Remember that one time, not all that long ago, when so many of us were convinced that Las Vegas was over? Pfft—who even remembers what all that was about. Even with the recession barely in the rear view, today’s Sin City feels about as far from done as a city can get. Simply put—it’s booming. Again. What does this all mean for visitors? Let’s just say that if you haven’t stopped by recently, there’s a whole lot you might have missed. Before your next visit, here are ten things you need to know.
#1 Your Uber is here. (Your Lyft, also.) After years of putting up with cab drivers determined to squeeze as much money out of that short airport run as possible, now visitors can experience the joys of being long-hauled to the Strip by an Uber driver. But seriously, folks—ride sharing, after finally becoming legal here, has become a big deal. Many casinos even have helpful pick-up and drop-off areas to keep things orderly. (Just look for the signs.) Skip the rental car, forget cabs—this is the way to go now.
#2 Casino parking now costs money. No, that’s not a misprint. We can’t believe it either, but it’s actually a thing and it’s here to stay. The bean counters at MGM started it, Caesars has followed suit—even Wynn and Encore are now jumping on the bandwagon, charging hefty fees after the first hour. Who’s still free? Among the majors, Venetian and Palazzo are your best bets. As a rule, make sure to check ahead so you’re not surprised. New parking fees aren’t the only thing to watch out for—check out our recent post, 10 hard truths about Las Vegas hotels we all need to hear.
#3 It’s makeover madness. Looking for the Imperial Palace? Gone. It’s been made over into The Linq, a modern, affordable resort known best for the shopping and dining corridor that goes by the same name, sandwiched between the old IP property and the north side of the Flamingo and leading back to the High Roller, the world’s tallest Ferris wheel (and easily one of the more expensive to ride). Been a while since you stopped by New York, New York? Big changes to the exterior brought the Strip its first Shake Shack, among other useful stops—on the north side of the resort, MGM’s new Parq mixed-use project monetizes the walk to the sleek, new T-Mobile Arena, a concert venue and home to the city’s first-ever National Hockey League franchise, the Golden Knights.
#4 Off-strip food is so hot right now. Avid eaters and budget-conscious types have long found refuge in some very good restaurants away from the glow of the Boulevard. But with the Las Vegas Valley now evolving into something like a mini-Los Angeles, complete with similarly comprehensive food scene, it’s almost essential to take a detour into the real Las Vegas, if only to eat. From neighborhood bistros to microbreweries to one of the West Coast’s best Chinatowns, there’s so much to choose from, much of it just a short ride from major resorts.
#5 Eating at the Cosmopolitan is even better now. One of the best dining scenes on the Strip keeps improving—now there’s a Momofuku, the first one anywhere in the West. The menu is a mix of classics from David Chang’s New York restaurants along with some only-in-Vegas options—start, as always, with the pork buns. (And yes, there’s a Milk Bar, right next door, for all your Crack Pie and cereal milk soft serve needs.) Right around the corner, follow the lines each morning to Eggslut—the smash-hit breakfast sandwich spot from Los Angeles chose Vegas as their first expansion city.
#6 The cheap eats scene on the Strip? Absolutely on fire. Every place you look, there are new options, from proper ramen or deep dish by the slice at Bally’s Grand Bazaar Shops to the shiny new In N’ Out Burger at The Linq. Hungry? Check out the 10 best cheap eats under $10 on the Las Vegas Strip right now. And don’t forget happy hour, bargain hunters—we’ve got 12 of the best happy hours on the Las Vegas Strip right here.
#7 Downtown is 100% a thing now—and it goes way beyond Fremont Street. Okay, so Fremont Street is terrific fun, with its historic casino properties, endless street theatre, the iconic canopy of light and even a freaking zipline overhead, now. But there’s more to downtown—lots more. East of Las Vegas Boulevard both on and off Fremont Street, there are actual—gasp!—cool things happening, from the Container Park hangout space/shopping complex to great hangouts like PublicUs, a very civilized café out at the corner of Maryland Avenue. Eat, an epic, Portland-worthy breakfast spot, packs ’em in on weekends but is just as good any other day. Don’t sleep on this part of town, truly. While you’re down this way, drop in on the Arts District, too—besides galleries and some terrific vintage shops, its got a handful of great places to mingle with a great local crowd. The area is easy to find, on and off Main Street where it crosses Charleston.
#8 Don’t miss the other Downtown, either. The massive planned community of Summerlin has long been one of the better places to live in the valley, but if you haven’t been out this way in the past few years, you’ll be surprised—now it’s just straight-up fancy. Head straight for the long-awaited Downtown Summerlin development, found directly behind the Red Rock resort—you’ll feel like you’re in a more chilled out version of Southern California. Besides a ton of shopping and some good restaurants, there’s a fun weekend farmers market and lots of places selling ice cream and/or gelato. (Tip: Go directly to Gelato Messina, a terrific Australian import that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves.)
#9 If you didn’t include the downtown outlets on your Vegas itinerary, go back and start over. Officially, the gargantuan shopping center on the fringes of the historic core is known as the Las Vegas Premium Outlets North, though most people just refer to this sprawling, below-retail paradise as the downtown outlets—not to be confused with the outlets down by the airport (meh) or Primm (nope). The deals and selection have always been terrific here, drawing gaggles of shoppers from all over the world. In 2015, the outlets added 150,000 more square feet, bringing dozens more brands and a Cheesecake Factory to the mix. Remember how bad parking used to be here? Now it’s worse. Take an Uber. (See #1.)
#10 To see the future, look to the north. After years of comfortably ignoring pretty much everything north of Encore and the Fashion Show Mall, there are stirrings on the long suffering, far north Strip. Saddled with unwieldy old properties and then screwed royally in the economic downturn, it feels as if (finally!) a turnaround may be in the offing. Ignore anyone who says, for example, that the SLS Las Vegas resort is terrible—it’s actually pretty cool (steak lovers need to book a table at Bazaar Meat, stat) and has some really good deals, not to mention its own station on the Monorail. Up on Sahara, the Lucky Dragon is the first casino in town to focus solely on the Asian gaming market—this is just a prelude to the much larger Resorts World project being taken on by a Malaysian developer known for gigantic casino resort developments on that side of the world. All this feels like small potatoes, however, when you look at Steve Wynn’s plans to once again transform the way we see Las Vegas. His gargantuan Paradise Park development (due to break ground later this year) will soon take over much of Wynn’s vast golf course, adding a 38-acre swimming lagoon with a sandy beach, along with “Disney-style” events and attractions. Oh, and—of course—1,000 more hotel rooms. Stay tuned.
For more Las Vegas coverage on Triphustle, including our 2017 guide to the best hotels, go here.
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