Las Vegas – even the name seems glamorous. From the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign to the Bellagio’s dancing fountains and Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, it all sounds beautiful and dangerous. But there are many sides to Vegas. In this one week Las Vegas itinerary we will explore the best of what Vegas and Nevada have to offer. We will start with brilliant casinos and make our way into the desert. Here, await the Grand Canyon and the Seven Mountains Exhibit. Then, we will venture off the strip to the Atomic History Museum and the old Fremont Street – the home of the mob. Finally, will do a day trip to Hoover Dam to learn about how Vegas began. In between it all you will have a chance to enjoy the luxury of modern Vegas. Let’s get started!
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Bellagio, Ceasar’s and the Venetian – Las Vegas Itinerary, Day 1
Day 1 of this seven day Las Vegas itinerary starts like so many trips to Vegas – in the middle of the famous strip. Casinos in Vegas offer a lot of free art and entertainment in hopes of attracting gamblers. This means that a wise traveler can enjoy brilliant exhibits and performances – all totally free. So, on day one let’s explore the free side of Vegas by visiting the three casinos – Bellagio, Ceasar’s and Venetian.
Start your exploration of Vegas in Ceasar’s – the stunning casino and hotel in the center of the strip. First, walk to the shopping promenade. Here, you will notice that the atmosphere is constantly changing. This is due to a special set up – the light inside is designed to create the impression of alternating morning or evening. The effect is supposed to throw off your circadian rhythm, and get you to stay longer. In the shopping promenade, you will find countless fountains and statues, all inspired by ancient Greece.
Every day, from 11 am to 10 pm, you can catch the free Fall of Atlantis show by the main fountain Ceasar’s. Afterward, take a walk to the free 50,000-gallon saltwater aquarium nearby.
Created to look like Venice, the Venetian Hotel and Casino is famous for its indoor river and gondola rides. Here, spend some time strolling along the main promenade as you enjoy a cup of gelato. Additionally, don’t forget to check out the free performances in the town square (inside the building). Every day, around 30 different short plays are performed here – so stay around long enough to watch a few.
Often called the crown jewel of Las Vegas, The Bellagio is famous for its dancing fountains. Shows begin at 3 pm but be sure to also check out the art inside. First, stop by the free Bellagio conservatory and botanical gardens. Next, check out the free Bellagio’s Cirque du Soleil Art Gallery. And finally, stop by the Bellagio Fine Art Gallery, a collection of some of the world’s best art. Here too, you’ll find the infinity room – ideal for social media pics. In the evening observe the dancing fountains set to music as the sun sets over the horizon.
Las Vegas Travel Tip:
The best time to watch Belagio’s dancing fountains is during the sunset and after dark. Keep in mind that Monday through Saturday, from 8 pm to 12 am, the shows run every 15 minutes.
Where to Eat on Day 1 in Las Vegas – Bellagio – Noodles
Noodles is a fantastic Asian fusion joint inside the Bellagio. They do not accept reservations – but it is worth the wait.
Atomic Testing Museum and Mandalay Bay Aquarium – Las Vegas Itinerary, Day 2
Now that you’ve had a chance to explore a little bit of the strip, its time to discover a different side of Vegas. Today let’s take a quick trip to visit the Atomic Testing Museum followed by Mandalay Bay Aquarium. Afterward, spend the rest of the afternoon on Mandalay Bay beach (free on weekdays with Aquarium admission).
The Atomic Testing Museum
At one point, nuclear testing was considered to be so safe that casinos organized tours to the testing sites. Very high rollers had an opportunity to watch a test – equipped with sunglasses. Today, the nuclear testing sites are closed to the public and the testing is done underground. However, a visit to the Smithsonian associated National Atomic Testing Museum is a great way to learn more about this odd history. This museum is relatively small and takes a little over an hour to explore. However, it is unique and thus, a perfect fit for Vegas.
Mandalay Bay Aquarium
Perhaps one of the best facilities in the world, the Mandalay Bay Aquarium is stunning. Featuring hundreds of animals and two walks through tunnels this attraction is a crowd-pleaser. Although it’s not cheap, the aquarium is worth the $35 per person admission. In addition to exploring the aquarium (about 2 hours), your ticket includes the newly build Polar Explorer attraction next door. This interactive computer-enhanced exhibit delves into the South and North Poles. And finally, your admission pass gives you free entrance to Mandalay Bay Beach.
Mandalay Bay Beach
Mandalay Bay Beach is an 11-acre water park and a great way to spend the rest of your afternoon. You can receive free same-day entrance to the beach with the purchase of Mandalay Bay Aquarium ticket most weekdays. To double-check the exact days, call the hotel in advance. Keep in mind that sometimes the free beach admission is canceled for special events or if the hotel is very busy. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon relaxing by the water or playing on the slides.
Save Money in Las Vegas Tip:
Most weekdays you can visit Mandalay Beach free with Mandalay Aquarium admission.
Where to Eat on Day 2 in Las Vegas – Mandalay Bay – Border Grill
After a long day at the waterpark, you might find yourself very hungry. For a filling meal, check out Border Grill in Mandalay Bay. This Mexican restaurant with a Las Vegas twist is a great dinner stop.
Grand Canyon Daytrip – Las Vegas Itinerary, Day 3
It would be a shame to visit last Las Vegas for a week but neglect the stunning nature in this area. The Grand Canyon is one of the world’s natural wonders and you’ll find it within a reasonable distance from Sin City.
Pick Up A Rental Car
Start your day early by picking up a rental car at the airport. I recommend morning pick up because parking in Vegas is very expensive. As the airport is very close (and uber is cheap) it makes sense to only rent a car on the days you’ll need it. We will be spending the next few days exploring the area around Las Vegas.
Save Money in Las Vegas Travel Tip:
Renting a car in Las Vegas is cheap but parking is expensive. To save money, rent a car only for the days you need it. An uber to the airport (the best place to rent a car) will run you about $15.
Best Places in Vegas To Rent a Car:
The South Rim – Grand Canyon
Many visitors opt to join a bus tour to visit the Grand Canyon. I do not recommend this. The busses will take you to the most commercial part of the canyon – the West Rim. This area is expensive and does not offer the best views. I have visited both the west and the south rim and there is no question – south rim is far superior. The West Rim does offer the Sky Bridge, but keep in mind you can not take a phone or a camera onto the bridge.
The South Rim, on the other hand, is not commercial and is a part of the National Park. Here you’ll find many free amenities including shuttles that will transport you to the best lookout points and trailheads. To get to the South Rim you’ll need to drive about 5 hours from the strip. I started early (around 1 am) in order to get to Hopi Lookout Point by sunrise. If you are not an early morning person, try to catch sunset instead.
Grand Canyon Travel Tip:
After you enter the park, set your GPS to Hopi Point. You will eventually reach a roadblock. Park your car here, and proceed 2 minutes on foot to the shuttle stop. The free shuttle will take you further up the mountain and stop at a dozen of the best lookout points.
After you get here, spend your day enjoying a variety of hiking trails around the Grand Canyon. When planning the rest of your day keep in mind that the drive back is about 5 hours.
Where to Eat on Day 3 – Las Vegas Itinerary – Road Side Diner
For a truly authentic southwest road trip experience, stop in a diner on your way back from the Grand Canyon. Kingman, Arizona is a great town about the hallway between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, and Mr. D’s Diner is a popular eatery with a lot of great route 66 inspire decore.
Las Vegas Travel Tip:
Although you can drive via route 66 to and from Grand Canyon, the route will take much longer than highway 40.
The Flamingo, The Mirage and the Las Vegas Sign – Las Vegas Itinerary, Day 4
Since you spend much of the previous day driving, today is a good day to relax and enjoy some free attractions around the Las Vegas strip. Today we will visit the of old Vegas in the Flamingo Hotel. Next, check out amazing Vegas street art including the famous Las Vegas Sign. And finally, enjoy the free activities inside the mirage as well as the nightly exploding Volcano show.
The Flamingo – Vegas As It Used To Be
The Flamingo Hotel looks like something out of a 1960’s movie set. The pink coloring and the shabby chic decore all conspire to transport you to the heyday of Vegas. As you walk here, you can envision the Rat Pack as they haunted these hallways. This Casino is one of the few old casinos that has not been torn down – and that’s a bit part of its charm.
Inside the Flamingo you’ll find the Flamingo Habitat, a free to enter paradise in the middle of the concrete jungle. Here, stroll the shaded pathways as you watch flamingos, turtles fish and other birds in their habitat. Feedings take place throughout the day.
Vegas Street Art and The Las Vegas Sign
The famous Las Vegas Sign is located at the southern end of the strip. To get here you’ll have to walk a bit (or take uber to save time). If you chose to walk you will encounter some fabulous art along the way. For instance, the Dancing Woman Statue (she is lit up at night) is located close to New York, New York Hotel. On your way to the sign, also stop by the Luxor hotel. The interior is impressive and worth seeing. The city of Las Vegas features more than 200 murals – see which ones you can spot as you walk towards the sign.
The Mirage – The Volcano Show and More
The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas offers several awesome free attractions. The first is the Mirage aquarium, located behind the reception desk. This enormous saltwater feature is a great stop on your exploration of the casino. Next, stop by the hotel atrium – designed to look like a rainforest, complete with waterfalls. The atrium is connected with the aquarium. And finally, the most famous attraction in Mirage is the Volcano show.
Scheduled for every evening at 8, 9 and 10 pm, the Mirage Volcano remains one of the best free shows in Vegas. Here, you can watch a giant, exploding volcano situated over the strip. This is a great place to spend your evening.
Las Vegas Travel Tip:
The Mirage Volcano show remains one of the best free shows in Vegas. Stop in at 8, 9 or 10 pm to see the stunning explosion.
Where to Eat in Las Vegas – Day 4 – The Mirage
For dinner, check out Otoro in the Mirage, a high-quality sushi joint with reasonable prices and great reviews.
Red Rock Canyon, Neon Museum and Fremont Street – Las Vegas Itinerary, Day 5
Today will be taking another day trip – this one much closer to Vegas. The stunning Red Rock Canyon is situated just half an hour outside of the city – but a world away. Afterward, we will visit the historical Vegas District, with the incredible Neon Museum and a fun stroll on Fremont Street.
Day Trip to Red Rock Canyon
The Red Rock Canyon is a National Conservation Area located only a short drive outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. The canyon encompasses more than 20 acres of the Mojave Desert. The best way to view the Canyon is by visiting the picturesque Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive. When I visited (fall of 2019) the entire drive was newly rehabilitated. In addition to the drive, if you have a four-wheel car you can go off-roading in several spots. For this reason, I recommend renting a four-wheel-drive if at all possible. The entry to the scenic drive costs $15 and it includes a visit to the onsite open-air museum.
The Neon Museum
In the evening, just as the sun is about to set, make your way out to the incredible Neon Museum. Here, as the dusk settles, wander among the artifacts of Old Vegas, the ancient signs torn off the long-forgotten buildings. If you are a visual person it is difficult not to be impressed with the array of light here. However, keep in mind that cameras are not allowed into the exhibit. You can bring a cell phone with you instead, and the pictures come out beautiful. The entry is timed, so its best to get tickets in advance, especially if you want to go during the sunset.
Neon Museum Travel Tip:
The entrance to the museum is timed. The museum gets busy in the afternoon. For sunset admission, book in advance online.
After a visit to the Neon Lights Museum, hop in an uber (or your rental car) and proceed to the nearby Fremont Street. Many people think Las Vegas is all about the Vegas Strip – but this wasn’t always the case. Back in the days before Vegas became family-friendly and glamorous, Fremont Street was the center. Here, casinos and raunchy shows lined the avenue, and the vibe was decidedly adult. Flamingo was the first major hotel on the Las Vega strip and others soon followed. Fremont fell into disrepair until 15 years ago the city took over. Over time, the city of Vegas began to construct the Fremont Street attraction. This family-friendly walking area encompasses many old casinos and new attractions. You can even zip line above the avenue – an unusual activity perfect for Vegas.
Where to Eat on Day 5 – Fremont Street
Fremont Street offers a variety of quirky dining options. For instance, at the entrance to the avenue, you’ll find the Heat Attack Grill, a unique eatery that requires all customers to wear a hospital gown. Although there is no shortage of restaurants on the street, some of the better restaurants are located off the street. One good option is the Mexican El Dorado Cantina – a solid choice with great food and atmosphere.
Hoover Dam, Seven Magic Mountains, Lion Ranch – Las Vegas Itinerary, Day 6
Although some people believe Vegas started on Fremont Street, the history of the city actually starts during the Great Depression. Back then, hundreds of thousands of workers descended on the area in hopes of scoring a good job helping to build the Hoover Dam. After the Dam was completed (in record time), the water and electricity generated here helped power the small towns nearby, including Las Vegas. Many workers moved to the city and that was actually how the modern city of Las Vegas got its start. On day six of the Las Vegas Itinerary lets explore the Hoover Dam, followed by the awesome Seven Mountains Art installation. Then we will visit the Lion Habitat Ranch, where many MGM lions are retired.
The Hoover Dam
Start your day by visiting the Hoover Dam. Although the visitor center does not open until 10 am, I suggest you get here by 9. You’ll find plenty of free parking at that hour. In addition, you can walk around the dam and take plenty of pictures, and line up early at the visitor’s center. The Hoover Dam tours (which are exceptional) fill up very quickly. For this reason, I suggest you line up at the center around 9.30 am. This way you can be there in time for the first tour. The entire experience takes about an hour and you will be able to walk into the interior of the dam. Accompanied by a guide you’ll learn about the construction, engineering and the people who worked (and died) here. This once in a lifetime experience is a must and a great addition to your Las Vegas itinerary.
Hoover Dam Daytrip From Vegas Travel Tip:
Get to Hoover Dam at 9 am to guarantee free parking and a spot on the Hoover Dam tour. Get in line at the visitors center around 9.30 am.
Seven Magic Mountains
Seven Magic Mountains is an enormous art installation you will find right outside of Las Vegas. A great time to come here is during sunrise, but mid-day works too. The rocks you see in this picture are balanced without any construction material, using only the power of physics. The giant installation makes for a perfect social media backdrop. You’ll find little else in this area, it’s a secluded segment of the Mojave Desert.
The Lion Habitat Ranch
After your stop at the Seven Magic Mountains, continue to drive further south towards the Lion Habitat Ranch. The ranch is home to dozens of lions, many retired from the MGM Casino (the casino no longer exhibits live lions). The animals, which are part of the Berber Breeding Program, live in small family units. The staff is knowledgeable and dedicated to their care. Your ticket purchase provides support fo the not-for-profit center. Before you go, be sure to check the schedule on their website, as they are only open a few days in the winter.
Where to Eat in Las Vegas, Day 6
The Secret Pizza joint in the Cosmopolitan hotel might be one of Vegas’s best-kept secrets. While it does not have a sign or a name, this 24-hour pizza parlor offers reasonable and delicious pizza. And how do you find it? Show a casino employee the picture below. For lots more food recommendations, be sure to follow me on Vero.
Explore more of the Vegas Strip and Fly Out – Las Vegas Itinerary, Day 7
Today is the last day of your vacation, but if you have a few more hours the following Casinos are worth a visit. Cosmopolitan has some terrific art on display, as does the Wynn and Aria. Although none of these casinos feature free large scale attractions, they are all stunning and worth a visit.
One More Thing
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