Rest Your Head
With a wide variety of accommodations (pictured above), from panoramic view rooms to the more exclusive Tower Suites, as well as a host of luxury shopping — think Gaultier, Chanel and Dior — in its retail area, and 18 restaurants, including the sumptuous SW Steakhouse and the more casual Terrace Pointe Cafe, you could very well never leave this luxurious complex. And the complex's Encore Hotel & Casino, where there a premium on modern design, has a poolside lounge where tables run straight into the water.
The Mandalay Bay's 11-acre tropical lagoon, thoughtfully designed beach club and wide variety of entertainment venues, including the House of Blues, are always reliable draws, as is its spin-off THEhotel at Mandalay, where 1,117 rooms, complete with 42-inch plasma televisions and marble-and-granite bathrooms and The Bathhouse spa guarantee a memorable stay
A mainstay on The Strip, and a leader of the late-90s pack that helped bring Vegas back to life, The Bellagio gives guests true luxury. View stunning art at the hotel's $200 million gallery, stroll around their 11-acre lake or spend some quiet time roaming around the grounds' gardens. Then, once you're done with all that, check out their spa for some pampering and finish your day with a meal at one of The Bellagio's many fine restaurants, like Picasso and the one-and-only five diamond-rated Le Cirque.
Caesers Palace's six towers have stood strong through all of Vegas' iterations, continually impressing with its Colosseum entertainment venue originally built for Celine Dion, sprawling mall and top-notch service. And though it's named after an emperor, this hotel opens its arms to travelers of all economic classes.
The art deco-infused Flamingo Las Vegas Casino & Hotel, first opened in 1946 to a star-studded crowd — Lana Turner, Clark Gable and Judy Garland among them — may have been Vegas' first mob-run hotel, and was definitely the reason famed gangster Bugsy Siegel was murdered. (He was, his business partners in the venture believed, skimming, a cardinal sin in the world of organized crime.) The hotel has cleaned up its image since then: their next headlining show is Donny and Marie Osmond. The sibling singers, however, can't get into your room, where the Flamingo's Miami-inspired pop really shines through with patent-leather headboards, modern chaise lounges and plenty of pink accents.
And since Vegas is all about fantasy, visitors may want to get a taste of France at the 24-acre Paris-Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, which also boasts 11 restaurants for the Francophile foodie, an excellent, 25,000 square-foot spa and nightly entertainment, like the hit musical Jersey Boys.
Meanwhile, New York-New York brings the Big Apple to the desert, Luxor's Pyramid draws inspiration from Egypt, where luxury began, and The Venetian's canals and gondola rides are the perfect alternative for those who can't hop on over to Italy without crossing any international waters.
For those on a budget, Boyd Gaming has seven different hotels to choose from, including The Orleans Hotel & Casino, Gold Coast on the Strip and Main Street Station in the newly revitalized downtown district. These and the company's other locales all have rooms starting at about $30 a night.
If you're looking to avoid gambling away your hard earned cash, check out Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel, where Rat Pack-inspired design offers a reprieve from the at-times overwhelming strip, while their on-site steakhouse, ENVY, really lives up to its name.
For something more scintillating, why not try Blue Moon Resort, an all-male, clothing-optional spot off the strip where anything can and will happen. Don't worry, though, it all stays in Vegas.
Dance & Sip
It hasn't officially opened yet, but Krave Massive, one of nightlife empresario Kelly Murphy's projects, is already making a huge impact in Sin City.
An evolution of sorts for beloved nightclub Krave, this new space opening at Neonopolis held a four-day preview event leading into New Year's Eve, giving customers a taste of what will become a 32,000 square foot space featuring five thematic dance floors, a martini lounge, a comedy club and easy access to Murphy's Drink & Drag Lounge, where you'll find something truly unique: a drag bar that's also a bowling alley, giving new meaning to Fabulous Las Vegas.
Share Nightclub, where modern design meets old school fun, is a guaranteed good time on the weekends. Thursday is all about pop music and Saturdays features guest DJs and performers.
Another old favorite, Gipsy, also has limited engagements, but not limited energy: their Saturday night dance party remains a favorite for locals and tourists alike.
Piranha Boutique Nightclub has a more intimate dancing experience, while an entirely different type of dancing can be found at one of Las Vegas' many country western bars, like Badlands Saloon and Charlie's, where those of you with two left feet can get lessons on Monday and Thursday nights. And The Backdoor remains a local favorite, particularly their Latin Thursdays.
Meanwhile, leather rules at Ramrod LV and The Las Vegas Eagle, where there are often drink specials for those willing to strip down to their skivvies, and Snick's Place, a mainstay since 1976, offers a sip of Las Vegas' gay history.
Flex's theme nights keep the beat all week long — hip-hop Saturdays are a long-time favorite, as are wet underwear Mondays.
Speaking of Monday, if you're in town at the start of the week, why not try the liquor bust event at Goodtimes. Not in town on Monday? Don't worry, Goodtimes are there all week long.
Fine Dining & Quick Bites
Fine Dining is as much a Las Vegas tradition as gambling and live entertainment.
If you've been saving your pennies, and have a refined palette, there's no better place to experience culinary bliss than Joël Robuchon's namesake restaurant at the MGM Grand (one of their burgers is pictured above).
From a 6-course tasting menu to a 16-course feast that includes truffle tart with onion confit, roasted lobster with Victoria pineapple and an incredible grilled sea bass, Robuchon's French fare is more magical than anything an illusionist could conjure. Chef Andre Rochat's Restauran off the strip also brings a taste of France to Nevada, and for a far more affordable price.
If you're interested in some unbeatable Mexican food, head over to The Border Grill's outpost at Mandalay Bay and dine on lesbian chef Susan Feniger's empanadas, gluten-free quesadillas and sip on some of the city's best margaritas, all on an outdoor patio that guarantees a superb view of all Vegas' action.
Need a small bite to keep you going into the night? Try some crispy duck rolls or paella at FireFly Tapas Kitchen.
Or maybe you're more in the mood for an Asian-flavored burger at Fukuburger, where East meets West in the back of a food truck, pleasing party-goers in a different spot every night of the week. Try topping your burger with some avocado cream or fried eggs. Don't worry, you can dance it off later.
And though it may sound a bit gimmicky, Top of the World Restaurant at The Stratosphere truly is a perfect spot for a romantic meal. The views of glittering Vegas are attraction enough, but their signature Colorado rack of lamb and seared Muscovy duck breast with orange and lime hoisin sauce need to be tasted to be believed.
The Redwood Bar & Grill remains a favorite for locals looking for some hot beef, and of course there's Spago's Las Vegas branch, where celebrities and pedestrians alike sit side-by-side, enjoying famed chef Wolfgang Puck's ever-changing menu.
Local gays rave, for good reason, about Paymon's Mediterranean Cafe & Lounge, which is definitely a more affordable, though just as tasty, option for visitors watching their wallets.
Gay-friendly Osaka Japanese Bistro and the Thai spot Lotus of Siam are also budget friendly, as is the Italian menu at Nora's Cuisine, which means you'll have more dough to spread around at the tables, or at one of Vegas' many upscale malls.
Next to gambling, the next best sport in Vegas is shopping.
Any and all major luxury brands have outposts there, many of them conveniently located in upscale hotels. The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace has a wide selection of high-priced duds for you. More than 160 boutiques, including designers like DKNY, Burberry and Valentino and affordable yet still fashion-forward retailers such as The Gap, Banana Republic and H&M.
The appropriately named Fashion Show Mall is the place to go for mega-stores Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman-Marcus, Macy's and even Dillard's, which is a woefully under-appreciated department store for shoppers hoping to save money for the card tales. And outlet shopping is the name of the game at the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas and the Vegas Premium Outlets, where you can score some great deals on Levi's, Nikes and Calvin Klein, among others.
After that, head over to the LGBT-centric Get Booked shop to catch up on some essential reading. After all, being attractive isn't just about threads.
And there's plenty of art to be found in Vegas, a land known for its kitsch. Of course there's the Bellagio's amazing collection, where a new Andy Warhol exhibit is set to open next month and run through October of this year. You'll be sure to see some eye-popping works at the Erotic Heritage Museum and the Smithsonian's Atomic Testing Museum gives visitors a look at the city's role in the Manhattan Project.
The Auto Collections, home to classics like a 1964 Alfa Romeo and a 1936 BMW, will get car lovers' motors going. And the Fremont Street Experience (pictured above) brings the flashing neon lights, many of them from Vegas' Golden Age, under one canopy with frequent live performances that capture Vegas' over-the-top glitz.
Also, we definitely recommend checking out some fish at Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef Aquarium, home to endangered green sea turtles, scores of jellyfish, a rare golden crocodile and over 2,000 other creatures. The truly adventurous, and already dive-certified or annual pass holders, will really get off diving into the aquarium's dive with sharks program, which takes you into a 1.3 million gallon underwater world you won't find anywhere else.