Where have I been the last few weeks? Vegas, that's where. I have a theory that Las Vegas doesn't actually exist. You get on a plane, they pump in some hallucinogens and then you 'land' in Vegas. It's a good place to spend a birthday. With this new year on my age, I feel I've picked up a little wisdom. Wisdom about the city of fantasy, temptation and as much sin as that all leads to. I will dispense that wisdom now.
Wear sunscreen (and sunglasses). If I could offer you only one tip for Las Vegas, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists (maybe), whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.
Drink water. You'll hear people hawking water for a dollar on the strip. Buy it. Between the dry air and all the booze and coffee you're drinking, you'll need it.
Wear comfortable shoes. The Stratosphere is farther away than it looks, but probably worth the visit. Unlike the Trump which is closer than it looks but not worth the visit in any way.
On second thought just take a cab. Especially if you have more than one person. You can go from one end of the strip to the other for $15. The monorail isn't a bad idea if you're solo. It's quick and $5 per trip. If you're 'that guy' you can jump the gates and it's free. Cameras are everywhere in that town, though. Be warned.
Don't bother with a rental car, you'll only end up frustrated.
Take the escalators before your feet start hurting.
When playing table games with or against chatty players, adopt an alter-ego. It's fun and challenging.
A word on strip clubs, you can debate which one's best 'til you're blue in the balls. The best deal is this, you can get free entry, a free ride to the club and usually a free drink to ANY club you want. The catch? Nothing, you just call and ask. Seriously. Try it. Be amazed. They know how much money you're going to drop once you get there, so the first round is on them.
One word of warning: don't use a credit card, they will overcharge you. ATM fees will probably be even higher than the casinos, too.
And you can get sex in the champagne room, but it will lead to herpes. Your mileage may vary, etc.
I've been known to keep keycards from whichever hotel I stay at to access different pools on later trips. An opponent of mine at the poker table took this one step further. She buys them on eBay. She said they work even when the employees swipe them at the pool. At least it did at Bellagio with what she said was a six-year-old card. Or maybe they work because she's female. Or maybe no one really cares if you poach their pool.
Serendipity 3 is a restaurant by Caesar's Palace known for big plates. Among them is a chocolate treasure chest filled with cake, ice cream, chocolate-covered fruit and deep-fried Oreos. It goes for $88 and should only be attempted by 8 or more people (no matter what the menu says). My crew of 10 didn't even finish it... Totally worth the effort anyway.
Eat at Nobu. Believe the hype, but bring a hundo.
The rest of the time, eat on the cheap at food courts. In-N-Out, Fat Burger and all your other more traditional fast food places are here, too. One list of good deals is at lasvegasadvisor.com. Come to think of it, they have lots of good info.
Once and for all, you do not have to gamble to have a good time. Vegas has amazing restaurants, nightclubs, comedians, shows, pools and even outdoor activities. If you don't want to go outside at all (maybe it's 120°outside), you don't have to. Every hotel on the strip and the bigger ones off-strip and downtown have a selection of restaurants, clubs, bars and shows. If you want to get away, Hoover Dam and Lake Mead are nearby, so is some great rock climbing and even snowboarding. Another popular thing to do is head over to The Gun Store and shoot some machine guns. Yes, really. Everyone has different 'must see and do' lists. Just remember that everything is possible. It's your job to find out how.
Everything is cheaper downtown. From $1 craps to $1.99 shrimp cocktails. Quality adjusts accordingly.
That said, don't try to do too much or you'll end up just glossing over it all. It's the age-old quantity vs. quality debate in action. My rotation was pool, eat, poker, eat/drink, nap. Play poker at different places, eat and drink at different places and you'll get to see a bit of the offerings. Unless your trip is a couple weeks long, don't think you'll get to see everything in town or even everything on the strip in one visit. It's OK, Vegas isn't going anywhere.
A couple sites I go to for Vegas info are cheapovegas.com and twoplustwo.com. Twoplustwo is a poker forum, but the Vegas Lifestyle area is quite informative. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments, I'm always looking for new ideas and things to see in the City of Exorbitant Imagination.
See you there and good luck! Unless you're at my table, then I hope you always chase and miss.