Las Vegas: Grocery Stores & Markets

Just about every casino or resort has a small gift shop which sells snacks, beverages (including alcohol) and sundries. The prices tend to be very high. So there are frequent requests on the Tripadvisor Forum for liquor stores, drug stores and grocery stores that are convenient to the Strip (or downtown). The following is not exhaustive, but is a listing of the places most convenient for tourists in the usual tourist haunts. There is no discussion of the small “convenience stores” here. There are too many, and their prices are not usually very good.

There is an exception to the “hotel prices are high” concept:  The Orleans liquor store (10am – midnight). There is a free shuttle from under the Linq High Roller Observation Wheel (yards from the Strip from 9:30am) to the Orleans (May 2016). The shuttle also serves the Gold Coast which also has similar priced liquor in their Gift Shop (as does the Suncoast). For example Castell Rum 1.75L $13.99 or Bacardi Rum 1.75L $24.99 in plastic bottles (Nov 2015) both go well with cola. Bacardi at Walmarts is believed to be about $20-25 for 1.75L (further conformation needed).The Orleans can be reached by bus from the bus stop outside NYNY main enterance on Tropicana (Bus 201, $2).

The liquor store at Silver Sevens (Terrible’s Casino on Flamingo) is reputed to have relatively low prices (its gift shop prices are very reasonable).

South Point’s liquor store also has decent prices, but it is not convenient for most tourists.

It has been suggested that for large orders, that people arrange a Vons delivery to your hotel. A Vons delivery truck has been seen at the Luxor (information on how the hotel delivery is met and delivered to the room is below). Other supermarkets may deliver too.


On the Strip itself, there are no major grocery stores. There are some convenience stores (small markets, usually with high price tags), a few liquor stores and some drug stores. Some drug stores on the Strip now sell liquor, wine and beer.

There is a liquor/convenience store called the Stage Door next to The Cromwelll, on Flamingo, just east of the Strip. This is right across the street from the Bally’s Food Court / Sports Book entrance. Although this is not ON the Strip, it is only a short block off Strip. This is highly reccomended by Las Vegas Forum members.

The Walgreens and CVSs drug stores on the Strip have started carrying beer, wine or booze (2011). On the Strip itself, there is a CVS and a Walgreens (these are major drug store chains), down near Monte Carlo. Both now carry booze and they have a full supply of snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. For any foreigners, in the States, drug stores are more like small department stores than they are traditional pharmacies (although some have clinics from minor ailments, 2015). They carry a small selection of hardware, small appliances, groceries (mostly snacks, sandwiches, cookies, canned and packaged goods, but some carry milk and eggs, cheese etc), frozen goods, clothing, … Wine, beer, hard liquor, soft beverages, tobacco products, … Toiletries, beauty supplies, batteries, film, film processing, … Children’s games… They are everything stores, not just pharmacies. Some have clinics for minor ailments.

There is now a Walgreens at the Venetian that stocks alcohol. And a Walgreens on the Strip up at Convention Center Drive may not carry beer, wine or liquor (info needed).  There is a new CVS in this same vicinity and may not carry beer or wine or alcohol (info needed). There is a large Walgreens next to Planet Hollywood (opened Jan 2012), this is convenient for those staying as the Cosmpolitian too. There is a new Walgreens at Casino Royale (Jan 2015) and a CVS is open at TI (2015). There is also a Walgreens downtown on Fremont, at the corner of 4th Street, just across the street from where the canopy begins.

There is a liquor store near Encore, just north of the Cathedral. This is the southeast corner of the Strip and Convention Center.  It is owned By Lee’s Discount Liquor but named differently, maybe to charge drug store prices.

The ABC Stores — there are several of these stores, one at the Fashion Show Mall, two in Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood and also one on Fremont downtown (just a few doors up from the Golden Nugget) – do sell booze, wine and beer, along with a lot of snacks and Hawaiian tourist stuff.  The prices are reasonable for convenience stores.There is an ABC Store opposite the Monte Carlo and convenient for those staying in MGM as well. Prices should be compared to the Grand Canyon store next to MGM West Wing enterance.

There is a new Liquor Store opened at the Flamingo and at the Linq Casino, probably cheaper than most hotel gift shops but not by much.

At Sahara Ave. and the Strip (northwest corner) is the Bonanza Gift Store. They have some groceries and liquor.  Very handy for those staying at SLS.

There is a liquor store opposite the Luxor – Mandalay Bay that may be convenient for those staying there or the neighbouring hotels, once a crosswalk has been found (Google Street View).



The Strip runs generally north and south. People normally consider “The Strip” to be that portion of Las Vegas Boulevard between Mandalay Bay on the south and the Sahara on the north. Traditionally, the Stratosphere has been considered to be too far north to be part of “The Strip.”

The major streets parallel to the Strip, heading east from the Strip, are Paradise, Swenson and Maryland Parkway.  Maryland Parkway is only a mile or two from the Strip but really for off-strip you need a car.

Immediately west of the Strip is a pretty desolate industrial area. For purposes of grocery stores convenient to the Strip, you need to look to the east.

The south end of the Strip is near Russell. Heading north on the Strip from Russell, the major streets in order are Tropicana, Flamingo, Spring Mountain/Sands/Twain (the same street is called Spring Mountain west of the Strip and Sands east of the Strip. As you drive east on Sands, it soon becomes Twain), Desert Inn (which does not intersect with the Strip, but crosses under it), Sahara and finally Charleston. (For the purest, Charleston intersects with Las Vegas Boulevard so far north that at this point, Las Vegas Boulevard is no longer considered to be “The Strip.”)

If you are staying on the Strip, and are looking for a grocery/drug or liquor store, this report is about the most convenient stores between Russell and Charleston.


New in 2009, between the airport and the Strip, there is a small shopping center called McCarran Village.  This shopping center is part of “BlueGreen Club 36”, which seems to be a timeshare. This is on the north side of Tropicana just west of Paradise.

Grind Burger Bar & Lounge
ABC Store (liquor, beer, wine, snacks)
Einstein Bagels
Due Pizzeria
Super Liquor

Just east of the airport, at the southwest corner of Tropicana and Maryland Parkway, there is a shopping center with a Von’s Grocery Store. Von’s is a major grocery store chain. This is a relatively small Von’s. This is the closest grocery store to the airport. Your cab or limo can make a quick stop here if you’d like to stock up with some supplies when you first land, on your way to the hotel.

Von’s is a complete grocery store. It has fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, diary, canned goods, baked goods, junk/snack food, frozen food, juices, soda, water, toiletries, laundry supplies, etc., etc. Oh, by the way, in Nevada, grocery stores are allowed to sell beer, wine and hard liquor, so Von’s sells these as well. As well as those inexpensive styrofoam coolers and more expensive but more durable coolers. And bags of ice.

If you are on the South Strip, this Von’s (southwest corner of Tropicana and Maryland Parkway) is the most convenient full grocery store to you.

There is a bus that runs right down Tropicana to this Von’s (201).  You can catch the bus right at the Strip (there is a bus stop maybe 100 yards east of the Strip on Tropicana directly in front of the Tropicana Casino) and it will drop you off at the corner of Maryland Parkway. Returning, it will drop off by NYNY. The bus fare is $2.00 pp each way.  Of course, if you have an all-day Deuce bus pass, the pass also includes unlimited access to All Las Vegas buses at no additional charge. An all day pass can be purchased onboard the bus using dollar bills. A group can pay the exact amount with higher denomination bills, for example 3 x $8 24h pass tickets including a $20 placed in the machine but ask the driver first for the tickets you want. No change is given.

Between Tropicana and Flamingo, on the east side of Paradise, approximately one block south of Harmon, there is a small liquor store.  This is just north of the Double Down Saloon, an (infamous) dive bar.  Very convenient to the Hard Rock Casino.  Someone will have to compare the prices here to the prices at the CVS Drug Store at the northeast corner of Harmon and Paradise.

FLAMINGO : At the northeast corner of Flamingo and Maryland Parkway, there is a large shopping center with an Albertson’s. For those who do not know, Albertson’s is another major grocery chain in this part of the country. This Albertson’s is a much larger and newer store than the Von’s at Tropicana. There is also a CVS on this corner.

At this same intersection (Flamingo and Maryland Parkway), but on the northwest corner, there is a Walgreen’s Drug Store. Just like the Walgreen’s Stores on the Strip prior to 2011, this Walgreen’s may not sell beer, wine and liquor.

At the same corner as Walgreens, there is a Target. Target is a discount department store, with everything from clothing to electronics to sporting goods, to hardware, jewelry, …

SANDS/SPRING MOUNTAIN :  At the southwest corner of Twain (this is the same street as Sands and Spring Mountain — the street between the Venetian and the Wynn Resort) and Maryland Parkway, there is a newer and larger Von’s.

DESERT INN: There are no grocery stores on Desert Inn convenient to the Strip.  (Several miles WEST of the Strip, there is a Smith’s at the corner of Desert Inn and Decatur.)

SAHARA:  Heading north, the next major street is Sahara.  There is a major chain grocery store at Sahara and – you guessed it, Maryland Parkway!  The Albertson’s that was at the southeast corner has closed (maybe March 2015) but there is a Smiths nearby. There is a McDonalds, a Dairy Queen and a whole lot of other small stores in this shopping center.

At the southeast corner of Sahara and Maryland Parkway, there is a Smith’s Grocery.

CHARLESTON:   If you are as far north as Charleston, there is some kind of non-chain grocery store on the south side of the street just before you reach Maryland Parkway.  Having never been inside this store, no comments are offered.  The name is Save A Lot, or something similar.  There is also a drug store at this corner, with a sign saying “Liquor.”  There is a 99 Cent Only store on the northwest corner.

The Store Locators on Vons, Albertsons, Walmart and Smiths websites will provide maps. 


There are numerous WalMarts in Las Vegas.  Two of them are relatively convenient for tourists staying on the Strip.

One of these “convenient” Walmarts is  located on Tropicana, about three or four miles east of the Strip.  You can get to this Walmart easily by bus.  You catch the bus on Tropicana Ave (outside the Tropicana Hotel), and take the bus all the way to the Walmart.  One bus #201 EB, no transfers needed.

The second “convenient” Walmart is a new (2008) WalMart SuperCenter on Eastern, just south of Russell.  It is closer to the Strip than the Tropicana Walmart, and it is newer and larger.  However, for those traveling by bus, it is not as convenient, because it would be a two bus trip, requiring a transfer at Eastern.  For those with a car, the Eastern Avenue Walmart SuperCenter is closer to the Strip.  This SuperCenter is also very convenient to the airport’s rental car pick-up center.  From the car rental pickup center, head east to Eastern, turn left (north) and the Walmart will be on your left.


There is a Target on Flamingo. It is at the northwest corner of Maryland Parkway, north of the Walgreens that is at that same intersection. There is also a good Thai restaurant (“Thai Place”) in that shopping center – no ambiance, but friendly service and good food. And there is an  interesting Indian market in the same center.

The lowest priced grocery store chain in town might be Smith’s. All of the Food For Less stores may have closed.


On Paradise (the first major street east of the Strip), at Harmon, just across from the Hard Rock, there is a CVS Drug Store. This one does carry beer, wine and liquor.

As mentioned above, there is a Walgreens on Maryland Pkwy and Flamingo.

There is also a Walgreens downtown on Fremont, at the corner of 4th Street, just across the street from where the canopy begins.

Hope this helps!


Vons delivery at THEhotel (now Delano) at Mandalay Bay (Sept 2011).

In order to do it, you have to set up a delivery account. Use the hotel’s address as the address for the account. If you want to arrange to delivery to a different hotel for a future trip, just go in and change the address. Make sure you use your cell phone number as the contact number.

The delivery was scheduled to be in a one-hour window. The order was about $80, about 8 – 10 bags worth, and had a variety of stuff including produce, dairy, bakery items, and booze. All of the items on the list were delivered and everything was acceptable (no expired dairy or bad produce). When you enter your order they do give you options as to substitutions if they are out of stock for a particular item.

The delivery was on time. The delivery guy called from the entrance and meet him in the lobby. The bags were loaded into plastic tote boxes on a hand truck and followed up to the room. He did mention that some hotels do not allow them to go up to the rooms (he mentioned Aria specifically).


Las Vegas: Las Vegas On A Budget

Costs can vary widely in Vegas. Here is some basic info, and some tips on how to save money.

For car rentals, plan on paying $35-45 per day.  If you take taxis, you’ll pay about $10+ for every ride.  Buses should cost $5 per person per day for unlimited rides on both the Deuce and city buses.  The monorail’s 3-day pass with unlimited rides is about $40.00 per person (monorail runs from the MGM Grand to the Sahara;  You can also get a 10-ride ticket for about $40; those rides can be shared with others, unlike the 3-day or 1-day passes which limit their use to a single person. There is a 5-day bus pass that can be purchased at Walgreens on Fremont Street; it’s supposed to be for locals, but no ID is required to purchase it except, in the case of Seniors, for the Vegas transit senior ID.  For Seniors with Vegas transit ID, the cost is $10; you can get a Senior ID at the downtown transit center on Casino Centre Drive.  To save on trips out of town to Grand Canyon and Hoover dam, Las Vegas Tours Inc has a link to its 2-for-1 deals site for the budget minded.

For inexpensive,sandwiches or fast food, no cocktails, assume $10-12 per person per meal.  If you are enjoying fine dining, a nice dinner with drinks will cost $100 per person per meal. You can get a decent sit-down at some local off-strip restaurants; there’s a good Mexican/Cuban restaurant on Fremont Street across from the El Cortez, for example, where you can get an entree and 2 sides for about $12-14.

For shows, a cheap show will cost $20-45 per person, a mid-range show $50-75 per, a headliner $125 per and up. Attractions such as coasters, shark reef, wax museum around $12-20 per person per attraction.   There are several companies that sell same-day reduced-price tickets to shows and for dining at some locations.  The show prices are 1/2 the regular price; these places open around 10 a.m. each day; there’s one located on Fremont Street and several located on The Strip – one near the Riviera, one at Fashion Show Mall and one near the Outdoor Polynesian Market; another company has one at the Coke Bottle near the MGM. The service charge is $2/ticket.

Gambling costs are the hardest to estimate, if you don’t gamble at all don’t factor it in.

Three sources you should consider checking out before heading to Las Vegas are:

  1. An Entertainment Book
  2. The Las Vegas Advisor
  3. American Casino Guide
  4. On-line sites dedicated to Las Vegas discounts such as http://www.lasvegas-entertainment-gui…

If you are a first-time visitor, or even if you are a repeat visitor to Las Vegas, you can save money and have a great time on a limited budget. Instead of taking a taxi or shuttle to your hotel, why not rent a car? A rental car (especially the compact type) can cost about the same or less than taking taxis or shuttles, plus you get the added freedom of being able to explore the city and beyond. One rental agency that offers great deals and unlimited miles is Alamo. You can save additional money by purchasing an Entertainment book for your local city or Las Vegas and using the national Alamo coupons. You can get great deals on the book as well. Here is the website:…  The trick is to check Alamo rates on a regular basis and check all the coupon rates before booking. Alamo does not charge you to cancel and re-book your rental like most other rental agencies. If you are 100% sure you are going on your trip, then you can save an additional 10-15% off of your rate by pre-paying for your rental car. However, if you cancel, there is a penalty. It also helps to have a Quik Silver Membership Card so you don’t have to wait in line. The Alamo rental facility is a few miles from the Las Vegas airport, so you will need to take a free shuttle to and from the facility. Because of this, make sure you plan your time accordingly. You can also receive free tickets to comedy shows by going to TickleMe Entertainment provides tickets to shows that need seats to be filled.

Before you even set your sights on those bright lights that Vegas is so famously known for, make sure you research your trip. The Las Vegas Advisor is a great website to begin. The website address is: .  You can find more information than you ever dreamed of by visiting this site. You don’t have to become a member to use this site, but if you do, you will receive what is called “The Pocketbook of Values” or “POV”. This little book will save you a great deal of money in Vegas. There are many 2 for 1 deals for hotels, meals, shows, gaming deals, etc. You get even more out of the book if you have a car so you can visit all of the great places listed in the book.  A couple of other added benefits of becoming a member is access to the forum pages where you can talk to other members and share information (it is a great resource in itself). The other benefit is the monthly newsletter, which has great articles and information to help you save even more money during your visit.

Another great resource is “The American Casino Guide” or “ACG”. This book, which is published annually and retails for $16.95, is worth its weight in gold.  In addition to offering great coupons for casinos located all over the U.S., if also gives you excellent gaming advice and information on every casino located in the U.S. You can check out current promotions at each casino at this ACG website:…  You can get a great deal on the ACG book by going to this website:…

Depending on the time of year, there will usually be people passing out 2-for-1 coupons outside major Strip casinos.  Also, when you sign up for slot club (Players club) cards, you will usually be given some of those coupons and other freebees.


Las Vegas: Getting Bargains

Many first time visitors to Las Vegas often wonder where to stay and get the best value for their money.  You may not want to book early, as it may not save you money… but early research can be the key!

Travellers will find deals that seem to good to be true exploring Select flights and hotels and you will find the lowest rates anywhere, daily resort fee not included.

First, decide which hotel it is that you’d like to stay at.  Once you are settled on one, find out what the average price is.  If it is more than you can afford, think of what you will be comfortable spending.   Remember, it is cheap to get around in Vegas.

Next, sign up for promotions on the hotel’s website.  Also, some hotels will let you sign up for their players club over the internet.  Doing either one of these things will be sure to get you offers for cheaper room rates.  If you have a players club (slot) card, log onto the website for that hotel-casino and select the “hot deals” or other button that is for players club (slot) card members.  You will find a calendar there which will show rates for each day for several months, allowing you to consider how flexible you want to be in order to get the best rate.

In the meantime, before your offers start pouring in, start checking prices on different websites.  First, look on the hotel’s website.  Then, try others such as,,, Expedia, and Orbitz.  Check prices every day, a couple of times a day, because rates can fluctuate wildly.  You might consider looking into package deals on those sites such as AAVacations, Yahoo Vacations, United Vacations, Frontier Flyaway, etc.  Travelocity and most airline and other travel websites also offer you the option to shop for air/hotel packages. You can often get a good rate by booking an air/hotel combination while still having the option to select preferred flights and hotels.

However, as noted earlier, whenever you book through any online site, be sure to do the research first.  Make sure the room type you are booking is the one you want (for example, a lot of sites offer more than one room type.  Circus, Circus for example, offers discounts on Regular rooms in the Manor, which are in an older part of the hotel at the back of the property and are much less desirable.  At the El Cortez, the “classic” rooms are older, and accessible only by stairs from the casino. The pavillion rooms are reached via elevators within the casino and are located on top of the parking garage with outside corridors and porch overhangs.  While adequate and clean, these pavillion rooms are somewhat small. The El Cortez tower rooms are bigger than the average hotel room, but are the longest walk from the parking garage.

A number of hotels are now adding on daily surcharges for local taxes, energy, phone usage (whether you use the phone or not), etc. and hiding the charges by calling them “resort fees.”  These fees currently range from $4 to $28 per day in addition to your quoted room rate.  Not all hotels have these charges, but you should be aware that they may be there and budget for them.  If you book directly with the property, be sure to ask what additional daily charges will be added to the room rate quoted.

Remember, when you book online you are acting as your own travel agent and you have to do the legwork.  Be sure to check websites that offer “video tours” of the hotel in which you are interested.  The other downside to the packages is that in a number of cases, they have to be paid in full at time of booking and may or may not be refundable or exchangeable.  Some sites do offer insurance for these packages, but be sure to check the terms and conditions on the policy.  Most will only cover cancellations in case of an emergency.  If you opt to log in with your slot card and make your reservation by that route you will usually be immediately charged for one night’s deposit, with the remainder being charged at your check-out time.  This deposit is usually refunded if you cancel your reservation within the hotel’s cancellation policy guidelines.

Try to avoid staying on a weekend, as the prices skyrocket at that time.  Sunday through Thursday is usually a lot cheaper.  It would also be wise to do a search on Yahoo or at for the Las Vegas convention schedule.  Do not stay there during large conventions because rates can quadruple.

If all else fails, call the hotel directly (particularly if you absolutely MUST have a nonsmoking room for health or other reasons; you must call again a couple of days before your departure to ensure that you actually get one).  They will be able to tell you when rates will fall and might even be able to tell you about upcoming promotions.

In addition, you can get better rates if you are not travelling during peak Vegas times such as New Years!! That said, however, durig the two weeks before Christmas this town is practically empty and rates are cheap, too. (Be aware, though, that some of the shows and attractions are shut down during this time period, so if you are coming to see a specific show be sure to check first).

You might also consider staying at resort/casinos off the strip. For example, Sam’s Town (offers its own shuttles to many hotel/casinos both downtown and on the Strip), Fiesta Rancho, Station Casinos, Coast Casinos, and The Silverton (several off-strip casino/hotels, such as Terribles, also offer a free airport shuttle – an amenity not normally provided by the strip hotels). You can still gamble at these places and get cabs or city buses (or the Trolley from Silverton) to the strip action.  The slots and tables usually pay better and the rooms are usually cheaper away from the strip.  The Coast Casinos are a great option because they offer shuttle service to their casino, Barbary Coast (The Barbary Coast NO longer exists, though the shuttle may still be running.  It is now a Harrahs property named Bills Gambling Hall and Saloon), on the strip. So you can stay at the Orleans for example, and take the shuttle to the strip. And Harrah’s runs a shuttle between its Strip locations and the Rio.

Most Las Vegas hotels have “Hot Deals” for room rates and special combos with meal, show and spa discounts on their own websites. If you book directly with the hotel and they post a lower rate for your date – a phone call to them will get you the lower rate – if this is done before your arrival. Prices can change dramatically according to supply and demand. If you encounter any problems with the cleanliness of your room or have any other major complaints about service – do not be shy.  Let the manager know immediately; many hotels will offer compensation in the form of meal vouchers or even a further room rate reduction.

Also, once your room is booked, it’s not necessarily the final price. Keep checking the website daily. If the rates drop below what you are paying, call the hotel. They will adjust your reservation to the current rate.

And a final tip- Some properties, including those belonging to Harrah’s,  offer a “best price guarantee.” Check the details on their websites, but the quick version is that if you can find a rate on another travel site that beats the rate they’re offering on one of their own sites and can follow their instructions for taking advantage of the guarantee you can get the room for even less than the third party’s price. Great deals can be lined up this way, so be sure to keep checking for lower prices even after you’ve booked a room. Of course, this only works if you’ve booked directly through the hotel and not through a third party site.

Good luck and do not give up!


How Las Vegas Became a Major Music Destination

America’s fastest-growing music destination isn’t Nashville or New York, Branson or Austin or New Orleans. It’s Las Vegas.

While Wayne Newton and Celine Dion are still crooning to older crowds in casino showrooms, they’re now joined by a variety of other performers and concerts—major headliners, artist residencies, festivals, dance clubs and rock bars.

“Vegas didn’t have a music scene a decade and a half ago, but that’s rapidly changing,” saysZoltan Bathory, the guitarist for Las Vegas rock group Five Finger Death Punch, which has sold more than three million records. “This city is becoming what it has never been—a cultural center.”

For years, the gambling enclave was a musical backwater, a graveyard for washed-up stars. Music, often, was on the house or deeply discounted. Now the live-music boom is helping the city diversify its economy, reduce its reliance on gambling, and attract younger visitors.

“The days of gambling—of, ‘We’re going to give you free entertainment to get you here to gamble,’ that’s over,” says music-industry veteran Irving Azoff.

Mr. Azoff is spearheading a high-risk plan, announced last month, to build a 17,500-seat arena for music—about the size of a pro hockey or basketball venue. His partners are Madison Square Garden, casino company Las Vegas Sands and Live Nation Entertainment, a concert promoter which owns Ticketmaster. Just weeks before, MGM Resorts International and Live Nation’s rival, Anschutz Entertainment Group, opened the 20,000-capacity, $375 million T-Mobile Arena, the first new arena in two decades.

Soon Las Vegas may boast five arenas, on par with Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. “Vegas used to be another B-city to stop at and play one date,” Mr. Azoff says. “That’s not how people look at it anymore.”

Hip-hop’s biggest star, Drake, will perform at the T-Mobile Arena in September. Grammy-winning alt-R&B act the Weeknd, pop star Bruno Mars and Latin phenom Pitbull have held residencies in Vegas, joining older acts such as Bette Midler and Elton John. When last year’s inaugural Rock in Rio USA festival picked a site, it was Vegas.

On the nightclub scene, celebrity DJs like Calvin Harris play the 4,500-capacity Omnia, which opened last year. Last month, Hakkasan Group, which owns Omnia, opened a 2,000-capacity club, Jewel. One of the nation’s premier dance festivals, the Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, starts later this month in its sixth year.

The growing importance of music in Las Vegas reflects a shift in the economics of gambling. Amid growing competition from casinos around the country and a sluggish economy, gambling revenue on the Las Vegas Strip has fallen for two straight years to $6.3 billion, compared with 2007’s $6.8 billion peak, according to the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Center for Gaming Research. Twenty years ago, gambling represented 70% of MGM Resorts’ Las Vegas-related revenue; now it’s 30%.

Live music, though, is thriving: 2015 was a record year for the North American concert business, with the top 100 tours grossing $3.1 billion, according to Pollstar. In the age of digital music, fans are paying up to see their favorite acts in the flesh, often buying tickets for big, boozy, multiday events such as music festivals, cruises—and Vegas trips.

“There’s been a recent, greater focus and investment in major headliners at the [Vegas] properties,” says Kevin Bagger, lead researcher with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. He says the share of Vegas visitors who went to a show and said they saw a big-name headliner has doubled to 26% in the past two years.

Big names are the draw, but two innovations laid the foundation for Las Vegas becoming a live-music mecca: artist residencies and dance clubs. Residencies, where artists play one venue exclusively instead of touring, have long been perceived as the realm of mature legacy acts and lounge stars, thanks to famous stints by Liberace, Elvis Presley, and Wayne Newton. Before that, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin,Sammy Davis Jr. and other members of the Rat Pack were always welcome, regardless of how their careers were going at the time.

That perception is outdated. Many of today’s residencies—from Prince’s Vegas stint in 2006 to J.Lo’s “All I Have” shows this year—aren’t “Vegas acts” so much as opportunities to see international stars. Instead of being shunned by artists, Vegas residencies are sought after. Drai’s, a Vegas beach club and nightclub, has a resident-artist roster that includes Future, a rapper whose last two records each topped the overall Billboard charts in the past year.

Residencies used to indicate that a musician’s career was in decline. Now they can take careers to the next level by providing established acts, especially DJs, with an international platform—much like music-festival appearances. Residencies also help artists avoid constant touring, an expensive and grueling pursuit which can lead to overexposure.

“In Las Vegas, the world comes to you,” saysBenny Medina, Jennifer Lopez’s manager.J.Lo’s residency at the Axis theater in Planet Hollywood, owned by Caesars Entertainment, has been well-reviewed. During her performances, Ms. Lopez routinely asks fans in the front row where they’re from, and after 20 or so shows, Mr. Medina has heard countless foreign countries.

Older residency acts remain plentiful, but their stints tend to be shorter than a decade ago. Country-music veteran George Strait, who can still fill stadiums, is playing several batches of shows this year and next at T-Mobile Arena, a space larger than is typical for a residency.

Las Vegas always had nightclubs, places where gamblers could have drinks and hear music, but dancing was considered a distraction. That’s changed radically: Vegas’ music scene now owes much to the intense popularity of electronic-dance music, nightclubs and celebrity DJs.

At Jewel, “the programming policy is based on diversity,” says James Algate, vice president of music at Hakkasan Group. If it’s EDM in one room, another might have hip-hop or pop.

Las Vegas’ local scene is also growing. In the past decade Vegas acts the Killers, Panic! At the Disco, Five Finger Death Punch, Imagine Dragons, Jenny Lewis and Shamir have gone national. Five Finger’s latest record hit No. 2 on the Billboard chart in September, riding a current resurgence in the hard-rock genre. In October, they will headline a hometown show at T-Mobile Arena.

Las Vegas has a long history of reinvention, and music isn’t the only way it is diversifying. As recently as the 1980s many dining options in Vegas were little more than $9.99 all-you-can-eat buffets. Now the Strip is loaded with celebrity-chef gourmet spots. Business conventions are still a key driver, and the city is trying to bring in major-league sports franchises. The National Hockey League is expected to announce the addition of a Las Vegas team later this month.

The evolution of this desert city from gambling getaway to music destination dates from casino magnate Steve Wynn’s opening of the Mirage resort in 1989, which placed a greater focus on entertainment, including the huge success of Cirque du Soleil. Then, in 2003, near the height of her fame, singer Celine Dion started the first modern residency at Caesars Palace’s 4,000 capacity Colosseum. She has since done nearly 1,000 shows and grossed more than $550 million in ticket sales, according to Billboard.

After taking a big hit in the recession, the population of Clark County—one of the nation’s fastest-growing before the recession—is expanding again, some 8% between 2010 and 2015, according to demographer Ken Johnson at the University of New Hampshire. That population growth is creating a more supportive environment for local bands and shows. There’s an audience even if tourists aren’t always interested, says Vegas local Mr. Bathory of Five Finger.

Music venues such as Count’s Vamp’d off the Vegas Strip serve a healthy local ’80s rock scene. The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino recently hosted residencies by Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard and Guns N’ Roses. Some older rockers from L.A.’s Sunset Strip have actually relocated to Vegas, where homes are more affordable.

“Vegas is becoming the new L.A.,” says Stacey Blades, a guitarist who plays with “Let It Rawk,” an ’80s rock show that has performed at Count’s Vamp’d.

Vegas’ visitors continue pouring in. A record 42.3 million tourists came last year, up more than 1 million from 2014. “You’ve got a different audience every day,” says Bill Hornbuckle, the president of MGM Resorts. Visitors are skewing younger, and with more cash to spend. The average age of a Vegas visitor has been falling—even as America gets older—hitting 47.7 years old last year, from 50 in 2009. Over 25% of visitors reported incomes over $100,000 last year, up from 15% a year before, according to Mr. Bagger of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

If big, expensive music festivals such as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival are becoming more Vegas-like with their resort atmosphere, Las Vegas is becoming, at least for some visitors, a kind of permanent music festival—a pricey music vacation, with good food, and maybe some games of chance thrown in.


Going to the chapel

There must be something magical about Las Vegas for lovers, because a blushing couple ties the knot there every five minutes. In fact, a jaw-dropping one out of every 20 marriages in America happens in Las Vegas.

Scores of celebrity couples have exchanged vows in Sin City, from Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu to Sammy Davis Jr and Swedish model May Britt to Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. Why not you and your intended, too?

After all, the 50-50 odds of a marriage surviving ’till death us do part’ start to look pretty good in comparison to the chances of hitting a royal flush at the poker table. (You don’t have to be sober to get married in Vegas either – that helps some folks a lot.)

Choices for the perfect spot to say ‘I do’ are endless. Weddings are performed in gondolas at the Venetian or atop the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. You can hire an Elvis impersonator to serenade you with ‘Blue Hawaii’, or you could dress up like Marilyn Monroe. Getting married after a dramatic helicopter landing on the floor of the Grand Canyon is also an option.

But to be truthful, the more Vegas wedding chapels you see, the less you may be inclined to entrust them with the happiest day of your life.

Many are pretty tacky: full of plastic flowers, fake stained-glass windows and doll’s-house pews. You may feel rushed, as these places crank out dozens of weddings every day. Expect to pay upwards of $200 for a basic service, including a chintzy limo ride to the chapel.

Before you get hitched at a wedding chapel, stop by the Clark County’s Marriage Bureau for a licence. Overseas visitors should check back home first if they’ll need any additional documentation to ‘make it official’.

It’s the low licence fee that attracts a lot of couples, as well as the no-wait period and lack of blood-test requirements that are often advertised. The services themselves range from a ten-minute drive-through with a streaming internet simulcast to a big function at a megaresort (more than two dozen casino hotels have wedding chapels).

Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Day are crush times for Vegas wedding chapels; if you want to say your vows at peak times, apply for a licence online, up to a year in advance. Make wedding-chapel reservations as far in advance as possible, too. Otherwise, civil courthouse ceremonies are performed from 8am to 10pm daily.

Several shops around Las Vegas rent tuxedos and wedding gowns for the occasion; some casinos have high-end jewellery shops that stay open late, even 24 hours. Many day spas and beauty salons offer beauty treatments and up-dos for the brides, and there are even bakeries that sell same-day wedding cakes and fresh flowers.

However, you don’t have to elope to find romance in Sin City. Steal a kiss over mega martinis atop the Stratosphere Tower, clasp hands as you watch the Bellagio’s dancing fountains or hide out with your paramour in a deluxe suite all weekend. Room-service menus feature champagne, gourmet chocolate and X-rated goodies to spice up your love life.


On the edge of the Grand Canyon

No matter how many pictures you may have seen of the Grand Canyon, nothing compares to the first real glimpse of this natural wonder of the world. The immense depth, the rocks in all different shades of red, and the glistening Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon all make for an unforgettable experience. The vast size of the canyon can only be truly appreciated by standing on the edge. And even then you are only seeing a fraction of this natural phenomenon.

Nobody knows exactly how old the Grand Canyon is, but estimates indicate that the stone at the bottom of the canyon dates back to 1.8 billion years ago. From Las Vegas you can make a day trip by plane or helicopter, but to really experience the Grand Canyon it is best to travel by car and spend the night in one of the many park lodges. A sunset in the Grand Canyon is a truly memorable moment.

On foot

The many hiking trails in the Grand Canyon offer ideal opportunities to explore this natural wonder on foot. You can also hike all the way down to the Colorado River but this requires a fair amount of preparation. Friendly rangers in the visitor’s centres are on hand to recommend the most appropriate hikes. The easiest route is the Rim Walk: a walk of several kilometres along the edge of the canyon which offers spectacular views. Those who prefer a short descent may opt for the South Kaibab Trail. The first descent along the canyon wall is quite steep, but you will quickly be rewarded by great views into the canyon. The South Kaibab Trail continues all the way to the Colorado River, and you can make the hike as long or as short as you like. Fit hikers can take the trail all the way to the end and spend the night at the Bright Angel Campground.

The view from the air

The only way to get a panoramic view of the canyon is from the air. You can fly over by plane, but a helicopter flight is much more spectacular. Through the large glass windows you will have an amazing view of the dizzying depths of the canyon and the Colorado River. The highlight is the flight through the Dragon Corridor on the South Rim, the widest and deepest part of the canyon.

From the skywalk

For another aerial view without your feet even leaving the ground, take the time to visit the Skywalk. This glass walkway was opened in 2007 in Grand Canyon West. The land belongs to the Hualapai Indians, and you must pay to access the Skywalk and to enter Grand Canyon West itself. The glass floor walkway protrudes approximately 21 meters from the canyon wall, allowing you to stare straight into the very depths of the canyon.


National Finals Rodeo: where the cowboys roam, rope and ride

Location: Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, USA

Dates: Starts in the first full week of December

Level of participation: 3 – attend the hoedown and gift show and hope for the rare chance to attend the rodeo

It could be argued that Las Vegas is a never-ending festival, a glorified fairground where the lights never go down. But there are moments when even Vegas outshines itself, and the 10-day National Finals Rodeo (NFR) is prime among them.

The big bronc of rodeo competitions, the NFR sees Vegas taken over by cowboys ready to ride and wrestle their way towards immortality. Known on the circuit as the ‘Superbowl of Rodeo’, NFR ropes in the season’s top 15 competitors (based on the ProRodeo world standings) in each of professional rodeo’s seven events: bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping and barrel racing. At stake are not just their bones and pride, but around US$5.5 million in prize money, which even by Vegas standards is real currency.

Since 1958, the NFR spent almost three decades being hosted by different US cities. In 1984 it was held at the Thomas and Mack Center for the first time and has been staged there every year since.

Running in conjunction with the rodeo is the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show in the Las Vegas Convention Center. No simple gift shop, the show contains around 400 stalls to help transform you into the cowboy or cowgirl of your rustling dreams. You’ll find boots, spurs, belt buckles as big as saucepans, and hats large enough to house small families. There’s also the Downtown Hoedown, a free honky-tonk party at the Fremont Street Experience, staged on the eve of NFR and featuring a host of big-name country musicians.

The toughest thing about NFR is not the cowboys but getting a ticket. Most tickets (around 100,000 of them) are allocated to riders and sponsors, leaving little more than 40,000 for the public. Such is the demand that tickets sell out more than a year in advance. It’s said that around one in 25 people who apply for tickets are successful.

Essentials: The rodeo is held nightly, beginning at 5.45pm or 6.45pm. If you missed out in the ticket ballot, the box office sells returned same-day tickets starting each morning around 10am. Cheaper ‘Mad Dash’ find-a-seat tickets let you scramble around to find no-show seats in the balcony area, with at least a guaranteed view of the action from the standing-room-only concourse.

Local attractions: The Strip is hedonic heaven and you can spend days bouncing from casino to casino. If central Vegas gets too much, head toRed Rock Canyon, an outdoor playground for local climbers and cyclists.

More info:


Adrenaline Vegas: an experience of Sin City extremes

You’ve bet (and lost) your shirt at the roulette table. You’ve eaten yourself into a coma at one of the legendary buffets. You’ve driven down the Strip blinking in awe at the shimmering neon. So now what? To find Vegas experiences outside the casinos but still guaranteed to get the pulse racing, our Destination Editor Alexander Howard went beyond the call of duty and reports back from the front line.

Get behind the wheel

I am not, it seems, a very good race car driver. At least not in the simulator. Robbie, my instructor, stands with his elbow resting on the roll-cage around me, waiting for me to find the right spot on the digitized track to make a turn. ‘You’re missing the apex’, he says, which is true, because at this point I’m off the track and driving over the pixelated gravel. The racing simulator is like something out of a video game arcade, and I’ve missed the apex nearly every time. ‘You’re braking too soon’, Robbie says with a hint of frustration.

The instructors promise that the simulator is harder than driving the actual track. Driving a race car requires depth perception, which is tough to replicate on a 2-d monitor, and the mind has a difficult time gauging when to turn and brake without the sensation of g-forces. I, for one, hope that’s true, and I sense that Robbie feels the same way.

It turns out, they’re right. After donning a helmet and a racing onesie, I’m squished into the driver’s seat of a Ferrari F430 GT. The ignition, a flip switch and a quarter-sized red button, brings the engine roaring to life. I snake out of the pit area and gun it onto the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the throaty sound of the V8 behind me overwhelming the car. Nearing a turn, my instructor’s Italian-accented voice comes through a pair of helmet-mounted speakers: ‘Brake hard’. I happily oblige, because this is the fastest I’ve ever driven – the car feels as though it’ll be ripped from the track, but I quickly sense the tires’ grip on the road.

The Ferrari F430 GT is a proper race car, fitted with a front splitter, a rear wing and a rear diffuser, all of which function to hold the car to the ground. The effect is immense. The 19in racing-slick tires magically stay on the track. This is not your average Ford Focus.

‘Go, go, go!’ my instructor is saying. I’ve left the turn and the track is open in front of me. I press hard on the accelerator, seeking the apex of the next turn.

Top tip: Book a time around noon, when the sun is high. The glare of a low sun can effectively blind a driver. And for an additional fee, Dream Racing ( will time your laps – a necessary bit of info when you can hardly look away from the road to glance at the speedometer.

Fire automatic weapons

The cracks of gunfire stutter out of a small brick building. I have arrived at Machine Gun Vegas (, and the violent sounds emanating from indoors are enough to get the blood flowing. But this isn’t your typical gun range: the arsenal here includes everything from small handguns to automatic rifles to lightweight machine guns (plus a minigun). This is, according to the party of young men next to me, a chance to live out your favorite Schwarzenegger moments.

My range safety officer, a former Navy servicewoman named Jackie, explains the proper use of my first weapon – a semi-automatic pistol similar to ones used in militaries and police departments around the world. Safety is clearly a priority here. Each range stall is managed by an instructor who’s never more than a foot away from the shooter.

I pop off a few rounds, and the effect is immediate: I’m grinning like a schoolboy. Once my magazine is empty, Jackie flips a switch that brings my paper target fluttering into view – 10 shots mostly placed where they were meant to go.

Next up is a powerful tactical shotgun that obliterates a zombie silhouette I’d picked to disperse next. All this destruction is not without a twinge of discomfort. The gun tourism industry has come under intense scrutiny since a 9-year-old was given a fully automatic Uzi (which allow multiple shots to be fired by a single squeeze of a trigger) in Arizona, resulting in an accident that left a safety instructor dead. In spite of the danger, gun tourism is rising in popularity, and gun ranges across the US are drawing visitors from gun-restricted countries, as well as domestic tourists seeking the rush of firing 50 rounds out of a lightweight machine gun.

Whatever your stance on America’s gun culture, Machine Gun Vegas is a chance to embed yourself right in the thick of it.

Top tip: Wear close-toed shoes, properly laced. A hot shell casing can burn bare skin. Also: listen to the instructor, and follow standard gun safety rules. The range isn’t a time for showy bravado. You may know your guns, but the instructor knows them better.

Fly an aerobatic plane

‘How hard do you want to take this?’ Denis, my pilot at Sky Combat Ace (, asks. Denis’ call sign is ‘Smokey’, which I’m hoping wasn’t a name bestowed as a result of a malfunction or aeronautical accident.

‘Let’s crank it up to 11,’ I say. A mistake, probably, fuelled by the macho aura of the fighter-jet hangar. Waiting around in the hangar in a borrowed, black flight suit has left me itchy, hungry to get into the air.

As we taxi out to the runway, Denis weaves the plane over the tarmac like a drunk swaying home after a long night out (he later tells me he does this to see over the engine cowl). He oscillates between chatty energy with me and cool professionalism with air traffic control.

Soon we are rushing down the runway, the plane’s engine like a distant, vibrating hum over the relative quiet of my noise-canceling headset. Without warning, Denis pulls back on the control stick and we are rocketing into the air.

The sky is a crisp, desert blue, sharper in the prism-like curve of the cockpit’s windshield. We fly out to where the Federal Aviation Administration has given Sky Combat Ace a space to work their magic – anything from a simulated dogfight with friends to an easy sunset cruise in an old-fashioned biplane. Today’s exercise is the Top Gun experience, which gives passengers a feel for the aerobatic plane’s abilities. Once over a nondescript space of desert, Denis begins his maneuvers, after which I’m given the opportunity to execute each myself: hammerheads, tail slides, tumbles and something Denis calls ‘The Rockstar’, which swings the horizon in perverse twists and spins.

Back on the ground, the rush of adrenaline subsides and is replaced by county-fair queasiness – my body slowly catching on to what it’s been through. I take a moment to sip from a much-needed can of ginger ale.

Top tip: Blacking out is a very real possibility, especially if you ask your pilot to take it to 11. Body size, age and fitness can affect the chance of blacking out, but tensing your lower extremities can reduce the amount of blood draining out of your head during positive g-forces. Luckily most trips with Sky Combat Ace come with footage from a cockpit-mounted camera, so any blackout-induced memory loss is supplemented by video evidence.

Alexander traveled to Nevada with support from Travel Nevada. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.


Las Vegas for foodies: top 10 new gourmet restaurants in Sin City

Hungry epicures have been singing ‘Viva Las Vegas’ for the past decade as the decadent spread of this neon-lit city moved from steakhouses and buffets to celebrity-chef destinations. That trend has continued as a slew of eateries offering adventurous cuisine have opened recently.

Some serve the glitzier side of Las Vegas, while others remain indebted to the informal-yet-gluttonous theme that made Sin City famous. All are flavor-forward with mouthwatering menus tailored to your culinary mood.

Perfect your French at Bardot Brasserie

The grand tradition of Gallic fine dining has been an essential aspect ofLas Vegas since its early days as a worldwide travel destination. Michael Mina’s Bardot Brasserie ( is the latest inheritor of this gustatory spirit. With a name nod to the voluptuous actress, Bardot brings alive a living slice of classic Parisian appetite and decor in the Aria at CityCenter. In a room of dark-toned paneled walls and incandescent vintage glass fixtures, impeccable French food like tuna tartare Niçoise with quail eggs is served with perfectly paired glasses of wine. The brunch draws fervent crowds.

Get to know the unforgettable Mr. Chow

The arrival of Mr. Chow ( in Las Vegas created huge waves of culinary excitement when it opened in the famous Caesars Palace. A star-studded clientele of Hollywood A-listers and business moguls flock to the Chinese-inspired temple of outrageous edibles. Tableside presentation is all part of the show at Mr. Chow, including elegant platters of Peking duck and giant steamed sea bass. The rolling Champagne cart makes bubbly stops at tables, too.

Italian goes to the next level at Carbone

Where do headlining performers go to devour Italian dishes with luxurious gusto when they are not on Las Vegas stages? That would be Carbone (, a cavalcade of cuisine in the Aria. In a stunning room of red velvet and golden trim illuminated by glittering chandeliers, gargantuan plates of pasta and more are served. Ravioli are stuffed to the brim with lobster, and tortellini are deluged with robust ragu. The veal chop Parmesan fills a platter like a delectable manhole cover. This is not a restaurant for light eaters in the least.

Cuisine rises to new heights at Rivea

High in the sky, looking out over the glowing Las Vegas skyline and the dramatic mountain peaks beyond, Rivea ( is like a shimmering modernistic dream. Located on the top floor of the Delano Hotel next toMandalay Bay, the room is filled with eye-catching blown-glass baubles that hover over plates filled with cuisine by the master French chef Alain Ducasse. Entrées such as duck breast in bigarde sauce and wild Alaskan halibut with morels match the view. The adjacent Skyfall lounge is James Bond cool, too.

Gather for dinner at Harvest by Roy Ellamar

Las Vegas has embraced the farm-to-table movement that’s caught fire in foodie culture across the globe. Nowhere along the thrumming Strip is this more apparent than at the vegetable- and viand-filled Harvest by Roy Ellamar ( A snug nook in the immense Bellagio, Harvest’s menu ranges from vegetarian-friendly farro porridge with wild mushrooms and truffles to meaty rack of lamb with chimichurri. Many visitors signal for the roaming Snack Wagon filled with munchies like housemade charcuterie and condiments including broccoli raab pesto.

The dining is snazzy at Herringbone

Style and cuisine often go hand-in-hand in Las Vegas, and that’s not just for glitzy dress-up, either. Upscale casual food is in high demand among famished travelers here, and Herringbone ( in the Aria is a fittingly snazzy destination. Taking its design cues from coastal Southern California, it features a welcoming and comfortable dining room plus a breezy patio area under Las Vegas’ dramatic evening skies. Experiment with charred whole Spanish octopus in preserved lemons or dig into grilled branzino with shaved fennel.

It’s time for some gustatory Therapy

The ongoing culinary fermentation of gourmet Las Vegas is not just something that’s happening along the Strip in enormous hotels.Downtown is a hive of edible explorations, too. One of the brightest dining spots in Old Vegas is Therapy ( This charming space along funky East Fremont Street contains a gastropub that’s advanced its mission into new territory. Here, sliders are filled with barramundi with truffle-lemon aioli and arugula. Macaroni and cheese croquettes are sided with bacon-tomato jam and red pepper remoulade slaw. You get the comfort food picture.

The culinary scene sparkles at Beauty & Essex

When it comes to entertaining epicureanism, the Las Vegas dining universe shines at Beauty & Essex ( Located in the trendy Cosmopolitan, this eatery is a place to imbibe cutting-edge mixology paired with innovative eats. Match a rum-sweet Melon Mojito with paprika-spiced salmon and sriracha-curry cauliflower. Side a bourbon- and maple-flavored Woodsman highball with savory roasted beef marrow bones with Rioja-braised shallot marmalade. Top off your evening with black-bottomed butterscotch pot de crème with coconut chantilly for good measure. Mix in ever present music, and this is dining with a distinct nocturnal vibe.

Branch off for dinner at Alder & Birch

Another segment of Las Vegas that’s seeing tremendous culinary advances is populated by what’s known as ‘locals casinos.’ These off-Strip destinations once mostly favored chain restaurants, and were usually only visited by out-of-towners when they were looking for a deal on lodging rather than fine-dining options. That’s changing, however, especially at establishments like Alder & Birch ( in The Orleans. In a handsome but relaxed dining room defined by ivory-hued leather booths and darkly lacquered walls, impressive dishes like herbed organic Jidori chicken in pan jus and Wagyu coulotte sirloin with grilled portobellini mushrooms are attracting more and more true foodies.

Journey to Chinatown’s Niu-Gu

Many first-time visitors are surprised to learn that this Mojave metropolis has an immense Chinatown district to the west of the Strip filled with scores of Asian restaurants representing the foodways of many nations. And at compact Niu-Gu (, this means contemporary gourmet flourishes riffing on the oldest cuisine in the world: Chinese. Mixing inspirations from various provinces, the tiny but capable kitchen produces unexpected delights like glistening squid ink fried rice, lobster-studded tropical fruit salad, fiery double-chili prawns and tender Angus beef short rib slices served on a dramatic leg bone. Niu-Gu is also an incredible deal in comparison to pricey Asian restaurants in the Tourist Corridor.


Best Las Vegas Saloons

Las Vegas left its Deadwood days in the dust long ago. But the big-hatted bull riders of Western lore still come to town, mostly for the rodeos held in fancy, indoor corrals and equestrian centers. And when the steeds are watered and the bulls bedded for the night, even a high-riding rodeo guy and gal need their beer and boogie fix.

These days, Las Vegas is known as much for Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney as it is for Celine and Cirque. The real cowboys, however, head to the Strip’s best saloons — the ones with endless shots of Jack Daniels and line dances that keep you in motion ‘till the cows come home. But don’t call these saloons quaint. Notorious is more like it — with famous names, sexy bartenders and plenty of VIP perks added to the mix. Here are our top picks.

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar

This all-American country saloon, located mid-Strip, at the Mardi Gras-themed Harrah’s, serves Southern comfort food and libations such as “Who’s Your Daddy” margaritas. Additional cocktail options are pricey but definitely imaginative. Try “Whiskey Girl,” a tall glass of Jack Daniels, amaretto, pineapple juice, orange juice and grenadine. It’s a great way to wash down the menu’s fried bologna sandwich — a Keith fave. Keith himself is known to drop by when he’s in town and give a spontaneous little late-night concert.


At first glance, this bucking bronco and brawling bar draws a crowd that includes bachelorettes on the loose or company boys out bonding with the boss. Still, cowboy wannabes and real cowboys alike find Gilley’s a convenient gathering spot when the rodeo is in town. And there’s nothing tame about this place. Only the toughest (or most inebriated) of Stetson-wearing talent dares to take on the mechanical bull at Gilley’s. If you can last 8 seconds you’ve already beat the odds. Once a week, the dudes line up for the “Toughest Cowboy” competition and try to stay saddled long enough to win the $200 purse. Ladies also get their turn, during the “Bikini Bull Riding” competition.

Stoney’s Rockin’ Country

This popular country nightclub puts cool into the saloon experience. The colossal 20,000-square-foot nightclub includes 2 bars, a 3-lane bowling alley, a $250,000 sound system and a “cowboy ultra-lounge,” with perks such as a personal cocktail waitress and bouncer-protected entrance just steps away from the dance floor that’s the size of a barn. Free dance lessons allow the shyest cowboy or cowgirl to join the action on the dance floor with energetic, syncopated dance numbers. Live bands take the stage most nights, with top name acts such as Michael Austin and the Thunder Road Band. Toby Keith’s opening act, Flynville Train, has also popped in.

Bonnie Springs Restaurant

For a saloon sans bull riding and two-stepping, head out of town to a mountain spot between Red Rock Canyon and the hamlet of Blue Diamond, about 25 miles west of the Strip. Bonnie Springs Restaurant, a vittles (aka food) venue with a no-ties-allowed saloon has been a working ranch for more than 150 years. More recently, the ground’s have also become a high desert traveler’s attraction with a mini zoo, horseback riding and Old West town recreations. The saloon itself keeps a cozy feel going with a stone fire pit in the bar, while local cowboys, who work on this ranch and others nearby, keep the place hopping.

Dylan’s Dance Hall and Saloon

The logo, says it all: “Dylan’s — Get Bucked.” Just make sure to keep your hat on. You get points on your wager if you don’t lose your Stetson on the mechanical bull. It really is all about the bull here — and the beer: bottomless mugs, served by babes in leather tiny bikinis. Meanwhile, free dance lessons — the Texas two-step, the line dance — ensure you won’t be stepping on any toes. The sounds spin until dawn. And so does the bucking. But relax, the bull riding is free, and since this is a betting town, the wagers extend to the saloon’s pool, air hockey, darts, even beer pong tourneys.