This is Part Two in a Six part series where we take a look at the cities you’ll be traveling to as you follow the Cougs on the road this season. Next in the series: Corvallis, Oregon
Because WSU's game facing off against a rebuilding UNLV team wasn’t on the tube last year, I decided I’d head over to my future mother-in-law’s to help with some yard work she needed done. I pulled up a stream of the pre-game and got to work doing some weeding. I took my state-mandated lunch break around kick off and my 30-minute meal quickly turned into a 3-hour giggle fest. My mother-in-law, after the fifth Washington State touchdown, asked me why I was laughing. Over the last three years, I only knew what is like to be on the other side of the beat down. It had been so long since the Cougars stomped on someone, I’d forgotten how it felt.
Although UNLV will be an improved team, I expect a similarly dominating result this year. But lets be honest: while you’re going to Las Vegas to watch the football game, this might be the one road trip you take where the city itself actually outshines the game. Granted, LaCrosse could’ve done the same the past few seasons but you get my point. There’s a lot of neon here.
Las Vegas, Nevada Vital Stats
Sam Boyd Stadium Capacity: 36,800
Nearest Airport: McCarran International Airport (south end of Las Vegas Boulevard)
Random Fact: At last count, there were just over 124,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas.
Random Fact #2: Of the top 20 largest hotels in the world by number of rooms, 14 of them are in Las Vegas.
If there’s a city that's more of a polar opposite of Provo, Utah, I haven’t found it. McCarran International is in a great location at the south end of The Strip. If you’re looking for a way to get from the airport to your hotel, a cab ride will do fine. To most hotels, it’s a $10-$20 ride to anything on The Strip so split a few ways makes it an affordable way to get to your room. One draw back to McCarran is the odd layout. You won’t notice it too much when arriving but going home, the airport is almost like a maze with security areas miles from check-in and appearing as if they were placed where they are for no other reason than "because". As far as airlines go, you’ve got tons of options including Alaska, Southwest and a few others if you’re willing to make a stop. Spirit Airlines is a low fare airline in Portland (similar to Allegiant from Pasco) but be prepared to pay for everything and I mean EVERYTHING including check in at the airport, an aisle seat, using the overhead bin, a second carry-on bag...what, I meant EVERYTHING.
Sam Boyd Stadium is east of The Strip and Fremont Street. A long way east. No, seriously take a look at it. No matter where you stay, it’ll be a heck of a cab ride.
Las Vegas bills itself (and it’s likely an accurate assertion) as the Entertainment Capital of the World. There is so much to do, so much to see and so many places to go, I've assuredly missed something. I’ll start you out with a few truths, some of them harsh, about Sin City.
1) Yes, it is true: there is no open container law in Las Vegas so feel free to walk The Strip sipping your adult beverage.
2) The city wasn’t built on giving away money. In all likelihood, you will lose money gambling even if you play blackjack, roulette, sports betting, etc. absolutely perfectly. Only withdrawal as much cash (and I recommend you do this before you get there as casino ATMs have ridiculous fees) as you are willing to lose and once it’s gone, stop. I know it kind of sounds like I’m wagging my finger at you but I don’t want to see any Cougs go home with a red colored balance in their checking account and the deed to their house with a pit boss at the MGM.
3) Speaking of things that want all your money, how about that woman who started chatting you up randomly at the bar? Yeah, she’s not interested in you. Trust me. It’s mostly what’s in your wallet. And despite the common myth, what she’s doing is actually illegal in Clark County.
4) If you plan on going to a club, be prepared to wait in line to get in, pay a huge cover to get in and pay a lot for every drink while waiting in line for said drink. Unless you're a woman. Then you're good to go.
Places To Stay:
Note: Average Nightly Rates assume a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night stay. We won’t do a "distance to stadium" here because, as we discussed earlier, it’s a long way from anything.
Unlike Provo, you won’t have an issue finding a place to stay here. Between the massive, gaudy monstrosities on The Strip, the old school casinos on Fremont and the countless other resorts all over the city, accommodations shouldn’t be an issue. These recommendations represent just a few of the hotels available and honestly, you’re not going to be spending too much time in the room anyway so it shouldn't be too much of a concern.
Monte Carlo Resort and Casino
This might be the gem of the southern end of The Strip. The accommodations are above average and the gambling is relatively inexpensive. I’ve found five-dollar minimum roulette tables on Saturday nights here which is fantastic for any casino on The Strip. In the pool area, the wave pool and lazy river are great while the pool itself is so-so. You will pay a resort fee here (brief interlude and warning: many Las Vegas hotels charge unpublished "resort fees" ranging from ten to 25 bucks a night. You pay for the privilege of Internet, a newspaper, local calls and the ability to print your boarding passes. I know what you’re thinking and yes, it’s a rip off.) but the location of the hotel combined with the free tram that will take you up to the Bellagio make this a great option.
Expedia Average Nightly Rate: $193/night
Bally’s Las Vegas
This is the old MGM Grand Hotel and she’s showing her age a bit. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the newer hotels but the rooms here are very large and the gambling is relatively cheap. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in a sports book, there’s hardly a better place than here. The pool isn’t anything to write home about but it’s a decent place to cool off with a cold beverage. Bonus random fact: Bally’s was the site of the largest hotel fire in modern U.S. history.
Expedia Average Nightly Rate: $161/night
Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino
If you’re looking for frills, this isn’t the place. The rooms are practically a postage stamp and the quality isn’t excellent. But what the hotel lacks in luxurious accommodations it makes up for with good pricing, a great location and some cheap gambling. If the room quality truly doesn’t matter to you because you’ll be spending all your time in the casino then this is definitely the place for you.
Expedia Average Nightly Rate: $89/night
Four Queens Hotel and Casino
On Fremont Street where Vegas started, Four Queens is one of the oldest gambling halls in the city. If you’re looking for a little bit slower pace than The Strip, Fremont Street is a good bet and this place will give you good value for your dollar. The drawback is the distance from all the action on The Strip. The hotels on Fremont Street can tend to be on the dingy side but Four Queens is of decent quality.
Expedia Average Nightly Rate: $63/night
Places To Eat:
Pink’s Hot Dogs
The Las Vegas branch of the famous Hollywood hot dog joint, they feature delicious dogs like the Polish Pastrami and Swiss cheese dog and the spicy Guadalajara Dog at the Planet Hollywood Hotel. A good place to grab a quick bite for a decent price and NOT PUT ANY KETCHUP ON YOUR HOT DOGS.
It's arguably the best steakhouse in all of Las Vegas and it shouldn't come as a surprise that it's at The Venetian's sister resort, The Palazzo. Remember steaks you’ve had that have been aged for 30 days? Never mind, neither do I, mine sit in the freezer for years. Anyway, 30 days is mere child’s play compared to the 260 day aged steaks here. If you want to pair your cut of beef some alcohol (and frankly, who doesn't?), not too worry; they have a wine list even the most brutal eastern European dictator would be jealous of. But, as you’ve guessed, this place isn’t cheap. If you can escape for less than 300 George Washingtons, I’ll be surprised. Then again, Vegas is all abut indulging and this might be the very definition.
I’d be remised if I didn’t mention at least one place where you pay a flat price to stuff your face. The best buffet in Vegas is at arguably the most luxurious hotel in Vegas and the variety of stuff to eat is insane. Don’t load up on bread and carbs, there are valuable pieces of seafood and meat to eat! Best part though: on a weeknight (Fridays don't count but you'll be at the game anyway) it’s just $29.
Cheap Places to Gamble:
This bargain hunting gambling hall is on the north end of the Strip tucked between Harrah’s and the Venetian. Limits can be found for as low as three bucks at the craps table; roulette typically sits at a dollar more along with blackjack. But, and this is a big, big J-Lo sized but, this place will depress the hell out of you. The dealers don’t want to be there, it’s dark, it’s drab and it's miserable. But it’s cheap! After you lose money, you buy a dollar Michelob! No foolin'!
Bill’s Gambling Hall
It’s an older joint but it’s much happier and bright than Casino Royale. It’s got a fantastic location across the street from Caesar’s Palace and the Bellagio and if you don’t pay attention, you’ll walk right by. Blackjack, roulette and craps typically have five-dollar limits but can go up to ten on weekends. Even if they’re up at ten, this isn’t a pretentious place to gamble, which makes it my kind of place.
Because these casinos desperately need your business, their limits are typically the lowest. It’s pretty easy to find a three-dollar table for whatever game tickles your fancy and the free drinks are flowing (by the by, if any casino makes you pay for a drink at the table or machines, leave immediately).
Things To Do
People Watch: At any one time, there are tens of thousands of people from every walk of life imaginable in Las Vegas. From the upper crust flying in on their private jets to the "Keystone Light is gourmet beer" RVing crowd and everything in-between, they’re all here. Find a place to rest/lean, grab a drink and just start watching. You won’t get bored for hours.
X-Scream at Stratosphere: It’s just a 70 foot long piece of track with a regular roller coaster car right? Nah, it’s not too mu…HOLY CRAP IT’S DANGLING OVER THE SIDE OF THE BUILDING 900 FEET IN THE AIR! WHY DID I INSIST ON RIDING AT THE FRONT OF THIS DEATHTRAP! IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY GET ME OFF OF THIS THING!!!!!
Bellagio Fountain Show: Perhaps the best part is this show is free and although everyone says it’s the typical thing to go see, it really is a great show. Wherever people are on the Strip around it, they stop and watch. Make sure you get a front row seat and maybe you’ll run into the cast of Ocean’s Eleven.
I could write for days on Las Vegas because there’s just so much to do and so much to see. You’re going to be at what is essentially the world’s largest tailgate. Let’s be honest: most of us will end up spending Thursday after arriving having a cocktail by the pool; Friday having more cocktails and going to the football game and Saturday in the sports book watch our money appear and disappear with every touchdown with cocktails. But should you venture outside of the oxygen infused casinos, have some fun and for goodness sake, avoid the clicker guys. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see them.