Where to Stay

You've decided on your first trip to Vegas, now you have to sort through the array of decisions governing your trip. You're got three major things to settle on first. They are:

  • What time of year to visit?
  • Where to stay, the Strip, Downtown or Off-Strip?
  • Which hotel is the bet fit?

What time of year to visit?

There's no bad time of year to make your Vegas run but there are times when the city is much more crowded that usual, meaning hotels and gambling tables get more expensive. In general you can count on giant crowds and higher costs around:

  • New Year's
  • The Consumer Electronics Show (held each January)
  • Super Bowl weekend
  • The March NCAA basketball tournament
  • The National Association of Broadcasters convention (held each April)
  • Major boxing or UFC matches

Summer holidays that extend the weekend -- Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day -- also boost the number of Vegas visitors, but not as much as the events listed above.

While it's more difficult to find a really good room rate during these peak times, you can find exceptional bargains if you go during slow periods. If you visit around Christmas, for example, even very nice hotels usually have rooms available at a bargain rate. You can also save money by taking your trip in the middle of the week instead of over a weekend. Room rates tend to be about 25 percent to 50 percent less expensive Sundays through Thursdays.

The Strip, Downtown or Off-Strip?

The part of town in which you stay will almost entirely determine what kind of trip you'll have, so it's important to figure out what you really want before choosing your hotel.

When to choose the Strip

If you're looking for the "Full Vegas Experience" -- flashy places, over-the-top attractions, fine dining, big-time shows, hot nightlife and world-class shopping -- then you'll definitely want to stay on the Strip. The downsides are that it's more expensive and, because the hotels are so huge, it's more difficult going to many different places. If you want to visit multiple Strip casinos you're in for a lot of walking.

For most folks the decision-making about which part of town can end here. Downtown and Off-Strip have a lot going for them, but almost all first-timers want to see the Strip, and it's usually the best first for new visitors. It's gimmicky, it can be crowded, it often doesn't have the same kind of bargains that can be found in other areas, but it is truly VEGAS! in all capital letters.

When to choose Downtown

If gambling is your thing -- REALLY your thing, as in that's pretty much the entire reason you want to go to Las Vegas -- Downtown may be the best fit. It's an older part of town, the casinos are smaller and the places are less expensive. There's not much going on in the way of shows or nightlife, things revolve around slot machines and table games. You can walk into a half-dozen Downtown spots looking for a cheap blackjack table in the time it would take to get from one Strip casino to the next.

When to choose an Off-Strip hotel

When we talk about Off-Strip on FirstTimeLasVegas.com, we're really referring to four places: the Stratosphere, the Hard Rock, the Rio and the Palms. Of those, the last three are fantastic party spots. They tend to draw a young, attractive, lively crowd willing to spend a fair amount of cash to have a great time. The poolside social scene and the nightlife are the major lures, with gambling falling into the "we can do that, too" category. If you're in your 20s hoping to score, and don't mind splurging on expenses, any of those three would be an excellent choice. Just be aware you're not going to be able to walk to another casino if things don't work out the way you hope at your home base. The Strip and Downtown are both a short cab ride away.

The fourth major Off-Strip casino, the Stratosphere, almost belongs in a category to itself. Many sources actually list the Strat as being on the Strip, and a case could be made that it is. After all, it does have a Las Vegas Boulevard address. But it's so far to the north of other far-end hotels like Circus Circus and the Riviera that we can't call it a Strip casino. Especially since it's surrounded by a fairly bad neighborhood. Walking to the Strat at night would not be a wise thing. It's a really nice place with the misfortune of being located in kind of a No-Man's Land. Because of it's isolation it's hard to recommend anyone stay at the Strat -- with the exception of families traveling with children, as this is one of the few Vegas spots where the kids will be able to enjoy themselves -- but it's a place everyone should visit. The tower-top observation deck gives the best view of the town at night. It's worth cab fare and the cost of deck admission.

(Note: Another hotel, LVH-Las Vegas Hotel & Casino [formerly known as the Las Vegas Hilton] is sometimes considered an Off-Strip location because it is not situated directly on Las Vegas Boulevard and is a little apart from the other hotels in the area. However it's also a stop on the Las Vegas monorail, which is one of the main ways of getting around the Strip. So for our purposes we'll consider it to be a Strip hotel.)

Which hotel to book?

Here's what it comes down to: Is the hotel going to be simply a place to hang your clothes and go to sleep, or do you want to bask in total luxury? Or, like most visitors, do you want something in the middle?

Finding bare-bones accommodations on the cheap isn't hard -- almost anywhere Downtown or Casino Royale, Excalibur or Circus Circus on the Strip would fit the bill -- and it's easy to find spots for ultra-luxury -- the Wynn, Encore, the Venetian, the Palazzo, the Bellagio and Caesars Palace would all make the short list -- it's the mid-range hotels where it becomes harder to decide. Finding the best hotel is usually a matter of figuring out what you want from your trip. If you're a young single person looking for nightlong parties, one of the Off-Strip properties like the Hard Rock or the Palms may be best. If you want to explore lots of places, then a mid-Strip location would be where to start looking.

To help make your choice, we've compiled many broad categories with recommended hotels for each. Looking through there should put you on the right path to picking the best spot to stay.

24 responses to “Where to Stay”

  1. Shana said:

    Its our first time visit to Vegas for 3 days honeymoon will need to experience vegas and attend 2 shows or something and we are not gamblers but we need to stay in nice hotel in the strip area but not too expensive so we are checking Treasure Island or if there is another better options? thanks

  2. Steve the Texan said:

    I'm a big fan of Caesars Palace, both for the classic Vegas vibe and for its location smack in the middle of the Strip. That would be high on my list of recommendations for you. As for weather, here is a link that may be helpful:
    * What's Las Vegas weather like in ...?

  3. Laurie said:

    Oh, forgot to ask, what are the average daytime/nighttime temperatures for mid-April? Thanks again!

  4. Laurie said:

    My boyfriend and I are coming to Vegas in mid-April. He has been several times, we are in our late 40's. He tends to favor the newer hotels. We do have a budget...not a real tight one though. Where is the best place(s) to stay that would be in the center of things and not an impossible walk to some of the most popular sights/attractions/casinos? We won't be BIG gamblers but will gamble some, will see a show or two, and will want to take in as much as we can free/not free without becoming totally exhausted halfway through our trip. I guess to sum it all up, we want to dabble in a little bit of everything! Sorry if this sounds impossible. Our stay will probably be around 5 days. Thank you so much in advance!

  5. doug said:

    my second visit will be june 3rd to 6th
    stayed at flamingo last time im 50 and was told to try the freemount experience and stay at the gold nugget
    love music and a pool party what do you think

  6. JohnD said:

    I used your website for information prior to going to Vegas for the first time for my 50th Birthday. It was very useful & encourage anyone to benefit from the info provided

  7. Lynn said:

    Coming to Vegas in Feb woth my partner for his 50th Birthday and are staying at the Encore was wondering what the weather is like an what to pack clothes wise ? Suggestions would be great thank you

  8. Steve the Texan said:


    All three hotels you listed are good options. Of them, the MGM Grand and Monte Carlo are located closest to center of the Strip. The Tropicana is a bit further south. Another good option (and a favorite of mine) is the Flamingo. It's located smack in the middle of the Strip and I think the remodeled rooms (those above basic level) are a good bargain when looking at both convenience and quality.

    Here are some links that may be helpful to you:

    * Shopping on the cheap
    * Calendar of shows, concerts and special events
    * Show tickets: Buy in advance or wait?

  9. Huguette said:

    Hello, I just turned 50 and I have decided to go to Vegas to celebrate it. We are looking for deals and hotels that often come up are MGM Grand, Monte Carlo and Tropicana. Any suggestions? I want to go for a few shows, walk on the strip and shop. Thanks,

  10. Don said:

    I think it's safe to ask your age when going to "Vegas" , Not to insult you But "WALKING" between casino's and up and down the strip is exhausting.
    We stay at the Golden Nugget ,very nice rooms ,mid rande for price and best part LOTS of other casino's CLOSE by.Also The Fremont experience is right out side your door , easy access to Bus service if you'd like to go to "the strip", it's right out your door

  11. Steve the Texan said:

    I'd give some strong consideration to the Flamingo. It's not a top-tier luxury hotel, but the rooms are good for the price, especially if you pay a little extra and upgrade beyond the basic level, and the location can't be beat: smack in the middle of the Strip across the street from Caesars Palace and the nightclubs inside there.

  12. Robin said:

    We are first timers to Las Vegas and are on our honeymoon. We want a little night life and nice hotel on the strip but are on a budget, what do you recommend.

  13. kathi said:

    Went to Vegas for the first time in Nov 2010. Stayed at the flamingo. Was a nice place to stay. Middle of strip and not expensive ...a must see show is Richard Burton at the flamingo. Great show..comedy magic. And reasonable.

  14. Leanne said:

    I'm going to vegas on the 4th June 2011 on my honeymoon. Were staying in the Aria Hotel. Were is the best Night life in Vegas, and the best shopping. Are there any shopping outlets.

  15. Steve the Texan said:

    The Monte Carlo is a mid-range hotel, probably a bit toward the upper end of mid-range. It is located on the Strip, in the southern third of it. It's not a place with a ton of nightlife or where you're likely to hang out for most of your trip, but it's generally a very solid option for the price.

    * Monte Carlo information

  16. melissa said:

    My girls and i will be taking our first trip to vegas in April 2012. Does the monte carlo have good reviews? And is it on the strip?

  17. Steve the Texan said:

    CC, my two current favorite best-for-the-money hotels on the Strip are the Flamingo and the Tropicana. The Tropicana was recently remodeled and the rooms are very nice. The Flamingo has an edge in location, being smack in the middle of the Strip.

    January can be a very good time to visit. Unless your trip coincides with the college football championship game the town is often less crowded at that time of year and hotels put out some pretty good deals. Keep an eye on our Current Bargains page or sign up for a Deal Alert and you'll probably find some very good rates.

  18. C C said:

    We are planning a first trip to Vegas for January 2012...mostly want the Vegas experience, a show, and visiting (walking distance) other casinos too. Best moderately priced place to stay?

  19. Eileen Dean said:

    My husband and I are seniors this will be our First time to las vegas thinking october not sure where to stay loking for a place that is clean and reasonable priced we are coming to see the sights like grand canyon and relax and do a little gambling. please help. thanks

  20. Nicolais said:

    It's a pretty close race between those two, Lisa. The hotels are of similar quality (both very good, but neither as plush nor expensive as places like the Bellagio, Venetian, etc.) and have their own pros and cons. The pool at the Luxor is probably a bit better than at Treasure Island, but TI is located smack in the middle of the Strip while the Luxor is off on the south end.

  21. Steve the Texan said:

    The Tropicana did a very good job with their renovations, both with the rooms and the pool (the Trop pool was always pretty nice, but the changes to turn it into Nikki Beach are a definite upgrade). I'd consider the Tropicana to be one of the better value-for-the-price deals on the Strip right now, along with the Flamingo.

    The walk from room to pool at the Tropicana isn't bad. It's about standard for a Strip hotel of its size.

  22. Marie P said:

    Can you give me any feedback on the updates to the Tropicia? How is the pool? Is it a far walk from the rooms?

  23. Steve the Texan said:

    It's a pretty close race between those two, Lisa. The hotels are of similar quality (both very good, but neither as plush nor expensive as places like the Bellagio, Venetian, etc.) and have their own pros and cons. The pool at the Luxor is probably a bit better than at Treasure Island, but TI is located smack in the middle of the Strip while the Luxor is off on the south end.

    It may be worthwhile to create a custom deal alert for these two places and see if any special deals are made available before deciding which to book.

  24. Lisa said:

    Never been to vegas debating between Luxor or Treasure Island, we are not gamblers but would like to relax but also experience vegas. Any suggestions?

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