The Strip, Downtown, and Everything In Between - A Fun Weekend in Las Vegas
It's been almost two years since my best friend moved away to Las Vegas! I know what you're thinking, "it's only Vegas". Yes, Vegas is only a 4-hour drive from Los Angeles, and a 1-hour flight. But when you're a mom, whose kids are perpetually busy, whose husband has a thriving business that can pull him away at any given moment and you're a business owner yourself, it makes planning a solo trip- well, difficult. After months of going back and forth, I finally booked my flight, just a few days before my travel dates. It has simply been long enough. I missed my bestie. So, I was ready to spend some quality time with my friend, and I couldn't be more excited!
The itinerary could have been packed full of activities and sightseeing - even some Vegas debauchery, that I'm sure would have made for an unforgettable reunion. Instead, we decided to go a different route. We simply missed each other and all we wanted to do was hang out, eat junk, and catch up on much needed girl time. Besides, we can do a Sin City trip another time.
If you're looking to visit your bestie in Las Vegas, the best way is to plan ahead. Book your flights ahead. That will give you the time to research the hidden fees various airlines tack on.
I had no time. I decided to fly within days of making my decision and had to book fast. Most of the roundtrip flights I saw were around the $500 price point. Then, I stumbled upon Frontier Airlines. This airline offers incredibly cheap fares. The roundtrip flight that caught my eye was only $81. The catch is that these prices don't include any of the extras like baggage fees or seating. So if you want a good seat, you pay an additional fee to book it. Seat fees range from $21-$65. Baggage fees are about $35 for a carry-on bag and $40+ for a checked bag. These fees are all one-way, so make sure to factor those in when looking at flight deals. Once you've factored in all the extras, you may realize that you're spending the same or more than those other flights you passed.
However, if done right, a budget airline may be just the right type of flight. For my Frontier Airlines flight to Las Vegas and back, I decided to pass on the carry-on fee. I would not be spending $35 each way, just to carry my own bag onto the flight. The loophole here is personal items: personal items can be brought onto the plane as long as they are no larger than 14” tall, 18” wide, and 8”. So, I spent that $70 on a new bag that I could carry on as a purse or personal item. At least this way, I get to keep what I paid for to use again.
I did splurge and ended up paying for my preferred seats. There is an option to not purchase seats in advance, meaning when you arrive, you will be seated wherever there is a seat, but I did not want to take that chance.
Overall, my roundtrip airfare cost me about $140. A huge savings, and honestly, a lovely flight both ways.
What to Pack
• Clothes: In warmer months, because it's Vegas, you can pack lightweight layers and shorts since it can get hot. It's a good idea to bring a jacket for when it cools off at night. You also want to be prepared for any special events you might attend or restaurants you'll visit – I like to bring one or two nice dresses or outfits.
On this particular trip, however, I packed warmer layers, as the temperatures were in the 40's during the day, and dropped to the low 30's at night.
• Shoes: Comfortable shoes are a must for walking around the Strip and exploring the city. I recommend bringing a pair of sandals or flip-flops for the pool and sneakers for all the walking you will do.
• Sunscreen: Las Vegas is in the desert, so you need to make sure to wear sunscreen! Bring at least an SPF 30, but if you're planning on spending a lot of time outside, you should consider bringing a higher protection factor.
• Toiletries: Don't forget to pack your toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and whatever else you need for your daily routine.
• Accessories: Bring a hat or a bandana to keep your head covered from the sun. Also, don't forget a pair of sunglasses and a swimsuit if you plan on going to the pool. For my trip this January, I brought a beanie and sunglasses.
• Entertainment: To keep yourself entertained while traveling, you should bring your laptop or tablet, books, music, or any other type of entertainment you usually enjoy. Want to know how I entertained myself on the short flight? I reorganized all of the apps on my iPhone.
Where to Stay
For this trip, I made my stay at my BFF's house. I wanted to spend as much time with her as possibe. So we had ourselves a weekend-long slumber party. But, Las Vegas is full of accommodations for every budget. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious hotel on the strip, a cozy motel in downtown Vegas, or an affordable Airbnb, you’ll be able to find the perfect place to stay in Sin City.
If you’re looking for something along the strip, you’ve got lots of options. The iconic Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, and MGM Grand are all popular and well-known spots. For something a bit more modest, the Circus Circus, Flamingo and Excalibur hotels provide more affordable options. All of these hotels offer a variety of amenities, such as pools, gyms, spas, shops and restaurants.
If you’d like to stay off the strip, there are plenty of options in downtown Las Vegas as well. The Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino is a great option with a casino, pool, restaurants, and an onsite brewery. The Fremont Hotel & Casino also offers similar amenities, with the added bonus of being located near the famous Fremont Street Experience. Other downtown options include the El Cortez Hotel & Casino and the Golden Nugget.
I have very fond memories of the Fremont Hotel, as we took the drive to Vegas with my late Father-in-Law and his wife, two days after our wedding, and a week before we left for our honeymoon. This was my in-law's go-to hotel, so we joined them for a few days in Sin City, enjoying a different side of Vegas and of course, their company.
For those looking for a more unique experience, you may want to consider renting an Airbnb or a vacation rental. This can give you a more homey atmosphere, as well as access to amenities like fully equipped kitchens and living rooms. There are some great deals available on Airbnb that will make your trip even more budget-friendly.
Have you read my blog about the gorgeous Lake Las Vegas? It's a wonderful alternative to the Strip or even Downtown Las Vegas.
No matter what kind of accommodation you choose, you’re sure to have a great time in Las Vegas!
Where to Eat
Las Vegas is a mecca for amazing food, so the biggest challenge you may face is deciding where to go! Whether you’re looking for a unique, local favorite or a top-rated restaurant in one of the many world-renowned hotels, there is something for everyone.
For those of us who watch Sonic commercials all the time, without a Sonic in sight, there’s now an outpost located on The Strip. Enjoy classic Sonic favorites like chili cheese tater tots and thick shakes in the lively atmosphere of Las Vegas!
Foodies will be delighted by the array of restaurants in Las Vegas. If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, try Gordon Ramsay Steak, located in the Paris Las Vegas Hotel. Enjoy mouthwatering steak dishes and savory sides while taking in gorgeous views of the Bellagio fountains.
Las Vegas also has some great budget-friendly options. Stop by El Dorado Cantina for delicious Mexican fare at affordable prices. The restaurant also offers vegan and vegetarian alternatives, as well as margaritas and other drinks that are sure to hit the spot.
End your evening with some ice cream from Milk Bar by Christina Tosi. Enjoy decadent flavors such as crack pie and cereal milk soft serve with your friends or significant other. There’s no better way to end your night than with this sweet treat!
No matter what type of cuisine you’re craving, you won’t be disappointed with all that Las Vegas has to offer. So grab a few friends and explore all that this city has to offer when it comes to food!
What to Do
Some say no trip to Vegas is complete without exploring the Strip. From the flashing lights and massive resorts to the shows and nightlife, you won't be disappointed. Be sure to check out iconic landmarks like The Bellagio Fountains, the High Roller Ferris Wheel, and the Eiffel Tower Experience.
But I do beg to differ.
Yes, the Strip is amazing, but there is so much to do outside of the Strip. Especially when visiting a friend you've missed for quite some time. So, for a more outdoorsy experience, because that's what my friend and I love, Las Vegas has plenty of trails, hikes and mountains to explore. The Valley of Fire State Park is a great place to start. With miles of red rock formations, the park offers stunning views and a vast desert landscape. Red Rock Canyon is another option, with its multi-colored rock walls, peaceful oasis and miles of challenging hikes. If you’re looking for a peaceful escape, consider visiting the Wetlands Park Nature Preserve. With three hiking trails and various bird-watching spots, this park offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the Strip.
If you’re looking for something a little more exciting, head over to Fremont Street for some gambling and live music. This area of downtown Las Vegas is known for its colorful neon lights, street performers, and casinos. For something truly unique, visit the Neon Museum. Here you can explore Las Vegas’s history through a collection of signs from iconic hotels, restaurants and more.
Overall, there's something for everyone in Vegas. From outdoor hikes and museums to shopping, shows, and gambling, you won't run out of activities on your visit.