In many ways, especially monetarily, the nightclub scene in Vegas has eclipsed famous party spots like Ibiza, New York, and Los Angeles. Almost every hotel has at least one club and almost all of them are packed whenever their doors are open.
Many of the following have insanely high cover charges ($30 and up), outrageously priced drinks ($10 for a domestic beer), and seating that is reserved for patrons willing to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get bottle service. For the uninitiated it sounds crazy, and is, but the hordes of people willing to pay those kinds of costs seem to be having a good time, so maybe they know something we don’t.
One bright note: Women are usually charged less for admission than men (sometimes even allowed in free), and any guest can get a comped ticket to even the hottest clubs, if you play it right. If you are gambling for any length of time, ask the pit boss for comps.
Huge lines outside are a point of pride for Vegas clubs. So if you’re into dancing, you may spend a good chunk of the night single-file, double-file, or in an enormous, unwieldy cluster out in front of a club—particularly on Friday or Saturday. We’re not kidding: Lines can be hours long (see below), and once you get to the front, you’ll find that there’s no actual order. You’re at the mercy of a power-wielding, eye-contact-avoiding “executive doorman”—bouncer—who gives attractive women priority. To minimize your time in line, try the following strategies:
Arrive before 11pm. You’ll have a harder time getting in if you show up between 12:30 and 1am, the busiest period at clubs.
Group yourself smartly. The larger the group, the longer the wait—especially a large group of mostly (or all) guys. Split up if you have to, but always keep some women with each part of your group (it’s much harder for unaccompanied men to get into the clubs).
If you're trying to tip your way in, don't make it obvious. It's a negotiation. Don’t wave cash above your head (the IRS has recently been clamping down on unreported tip income, so that tactic will make you very unpopular). Discreetly and respectfully hand the doorman $20 and ask if he can take care of you.
DON'T buy a VIP Pass. Can you say “scam”? Many passes require you get there before midnight (a time when there’d normally be no line), and with others you’re paying big bucks just to have someone make the call ahead that you could have made yourself. Again: Don’t fall for this scam.
DO check the websites. Many clubs will offer front-of-line passes, cover discounts, and drink specials via text alerts and/or if you check-in via a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter. Details change often, so check the club’s website for the latest offer.
Dress to impress. For women: Antediluvian but true—showing more cleavage is a line-skipping tactic. If that’s not an option, stick with a little black dress or nice jeans and a sexy or club-wear–style top. For men: Look good. Avoid baggy jeans, shorts, tennis shoes, or work boots. Nice jeans or pants and a collared shirt work well.
Look confident. While cockiness never helps, assertiveness never hurts.
The Club & Music Scene
Most of the clubs in town have DJs, often famous ones, and on those rare occasions when they do have live entertainment, it’s usually a pop or cover band. If you prefer alternative or real rock music, your choices used to be limited, but that’s all changed. Most touring rock bands make at least one stop in the city. But otherwise, the alternative club scene in town is no great shakes. If you want to know what’s playing during your stay, consult the local free alternative papers: the Las Vegas Weekly (with great club and bar descriptions in its listings; www.lasvegasweekly.com), and Vegas Seven (weekly, with a funnily curated list of the must-sees each week; www.vegasseven.com). Both can be picked up at restaurants, bars, record and music stores, and hip retail stores. If you’re looking for good alt-culture tips, try asking the cool staff at Zia Records ([tel] 702/735-4942); not only does it have bins dedicated to local artists, but local acts also play live in stores on the weekend.