Wednesday, July 22, 2015

a vegas guide for people who hate vegas

Anders and I celebrated our 6 year anniversary last weekend with a trip to Vegas. Now, if you had asked me a few years ago my thoughts on Vegas, I probably wouldn't have had very nice things to say. There is definitely an entire scene to Vegas that I want no part of. However, Anders and I travel a lot, and I'm pretty proud of how much we have honed our vacationing skills. We know exactly how to research and what to look for to create a trip that's exactly our speed, which means we can have fun anywhere! So, if you are also a person who isn't entirely convinced that Vegas is for you, check out our picks below. It includes a lot of off the beaten path restaurants and cool things to do.



Stay

Golden Nugget: This trip we decided to check out old town Vegas, so we booked a hotel on Fremont Street. Downtown is a wonderful alternative to the strip especially if you don't care so much about the "scene." For starters, the casinos are closer together and much smaller. They are WAY easier to navigate so you don't end up lost and having to walk 8 miles a day. Everything you need is right downtown too including restaurants, bars, entertainment and gambling making it unnecessary to go to the strip at all. The best part about the Golden Nugget is their shark tank pool. They literally have a large fish tank in the middle of the pool filled with fish and sharks. There is a water slide that zips right through the tank (it's covered, don't worry), but it's clear so you can see the sharks as you slide through. It's awesome!


Mandalay Bay: If you are set on staying on the strip, we like Mandalay Bay for one reason and one reason only...it was voted the best pool in all of Vegas. It has a lazy river where you can rent rafts and float around, and it also has a tide pool complete with a beach. 

Eat

Eat: This downtown restaurant is a MUST. Chef, Natalie Young, serves up delicious, high quality, soul food for breakfast and lunch at this super cute spot. We went for breakfast and had the shrimp and grits plus the truffled egg sandwich. Both were out of this world and the coffee from Mothership Roastworks is smooth and delicious. We were able to walk right in, but we heard it can get busy, so plan accordingly. Luckily, there is a band that plays outside in case you do have a wait. 

O Face Doughnuts: This doughnut shop is just one block from Eat. It's a tiny shop, but has a variety of unique doughnuts. I tried the Mexican chocolate doughnut with horchata pudding and it made me want to cry it was so good. I also had my eye on the s'more doughnut with roasted marshmallow on top. Someone go try it and tell me how it is!


Golden Steer Steakhouse: This steakhouse is a real gem and on many Las Vegas best-of lists. It's a block from the strip at the very end by the Stratosphere and was a regular spot for Elvis, Sinatra and Muhammad Ali. It has got a definite old-school, loungy feel to it, and the food is outstanding. You can't go wrong with any of their steaks, but make sure you get their housemade caesar salad, which is made on the spot at your table.

Casa Di Amore: Okay, so this place is really off the beaten path, but they offer free shuttle service to and from your hotel if you book early enough. It's worth the travel time! This is another old school restaurant full of Italian classics. The restaurant is covered with interesting pictures of Vegas back in the day, and a lounge singer covers classic tunes while you dine. It's a really fun spot.

Du-Par's: This restaurant and bakery is one of the oldest in Las Vegas having been around since 1905 in the Golden Gate hotel (named one of the hottest boutique hotels in all of Vegas). The menu is very straight forward (think eggs, omelets, pancakes), but the pancakes are some of the thickest, fluffiest and best I have ever eaten (they were voted best in the world by Esquire magazine!).The also have a bakery with pies and the softest, pillow-like glazed doughnut that is a must try.

No Name Pizza: Hidden on the top floor of the Cosmopolitan is a pizza joint with no name, no signage, no website and no phone number. The only way you can find it is by looking for the hallway with pictures. At the end of the hallway, you'll find this cute little pizza spot with some of the city's best slices. You have to take the slices to go (there are only a few bar stools in the actual restaurant) but there are couches just outside the hallway.

Peppermill: Hands down my favorite spot in all of Vegas. This restaurant/bar is located pretty close to Circus Circus at the end of the strip. To be honest, I have never eaten in the diner. I beeline straight for the Fireside Lounge, which is the coolest bar ever. There is a large fire pit in the middle of the bar that is surrounded by couches and the whole lounge is decorated in crazy, pink flowers. The bartenders have been around forever and will serve you a stiff drink while you play video poker at the bar or watch one of the TVs showcasing music videos from every era. We go every time we are in town.

The Mix: The Mix is a bar at the top of Mandalay Bay. While it's pretty swanky and not the type of place you would normally find me, the reason it makes the cut is for its impressive view of the Las Vegas strip. It's a great place to have a pre or post dinner drink.

These next four places I have not personally visited. However, they all meet my criteria for cool places to check out, and I plan to hit them up next time I'm in town.

Huntridge Tavern: Las Vegas' best dive bar 
Battista's Hole in the Wall: Another Italian joint hidden behind the Flamingo casino. They have an accordion player on staff!
Luv-it Frozen Custard: A walk-up, serve yourself custard stand founded in 1973
Lotus of Siam: Northern Thai food. Voted best in the world!

Do

Neon Museum: A museum/graveyard for all the old neon signs from Vegas' early days. Make sure you book early, every time slot was sold out when we were there.

Fremont Experience: Free bands! Impersonators! Drinks! Gambling! It's like a mini strip and they have the most amazing light show on the hour every hour that is synced to songs from a variety of artists. Light show starts at 9pm.

Slotzilla Zip Line: This zipline runs the entire length of the Freemont Experience. There are two options, a lower, shorter zipline for $20 or a higher, longer zipline for $40. Go with the big one.

Container Park: This park filled with shops, restaurants and a playground for kids is made entirely out of shipping containers. They have a lot of neat stores and a crazy praying mantis sculpture out front that shoots fire from its antennas. Enough said.

Brooklin Bowl: Bands + bowling makes this the coolest bowling alley around. It's also located right next to the Sprinkles cupcake ATM, which is just FUN.

Pee on the Berlin Wall: If you are a male, find the men's room located right inside the Main Street Station Casino. The wall behind the urinals is actual pieces of the Berlin Wall (it's covered in plexiglass, so you can't actual pee on it...still cool, though!). Is it weird I included this?

See you soon, Vegas!

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