Summer travel guide: Where to save (and splurge) in Las Vegas

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Vegas is hot in summertime — both literally and figuratively. Nearly 100-degree temperatures don't stop almost 12 million visitors from descending (it's the second busiest season after spring), and the pool scene officially begins after Memorial Day. Thanks to a slew of new offerings geared toward younger people — like hip hotels, nightlife and festivals/events — more 20- and 30-somethings are going now than ever before, with millennials accounting for one-third of total visitors in 2016 (a significant rise from previous years).

If you play your cards right (pun intended), you can vacation well on the cheap. And if money is no object, especially for travelers on special occasions, like bachelor parties and honeymoons, Vegas is the right city to spend. Here's how to save and splurge for a memorable trip to Sin City this summer.


Save: Standard rooms may be small (325 square feet) and it's off the Strip, but Philippe Starck-designed SLS Las Vegas is a bargain for the young people who stay here, thanks to room rates starting at $49 a night. There are almost a dozen restaurant and nightlife venues, outdoor pool and casino. SLS Las Vegas is between the Strip and Downtown Las Vegas, and it's only 10-minute Uber to either location (or take the Las Vegas Monorail, which is $5 one way; the stop is in front of the resort). Doubles from $49 a night.

Splurge: Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is a magnet for young people who are willing to open their wallets for a resort, offering spacious rooms (all equipped with terraces, a rarity in Vegas), nearly 20 trendy restaurants (like celebrity chef David Chang's Momofuku), packed nightlife venues (including the famous Marquee), two pool areas and a busy casino floor where you'll see celebrities like Lady Gaga at the tables. Standard doubles start at $140 a night.


Save: Lines are long at Tacos El Gordo, one of the best cheap eats on the Strip. The taco joint next to Wynn serves up authentic, Tijuana-style tacos on homemade corn tortillas and made-from-scratch guacamole. Tacos range from spiced pork ("adobada") to grilled beef ("carne asada"), and you'll spend $2.25 a taco.

Tourists also make a beeline to In-N-Out Burger, a cult status fast-food chain on the west coast, located next to The Linq hotel. The signature Double Double burger is $3.40, and it's consistently high ranked as one of the best burgers in Vegas.

Splurge: One-Michelin starred Le Cirque at Bellagio has a whimsical, classy design (you feel like you're dining inside a posh circus tent). Expect elevated, French-inspired tasting menus, including dishes like carnoroli risotto with alba white truffles, by a new and young executive chef who came from three-Michelin-starred Joel Robuchon. The tasting menu with five courses starts at $135 a person.

Le Cirque/Bellagio

Pool Scene

Save: With pool season in action for summer, don't forget to pack your swimsuit and flip flops. Families and couples alike love Mandalay Bay Beach, which features a man-made, artificial beach, a pool that generates waves like the ocean and a lazy river. It's $20 per person if you're not a resort guest. The Go Pool at Flamingo Las Vegas has a chilled-out, dayclub party every day of the week. It's free for resort guests, $10 for everyone else.

Splurge: You'll only spend a lot at a resort pool if you're looking for a party. Encore Beach Club is packed to the bone on weekends. The dayclub pool party brings in A-list DJs like David Guetta, and celebrities, like Joe Jonas and UFC champ Conor McGregor, and admission ranges from $30-$60, with cabana rentals starting at $500 (including dedicated cocktail waiter, fridge and TV). On weekdays, the pool is free for guests only, and it has a tropical feel with lush landscaping and tall palms.

The most intimate, upscale pool is at Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, which is free to use but for guests only. The pool deck has two lap pools, two jacuzzis and a plunge pool. The poolside cabanas include chaise lounge chairs, L-shaped sofa, ceiling-mounted fan, 48" flat-screen TV, mini-bar with non-alcoholic beverages, Evian water sprays and aloe vera cream. To rent a cabana, guests must make a minimum $350 food/beverage charge during week days. There is a $485 rental fee for weekends.

Joe Jonas celebrating his birthday with Nick Jonas at Encore Beach Club
David Becker / Stringer | Getty Images


Save: Cocktail spot or not, everyone must do the High Roller Observation Wheel, the largest observation deck in the world featuring glass-enclosed passenger pods that go around like a Ferris wheel. It lasts 30 minutes from start to end and the views from the apex (550 feet high) are breathtaking. Admission is $25, but if you upgrade for the Happy Half Hour, you get an open bar for the entire ride for $40 during the day.

Head to Atomic Liquors on Fremont (Downtown Las Vegas) if you like old-school haunts. This quirky spot, a former favorite for the Rat Pack in the 1950s, when it opened, serves up draft beer for $3 and cocktails for $7.

Splurge: Known for serving a $1,200 cocktail, Vesper Bar at Cosmopolitan is a swank go-to spot for craft cocktail enthusiasts, where libations average $16. There's also a list of expensive wines that go up to $1,500 a bottle.

This could also be your last change to grab a martini at the ultra posh lobby bar at Mandarin Oriental Vegas, which has a birds-eye view of the Strip and a live jazz band every night. Waldorf Astoria is taking over the space this fall. Cocktails range from $18 to $24.


Save: Resorts have wow-factor features that you can see for free. Aside from the famous fountains, Bellagio is known for its 14,000-square-foot, indoor Conservatory and Botanical Gardens right through the lobby, which includes Japanese gardens and springs. There's also the lobby's "glass garden" ceiling structure, with more than 2,000 glass flowers by famous artist Dale Chihuly. Bellagio also has a fine art gallery (admission $14), where rotating exhibits feature famous artists, like Andy Warhol.

Palms Casino Resort recently debuted a $620 million renovation, which includes contemporary art, with works by Damian Hirst and other modern artists. Anyone can visit.

And the Venetian features soaring, Renaissance era-style columns, arches, hand-painted frescos and sculptures that transport you to another era.

Damien Hirst art at Palms Casino Resort
Palms Casino Resort

Splurge: When Britney Spears took residency in Vegas for an extended run of live performances, it set off a trend and other pop stars followed suit, like Cher, Bruno Mars, Blink 182, Elton John and Gwen Stefani. There are bragging rights to seeing a famous performer live in Vegas, and these one-of-a-kind concerts make great nights out for big groups, like bachelor parties. Tickets range from $173 to $400.

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