Top 10 Las Vegas trip experiences

17 October 2022

Average gas prices continue to push $4 per gallon and your portfolio of gaming company stocks remains as red as a stop light.

But guess what? Las Vegas seems completely unfazed. After two recent trips to the desert, I’m here to report that the energy and volume of visitors in Sin City and surrounding areas is off the charts, despite what you hear and read every day about a potential recession on the horizon.

Let the good times roll.

One of my favorite things about Las Vegas is that it’s ever-evolving, which means after every visit it’s a breeze to fill a notebook and camera roll on my iPhone with new things to experience. Today, we add 10 more items to our list that continues to expand with every venture out west.

10. College football at Allegiant Stadium

During one of my jaunts to Las Vegas last year, attending a Rolling Stones concert at the new Allegiant Stadium was the highlight of the trip. I vowed at the time to get to a football game in the venue that looks like a gigantic Roomba from the outside, and I checked that box off my list last Saturday.

The atmosphere both on the Strip and outside the stadium for the BYU-Notre Dame college football game was intoxicating, both literally and figuratively. Even though the Irish came in as a 2-2 team, their fan base was treating this Shamrock Series game like it was the national championship and they celebrated like it on the Strip after surviving with a 28-20 victory. Not to be outdone, the BYU supporters took up a solid 40% of the stadium and were just as boisterous throughout the game.

All in all, a fantastic experience and one that came on a whim as I showed up to the stadium without a ticket. If only Notre Dame could have punched in a TD from the 3-yard line with six minutes to go in the game, instead of settling for a field goal, which doomed my ticket on the over 51. But I digress . . .

9. Peak Bartop with Sports Betting
Judging from this list, it may not seem like I spent much time actually “working” on my “business trips” to Vegas, but the truth is, the main reason for being in town last week was the Global Gaming Expo.

Otherwise known as G2E, it’s annually one of the biggest gaming industry conferences and this year it drew nearly 25,000, double the attendance of pandemic-plagued 2021. There were more than 350 exhibitors – including Casino City Press – and the best part of the show for me is always to roam around and check out the new products that are going to be released to casinos near you soon.

The one that stuck out for me this year was IGT’s Peak Bartop with Sports Betting. Talk about a no-brainer concept, it’s a wonder why it took so long for this to be created. These bartop machines have all of the games you would expect (slots, Keno, roulette, video poker) but in addition, players can watch a live sporting event and make wagers on those games. The machines have a charger for your mobile device and uses Bluetooth technology that integrates with IGT's cashless gaming systems so you can use the same pool of deposited money for the casino games and sports betting.

Not surprisingly, Peak Bartop with Sports Betting won the "Land-Based Product of the Year" category at the 2022 Global Gaming Awards, held last week during G2E and they are expected to be on casino floors by the end of this year.

8. Cocktails at the Wynn
Wynn Las Vegas is probably my favorite resort in Las Vegas, so I take advantage of any time there’s a reason to visit, especially if it involves libations. Back in April, the Wynn opened two new bars – Aft Cocktail Deck and Bar Parasol – to complete what it calls the “Cocktail Collection on the Lake of Dreams” and, yes, the name is apropos.

Aft Cocktail Deck is a yacht-themed, outdoor patio with terraced seating overlooking the glimmering three-acre Lake of Dreams. It’s the best location to view Wynn's mesmerizing Lake of Dreams attraction, a very cool, immersive light show that runs daily, every half hour, starting at dusk. This is an ideal spot for a post or pre-dinner cocktail, or, in our case, a place to get some fresh air and chill with a stiff drink after spending all day inside at the Global Gaming Expo.

7. Rhumbar reimagined
Staying with the outdoor cocktail theme, Rhumbar at The Mirage had long been a Strip favorite, so I was sad to see it close in favor of what was supposed to be a “new ultra lounge concept” back in June of 2021. In the end, however, The Mirage basically just reimagined the indoor/outdoor space and reopened it as Rhumbar Tropical Ultra Lounge in April.

Happy to report that the outdoor portion of the bar remains a fantastic spot to light up a cigar and sip on a cocktail, thanks to the comfortable couches surrounded by a small and cozy six-seat bar and a regular schedule of live music. The new tropical design is eye-catching and soothing, with a color scheme of yellow, pink and mint and the cocktail menu is diverse, although instead of trying to expense the giant, $400 Margatini (Casamigos Blanco Tequila, citrus-infused agave and lime) to Casino City, our group went for the Tito’s mojitos, which were fantastic.

Only gripe is that the new design does not include TVs on the outside deck, but other than that Rhumbar remains a “must visit.”

6. The Sand Dollar Lounge Downtown at The Plaza

There’s nothing better than discovering an off-Strip, locals favorite venue when in Las Vegas, and that’s exactly what happened last year when I found a gem in the original The Sand Dollar Lounge, located in the area behind Treasure Island.

So, it was only natural that I would make an effort to check out the venue’s new location at Plaza Hotel and Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, which opened in May and is appropriately named The Sand Dollar Lounge Downtown.

While The Sand Dollar’s allure, first and foremost, is the live music, which is always worth the trip alone, it’s the vibe, design and service that sets it apart. The new location did a superb job of capturing the charm and atmosphere of the original, which opened in 1976 and has hosted some big names you may have heard of (Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Mick Jagger).

Both locations offer video poker at the bar, but in my mind, they serve as a perfect spot to unwind and jam to live music without feeling the hustle and bustle of a casino.

Speaking of the Plaza, we're very much looking forward to seeing the finished product of its latest renovation, the remodeling of its sparkling porte-cochere and facade and the addition a rooftop patio at Oscar’s steakhouse, one of our all-time favorite venues with one of the best Happy Hours in Las Vegas.

5. THE Steak House at Circus Circus
THE Steak House (yes, the proper name uses “THE” in all caps) at Circus Circus Hotel Casino - Las Vegas has long been on my hit list. I’ve heard dozens of people rave about the food and “old school” atmosphere, despite the fact that Circus Circus is a casino that, shall we say, has some miles on it and hasn’t aged well.

With that in mind, as you walk through the property to THE Steak House entrance, it’s natural to have some doubt in your mind that the restaurant isn’t going to live up to the hype. But once you enter, it’s clear that this is a very unique spot.

THE Steak House opened 40 years ago and my guess is that they haven’t changed much, if anything, concerning the design, layout and decor. As soon as you sit down, it’s like you have walked into another time zone. We’re talking lots of oak, wood panels, white table clothes and background music with a heavy Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin accent. The ambiance gives you the feeling that you are on the set of “Casino” or “The Sopranos.”

In other words, this is my kind of place, for sure.

The main dish (rib-eye on the bone), salad (Waldorf wedge), appetizers (jumbo shrimp), drinks (lots and lots of red wine) and prices (much more reasonable than any other steakhouse on the Strip) did not disappoint. I will definitely be back.

4. A stay at Palms

Just before the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians reopened Palms Casino Resort back in May, making the property the first Native American owned and operated casino, we got a preview of the property from General Manager Cynthia Kiser Murphey.

We were always fans of Palms back in its heyday and it was a convenient spot to hang out during an annual trek to Vegas each summer for the World Series of Poker, which was played at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino across the street. So, staying at Palms was already in the cards and it was great to be back.

We’ll have much more to report in the coming weeks regarding our visit, but for now, the highlight reel includes a great “feel” as soon as you walk through the entrance. The high ceilings and wide hallways give Palms a welcoming atmosphere. In my mind, every casino needs a solid “center bar” and Unknown, the can’t miss lounge with the 13-foot, three-piece tiger shark display, is outstanding. The sportsbook has a nice, living room feel, with ample space and couch seating. Scotch 80 Prime provides striking views and excellent food and, speaking of views, it was such a great move by the new ownership to reopen Ghost Bar, the iconic sky-high bar on the 55th floor.

Stay tuned for more on our stay at Palms.

3. Legacy Club at Circa
It’s safe to say that Circa Resort & Casino has lived up to all of the hype that surrounded it before its much-ballyhooed grand opening in 2020. Whether it’s the sportsbook, Stadium Swim (you have to see it to believe it), or the restaurants and bars, everything at Circa was created with incredible attention to detail and no expense spared. That’s what happens when you're Derek Stevens and spend $1 billion on the first ground-up destination in Downtown Las Vegas in 40 years.

While I’ve spent plenty of time at Circa over the past two years, last week was my first visit to the upscale Legacy Club, and as usual, Stevens and his team nailed it with this jaw-dropping, panoramic views rooftop lounge on the 60th floor. The reason for the visit was a product launch party for hospitality technology company UrVenue's new Property Experience Management System (PXMS) that allows guests to book all available experiences throughout the resort and their stay in a unified booking cart.

Watching the sun set over the mountains while the Las Vegas Strip lights up from Legacy Club’s outdoor deck is downright breathtaking.

What’s more, Stevens made sure to honor some of the most well-known “movers and shakers” of the Las Vegas casino industry, thus the name of the venue. As you walk out of the elevator and into the entrance you are greeted by custom-made, metal busts of 11 of the city’s “Founding Fathers,” such as Bob Stupak, Steve Wynn, Howard Hughes and Benny Binion. A nice and classy touch, to say the least.

Suffice it to say, it wouldn’t have been a stretch for Stevens to add a 12th bust with his head right up there along with the others, as what he’s done to revitalize Downtown Las Vegas has been absolutely legend worthy.

2. Golf and gamble in Mesquite

The location of Las Vegas makes it very easy to escape the Strip and see some of the most awe-inspiring outdoor sights this country has to offer. Within an hour drive of Sin City, you can visit Valley of Fire State Park, Red Rock Canyon and Zion National Park, in case you want to escape the casino atmosphere for a while and clear your head.

Or, if you’re a golf nut like me, you head to Mesquite, a serene and scenic city about one hour north of Vegas that is a hidden gem for golfers and gamblers. At the epicenter is Eureka Casino Resort, an ideal spot to stay, featuring a William Hill Sportsbook and, perhaps, the best restaurant in the region in Gregory’s Mesquite Grill, which is outstanding.

Within a 10- to 15-minute ride of Eureka are seven top-rated golf courses, not to mention the fact that in nearby St. George, Utah there are five more standout courses, including at Sand Hollow Golf Resort, which is ranked as the No. 1 course you can play in the state by Golfweek.

While in Mesquite, I was fortunate enough to tee it up at Wolf Creek Golf Club and Conestoga Golf Club, which are both ranked in the Top 10 for Nevada on that same Golfweek list. Both will blow your mind with their scenery, layouts and pristine conditions. The golfer in me can’t wait to get back to hit the other courses and take advantage of the value-laden, stay-and-play packages offered by Eureka.

1. The Killers concert

Last-minute decisions are usually the best ones when it comes to Las Vegas and that was most certainly the case back in late August when I arrived on the Strip to find out one of my favorite bands of all time, The Killers, were playing their “Imploding the Mirage” show at T-Mobile Arena.

No hyperbole here. This was probably the best concert I’ve ever been to. The Killers are from Las Vegas and this show at T-Mobile was almost exactly two years from the date of their 2020 concert that was canceled because of COVID-19. Let’s just say there was some obvious pent-up demand from both the crowd and the band.

Much to the delight of the everyone in attendance, lead singer Brandon Flowers seemingly taunted the pandemic by proclaiming, “This is a super-spreader event. We’re spreading love, we’re spreading peace and we’re spreading rock ‘n’ roll. Come and get it!”

Flowers and the boys were electric and the sold-out audience was swooning, singing and dancing for the entire show, which was closed out with an epic encore of one of the band’s biggest hits, “Mr. Brightside.”

Yes, The Killers killed it in their "homecoming" concert and I was thrilled to be there and see it with my own eyes.

Related Links
Ranked Online Sportsbooks
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2022
Circus Circus Las Vegas Hotel and Casino Details
The Mirage Details
Rio Hotel & Casino Details
Treasure Island Details
Circa Resort & Casino Details
Plaza Hotel and Casino Details
Eureka Casino Resort Details
Palms Casino Resort Details
Wynn Las Vegas Details