One of the most popular things to do in Las Vegas is what we call “Casino Tourism”. Essentially this is just looking at the different hotels and casinos on the strip. At first, this may seem a little confusing but most visitors to the city spend some time checking out hotels and casinos different from the ones they have booked into. In our Las Vegas Casino guide, we explain this activity/phenomenon that is completely unique to Vegas.
What is Casino Tourism
When we first visited Vegas we were very confused when asking people what they planned to do on a given day/time
“oh Monday morning we are going to check out Caesars Palace“
And that’s it. It didn’t sound to us like a “thing” to do. What are you doing there? They were not going to gamble or see a show or a particular restaurant they were just going to “look” at the Hotel/Casino? We saw it time and time again (and still do) in people itinerary’s and whole days could be assigned to looking at casinos, we just didn’t really get it.
When we did hit Vegas for the first time it suddenly clicked. The hotels on the strip are not just boring buildings filled with hotel rooms and gambling machines. They are far more like Theme parks, or areas of the Giant theme park that is Vegas, some even have roller coasters. While we knew all this beforehand it isn’t until you see it all first hand do you realize the amount of time that can be consumed just visiting the different areas or hotels.
This is what we mean by “Casino Tourism”, the act of simply looking around the many wonderful sights and sounds constructed for us by the imaginations of the hotel owners. It is another reason why Las Vegas really is just Disneyland …With Booze and Gambling!
Note: Another use for the Term Casino Tourism is traveling the Country/World gambling in different casinos in different locations. That is not what this article is about.
Best Casinos to check out in Las Vegas
With over 40 different Casinos on the Strip, you are unlikely to be able to visit everyone. So we list some of the most interesting and quirky Hotel/Casinos on the Strip. Remember this is not meant as a list of best hotels or casino’s Just the ones worth visiting for no real reason other than the Themeing. We love the MGM, Aria, and the Wynn to name a few. But unless you have a reason for heading there or are staying there, there is little to see.
The Venetian is probably the most elaborate and complex Hotel and Casino on the strip. Engineered to replicate, although not exactly faithfully, The Italian Floating City of Venice. From the outside, the Main Square is vast and based on the Piazza De San Marco (St Marks Square) Complete with Canels, the Clock Tower, and the Campanile Spire.
Inside the theme continues strongly in the vast shopping and dining area known as the Canal Shoppes. The store front’s all representing canal-side dining and shops. Decked out in stong Venetian theming, exploring the innards of the Casino does feel like exploring the City itself, only the Crystal clear water is a far cry from the stink brown muck that flows through the original.
Talking of the Canals it would not be Venice without gondolas and the Venetian does not disappoint. Starting at $29 per person the rides are either indoor or outdoors and last around 15 mins max. It probably isn’t the best value experience and a far cry from a real Venice ride but you are in Vegas!
Costing over $1.5 Billion it is a true Vegas icon and worthy of a good chunk of time. You can easily lose half a day in its cavernous interior just wandering around the Canals, shopping, and grabbing some food.
Caesars Palace is one of Las Vegas’s most iconic hotels and thanks to certain films is incredibly popular. However, we are not huge fans of the rooms here but the Themeing and overall look of the hotel are incredible. Relying heavily on Roman-style Architecture or at least what we think of the architecture of the time. It’s doubtful they built their columns from painted fiberglass!
Caesars Palace is just SO vegas it has to be visited. The Lobby is a work of art and really makes you feel you have arrived in Vegas properly. With the addition of the Forum Shops, the theme continues with the shops and restaurants all taking a heavy Roman theme. There is also an Aquarium used as a setting for the Fall of Atlantis show, which happens on the hour. The Cheesecake factory is very handily located by the side of this so you can enjoy the show while gorging on Cheesecake.
The main downside to Caesars and the Forum shops is the length of time you can spend there, not by choice but simply because you can no longer locate the way out!
If you don’t know about the Bellagio fountains then Vegas probably isn’t for you. These Iconic fountains go off at regular intervals throughout the evening and are truly one of Las Vegas’s most iconic sights. But there is more to the Belaggio than the fountains.
The Theme of the Hotel is supposed to be based on its namesake hotel on Lake Como Italy, but the theme is loose and really it is simply themed on high-end elegance and luxury. This theme runs through all the restaurants and ultra-high-end shops that fill the Hotel. While we are not blessed enough to be able to afford to shop here simply window shopping is rewarding as you peruse the Watches and jewelry priced at several months’ salary.
The Hotel also boasts and Botanical Gardens and Conservatory. These are open to all and have varying themes throughout the year. The displays are always wonderful and feature an oriental flair but with holiday-based designs. The Bellagio Chocolate waterfall is also a favorite, however, we find that a little underwhelming…It’s no Willy Wonker!
While the Bellagio is less intricate than some casinos the utter elegance and luxury rub off on you and it’s a must-see place for anyone looking to tick casinos off their list.
New York New York
The New York New York is another very heavily themed Hotel, This time we finally head away from Europe though and the inspiration is the Big Apple, Obviously. The facade of the Hotel is cleverly disguised as the New York skyline, which on close inspection obviously isn’t that effective but from a distance looks pretty convincing. The Shops and public areas are again themed to represent the famous areas and landmarks of the City, with Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of liberty all recreated. It’s not terribly authentic and is more all a bit of fun, than anything else.
The Hotel also has a large roller coaster, and this is one of the main reasons to visit. It isn’t terribly great coaster but it’s fairly good considering it’s outside a major theme park. We find it incredibly rough but with incredible views and the fact you are soaring along the strip makes it pretty worthwhile and the layout is actually pretty good. There are some big drops several inversions and it hits some pretty impressive speeds while taking you all around the outside of the hotels and along the trip. But boy is it rough a real headbanger that actually has us screaming out in pain at the bangs and crashes. Still, it’s definitely worth a ride for coaster fans, but…did we mention it’s rough?
As Huge lovers of the actual City, we find New York New York a fun place to visit, It’s not a convincing replica of the city but isn’t meant to be. Just a taste, and in that sense it hits the spot. If you want Real New York… Visit New York!
And we are back in Europe. Vegas Casinos do like their European theming! You know the score now heavy theming of a European city. Here we have the Arc De Triumph Paris opera house and the Louvre. But above all is the Replica of the Eifel Tower.
Due to Vegas being BIG the first thing you notice about the replica tower is how small it is. However at 540ft is around half the size of the original which still makes it a pretty tall structure, about the same as the High Roller. The Tower is accessible and the view from the top is well worth the effort and cost of going up. It is by no means a small as it first appears. The Eiffel Tower restaurant is also one of Las Vega’s highest-rated restaurants as well.
The Large ballon is a homage to the Montgolfier Brothers who invented Hot-air Ballooning, one of the very few things invented by the French. That and etch-a-sketches! Overall we like The Paris and it’s well worth heading up the tower
Circus Circus brings you all the fun of the circus, year-round. There is no waiting for the circus to come to town in Vegas…or something like that. The Casino features the Adventuredome and indoor funfair with some pretty good rides and attractions, Midway Style Games and Stalls, and LIVE FREE Circus performers daily.
It’s a very Vegas experience and completely surreal. Well worth a visit. A wristband for unlimited rides is $32.95 for adults and $19.95 for juniors but they will be restricted from some rides (height restriction). The downside of the Circus Circus is its location. it is a way down the strip all by itself in an undeveloped location. There is enough to do there though that it’s worth the trip as you can easily spend a good few hours.
THE Steakhouse at Circus Circus is considered one of the Best in the City!
The Mirage is a Polynesian-themed Casino and is one of our favorite places in Las Vegas. Wonderful Polyneasan Tropical landscaping transforms this drab corner of the desert into a tropical oasis. From the Giant Lobby fishtank, the Secret Garden and Dolphin habitat, the Lush Jungle Atrium to the Giant Erupting Volcano Outside!
The Volcano is located on the front right on the Strip so you don’t actually have to visit the Casino to experience it. It goes off at 7,8,9 and 10:00 every night. The show is short but a must-see. It gets crowded so getting there a few minutes early can bag a good view.
The Mirage really is one of our favorite hotels to stay at, especially for the wonderful pool, but if you choose to stay elsewhere it’s definitely worth heading up this way to experience this wonderful tropical getaway.
The Mandalay Bay isn’t the best to visit for the Casino itself however it does have a couple of features that make it worth the visit. It’s quite a way out but perfect for tagging on to a visit to the Vegas Sign.
The Casino itself is a shiny modern design with a nautical theme. This theme extends as far as having its own Aquarium and Shark Tank. Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay falls short of being a true world-class aquarium but it’s still a welcome break from the mania of Vegas in general and is better than some Citys main Aquariums With a good selection BIG animals. Watching fish is quite relaxing and spending an hour away from the strip just enjoying the ocean wonders can be a welcome relief.
However, if you are still ready for more actions Mandalay bay will actually let you dive in the shark tank and get a glimpse of these ocean wonders up close and in person!
The Aquarium is $25 to enter and Shark Diving is …erm $650 for Guests only…we never said it was cheap!
This is a bit of an outlier on the list and probably doesn’t deserve to be here. As really there is nothing to see here in the below-average casino. However, the DRAW is the observation tower. Whether this is part of the hotel/Casino or a separate attraction is up for debate but who cares we thought we would give it a mention as it’s well worth visiting.
As ever with the Stratosphere we recommend bypassing the Entrance fee and visiting the Skylounge Bar. If you visit during happy hour you can enjoy 2for1 cocktails and access to the observation deck. Always a highlight of our trips.
On top of the Observation Tower, aside from the amazing views are a number of below-average Fairground rides. The Insanity is a basic spinning ride, boring. Big Shot is a small average tower shot ride and X-scream doesn’t really do anything. However, their position on the top of the highest tower on the west coast of the Americas makes them terrifying. Insanity dangles riders hundreds of feet above the ground, Big shot reaches heights of over 1000, ft and feels vert exposed and X-Scream …well…see for yourself! And then there is Skyjump.
SkyJump is an assisted free-fall from the very top of the tower right to the bottom. A crazy adrenaline thrill only for the bravest.
Exploring the Strip
The take-home message here is to get out and explore. Walk the Strip and use the Deuce(Bus). Head inside the Casinos and take in all the crazy and surreal sights and sounds. Vegas is like no place on earth and to get the full experience you need to explore. There is always something to see and do.
Have Your Say
Let us know in the comments what your favorite Casino/Hotel for visiting is? We all have our favorites and we have missed some big-name casinos off our list! Do you agree or do you think we have done your favorite miss-service? Just drop us a comment or ask away if you have any questions.