In the desert of South Nevada sits a neon oasis of entertainment.
Millions of visitors flock there to not only gamble, but to also experience fine dining, nightlife, performing arts, sporting events, and more in Las Vegas.
An Evolving City
The recently completed Allegiant Stadium now houses the NFL Raiders with a capacity for 65,000 and a bright future ahead. Affectionately called the “Death Star” by locals, the tech savvy venue is light years away from this city’s humble beginnings as a railroad town emerging from the Mojave sands.
Founded in 1905, Las Vegas evolved into the most populous city in Nevada. Known as the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas boasts eleven AAA Five-Diamond establishments, including hotels and restaurants.
Inside four miles of the famous Strip, you will find replicas of world-famous landmarks, from the Egyptian pyramids, to the Statue of Liberty, and even the Eiffel Tower. Although many performance venues remain “dark” in the pandemic, outstanding outdoor attractions continue to entertain guests in the fresh air of Nevada’s many months of temperate climate.
The hottest commodity in Las Vegas is tourism, and this town is not gambling with safety. Vegas establishments have created extensive new protocols to ensure guests feel safe. Early in the (pandemic) game, the Renaissance-inspired Venetian Resort implemented their Venetian Clean campaign.
Thermal scanning upon entry, contactless check-in, packages of sanitizer and masks issued upon arrival, and extra sanitation of high-touch surfaces throughout the facilities prioritizes the health and safety of all guests and employees. We found our expansive and spacious hotel suite to be impeccably clean. Gondola rides accommodate your small, private party. Surrounding gaming tables, thick plexiglass dividers separate players and the dealer. Even slot machines are socially distanced, with every other machine labeled inactive so gamers are masked and at least six feet apart. You won’t find open drinks floating about, but you can bet on a disinfected machine within seconds of each player’s exit. The staff were incredibly attentive to details, ensuring our comfort throughout our stay at the resort.
Bright Lights and Big Day Trips
Whether planning your first or return visit to Viva Las Vegas, the endless options can feel daunting.
One of the best starting points is to book an open-air Pink Jeep Tour. This will help you cover some substantial ground in only a few hours. A friendly and knowledgeable guide drives you directly to points of interest, shares bits of history (from mobster tales to the days of Elvis), and answers your hunk of burning questions.
Our guide allowed us to hop out and watch The Mirage hotel’s volcano erupt, before taking in the majestic dancing water show at the Bellagio. We pulled right up to more ideal photo opps at the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign and the 550-foot tall (world’s highest at time of writing) ferris wheel, called none other than the High Roller.
In addition to showing you all the bright lights, Pink Jeep Tours can also take you on an epic day trip to locations such as Death Valley National Park, Valley of Fire State Park, Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, all within a few hours of the city and well worth the journey. Car rentals are not necessary, since shuttles, car services, and taxis are readily available at most locations. The 4.2 mile long Strip is walkable only to an extent and can take up a great deal of your time if navigating by foot. No matter how you roam, plan to pack a pair or two of comfy walking shoes.
Treats and Good Eats
If Southern comfort food and music are your cup of (iced) tea, then look no further than the Yardbird Southern Table and Bar, located inside the Venetian. Known for their collection of over 300 whiskeys, most of the exceptional hand-crafted cocktails are whiskey-based.
These folks raise the bar for Southern classics of fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs, chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits. Most dishes are reminiscent of Sunday dinners and special meals at Grandma’s house. Swoon over the private collection of photos from the young and dashing Clint Eastwood to James Dean, and take in a looping slideshow of classic Americana while you await a bowl of freshly baked strawberry peach cobbler to cap off your night.
Finger Lickin’ Food
Too many restaurants and not enough time? The perfect solution is the Finger Licking Foodie Tour, offering a sampling of top restaurants in the downtown district.
This self-guided (or live guided) walking tour leads you through several abbreviated stops for smaller portions of featured items, to give you a taste of each restaurant’s offerings and ambiance. We scheduled our tour on a Sunday morning, for the “best of the brunch,” leaving ample time to play all afternoon.
Brunching & Fun Browsing
The restaurants we visited required masking (except at your dining table) and limited capacity, with patio dining options. Our stops included Carson Kitchen, Therapy and 7th & Carson, all visited comfortably inside of three hours. A walk-through of Container Park is optional, but recommended, to see this eclectic collection of shipping containers repurposed into shops and restaurants, surrounding a pleasant park space.
If you can’t make the Foodie Tour, make a solo visit to the bottomless mimosas and relaxed brunching at 7th and Carson, topped off by the friendliest service we found in town. After your tour, be sure to stop by the Neon Museum and Mob Museum to whet your appetite for the colorful history of Las Vegas. Purchasing of advanced tickets online is strongly recommended, due to limited capacity and timed entry.
Evel Knievel Pizza Anyone?
Pizza lovers should save room for a slice of Evel Pie, after exploring the lights and sights of the vibrant downtown district. Creator Brandon Powers partnered with Evel Knievel’s estate to marry an old school pizzeria with the world’s most extensive memorabilia collection of this folkloric daredevil American stunt performer. Featuring unique pizza names, such as “Led Zeppole,” “Cheezy Rider,” and the “World Famous Snake River Special,” Evel’s sets the stage for casual dining with a fun vibe.
Travel Safe to Vegas and Beyond
Southwest Airlines offers daily direct flights (around three hours duration, direct) from all major Texas cities into Vegas, with pandemic measures in place at the time of writing. Masking, empty middle seats, and rigorous cleaning procedures are enforced. Two bags still fly free, and we think that’s the best deal around.
Savvy travelers are strongly encouraged to review Las Vegas’ most current COVID-19 Protocols, to ensure a safe and smooth escape.
Cover photo courtesy Las Vegas News Bureau/LVCVA
Brian and Dana Maass are married and live with their dog Chester in Round Rock, Texas. When not working their day jobs, they can be found traveling, writing, capturing scenic photos, exploring the Hill Country, and serving the community. Follow them on Instagram at @Dana_Maass_Adventures and @Brian_Maass_Adventures.