Visiting Las Vegas for the First Time? Here’s What to See and Do
Between supersized resorts, wild parties, and world-famous national parks, it’s hard to know where to start on your first Las Vegas trip. And while there’s no wrong way to Vegas, a little bit of planning does come in handy—and helps ensure you make the most of every minute in Sin City. So whether your Las Vegas dreams involve sunrise helicopter flights, a straight flush, or dancing until dawn, use these best-of tips to map out your own perfect escape.
Enjoy Las Vegas' legendary nightlife
Pick your party of choice.
The nightlife in Las Vegas is legendary, featuring a seemingly endless list of sleek, cavernous bars and clubs that cater to celebrities, locals, and anyone looking for an unforgettable night out. Get the VIP experience and learn where the hottest spots are on a nightclub tour that gets you past the ropes. Or, cruise the Strip in style with a limo ride. Keep in mind that not all the parties happen after dark in Las Vegas—pool parties rage all day at clubs where revelers swim, dance, and lounge in the desert sunshine.
Catch a Vegas show
See magic shows and mega-stars.
Las Vegas shows are in a class of their own. Options range from the massive productions staged by Cirque du Soleil to magic, impersonators, and tributes to Sin City’s swinging Rat Pack era. Big names set up residencies here, entertaining huge crowds every night of the week, while some smaller venues have tables and booths facing compact stages. Buy your tickets well in advance, and if you’ve purchased general admission passes, come early to score the best possible seats.
Get some great views
Experience Vegas from above.
Sometimes, we can all use a little perspective. Seeing Vegas from above showcases the city’s over-the-top scale and glitter, whether you’re flying above the strip on a VIP helicopter tour or gliding on the High Roller Observation Wheel. Find more fantastic views from The STRAT Tower Observation Deck, Stratosphere Tower, and even an open-top, double-decker tour bus. Or you could go the high-adrenaline route and leap from SkyJump Las Vegas, which sits 829 feet (253 meters) above the Las Vegas Strip.
Go play outdoors
Gorgeous desert scenery lies just beyond city limits.
While it might come as a surprise to some visitors, Las Vegas is one of America’s best outdoorsy cities. Try hiking and e-biking in nearby Red Rock Canyon, or head to the Colorado River for kayaking at Emerald Cave. There’s also off-roading on sand dunes, desert horseback riding, and a lot of seriously challenging rock climbing. Some of the US’ most famous national parks are also within day-tripping distance, including Death Valley National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce National Park, and Zion National Park.
See some wild art
From murals to interactive museums.
Recent years have brought a burgeoning street art scene to Las Vegas. Check out brightly colored murals on your own or take a guided walking tour of downtown. A recent arrival worth booking ahead is Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart at AREA15, a surreal and interactive “grocery story” that’s packed with quirky design and is made for exploring. There are also a handful of fun art museums, which range from the rotating exhibits at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art to the digital art museum Perception.
Hit the casinos
Hop from slots to blackjack.
There’s more to Las Vegas than casinos, of course. But casinos are classic Vegas. If you’re a novice player, you can learn the ropes by booking a tutorial with an experienced gambler. Or, simply set a firm budget and go casino-hopping, joining a game or two as you make your way along the Strip. Bonus points: most casinos provide free drinks and snacks as you play. Be sure to tip the servers well to keep the freebies flowing, and remember that it’s common practice to tip dealers, as well.
Visit the Hoover Dam
See this marvel of engineering on a day trip.
The massive dam that created Lake Mead was the largest on earth when it was built in the 1930s, and Hoover Dam is still a grandiose sight. It’s close enough to Las Vegas you can visit on a quick, half-day jaunt. Or combine it with a visit to the Grand Canyon for a full day of exploring both manmade and natural wonders. Flightseeing trips to the Grand Canyon also generally take in Hoover Dam—seeing the dam from the air gives a true sense of its overwhelming size.