refined tailoring is menswear and lifestyle brand John Varvatos, home to tailored collections, sportswear and Converse collabs with modern design and a rock-and-roll sensibility. Stitched continues on the bespoke theme, providing high-end made-to-measure fashions, jewellery, celeb collections and personalised clothing at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. Those travellers looking for a stylish bargain should get themselves downtown to the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets. Just like the outlets in the south, this outdoor outlet mall hosts over 150 brand-name and designer stores offering various tempting deals.

And while in Vegas, how about a trip to Houdini’s Magic Shop, found in several casino-malls throughout the city, to pick up tips, tricks and magic supplies to emulate the eye-raising magicians often found performing on the strip. Regardless of whether you want to dress for your magic debut or for a 1960s themed party, Gypsy Den is the place to go. Within Colorado Street’s growing arts district in a small house, this adorable vintage store channels the style of Patti Smith and Stevie Nicks with an attic space evoking the Summer of Love. From velvet jackets and shearling vests to peacock feathers and sequin dresses, the Gypsy Den is a treasure hunter’s paradise.

Photo: Analise Benevides

Photo: Analise Benevides

The Shops at Crystals | Photo: Ihtesham Ismail

The Shops at Crystals | Photo: Ihtesham Ismail

The Smith Center | Photo: Neonbrand

The Smith Center | Photo: Neonbrand

Las Vegas nightlife

If you will, please allow our Las Vegas gay nightlife guide to introduce you to a gay bar (or several). The Phoenix Bar & Lounge is our first, theatrical yet unpretentious, signposted by a giant flaming bird and Lady Liberty herself. Inside you’ll find cute bartenders churning out bottomless mimosas (during their famed drag show Sunday brunch for $20) with music at the perfect volume and a fun array of events to keep you active, from bar games, billiard and karaoke. While you’re downtown, seek out Bastille, the only gay bar in the area, in fact, arousing French chicness in a small, quaint setting, perfect for early evening drinks. Not a gay bar but also a contender in the area is Velveteen Rabbit, based in the artsy part of downtown and presenting a rotating cocktail list with left-field ingredients such as burnt pecan syrup, brie cream and turmeric honey. The vintage décor and welcoming atmosphere also make it a nice alternative to the strip.

Although not exclusively gay, Don’t Tell Mama piano bar is certainly a gay crowd pleaser with its offerings of live piano, open-mic nights and singing servers. Bringing speakeasy vibes to the otherwise loud strip setting, this cosy cabaret lounge is the perfect escape. The opposite of the speakeasy type is the Downtown Cocktail Room, energising the area with its swanky setting and extravagantly handcrafted chi-chi cocktails, loudly signposted yet with low-brow New York city interiors.

As the night stretches on, the hunt for a decent gay club starts. Save yourself some time by heading straight for Flex Cocktails Lounge, a lounge and club popular among LGBT locals for over 20 years. Come for the fabulous drag performances and nightly specials but stay for the go-go boys and karaoke. A chilled-out gay club with a so-called ‘family feel’, FreeZone is the place for gays, lesbians and advocates alike who come to enjoy the inclusive late-night atmosphere full of dancing, cheap drinks and loveable bartender, Jerry.

Velveteen Rabbit

Velveteen Rabbit

Photo: Daniil Vnoutchkov

Photo: Daniil Vnoutchkov

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