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19 Secret Las Vegas Tips for First Timers (How to Visit Vegas Like A Pro)

19 Secret Las Vegas Tips for First Timers (How to Visit Vegas Like A Pro)

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If you’re planning your first trip to Las Vegas, you should know that it definitely won’t be your last. The energetic atmosphere and the freedom to let loose becomes an addiction.

But if you’re visiting Las Vegas for the first time, know that it will be stimulation overload!

There is so much to see, do, taste, try, drink and play that it can quickly become overwhelming.

But don’t waste your time on the most overrated places in Vegas (trust me).

There are certain things to know before going to Vegas that will help you make the most of your trip.

It can be as wild or as low key as you want it to be. 

If you’ve never been to Las Vegas, for some people it’s hard to understand the appeal.

While drinkin’ and gamblin’ are favorite activities for many, there’s so much more to experience about this energetically wild city.

It’s even the perfect place to spend a honeymoon or a romantic getaway (read more ideas for couples here).

The lights, the grandiose casinos, the fountain shows, the people watching, rooftop views…like where I’m going with this? Vegas is a city like no other.

It’s loud, exuberant and knows how to host a party.

But before you hit the ground running, there are some Las Vegas tips for first timers that will be helpful to keep you going for your inaugural trip.

Here’s how to make your first time to Vegas the best trip ever.

This post contains some affiliate links, i meaning I may make a small commission if you make a purchase, at absolutely no extra cost to you.

General Las Vegas Tips for First Timers

Before we get to my recommendations about where to stay in Vegas for your first time and the must-do activities, there are a few things to know before you navigate Sin City. 

Everything is Bigger and Further Away than it Seems

The scale of the strip is so deceiving. Because the hotels and casinos are ultra large, it makes everything appear closer than it actually is.

Honestly, I’ve been to Vegas about half a dozen times, and it still gets me.

This is important to know for planning purposes, especially if you’re travelling with a group and want to coordinate where to meet up.

You might think, “Oh we’re at New York New York and we’ll meet you at the Paris in a few minutes.”

Even though it’s pretty much across the street, it’s probably going to take you a minimum of 20 minutes to get over there. 

the Linq Promenade at Night

For your very first visit to Vegas, I recommend booking a 3 hour tour to show you around the must-see places along the Strip.

With this tour, you can choose whichever time of day you prefer and your guide will bring you to the iconic places, but also hidden gems and secret spots (like the secret pizza shop and happy hour beer for 50 cents)!

Read Next: 5 Day Las Vegas Itinerary: A Mix of Top Attractions and Hidden Gems

Be Prepared to Walk A Lot

This also means you’re going to be doing a lot of walking. Again, no matter how many times I visit, I never get used to the amount of walking I do.

However, this does wonders for my competitive spirit when I want to track how many steps I can get on my fitness tracker (I use the Garmin Venu) in a day! Hint – it was over 30,000 one time.

The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard) is over 3 miles long, in addition to the vast spaces within the hotels and casinos. 

Consequently, you should bring your comfiest shoes that can handle this amount of walking. But don’t just bring one pair.

Bring a few different pairs (different styles) that you can rotate through to give your feet a break as well. Doing this is a huge life saver.

For me, I always bring a trusty pair of daytime sneakers, a pair of cushy birkenstock-style sandals and a nice pair of comfy wedges to wear at dinner. 

Use Public Transit

The good news is that there are buses, trams and monorails that you can use as a low cost to cut down your walking time.

I recommended purchasing a three-day pass for the Deuce bus which is a double-decker city bus that cruises from the south end of the Strip up to Fremont.

This way you can hop on and hop off when you need to. 

Another new option for transportation is to purchase bus fares through the Uber app! Just open the app and you can compare fares from the different buses and purchase your tickets through the app. 

You could also try the monorail to go north to south on the east side of the Strip. If you’re staying at the Linq, Flamingo, Paris or the MGM Grand, the monorail runs right behind these hotels.

You can purchase one day or multi-day passes here

There are also a few free trams to use on the other side of the strip that go in between the hotels owned under the same brand.

Source: Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada

Should You Rent a Car in Vegas? 

This depends on what you’re planning to do. In my opinion, I would avoid renting a car for your first trip to Vegas.

If you’re only in town for the weekend or a few days, there will be plenty of things on the Strip and Fremont street that will keep you busy.

And if you’re just sticking to this part of town, you really don’t need the hassle of renting a car. Most hotels charge for parking now and traffic is always busy. 

Read Next: 32 Essential Things to Do In Vegas Besides Gambling

General Tips for Walking the Strip

I will never forget my very first trip to Vegas when I remember asking a staff person at the hotel if I could bring my can of beer outside the casino.

She smiled and replied “this is Vegas, honey, you can bring your drink anywhere.” 

I mean, I knew you could drink anywhere, but as a first timer in Vegas, it was so cool to be able to walk around and bring your open drink anywhere!

Shopping with a glass of wine? Highly recommend!

Now, all that being said, if you want to save a little money on Vegas Vacation, purchase drinks at the CVS or corner stores instead of grabbing one at the casino bar. 

Also, avoid anyone who approaches you on the Strip wanting to offer you free shows or discounts.

This is usually a timeshare presentation that will take an entire afternoon.

The same goes for people in the casinos. They usually approach couples and ask if it’s your first time in Vegas, how long you’re staying, etc.

It’s best to just avoid these people!

And there will be all kinds of characters and interesting people on the Strip.

Anything from impersonators, people dressed up in costumes to buskers and everything in between.

Definitely enjoy and have some fun, but know that if you take a photo with them you will be expected to tip them.

And if you’re planning to visit the famous Las Vegas sign (which is a must do as a first timer), there will usually be someone there who offers to take the photo for you so that you don’t need to take a selfie.

Again, if you let them do this you will be expected to tip.

>> Read more in my full guide to scams and tourist traps to avoid in Les Vegas (and how to not get ripped off).

Tips for First Time Gamblers in Vegas

If it’s your first time in Las Vegas, walking into a casino and choosing where to gamble might be a little intimidating. The hotel casinos are massive.

They’re full of people, lights and sounds and there are no windows so it’s easy to lose your bearings. 

That being said, you don’t need to consider yourself much of a gambler to enjoy some games and have a little casino fun while you’re in Vegas.

Vegas Pro Tip: Order yourself a copy of the American Casino Guide which is the most extensive and trusted resource about all things gambling in Vegas. PLUS, there’s over 150 coupons and basically pays for itself after you use one or two (buffets, shows and match play coupons, meaning you’re paid out 2-1 on your bet).

How to Choose What to Play

I think the most important tip when it comes to gambling on your first trip to Vegas is that the house always has the advantage and therefore you should only gamble what you are comfortable losing. 

people playing blackjack in vegas

I’m no expert, but generally speaking, table games provide you with a higher chance of winning.

Especially games like Blackjack, where you can incorporate a slight amount of strategy that you control.

CASINO TIP: You can book a gaming lesson with a local guide! On this 2.5 hour your, your guide will teach you how to play the most popular table games – roulette, craps and blackjack and share tips on how to get freebies.

For example, if you want to learn how to play blackjack, the dealer can let you know the suggested move based on basic strategy.

Just don’t ask them how much you should bet! 

Slot machines typically have terrible odds, but that doesn’t stop people from playing them, myself included!

They’re entertaining and there are a variety of games to choose from. You can still find penny slots in most of the casinos, you just have to look for them. 

Penny slots can be deceiving though, so be careful. Depending on how many lines you bet, each ‘bet’ can be a few dollars.

So if you’re new to gambling in Vegas and just want to try it out for your first time, scan the machines and look for the ones with a max bet of $0.50 or lower.

This will make your money stretch a little longer! Also, usually when you bet the maximum you have a higher chance of winning.

At the very least, you will never win the max payout if you’re not max betting.

Slot machines at budget friendly casino hotels, Fremont Street and off-strip casinos are known to have “looser” slots. They need to work hard to earn your business.

By contrast, higher end hotel and luxury casinos will have a much lower payout on slot machines, since most people are aleready drawn in to visit.

Branded slot machines usually have the lowest payout and worst return to play.

They’re used to draw people in because they’re flashy and entertaining.

Take Advantage of Free Drinks!

And yes, drinks are still free when you gamble in Vegas! Whether you’re sitting at a slot machine or table, servers will come around and offer you a drink.

This includes beer, cocktails, water, etc. Just make sure you tip your server a minimum of one or 2 dollars per drink so that they keep coming around!

You can also tip more than this to ensure they come back several more times.

Always Cash Out Before Leaving the Casino

All slot machines in Las Vegas use the ‘ticket in, ticket out’ system now. When you find a machine, insert your bill and when you decide to ‘cash out’ you will get a slip of paper with a bar code and how much it’s valid for.

If it’s your first time in Vegas, I highly recommend going to find a cashier and cashing out your vouchers before you leave every casino.

You’ll be jumping from casino to casino and you might not a chance to go back to the one that you have a voucher for.

Make sure you don’t leave any unclaimed money behind!

Bring Your ID

And it’s a good idea to always have your ID on you. If you look a day under 30, most security guards at the casinos will ask for your ID and you might not be able to enter if you don’t have it on you.

Best Casinos in Vegas for First Timers 

First, I recommend visiting as many casinos as you’d like. It’s fun to visit the different themed casinos and see how they vary.

Enjoy roaming around even if you don’t plan on gambling. Caesar’s Palace and the Bellagio are showy and grandiose.

I like the inside of the Paris hotel, and the New York New York has a fun urban vibe to it. 

I like the Cromwell casino as it’s a little smaller than most and has cheap drinks if you’re not gambling and just want to watch a group hollering around a hot Craps table. 

Any of the casinos on Fremont Street (old Las Vegas) are also good, and most people think they pay out a little more often.

And if it’s your first time in Vegas you have to stop at Binion’s (on Fremont) and take a photo with a stack of a million dollars.

You get a free 5×7 print out of your photo too!

And as a Las Vegas first timer, even if you’re not a gambler, it’s still fun to pull the old school handles on the slots!

Most of them are all digital nowadays (where you push the button to bet), but you can still find a few rows of the analogue machines where you pull the handle. 

Even more, there are still a few casinos left that have machines that payout in coins!

You can find a few of these kicking around at the D on Fremont, El Cortez and Slots A Fun next to Circus Circus.

Where to Stay in Vegas for Your First Time

There are SO many hotels to choose from.

Since you will likely be visiting as many places as you can on the Strip, I recommend choosing a hotel based on location.

If it’s your first time in Vegas, as soon as you arrive on the strip you’ll want to start exploring immediately!

I recommend staying in the middle of the strip for easiest access to check out as many hotels and casinos as possible.

I find it’s so much more convenient to stay somewhere in the middle of the strip instead of one end or the other.

My two favorite hotels I recommend staying in if it’s your first time is either the Flamingo Hotel or Planet Hollywood.

They’re centrally located in the middle of the strip, are moderately priced and are close to a variety of dining options.

You can read my full comparison between the two hotels here.

You can use the map below to compare hotel prices at the same time.

Read Next: The Ultimate Guide to Vegas on a Budget: Where to Eat, Stay and Play and Spend Less

Lower Cost Hotels in the Middle of the Strip

I like staying at the Flamingo because it’s central and a little less expensive than other hotels in the middle of the Strip.

It’s close to the Linq, Paris and across from Caesars which all have great dining options.

And if you’re visiting in the summer, the Flamingo has the best pool in Las Vegas.

In my opinion, this hotel is one of the best places to stay in Las Vegas for first timers. 

Read my full review (+tips) for staying at the Flamingo.

Almost right next door is the LINQ, which is a great value option, since it’s very centrally located. The Linq shopping area is lots of fun, and this is where the High Roller observation wheel is located too. 

If you’re visiting Vegas on a romantic getaway or maybe your honeymoon, the Paris Hotel is an excellent choice.

The romantic French theme is perfect for couples. You can also request a room with a view of the Bellagio fountains!

I would stay away from the cheapest Strip hotels like Circus Circus or the Tropicana. They’re each located at extreme ends of the Strip.

If you’re a Vegas first timer, staying at these hotels would be more of a pain than what it’s worth to save a few bucks.

That being said, if you just want the cheapest room possible and don’t mind making use of the bus to go up and down the Strip, you can definitely find deals at these places. 

Hotel Choices if You Want to Spend a Little More

Caesar’s Palace is a classic choice. It’s famous, there’s lots of action here and it’s smack dab in the middle of the Strip. 

The Bellagio is also a classic and timeless choice if you want something more luxurious. This is the hotel that plays the famous water fountain show synonymous with images of Vegas.

Las Vegas Hotel Tips for First Timers

To score cheaper rooms in Vegas, visit mid-week if you can. I like to book trips from Sunday to Wednesday to avoid paying weekend premiums.

Room costs in Vegas are also mostly driven by events.

There are hundreds of conventions held here every year. This is why I highly recommend you monitor hotel calendars and pricing for random sales or price spikes. 

Hotels in Las Vegas charge ‘resort fees.’ I think this is just a polite way of getting away with Vegas tax.

You will have to factor in a daily resort fee when you book your accommodations.

This will always be a separate fee that you pay the hotel and not when you book online.

It seems that the fees go up every year, and now they range anywhere from $20-50 per night. The resort fees cover things like WiFi and access to hotel amenities like the pool and fitness center.

HOTEL TIP: If you want to avoid resort fees, stay at a hotel on Fremont Street. The Four Queens does not charge a resort fee.

You Can Ask for an Upgrade

You can always ask for an upgrade when you check into your hotel.

This is usually based on availability and whether the hotel is full or not. Politely ask if there are any room upgrades available.

Let them know you’re celebrating something special (birthday, anniversary, getting married, etc). Or especially since it’s your first time in Vegas, that’s also an occasion to celebrate. 

Some people combine this with the $20 trick. Where you wedge a 20 dollar bill (or more) in between your credit card and ID when you hand it to the person checking you in. 

Good to know – you don’t actually need to hide the cash you’re trying to get an upgrade with. Just place it on the counter and ask nicely.

All tips in Vegas must be disclosed, so there’s no need to hide your bribe.

TRAVEL TIP – Peak check-in time at hotels in Las Vegas is usually between 3-7pm. The lineups can be extremely long. Try to arrive a bit early and get checked in.

Your room likely won’t be ready, but you can leave your bags secured with the hotel and ask them to text you when your room is ready.

Then you can hit the casino, go sightseeing, anything you want.

You don’t want to waste any time waiting around on your first trip to Vegas!

How to Get Comps and Fees Waived

No matter what hotel you stay at, sign up for the free loyalty club or player’s card.

Use this card every time you gamble and when you eat the the restaurants owned by the hotels or the same brand of hotels.

MGM properties are generally the easiest to build up rewards with as there are many hotels and status tiers – The Mirage and New York New York are my favorite.

Once you pick a brand, start building loyalty by gambling, dining and shopping at these properties.

Building up status will help you get comps for future trips, but you can also score bonuses on your current stay.

The night before you checkout, stop in at your hotel’s host office and mention that you’ve had a great stay and wanted to know if you have wagered enough to get some of the resort fees or parking fees waived.

Usually the hosts have the ability to check and determined how much you’ve spent on the property to see if you qualify for discounts.

Don’t be afraid to mention it’s your first time visiting Las Vegas and that you’re excited to return.

Attractions That Are Must Do in Vegas for First Timers

As far as Sin City activities go, there’s definitely a lot more to do than just drink and gamble.

Here are some free and paid attractions that you shouldn’t miss on your first Vegas trip. 

Free Las Vegas Activities

Watch the Bellagio Fountains 

Watching the fountains dance along to the music never gets old no matter how many times you see it.

They are absolutely mesmerizing and should not be missed! They run every 15 minutes at night. Find a nice spot to watch and enjoy for free!

Visit the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign

Snapping a pic at the most famous sign in America is a must! It’s located at the very south end of the Strip and there’s a small parking lot to pull into, or you can take the bus there.

There’s usually a lineup of people waiting their turn, but it goes decently fast.

And there will usually be someone offering to take your photo, so make sure you tip them afterwards. 

Head to Fremont Street

A lot of Vegas first timers ask if Fremont Street is worth it and I say absolutely yes! This is the ‘original’ Vegas Strip and was the place to be in the 1950s and 60s.

They’ve done a great job of reviving it but still keeping with the old school, vintage theme.

It’s a pedestrian only street, and not very big, so it’s fun to walk around, check out the old casinos, people watch (there are some crazies here) and listen to free concerts at the outdoor stage. 

Unwind in the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Inside the Bellagio hotel is an incredible themed garden display which changes four times a year with the seasons.

The stunning exhibit comes to life under a 50-foot glass ceiling, so if you’re craving a little sunlight after being in a dark casino, this is the place to be.

If you’re after some nice photo spots in Las Vegas, the Bellagio gardens would be perfect. 

a whimsical indoor garden with pink and purple flowers

Walk the Strip at Night

Ok, this seems obvious, but the Strip comes to life at night, and you should do this every night on your trip.

The lights and colors are wild and crazy and you really don’t know the vast scale of it all until you’re there in the middle of it.

And while you’re at it, be sure to wander into as many hotel casinos and lobbies as you can. They’re all so different and fun to explore.

Paid Las Vegas Activities that Are a Must Do  

Vegas isn’t the cheapest destination to visit, but if you add some of the above free things to do to your Las Vegas itinerary, paying for a few must-do attractions won’t seem that bad. 

Find Some Bird’s Eye Views of the Strip at Night

You must experience views of the Las Vegas Strip from above at night! You can head to the Stratosphere Observation Deck on either the 108 or 109th floors!

To give you an idea about how high this place is, it’s also the tallest freestanding observation tower in the USA!

It will cost you $24 per adult to head up there, but you can save $4 per ticket by purchasing your tickets in advance here

The High Roller is the huge observation wheel located in the Linq Promenade and is an awesome way to take in the sights of the Strip. You can go anytime of day, but I recommend visiting at night or sunset.

One full trip around the wheel is about 30 minutes. And even if you’re afraid of heights you don’t really notice it! 

TRAVEL TIP: Book the happy hour experience where your pod includes an open bar. We did this and loved it. The bartenders are extremely fast and efficient, ensuring you get your money’s worth! Buy your tickets here, especially if you’re travelling with a group. 

Or for the ultimate way to view the Strip from above, book a helicopter city lights tour!

It’s not as expensive as you might think, and you get to see all the glitz and glamour from above, including the Bellagio fountains!

Take in a Show

There are so many shows to choose from here, you can’t come to Vegas for your first time and not see a show!

Absinthe is my all-time favorite show in Las Vegas. I would see it 100 times in a row. It’s a raunchy, burlesque circus-style show at Caesars Palace.

Any of the Cirque du Soleil shows are incredible. KA and O are some of the best acrobatics, or if you prefer something musical, try the Beatles or the Michael Jackson Cirque shows.

Choose your Cirque du Soleil show here

Or choose a mind-blowing magic show like the famous Penn & Teller or David Copperfield. 

And if you’re visiting for a stag or bachelorette party, some of the more risque shows are super fun. Drag Brunch, Zombie Burlesque, Chippendale’s…anything you want! See some of the best ones here.

You Might Also Like: Legendary Ideas to Help You Plan the Ultimate Las Vegas Bachelorette Party

Enjoy a Romantic Ride on a Gondola in Mini-Venice

Yes, you can pretend you’re in love in Italy with a gondola ride on the canals at the Venetian hotel. They go from outside to inside and go under a couple bridges (if you kiss underneath them it’s good luck)!

people on a gondola on a canal in bright turquoise water

Have a Drink Somewhere Fun!

There are so many places to have a drink and people watch! I love sitting outside at Cabo Wabo at Plant Hollywood.

Or put on something fancy and head to the Fountain Room at Mandalay Bay.

Or sit inside a massive chandelier at the Cosmopolitan hotel and order the secret flower drink. 

Book a Tour

One of the best ways to get the most out of your trip to Vegas is to make use of a tour.

After a full day or two of the busy city, you might want to get out of town for a few hours. And you should! There are some incredible places to see surrounding Las Vegas.

Visit Hoover Dam, go hiking in the Valley of Fire or take a boat ride on Lake Mead

Visit a Hidden Gem

Some Final Things to Remember Before Going to Vegas

Visit Vegas with an open mind. If there are a few things you don’t want to miss, make sure you plan for them but then keep your schedule open the rest of the time.

There are so many things going on that will grab your attention, so you may not stick to the schedule you had planned. And that’s OK.

You may not get to see and do everything you wanted on your first trip to Vegas, but I promise you will be back!  

More Las Vegas Posts:

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