Weekend Trip Guide: How to Do Las Vegas the Low-Key Way

Zen City > Sin City

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(Image credit: Design by Betsy Farrell)

Las Vegas is known for five things: casinos, clubs, the Strip, all-you-can-eat buffets, and the fact that nothing that happens there should be communicated to anyone who wasn't there with you. And while partying 'til all hours of the night/morning is fun and all, there's a chill side of the city that's well worth exploring. Here, your guide to doing Vegas the laid-back way. (Don't worry, there are still plenty of drinks.)

If you're not into the Strip scene, you can try staying in Old Town/Downtown, where some of the original casinos are. If you want to be closer to the action (but still away from it all), your ideal spot is really the Mandarin Oriental, which is so zen you'll basically never want to leave.

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The Tea Room at the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas

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You're greeted with tea and a warm towel to wipe off all that regular people stuff while someone with a cheery, soothing voice named Claudia checks you in. Once you get to your room, you'll notice a few things: 1) the view, 2) the fact that there's a doorbell, because only terrible people *knock* on doors, 3) the gigantic, made-from-every-fantasy bathtub. P.S. It comes with perfumed bath salts, so, yeah. I wasted no time.

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(Image credit: Courtesy)

If you truly never leave this hotel THAT IS UNDERSTANDABLE, because it's basically got anything you need. It has a tea lounge (for afternoon tea), the Mozen Bistro (for lunch), the Mandarin Bar (for amazing views, drinks, and tapas), and, finally, Twist by Pierre Gagnaire, helmed by the Michelin-star chef, for a fancy AF night. Did I mention there's also a pool (a few, actually) and a spa (with two floors)? Plus a Moët & Chandon champagne vending machine that dispenses mini bottles of champagne in the lobby. Yeah. Yeah.

What to Do

For Vegas-goers, days and nights are generally spent in the casinos (or, uh, beds) then out at clubs. But sunlight should be welcomed (especially in laid-back Vegas style), so get out there! Your first stop? The Neon Museum. I can't stress how awesome an experience this is, but I will surely try. The non-profit works to restore and preserve old, original signs from Las Vegas—and for $19, you'll get to tour the Boneyard with a guide, who tells you the history of Las Vegas, the casinos, and signs. It's incredible—and worth every penny.

Next, head to downtown Las Vegas and walk Fremont Street, where you'll see the original "Las Vegas" and what used to be known as "Glitter Gulch." Up for some adventure? You can take a zip line (yes, really) through the tented canopy of The Fremont Street Experience, or just keep your feet on the ground and check out the historic area, before heading to 18b, the arts district, where you can browse galleries, shops, and grab a bite. (If you can, come out for First Friday—an art walk through the district with food vendors, artists and entertainers, and more.)

You can also partake in The Aquatic Club, a new daytime pool experience from The Palazzo Las Vegas—think: vintage-inspired decor with throwback cocktails and cabanas. (A different take on the pool parties of Vegas.)

Where to Eat

Vegas is *known* for buffets, and there are a couple that are worth mentioning—first, if you're trying to save some mad $$$, head to The Feast Buffet in the Red Rock Resort for $10 breakfast Monday through Friday and a $15 brunch special on weekends. Second, BLT Steak does the Sterling Brunch *only* on Sundays for $95—and it's an institution. Go for the unlimited caviar, crab legs, lobster tails, in-house-made pastries, Perrier Jouët Champagne (yes, truly—worth the $95 alone, honestly), mimosas, Bloody Marys, and obviously all the other brunch foods you can grab.

For a quick grab n' go, head to Eggslut (that is the name, promise) at the Cosmopolitan for a delish egg sandwich. If downtown, head to the Donut Bar—a Cali transplant that makes great donuts and iced coffee.

For drinks, you can pretty much grab cocktails at any hotel or bar on the Strip, but for a *great* drink, head outside the Strip to:

  • Velveteen Rabbit: A cool cocktail bar situated in the heart of the arts district with a vintage vibe.
  • Herbs & Rye: An Italian and American restaurant (read: steak) with a penchant for amazing (and well-executed) classic/Prohibition-era cocktails.
  • Commonwealth: Great bar with a rooftop and live music. (P.S. It also houses a speakeasy, The Laundry Room, which you'll need to text well in advance to get a reservation: +1.702.701.1466)

Staying on the Strip? Head to The Dorsey, the newest in emerging lounges in Las Vegas that features upscale cocktails by Sam Ross, the drink pioneer behind Milk & Honey and Attaboy in NYC.

Helpful Tips:

1. If you're planning to gamble, don't get a drink first. Casinos offer free drinks to those playing on the floor (though you will have to wait for a waitress or waiter to approach you). Give a good tip to make sure she/he comes back.

2. The Neon Museum offers both daytime tours and nighttime tours (with the neon signs lit). Both require tickets—make sure to get yours ahead of time as tours do fill up!

3. You need to text (or call) The Laundry Room for reservations—legit. It has a strict "no photos" policy and other such "rules" that make it a cocktail paradise. For continued revelry, hit up Commonwealth after.

4. Don't forget the shows! With Britney and J.Lo on the docket, make sure to try and grab tickets for an easy (and eventful) night out.

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Samantha Leal
Senior Editor

Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.