I love Las Vegas—doesn’t everyone? Well, whether you love it or hate it, many travelers find themselves in Sin City for work or pleasure, or even just to make a connecting flight. If for some reason you find yourself stranded in Las Vegas and have time to kill, it’s time to make a game plan. Why hang around the airport if you have enough time to soak up what Vegas has to offer? Luckily, I have some ideas, and trust me, I should know. I go to Las Vegas 8 to 10 times a year and have been over 120 times.
The Las Vegas Strip is only three miles away from the airport, which is approximately an 11-minute car ride, so if you’re looking at multiple hours before your flight takes off, grab a cab and cruise to the Strip. If you have less than four hours, I’d definitely recommend staying on the south side of the Strip, which includes Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, New York New York, the Luxor, Excalibur, and the Tropicana. However, if you have more than four hours, you can take advantage of the whole Strip.
Grab a Bite
There are some great food options for breakfast, lunch, or dinner if you’re stranded in Las Vegas.
The Griddle Café in the new SLS Hotel has some of the best breakfast food I’ve ever tasted. Try the French toast or the pancakes and a side of applewood-smoked bacon. The servings are massive and delicious. The SLS is pretty far down the Strip, though, so make sure the cab driver takes the highway to Sahara so you have enough time to get there and back.
For a great lunch spot, one of my favorites in Vegas is Burger Bar. It’s located in the shops in Mandalay Bay as you’re walking to Luxor. Burger Bar has excellent burgers that are reasonably priced, along with great fries and a bunch of other options.
Another great lunch or dinner spot is Café Martorano. This Italian classic is beyond good. When you arrive, just say “Hey cuz,” and get the cheesesteaks and the meatball salad, and thank me later. There are two in Vegas in the Rio and in Paris.
Whether it’s lunch or dinner, the relatively new restaurant Giada, yes that Giada, is tremendous and is the centerpiece of the new Cromwell Hotel—my favorite new hotel in Vegas. Giada knocks it out of the park with the Italian country food, the view of the Vegas Strip right at Flamingo is amazing. There are excellent views of the Bellagio fountains when they go off a few times an hour. Ask for a window seat and enjoy the show.
If you’re looking for something off the Strip for lunch or dinner, try some of these: Lotus of Siam for authentic Thai; Piero’s or Bautista’s for old-school Italian; the Blind Pig for some local Las Vegas bar fare; or Kai Zen for sushi. All are excellent, you’ll walk away stuffed. An added bonus is that you can impress your friends by being savvy enough to know the best local spots off the Strip!
All the places I mentioned are outstanding, but if you’re in a real hurry and you’re dying for a West Coast classic, remember there are a few In-N-Out Burgers in Vegas. One is right by the airport on Maryland Parkway, right by the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Have Some Fun
If you’re not hungry but looking do something fun, there’s plenty to keep you busy. The Mandalay Bay is one of the closest resort casinos to the airport, so you can always head there for a drink or a few rounds on the slots. If you’ve had your fill of sin, check out the Shark Reef Aquarium, where you can see more than 2,000 animals, including endangered green sea turtles, piranha, a rare golden crocodile, and, of course, sharks.
Further down the Strip, The Venetian is the perfect stop for some shopping. Head to the Grand Canal Shoppes to get your hands of designer labels, watch the daily musical performances, or even step aboard the Old World gondolas to float down the Canal.
The Bellagio is centrally located between the north and south sides of the Strip, making it a great starting point for exploring either the north or south side of the Strip (or both if you have a ton of time to pass). Check out the fountain show, which happens every 15 minutes or every half hour, depending on the time of day and day of the week.
If you’re in the mood to pick up a new skill, take a master sommelier class at Michael Mina restaurant, which is located conveniently close to the Bellagio. If you prefer cocktails, the Monte Carlo, which is on the south side of the Strip, offers a two-hour mixology training and tasting class.
If you need to boot up your laptop and get to work, McCarran International Airport is equipped with free Wi-Fi throughout all public areas. There are also lots of Wi-Fi hotspot options in Vegas, including many of the hotels. Most of the MGM properties have free Wi-Fi in the public areas, such as the casinos, lobbies, and pool areas. Some of these properties include:
There’s no need to get stressed out if you’re stranded in Vegas for awhile. There are so many options to make the time fly by that you might even end up wishing you could stay a little longer. Whether you’re feasting at one of the restaurants on the Strip or squeezing in a mixology class, you’ll quickly be able to see why being stranded isn’t always such a bad thing.