Depending on your idea of a good time, Las Vegas can be wild, mild, dangerous, joyful, stressful, or life-changing. It’s been all of those for me at one time or another. I’m usually visiting to attend a convention, passing through on my way to an event, or looking forward to a weekend out with friends. Over the years, I’ve groomed out a set of stops that have become regulars in my Sin City routine. With so many distractions pulling at you, it’s important to have a few staples you can always count on.
I’ll be heading out to WPPI this year so I thought I’d share a few of my go-to stops with fellow photographers. These places have treated me well over and I’m sure they will for you too. If you have a favorite place, be sure to let me know in the comments. I’m always looking to find new places to go and others reading this can checkout your suggestions. See you at the show!
O’Sheas Casino (The Linq)
One of my favorite places to gamble and enjoy live music is O’Sheas. The bartenders are some of the nicest on the strip, the house band plays mostly rock n’ roll covers, and a few nights a week you can try your luck at karaoke if that’s your thing. It’s a small place with limited tables, but it has character. There is Beer Pong for the brave, a limited row of table-top machines at the bar, and an outside bar with heat lamps to keep you warm. The music is loud so don’t plan on coming here for a business meeting, unless that meeting is mostly drinking, gambling, and not taking life too seriously. I find myself here most nights when in town. (Yelp link)
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar (Venetian)
I discovered Yardbird after attending the Agenda Show last year. It’s tucked into the back of the Venetian on your walk to the Sands Expo Center. The bar is handsomely decorated with amazing cocktails and delicious food. The house Old Fashioned is my drink of choice here, and the Mac n’ Cheese is so good it makes me want to not tell anyone about it because if they run out when I go I’ll be pissed. The Chicken and Waffles is also very good and the only place you’ll get something like it in Vegas. This is a great spot for a quick drink with business associates. Grab a table near the windows, the oversize chairs are comfy and there’s plenty of room to relax and unwind. (Yelp link)
Casino Royale (owned by Best Western)
If you’re looking for the cheapest tables and beer on the strip, you found it. The Royale as I like to call it, is between Harrah’s and the Venetian. It’s one of the only casinos on the strip you’ll find $4 roulette and $4 craps. At the end of the bar they serve $1 bottles of beer. The choices are limited but hey, its $1 beer. Don’t expect anything fancy here. The Royale looks like it belongs downtown but I’m happy it’s right in the middle of the strip. I love roulette and its nice to know I have a place close to where I usually stay that doesn’t destroy my wallet all night. Bonus: If you’re originally from the midwest as I am, you’ll be pleased to know they recently opened a White Castle inside Casino Royale. Grab yourself some sliders Harold & Kumar style. (Yelp link)
The Wynn Buffet
In my opinion, this is the best buffet on the strip. All the major casino resorts have them, but not all are created equal. Most range somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 per person and you can typically spread that out over the course of the day. There are over 120 dishes served at the Wynn buffet everyday and its all-you-can-eat. The buffets in Vegas are a great place to go if you can’t decide what you want to eat. Where else can you stack your plate high with lobster, pizza, fried chicken, salad, tacos, steak and a wealth of pasties. Plan your buffet visit with an hour or two rest after. You’re going to need it. (Yelp link)
Case Fuente Cigars (The Forum Shops at Caesars)
After you’ve indulged in an amazing buffet, why not head over to Casa Fuente to enjoy a digestif and a cigar. I recommend the house Mojito, its perfectly paired with the Arturo Fuente Opus X cigar. There aren’t many places on the strip you can enjoy a cigar & cocktail, which is ridiculous considering you can smoke cigarettes just about anywhere in Vegas. Casa has a large humidor with plenty of choices, a healthy bar serving everything from beer to mixed drinks to single malts. Along with bar seating, there are limited tables inside with additional tables in front. Tip: You cannot smoke cigars inside The Forum Shops unless you are at Casa Fuente. If you plan on grabbing a stick and leaving, I wouldn’t light up in the shop. Wait until you are inside the casino area where it’s okay or outside. (Yelp link)
En Fuego Cigars & Lounge (1 block off the strip on Sahara)
En Fuego is the locals cigar lounge and my favorite. Michael runs a great shop packed with oversized chairs, TV’s showing your favorite sports, a poker table in the back for the worthy and their own hand-rolled cigars made on site. I wrote about my visit to the shop a while back (read it here). Most people have no idea who makes their cigars. Here, you can watch Antonio roll a few, then grab one for yourself and relax. The humidor is packed with more than just house blends, but trust me, you want to try the En Fuego sticks. They are priced right and full of flavor. Grab yourself some cigars on your way in town and save yourself the overpriced casino cigar prices. My favorite is the En Fuego Maduro Churchill (Dominican Maduro). (Yelp link)
Nine Fine Irishmen (inside New York, New York)
Looking for a pint of Guiness and traditional Irish cuisine? Look no further. I’ve spent more than my fair share of evenings at Nine Fine, tipping back a few with friends. Book a table ahead of time if you plan on making it a dinner occasion, it gets packed quickly. Live music on the weekends keep the place loud with plenty of dancing around the bar. The kitchen closes at 11pm, but you can still grab a beer at the bar until last call at 2:45am. Try the Irish Nachos, Drunken Onion Rings or Fried Sausages. (Yelp link)
Shake Shack (outside New York, New York)
Relatively new to Vegas, Shake Shack is located facing the strip outside NY NY. This is a burger and shake kinda joint. The food is good, the shakes are really good and the prices are fair. This franchise started as a hot dog cart in Manhattan, so it’s only fitting they are located outside NY NY. They’ve become trendy but so far I haven’t noticed their success causing a decline in the quality of the food (often common among chains). I recommend getting the SmokeShack burger, fries and a strawberry shake. They want you to feel like you’re at a modern day roadside cafe, so why not eat like it. Tip: If all you’re after is something cold (like a shake), head for the C-Line and skip the main food line in front. (Yelp link)
Apple Store (inside Fashion Mall)
This may seem out of place on this list, until you realize how often you forget something when you travel. The Apple Store inside Fashion Mall is one of their larger stores with a giant selection of accessories. I travel enough to have packing down to a science, but every once in a while I forget a cable or adapter. There aren’t many electronics stores on the strip, so this is good to have bookmarked just in case. You’re welcome. (Yelp link)
Harrah’s Fulton Street Food Hall (inside Harrah’s Casino)
Fulton Street Food Hall is one of the reasons I enjoy staying at Harrah’s. The build your own salad bar is a must visit when I’m in town. You can also create your own frozen yogurt dessert, grab a slice of pizza, pull up to the Asian Noodle Bar or just grab a snack. If I am in town for 4-5 days I will probably have 2-3 salads here. With all the beer and other non-healthy food I typically have while in Vegas, its nice breaking it up with something healthy. Tip: Harrah’s also has two Starbucks. One right around the corner from Fulton Street and another up the escalator on the 2nd floor. If one’s slammed, try the other. (Yelp link)
Secret Pizza (third floor Cosmopolitan)
Not sure I should tell you about this place. Then again, I’ve seen it on the Travel Channel so the secret is already out. If you navigate your way to the third floor of the Cosmopolitan, you’ll find a long hallway covered in album art and famous portraits. Go down that hallway and you’ll discover a small pizza shop that looks like it belongs on the street in NYC. There are two pinball machines and pizza, that’s it. The slices are big and inexpensive. Come here during the day and you’ll find it empty. Come here around 1am, and you may be waiting in line. You didn’t hear this from me. (Yelp link)
Batista’s Hole In The Wall (the end of the Linq behind the Cromwell)
This is old school Las Vegas at it’s best. You’ve probably driven past this place without giving it a second look. If you’re in The Linq area, walk toward the High Roller, continue past it to the street, hang a right and keep going. Just before you hit Flamingo Road, you’ll see Batista’s on the right. Walking in feels like stepping back in time. This is Vegas 30 years ago and nothings changed. It’s dark, the walls are covered in history, signage, a moose head, and a collection of mini liquor bottles that seem to carry on forever. All the big Vegas names have dined here. Sinatra, Martin, Elvis, you name it. As you may have guessed, the food is Italian and it’s authentic. I recommend the Lasagna, it’s one of the best I’ve had. Every meal purchase comes with unlimited breadsticks and all you can drink wine. Yes, as much wine as you want, both red and white. Also included is an after dinner cappuccino. I’d visit just for that. Tip: Don’t be the guy or gal that comes here looking to get slammed on wine. This may be Vegas but show this place some respect or Vinny may do it for you. (Yelp link)
B&C Camera (4 blocks off the strip on Sahara)
Shocking to me, there aren’t many good camera shops in the area. I would have figured with all the travelers that visit Las Vegas, and all the photographs that are taken on a daily bases, there would be more. I recently visited B&C Camera to attend a Fujifilm Demo where I got my hands on the X-Pro 2 I wrote about here. The shop is large, with dedicated sections for each camera maker. Fujifilm, Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc. Their wall of bags must be 100 deep. This is also one of the few shops I’ve found with a good selection of Peak Design products. I was able to finally see the popular Everyday Messenger bag in person. Everyone at the shop was friendly and the prices are competitive. I’ll be back. (Yelp link)
Whole Foods (south on the strip in Town Square)
Contrary to popular belief, people actually live in Las Vegas! I know, weird right? Why am I including a grocery store in this list? I typically drive in to Vegas and if I’m planning to be in town more than 2 nights, I pack a cooler. Whole Foods in Town Square is on the way in and it’s where I stop to fill up the cooler if I forgot anything at home. Having healthy snacks and beverages in the room saves time, money and frustration. As I mentioned with the Fulton salad bar at Harrah’s, mixing in some healthy choices is important. Tip: Avoid coming here 12-1pm. This is a popular lunch stop for locals. (Yelp link)
Photo & Go (outside The Linq)
If you’re shooting with a Fujifilm Instax or Polaroid camera and you need film on the strip, this is your only choice. You can’t miss this place, there is a giant Polaroid white frame cutout in front people pose in all day long. Along with film, you can print your favorite smartphone photos here using their computers, buy frames, photo holders and other small retro-themed trinkets. As someone who is still wanting to find an Instax Wide in his bag, I keep this place bookmarked for when I need film in town. Tip: There’s a free Polaroid Museum located upstairs. (Yelp link)
If I can recommend one thing to not forget when visiting Vegas, that is to bring a good pair of walking shoes. You are going to spend most of your day walking or standing, so be prepared. The miles add up. When you want a break, I suggest grabbing a Monorail pass. It runs behind the MGM all the way to the SLS. There are stops along the way making it easy to get where you need to go. I live on the Monorail when conventions are located at the Hilton Convention Center. With WPPI coming to the MGM, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to grab one. After a long day at the show, why not sit and relax on a ride back to your hotel. Unfortunately, it only runs on one side of the strip. (Yelp link)
Hash House A Go Go (inside The Linq)
Hungry? HHAGG is world famous for their incredible breakfast meals and large portion sizes. They are famous for their Hashes and Scrambles. I’ve had most of them and they are all great. The pancakes are the size of a large dinner plate and the meatloaf sandwich looks like a pair of fists. This is where you go after a long night that carries over into the morning. Nothing cures a hangover like a nice, big breakfast. Tip: French Toast. (Yelp link)
Top of Binion’s Steakhouse (downtown inside Binion’s)
If you find yourself downtown, head on up to the 24th floor of Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel. Enjoy a shrimp cocktail and steak while taking in views of the strip from across town. The view is spectacular and the food is delicious. Much like Batista’s, this is old Vegas with a locals vibe. You come because it’s dark, quiet, and nobody will bother you. Feel free to bring your camera but leave the tripod and flash in your bag. Places like this want you to remember why you’re here and why everyone else is here. Enjoy a quiet evening or bring your partner, it’s a great spot to add some romance to your evening. Tip: Downtown LV provides some of the best street photography in the area. Bring your camera and spend some time walking on and off Fremont street. (Yelp link)
Hofbrauhaus (off strip on Paradise)
Looking for Oktoberfest in the middle of March? Hofbrauhaus is an authentic German Beer Hall with lederhosen clad ladies serving up giant mugs of beer. Every evening they put on their own celebration complete with drinking games, paddle spanking, singing (ZIGGY ZOGGY ZIGGY ZOGGY) and more. It’s the sort of place you go to have a great time with friends. Authentic German food is also available, though you’re here for the beer. Grab a cab or Uber if you’re heading over because you most likely won’t be able to drive anywhere after. Tip: If a short brunette with glasses has the shot paddle and you accept her challenge, be ready to have a sore behind the rest of the night. (Yelp link)
Other places to keep in mind (I will add them to the map)
The Budweiser Beer Garden just opened above Hex outside Paris Casino. I’ve yet to get up there and check it out but it looks like a great spot to grab a drink and enjoy strip views. It’s a perfect location for people watching below. Have you been? What did you think?
Carnegie Deli at The Mirage is a great place to grab a deli style sandwich. At around $18, they aren’t cheap but this is Vegas. The Pastrami is really good and you get free pickles at the table.
If you’re near The Linq and need a quick slice of pizza, look for the Flour & Barley pizza window next to Tilted Kilt. $5 slices open late.
Got a fixin’ for some BBQ? Gilley’s inside Treasure Island is a country bar, dance hall, bull riding, restaurant. The atmosphere is fun but the food is better. I recommend the BBQ chicken with mashed.
Want to skip town for a day and shoot some pictures? Head on out to Valley of Fire. It’s an hour north of town but well worth the drive. I seem to be drawn to it like a magnet whenever I’m in the area.
Mobile Direct Link – CLICK HERE (this will open Google Maps on your phone)
If you’re heading out to WPPI drop me a note below. Maybe we can meet up and grab a drink. Cheers!