The best of Las Vegas
The Paris Las Vegas hotel is centrally located on the east side of the Strip. (Neil Emmerson/Getty)
While some people spend their nights in Las Vegas hunting for a black 26, others are happy just to play a few slots before calling it a night – and either player could hit it big. Las Vegas is a city of extremes -- the biggest hotels, the most extravagant meals, the over-the-top nightlife — and you do not have to be a gambler in order to appreciate the diversity and energy pulsing the city’s veins.
The four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip and a small section of downtown known as Fremont Street can seem like one large 24-hour party seeped in sensory overload. But it can also be the perfect place for a romantic getaway, a bachelorette party or a weekend with the family -- and that is perhaps Las Vegas’ biggest strength; there really is something for everybody. There are dozens of resorts in Nevada’s Sin City, and while they almost all offer gambling, dining and entertainment options, each has a personality of its own. The question is not if you will find one to suit your tastes but which one will keep you coming back for more.
Best for first-time gamblers
A bet is a bet, no matter where you put down your money, so there is no casino that goes easy on first-time gamblers. But if you are new to the casino floor, it is a good idea to learn the ins and outs of the game before sitting down with more experienced players. The Golden Nugget, located off the Strip in downtown Las Vegas, offers free daily gaming lessons for several table games, including craps, three-card poker, pai gow (a Chinese gambling game), roulette and more. Golden Nugget, like many downtown casinos, is older than many of the properties found on the Strip, but thanks to recent renovations the resort is now relatively classy and still affordable. Though you will not find any celebrity chefs or nightclubs here, the resort’s pool (known as the Tank) is noteworthy for its three-story waterslide and being home to entertainer Gordie Brown’s popular show.
Best for slots
Long gone are the days of dropping quarters into slot machines. It is now commonplace to play the slots using debit-like tickets and by pressing buttons instead of pulling levers. But El Cortez is one of the few places left in the city where old school slots still stand and coins are welcome. El Cortez is also an older downtown casino, with lower ceilings and a floor plan that is not as open as the newer resorts, though it too has undergone multi-million dollar renovations in recent years to update its hotel rooms. If you are looking for a large variety of slot machines, head to Mandalay Bay, which has more than 2,000 of them on its casino floor, ranging from video poker (a computerized version of five-card draw poker) to progressive slots (a group of slot machines linked together to create a progressive jackpot based on a percentage of all the money played into all of the linked machines).
Best sports book
Just about every casino has a sports book (a designated area within the casino where bets can be made on athletic events), but not all sports books are the same. Some are smoky and cramped while others are impressively high class. With more than 100 high definition televisions, a nine-by-16ft main television, plush stadium seating and an outdoor patio, Lagasse’s Stadium in the Palazzo Las Vegas on the Strip offers more than just a place to watch the Kentucky Derby or the Superbowl. The food is also superb; celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse cooks up his signature Creole- and Cajun-inspired dishes such as po boys sandwiches, but even the chicken wings and burgers have a refined flair.