How to Crush 3 Days in America’s Wildest Party and Adventure Town
Vegas, baby! Call it what you will—Sin City, The Entertainment Capital of the World, America’s Playground, the Neon City, Adult Disneyland, or the City of Second Chances—Las Vegas doesn’t just have something for everyone (yes, even the non-partying crowd), but it has it in spades. The sprawling desert oasis welcomed a record-setting 53 million visitors to its bright-lit streets in 2023, a dizzying statistic, even by Vegas’s over-the-top-everything standards. The city’s top events of 2024 hit a new peak with Super Bowl LVIII this Sunday—its first hosting of the big game. You’ll also want to be back in November for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, which debuted its inaugural Formula 1 race at the end of last year. In other words, Las Vegas has no intention of slowing down.
There’s plenty more to this southern Nevada metropolis than the roughly four-mile stretch that makes up the Las Vegas Strip, where extravagant hotels, All-Star music residencies, nightly Cirque du Soleil shows, and a surplus of celebrity chefs all grapple for your attention. While you certainly don’t want to skip the city’s glitzy, over-indulgent epicenter, just refrain from going all-in, all weekend like The Hangover. Why? Las Vegas is one of the best jumping-off points for outdoor adventure in America.
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Epic mountain trails? Check. Wide open desert state parks? Check. Sick golf courses, jaw-dropping ATV trails, and secluded hot springs? More checks. There’ll be plenty of time to hit up the bar come nighttime—and we’ve got a few hotspots to rev you up. But to truly enjoy this town, you’ve got to look around and explore well beyond the usual haunts. From off-Strip restaurants to high-octane thrills, here’s how to make the most of three perfect days in and around Las Vegas.
How to Get to and Around Las Vegas
Fly into Harry Reid International Airport (LAS) in Paradise, NV, just 10 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip. All major airlines operate out of here—one of the busiest airports in America—but it’s especially popular amongst the low-cost carriers: Southwest, Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit. Pro tip: be sure to snag a window seat on the flight into town. It’s a beautiful, and wild, spectacle to see the city rise up out of the red-rocked Mojave Desert. Angelenos love a last-second jolt for Sin City, hopping in the car and buzzing up Interstate 15 in just four hours. Phoenicians often do the same—and can be poolside by noon following an early-morning departure and straight-shot up Interstate 93.
If you fly in and plan to stay on or near the Strip for the entirety of your stay, you don’t need a car and can easily get by with a combination of hotel shuttles, taxis, buses, Uber or Lyft rides, the Monorail—which links multiple big-brand casinos—and your own two feet. The Strip is built for walking, and you’ll get some A-plus people-watching in as you do. For this 3-Day guide, you’ll want to rent a car to experience the entertainment and underrated outdoor paradise that surrounds the city.
When to Visit Las Vegas
Las Vegas doesn’t do much in the way of sleeping, which makes it an entertaining getaway no matter the season. For optimal weather, southern Nevada’s sunny, dry desert climate is best experienced in the spring or fall shoulder seasons—March to May, and September to November, when high temperatures range from the low-70s to the low-90s. Days are warm and comfortable during this time, but when the desert sun drops from the horizon, a jacket will certainly come in handy. Summer can be sweltering here—and will cap your outdoor activity—with triple-digit temperatures the norm in July and August. On the flipside, Vegas pool parties are epic these months, so if you want to let loose in your swimsuit with a thousand of your closest friends, there’s no reason to avoid a summer trip (it’s also cheaper). Winter is sunny and quiet, but you’ll need a winter coat. Funny picture, right?
ARIA Sky Suites. Go with the Mountain View.
Where to Stay in Las Vegas
The modern ARIA Sky Suites oozes opulence, starting with its personal concierge service when you check in to the hotel-within-a-hotel at ARIA Resort & Casino. The curvy glass tower offers three suite styles—none smaller than 1,050 square feet—that feel more like chic city penthouses than a traditional hotel stay (go with the Mountain View). As a guest, you’ll have access to a private elevator and pool, a world-class spa, a nightclub, and a selection of restaurants from celebrated chefs like Jean-Georges Vongericthen, whose eponymous steakhouse sources some of the highest-rated Wagyu meats in the world. At Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace, an even more intimate hotel-within-a-hotel concept, you can dine on chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s world-renowned sushi rolls without leaving your bed. How about that for room service?
The ENGLiSH Hotel. An Arts District favorite.
If you’re looking for a hidden gem away from the hullabaloo of the Strip—and don’t want to sacrifice the buzz—check out Durango Casino and Resort in the Southwest Valley. The $780-million-dollar casino and resort just opened last December and features a slick sportsbook, 200-plus rooms, 15 bars, and a restaurant lineup that rivals any on-Strip staple. For another new-ish stay, you won’t find a better boutique option than The ENGLiSH Hotel in the Arts District, the 74-room debut from James Beard-winning chef Todd English.
1228 Main’s Wagy Burger should tide you over ’til halftime.
Where to Eat: Best Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
In Henderson, CRAFTkitchen slings a stellar all-day breakfast to jumpstart your morning—from quiches to avocado toast to its short rib hash. For lunch, give 1228 Main in the Art’s District a try. The play here is to pair one of its farm-fresh salads with either the Pastrami & Melty Gruyere sandwich or the 1228 Wagy Burger, a double-patty taste explosion on a sesame seed brioche bun. Stay in the same neighborhood for supper at Esther’s Kitchen, a cozy Italian eatery and beloved spot for Las Vegans. Pick a pasta, any pasta—rigatoni, bucatini, tortellini—and you’re set.
Where to Drink in Las Vegas: Best Bar
Booze enthusiasts unite at Atomic Liquors, the oldest freestanding bar in Las Vegas. Since 1952, the iconic watering hole has served everyone from Clint Eastwood to Hunter S. Thompson to the Rat Pack to Barbara Streisand. The landmark has had cameos in Hollywood megahits like Scorsese’s Casino and The Hangover; Anthony Bourdain even shot a scene here for Parts Unknown. Cocktail or beer, it all works here.
The Sphere—largest in the world.
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Don’t-Miss: Top Attraction in Las Vegas
Sin City has a knack for breaking records. Of all its envelope-pushing entertainment options (and there are plenty), a show at the brand-new MSG Sphere, the largest spherical structure on Earth, must be seen to be believed. The $2.3 billion-dollar concert venue just east of the Strip stands a dizzying 366-feet tall. Inside, a massive wrap-around screen is fitted with 1.2 million LED lights, delivering a whopping 16K resolution to the audience. Rock royalty U2 opened the futuristic arena last fall, and will play shows through March 2. In April, they’ll pass the torch to jam-band favorite Phish for four shows. Can’t make a concert? Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky’s Postcard From Earth, a dreamy nature film runs most nights in between. Brace yourself for vibrating seats, swirling winds, and a 250-foot tall domed screen.
Super Bowl Sunday between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs is a city-wide affair, with several big lead-up events and watch parties happening from the Strip to Downtown and beyond.
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Super Bowl LVIII: Where to Warm Up and Watch the Game
The biggest game of the year is coming to Las Vegas for the first time ever—and if you’re just hearing that from us now, you probably don’t have tickets for Super Bowl LVIII between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday, February 11. That doesn’t mean you can’t crush Super Bowl weekend properly in Vegas and feel like you’re right in the action and (almost) at the game.
Lead-up attractions and events include Downtown’s Excessive Celebration Bowl Bash (Feb. 8-11) featuring over two dozen live performances and 150 hours of free entertainment on three stages, located at Fremont Street Experience. Super Bowl Experience (Feb. 7-10) presented by Toyota at the Mandalay Bay South Convention Center is the city’s epic NFL fan festival—a football frenzy of interactive exhibits, autograph signings, close up views of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, much merch, and more.
Watch parties are happening everywhere throughout Vegas, with enough enormous screens, stadium-style seating, drink specials, craft beer, and game-day grub to serve every Super Bowl celebrant on the Vegas Strip, Fremont Street, and beyond. Here are just a few biggies. Downtown Las Vegas Events Center will be hosting the free Biggest Big Game Bash with stadium-style seating and tables that can be reserved ahead for groups. On the Strip, HyperX Arena Las Vegas at Luxor Hotel & Casino will have the game on its state-of-the-art LED video wall, along with an open bar and assortment of tasty game-day bites. Football Central at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino will blast the Bowl in its theater space filled with giant screens, great food, and wagering stations. If you’d rather watch the game poolside, head to Circa Resort & Casino’s six heated pools at Stadium Swim, and don’t miss a single play on its 140-foot screens while kicking back in your trunks and sipping cocktails from a deck chair.
Savvy Tip for Visitors to Las Vegas
Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Strip go hand in hand, but there are deals to be had for staying off-Strip. In Downtown Las Vegas, the food is just as good and will often cost you a fraction of the price. Another way to pinch pennies and bring a bigger bankroll to the craps or blackjack table: book a midweek trip for cheaper room rates—plus better access to top restaurants and the town’s buzziest shows.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is just 17 miles and a world away from the Strip.
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Day 1: Hit the Trail, the Racetrack, and the Town
Before grabbing Sin City by the horns, fuel up at Vesta Coffee Roasters in the Arts District, a popular hangout in the hipster enclave. Pair one of their natural pour-over coffees—a fancier macadamia-almond latte works too—with a ham and Gruyere croissant or a Sriracha-topped Hawaiian Benedict sando. Once you’re firing on all cylinders, check out the Mob Museum, one of the best niche exhibits in the country, where Vegas’s 20th-century gangster past is on full display in the old federal courthouse. From Al Capone to “Whitey” Bulger, the rise of drug cartels to Hollywood’s history of mob films, you’ll appreciate this dark chapter in the tome of organized crime.
Leave Vegas’s neon lights behind and head for the canyons, chutes, and sandstone hills at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a quick 20-minute car ride from the Strip. Millions of years ago, the vast Mojave Desert landscape—coming in at a whopping 195,819 acres—was a home for meat-eating dinosaurs. Today, it’s a vibrant outdoor oasis for hikers, bikers, climbers, and photographers, linked together by an immersive 13-mile scenic car route. One of the park’s best bang-for-your-buck hikes is the Calico Tanks Trails, a 2.2-mile out-and-back that includes a bit of rock scrambling and a beautiful view of the Las Vegas Valley. Hikers looking to get after it will love the 2,000-foot elevation gain of Turtlehead Peak Trail, a five-miler that rewards your toil with epic views of the La Madre and Spring Mountains.
Courtesy of SPEEDVEGAS
Before you paint the town red at night, thrill seekers are certain to get an adrenaline rush at SPEEDVEGAS, where you can burn some major rubber behind the wheel of a Porsche, Ferrari, or Lamborghini. Don’t want to drive? Let a pro drift racer show you how it’s done while you ride shotgun. After the racetrack, make a sunset pitstop up the road at Seven Magic Mountains. The roadside art installation looks like a rainbow-colored Stonehenge dropped in the middle of the desert.
Come happy hour, you’ll be more parched than the Mojave. First stop: Liquid Diet—if you can find it—for its food-driven cocktails in the Gateway District; Commonwealth for its rooftop patio and hidden speakeasy, The Laundry Room. For some late-night grub, hitch a ride to Tacos El Gordo for some crispy and authentic Tijuana street tacos. Warning: there will be a line.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Day 2: Golf in Boulder City, Then Hike Around Lake Mead
Hit the road on your second morning and head to Boulder City, thirty minutes southeast of the Strip, for a tee time at Cascata Golf Club, one of the Silver State’s best tracks. Get there early to take a lap around its palatial Tuscan-inspired clubhouse, hit a bucket of balls at the mountainside practice range—watch out for bighorn sheep—and most importantly, to chow down one of the most ridiculous breakfast sandwiches on God’s green earth. On the links, the Rees Jones layout is an immaculate oasis of quietude (save for the abundance of roadrunners and Gambel’s quails), winding its way through a network of gorges, palm and Joshua trees, and desert washouts in the foothills of the River Mountain Range. Be sure to stuff one tight at the 157-yard seventh hole, one of the best desert par-3s in the game.
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Boulder City’s close proximity to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area gives non-golfers plenty to do in the area. More than seven million people visit the former annually, and for good reason. At 726 feet high and 1,244 feet long, it’s a bonafide engineering marvel, with the best view atop the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Hikers and bikers love the tunnels on the Historic Railroad Trail, a level path with great views of the lake. For a big adventure with an even bigger payoff, hike the 5.3-mile Gold Strike Hot Springs Trail—part of the 1.5-million-acre expanse that is Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The trailhead is near the bridge, and you’ll to need to scramble and scale down a number of 20-foot ropes, but the reward is worth it: a hot waterfall cascading into a hot pool awaits. Afterwards, grab a local microbrew and a bite to eat at The Dillinger, The Tap, or Boulder Dam Brewing Company, all in downtown Boulder City.
50 miles northeast of Sin City, Valley of Fire State Park’s 40,000-acre Mars-scape of Aztec sandstone formations can be explored by car, bicycle, or hiking boot.
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Day 3: Drive through a Mars-Like State Park, Hop on a UTV, and Watch the Strip from Above
Rise and shine for a cruise up Interstate 15 to Valley of Fire State Park, an hour’s drive from the Strip. The 46,000-acre park is an awe-striking geological wonderland, a mishmash of red Aztec sandstone, slot canyons, petroglyphs and petrified trees, and fiery outcroppings that glow from miles away. To get a feel for the park’s magic, consider a short morning hike on either the White Domes Trail, Fire Wave Trail, or the Rainbow Vista Trail, none of which exceed a mile-and-a-half. Buffered by the sandy canyons, you’ll hear your heartbeat out on the trail if you get here early enough. It’s that quiet.
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Head towards nearby Mesquite, NV, a small town on the Arizona border, for some bonus outdoor recreation. If you want to squeeze in another eighteen, take your sticks with you to the otherworldly Wolf Creek Golf Club, a surreal routing made famous by the old Tiger Wood’s video game. Tucked in a maze of ravines and canyons, it will be one of the most visually stunning golf courses you ever tee up at. Not in the mood to golf? No problem. Book a two or four-seat UTV with Adventure Rentals and shred the surrounding Virgin Mountain Range on an epic four-wheel voyage. Before you return to Las Vegas for the night, pop into the Eureka Casino Resort and test your luck at the roulette table.
Next year? Home to the Las Vegas Raiders, Allegiant Stadium hosts the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl LVIII.
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Back in Sin City, hit up Herbs & Rye at happy-hour time, a one-stop spot for damn-delicious cocktails (arranged by decade) and chophouse favorites (consider the Pork & Figs). Depending on the season, Las Vegas is home to the Las Vegas Raiders and reigning Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights hockey team. Root for the home team, and then venture over to AREA15, a trippy art complex where you can hurl axes or throw on a virtual headset and fly like a bird over some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. For a more chill finale, book a ride on the High Roller Observation Wheel, the world’s second-tallest Ferris wheel. At 550 feet above the Strip, it’s the ultimate nightcap to reflect on your heroic three-day romp in the desert.