Start your day with a photo opportunity at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign, perhaps the city’s most iconic symbol. Then keep your “say cheese” smile in place as you take a driving tour past the only-in-Vegas exteriors of hotels like the pyramid-shaped Luxor, the castle-themed Excalibur, the Gotham re-creation of New York–New York, the modern wonder of CityCenter, the Italian villa charm of Bellagio, the Gallic splendor of Paris Las Vegas, and the Roman decadence of Caesars Palace.
If you started early enough and still have time before lunch, check out one (or preferably both) of the city’s more colorful attractions with the glorious botanical gardens at the Bellagio Conservatory or the majestic animals at the Mirage Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat. Both are fun to look at, but more importantly, offer a bit of a peaceful respite from the madness that is Las Vegas. Trust us, you’ll need a break every now and then!
You can go one of two ways for lunch, either with a classic Vegas buffet or a view of the throngs of humanity that crowd the Strip. For the former, check out the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood or Bellagio Buffet. Both offer a seemingly endless array of well-prepared food; while they may not be the cheapest buffets in town, neither are they the most expensive, so you can have your proverbial—or literal—cake and eat it, too.
The other way to go would be to have a nosh at a Strip-side cafe so you can do some people-watching. The best of the bunch are Mon Ami Gabi for Americanized twists on classic French bistro cuisine at Paris Las Vegas, and Tom’s Urban at New York–New York, which serves up a diverse menu from burgers to steaks with eclectic salads and one giant eggroll.
After you have refueled, head to one of the city’s offbeat, unique museums. Tops on our list are the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, aka the Mob Museum, which takes a look at the Mafia and its influence on the country and Vegas in particular; or the National Atomic Testing Museum, which explores the history of the nuclear age with a special focus on the nearby Nevada Testing Site.
Close out your afternoon with some shopping, window or otherwise. Even if you can’t afford to buy, a stroll through the highly themed malls like The Forum Shops (ancient Rome) or Grand Canal Shoppes (Venice canals complete with gondoliers) is a hoot.
If you didn’t eat the buffet at lunch you may want to consider one for dinner, but our preference would be a steakhouse. The best of the bunch are StripSteak at Mandalay Bay, Michael Mina’s version of a modern steakhouse, which not only serves some of the best Japanese beef on the Strip but also has a really exciting non-steak menu; don’t confuse this with Strip House at Planet Hollywood, which has fantastically flavorful cuts of meat and a peek-a-boo bordello theme; and the simply named The Steakhouse at Circus Circus, which has an old-school charm, terrific food, and affordable prices.
We hope you didn’t eat too much, because your night is just getting started. Next, it’s on to one of the shows by Cirque du Soleil, the French-Canadian circus troupe that reinvented and now rules the Las Vegas entertainment scene. There are many to choose from, but our favorites include the dreamy wonder of Mystère at Treasure Island, the martial arts spectacle of KÀ at MGM Grand, the water ballet of O at Bellagio, or the King of Pop spectacle that is Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay.
From there it’s on to the truly iconic Las Vegas experiences, which are all best viewed at night. The dancing waters of the Fountains of Bellagio are worth visiting no matter how many times you have seen them; the Mirage Volcano is still a lava-spewing delight; and the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas celebrates the neon-lit glory that is Glitter Gulch.
End your day dancing the night away at one of the city’s hot nightclubs like the technologically innovative, LED-laden Light at Mandalay Bay or the world’s largest nightclub Hakkasan at MGM Grand. Or put some money down in the casino. It certainly doesn’t get more iconic Vegas than that.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.