THERE IS a whole lot more to Vegas than just what you see bathed in flashing neon. Here, we’ve broken the Las Vegas Valley down into its seven most popular and most active neighborhoods and have included what to eat, drink, do and see in each. (And yes, we did include the Strip.)
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1. The Strip
It’s the Strip. It’s the most-known thing in all of Vegas, the reason most people come here, and the thing you need to experience at least once in your life. Navigating the ins and outs of The Strip can be daunting. There are a hundred million restaurants and bars and clubs and stores and entertainment venues and gaming areas and other diversions, ranging from the exceptional to the exceptionally awful, but if you want a solid starting point that hits the right note on all counts, make choose The Cosmopolitan and work your way out.
The Cosmo is one of the pricier places to stay on the Strip, but you’re also getting the most value — it’s also by FAR the most stylish and contemporary property, and you really can’t beat relaxing in your Japanese soaking tub overlooking the Strip or just taking in the scene from your private, oversized terrace with a view of the Bellagio Fountains (if you splurge for a premium room, that is). As a guest, you have automatic access to their Boulevard Pool with phenomenal views of the Strip. For a party pool, hit Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub, which also happens to be one of the hottest nightclubs in Vegas. Staying here also means you’re in the heart of some of the absolute best dining, drinking, and entertainment the Strip has to offer — Jaleo, Beauty & Essex, the not-at-all-secret Secret Pizza, Wicked Spoon Buffet (the only buffet worth talking about in a city FULL of buffets), Momofuku, Eggslut, Chandelier Bar, Rose.Rabbit.Lie., and The Chelsea are all located on-property.
Then, just a short jaunt away is ARIA Resort & Casino, home to the rest of the best dining and drinking establishments on the Strip like the underrated and exceptional Sage, Bardot Brasserie, Herringbone, and the Five50 Pizza Bar, which is just as good for a full proper meal as it is for a quick late-night grab-and-go slice. The rooms here are also quite nice, especially if you get a Strip view, and tend to be a bit less expensive than the Cosmo, if you came to Las Vegas to save money I guess?
Within walking distance of either hotel are also some of the must-see sights of the Vegas Strip, as well as some of the best places to catch some live entertainment. The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are a must, and one of the best places to peep them is from the fountain-side lounge, HYDE Bellagio. Another great view of the fountains can be had across the street at Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. If you’re not feeling the fancy Eiffel Tower Restaurant to view them from high up above, Beer Park by Budweiser offers a more direct view with open-air seating and a fun backyard picnic/astroturf tailgating vibe. And if it’s a bird’s eye view of the Strip you want with exceptional cocktails with which to enjoy it, head to either the Skyfall Lounge at the top of the Delano or the Mandarin Cocktail Bar at the top of the Mandarin Oriental.
All the best touring acts are making their Las Vegas stops at T-Mobile Arena now, and while you’re there the development known as The Park Vegas is worth taking some time to explore — it’s Vegas’s second major stab at a walkable restaurant, retail, and entertainment development and “public space”. Plus there’s a Shake Shack! The first such development, The LINQ Promenade, is also worth exploring, and here’s a pro tip: the views OF the High Roller Observation are much better than the views FROM it.
If you’re looking for the best in Vegas nightlife, Omnia, Hakkassan, and the Wynn’s entire nightclub oeuvre are where to go. End up at Drai’s After Hours at your own risk. For something that’s a little less overtly “clubby,” try TopGolf Las Vegas, which manages to be a driving range, party pool, lounge, and concert venue all at once.
2. Downtown / Fremont Street
Vegas’s “Downtown” is not like other downtowns: for starters, what passes for our downtown main street, The Fremont Experience, is covered in a 1,500-foot-long LED canopy that is also the world’s largest video screen, and you can zipline down the whole thing with the Slotzilla Zip Line. But what makes Downtown Las Vegas so great is that it is wholly, distinctively, uniquely Vegas, much like The Strip is but in a completely different way. Locals and regular visitors tend to prefer Downtown to The Strip as the “real” Vegas; as the place that draws in all the freaks and geeks from far and wide (as opposed to the be-suited conventioneers and weekend warriors that dominate the Strip).
For those who might claim Vegas doesn’t have any culture, DTLV is home to several museums…distinctively Vegas museums, to be sure, but cultural institutions all the same. There’s The Mob Museum, and the The Neon Museum (also known as the “Neon Boneyard,” home to many of Vegas’s decommissioned old neon signs). For a more properly “cultural” kind of culture, see a touring Broadway show or a jazz performance at The Smith Center. And for concerts, the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center is downtown’s newest live music venue and is a great place to catch outdoor concerts in the heart of downtown. There are plenty of places to stay downtown in the center of the action, including many dated but affordable old casinos, but we recommend the recently remodeled and stylish Oasis at Gold Spike for a bit of that DTLV 2.0 vibe.
For dining, Oscar’s Steakhouse has an old school steakhouse vibe in one of the best dining rooms in all of Las Vegas, a curved room lined in floor-to-ceiling windows with an excellent view of the Fremont Street Experience and adorned with multiple glittering chandeliers overhead. Newcomer 7th & Carson brings new American fare in a modern, trendy setting to an area otherwise choked with casino restaurants.
3. Fremont East +
If Fremont proper is all extra, Fremont East (and beyond, even more east) is the closest semblance of “normal” urban life Las Vegas can offer. It’s pretty much the only neighborhood that is truly “walkable” — there is street retail that isn’t broken up by blocks of casino-resorts, and there is even a fair amount of foot traffic. If you are looking for cute, quirky, independently-owned stores, bars, and restaurants, then Fremont East I where you need to head.
The trendiest bars in Downtown Las Vegas are actually on Fremont East — Commonwealth, The Griffin, Park on Fremont, Downtown Cocktail Room, Beauty Bar…Pretty much all the good bars are here. Ditto the good restaurants: Carson Kitchen, Eat., Chow, Le Thai, and all the great spots for dining and drinking inside shipping containers at Downtown Container Park.
The oldest bar in Las Vegas, Atomic Liquors, is also here, with its enormous craft beer selection and spankin’ new sister restaurant (one of the best new dining spots to open in Vegas this year), The Kitchen at Atomic. Basically, Fremont East is the best of DTLV, and really the closest thing to a real “downtown” anywhere downtown.
4. Arts District
Anyone who claims that Las Vegas has no culture just hasn’t looked hard enough. Granted, you have to look pretty hard to find the 18b Arts District, as it is decidedly not an easy or accidental stumble over from the Strip or Downtown, but this 18-block zone that was set aside by the city to encourage art and artists has some of the best dining, drinking, cultural, and nightlife venues anywhere in Las Vegas, and certainly has the funkiest vibe.
There is no shortage of places to get an adult beverage in Las Vegas, but the craft cocktail movement was slow to take hold here. The Velveteen Rabbit did a lot of ground work towards paving the way for a real craft cocktail culture here, and is still one of the best places in and around downtown for a cocktail or beer and to groove to some music out on their spacious back patio. Craft beer culture was also a slow-starter, but Hop Nuts Brewing has been one of the game-changers in local brewing. Makers & Finders Coffee is an excellent place for breakfast and lunch, while VESTA Coffee Roasters roasts sustainably-sourced beans from around the world for your macchiatos and pour-overs.
Arts lovers — and “Vegas arts” naysayers — need to make a trip to Arts Factory, Artifice, and Art Square mandatory, and can hit all of them during the monthly First Friday event, when the Arts District is alive with thousands of people in the streets checking out the art vendors, live performances, local galleries, and food trucks. It is one of the largest arts and culture events in the western United States, and is totally free.
Summerlin is Las Vegas’s fancy suburb. This neighborhood is for the Lululemon yoga pants-as-everyday-attire set; it’s fancy but also a bit laid back. It is home to one of our favorite locals’ casinos, Red Rock Casino, where you can find some of the best restaurants in the area, including Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar and Libre Mexican Cantina. Downtown Summerlin is here, which is a fine outdoor shopping center development. Andiron Steak & Sea in Downtown Summerlin is an excellent steakhouse that is very un-steakhouse, and Public School 702 is a great option for more casual fare with a great beer list.
Though not technically Summerlin, the nearby Desert Shores community is also home to some great dining spots, but the biggest standout is Americana, one of the most surprising and impressive new restaurants to open in the Valley in the last year.
Also, Summerlin puts you just 10 minutes from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area — once Las Vegas’s best-kept secret for outdoors enthusiasts and now widely recognized as one of the top destinations in the country for hiking and climbing.
Henderson is Las Vegas’s enormous sprawling suburb. To refer to “Henderson” geographically can mean just about anywhere east of the Strip. There isn’t so much a concentrated “neighborhood” area as there is just endlessly sprawling suburban strip malls in parking lots that require GPS navigation, but odds are pretty good that if you find yourself hanging out in Henderson you’re probably here visiting friends or relatives and not actually doing the whole Vegas tourist “thing” anyway.
Henderson has become ground zero for the city’s still-nascent craft beer scene, so you can spend a good day doing the brewery/beer bar circuit by hitting up Lovelady Brewing, CraftHaus Brewery, Bad Beat Brewing, and Las Vegas Distillery for a full experience of Vegas-made craft booze. You can round that out with a tour of beer bars with an excellent selection of local and regional craft beers at PKWY Tavern and Shakespeare’s Pub. Also be sure to pop into Khoury’s Fine Wine & Spirits to see what they currently have on tap — often several rare and limited release brews — and peruse their phenomenal bottle selection for some total geek beers to bring home.
Then maybe end your booze tour by throwing axes at the recently-opened Axe Monkeys where they will also sell you alcohol (granted, the crappy kind) because you can do anything in Vegas.
There are also some pretty great restaurants on this side of town, some among the best in Vegas. Anthony’s Prime Steak & Seafood inside the M Resort is one of the best steakhouses in Vegas, plus they have a generous happy hour available daily in the bar from 5 to 7 PM. The Hostile Grape is also at The M, where you load up a wine tasting card with whatever dollar amount and sample up to 160 different options from the self-serve Enomatic dispensing machines, with another 400 options available by the bottle.
At Green Valley Ranch, you can go for high-end Mexican in a sultry, stylish atmosphere at Borracha, or enjoy rustic Italian with an airy, perpetually summery vibe at Bottiglia Enoteca. For more of an old-school steakhouse and martini bar, there’s also Hank’s Fine Steaks & Martinis.
For breakfast and brunch devotees, Henderson might just have the strongest game in the Valley with places like CRAFTkitchen, Kitchen Table, Served, and newcomer Boteco from Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon alumna Rachel LeGloahec, styled after Brazilian boteco-style food service (i.e., unfussy small plates). You’re definitely going to eat and drink well here.
7. Chinatown / Spring Mountain
Did you know that Las Vegas has a Chinatown? Did you know it’s probably one of the best Chinatowns in North America, both in terms of size (it sprawls two miles down Spring Mountain Rd. just west of Las Vegas Boulevard) and variety (every kind of Asian cuisine is available here by the dozens)? And did you know that some of the best restaurants in all of Las Vegas are here, and not on the Strip? And are also significantly cheaper? Well, you’re gonna learn today.
One of the best restaurants in Las Vegas is not, in fact, even on the Strip, but in a nondescript strip mall a couple of miles to the west. Japanese robato grill Aburiya Raku is hailed by local and visiting food writers alike as one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas, even with all of our many celebrity chef concepts on the Strip. Its sister all-dessert restaurant Sweets Raku is located in the same strip mall and offers a multi-course dessert menu (which includes the menu itself, printed on edible rice paper) with an excellent selection of complementary wines.
For Japanese-meets-Italian, look no further than Trattoria Nakamura-Ya, which is also in that same strip mall.
For Thai lovers, the white tablecloth Chada Thai & Wine is another favorite local spot considered among the best in Vegas. It’s located in the same strip mall as the very fun Q Karaoke, where you rent out your own karaoke room to belt out Bon Jovi in private with your friends, and District One, a contemporary Asian-fusion and Vietnamese restaurant with a great beer, wine, sake, and cocktail list and a now-legendary lobster pho.
Chada Thai also has a sister restaurant called Chada Street, which focuses more on Thai street food in a casual, urban chic atmosphere. And located in the same strip mall (are you sensing a pattern here?) is Golden Tiki, a popular tiki bar that is one of Vegas locals’ favorite hotspots.
Noodle aficionados need to make Los Angeles import Marugame Monzo a mandatory stop; the recently-opened spot is known for its wide variety of hand-pulled udon noodles and has a cultish west coast following. 8oz Korean Steakhouse and Bar is another hip newcomer, a Korean barbecue joint with a bit more of an elevated menu, featuring eight-ounce combinations that include options like beef belly and pork jowl.
Best of Chinatown: Monta Ramen, Fuku Burger, Ichiza, TangTangTang, Kabuto, Sparrow + Wolf, Kkulmat Korean Kitchen, Urban Crawfish Station, Baan Thai, Chubby Cattle, Paina Café, Izakaya Go, Pho Kitchen, Ramen Tatsu