by Santorini Dave • Updated: January 8, 2019
The Best Areas to Stay in Las Vegas
When most people think of Las Vegas, they have the Strip on their minds. It’s the heart of the action — a place where tourists can enjoy Las Vegas’ best hotels and resorts, sprawling casinos, celebrity restaurants, high-end shopping, art, and entertainment. It’s a hectic and chaotic place, and while more experienced Vegas visitors might be tempted to enjoy better hotel values in the surrounding suburbs, first-timers should stick with the Strip. It’s a deep dive into the lights, energy, and excitement that most people crave when it comes to Sin City.
The Strip is a roughly four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that runs from Russell Road near the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to Sahara Avenue, just south of the Stratosphere tower. In between, you’ll find major resorts like Caesars Palace, the Bellagio, Aria, MGM Grand, Wynn, Venetian, Palazzo, Mirage, and many others. The properties all try to outdo each other, hosting shows, nightclubs, restaurants, and other attractions. The Strip is all about spectacle, with bright neon marquees and flashy environments.
Over-the-top identity-driven resorts like the Excalibur and Luxor are balanced by ultra-modern properties like the Aria and Cosmopolitan — each one doing its best to offer broad appeal to all demographics, meaning that the best hotels for families in Las Vegas can also be ideal for business travelers, honeymooners, and everyone else in between. While casinos were once the main attraction and economic generator, younger crowds are more in step with celebrity chef restaurants, stylish lounges, and jam-packed nightclubs. The action is no longer confined indoors; outdoor spaces like The LINQ and The Park are cultivating a new open-air image for Las Vegas.
While surrounding residential areas are best known for their home values, schools, and family-friendly communities, Las Vegas’ emergence as a sports town is taking shape on the Strip itself. The T-Mobile Arena, home to the Vegas Golden Knights NHL franchise, has given new energy to a previously neglected block of Las Vegas Boulevard while a new state-of-the-art NFL stadium is getting ready to welcome the Raiders near Mandalay Bay.
With so much to see and do, it only makes sense to spend most of your time in Vegas on the Strip. After becoming more familiar with the landscape, you may be interested in exploring Summerlin, Henderson, and other quieter areas of town. However, some regulars love coming back to the Strip over and over again — and wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Strip is centrally located and a great hub for exploring family-friendly activities throughout Southern Nevada. Continue north on Las Vegas Boulevard and you’ll reach Fremont Street and the rest of Downtown. Surrounding areas like Chinatown, Henderson, or Summerlin are easy to visit by car, shuttle, or ride-sharing service. You’ll also find no shortage of tour groups ready to venture out to the Hoover Dam near Boulder City or, if you’ve got time to spare, Valley of Fire State Park and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Helicopter tours to those destinations are always preferable to buses — and worth a few extra dollars. The only tricky part is determining the best time of year to visit Las Vegas.
The Best Places to Stay in Las Vegas
- Best Neighborhood in Las Vegas for Sightseeing: The Strip
The Strip is where all the tourists go. Everything is within walking distance, making it easy to see sights like the Bellagio fountains, High Roller wheel, half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower, and the Mirage’s erupting volcano. When the sun goes down, the bright lights, video screens, and marquees are an attraction unto themselves.
- Best Neighborhood in Las Vegas for Gambling: Downtown
If you just want a big noisy casino, you’ll be fine on the Strip. However, Downtown has a little more flexibility for those who value their dollar. The El Cortez has some of the most player-friendly terms and conditions in town, including low minimums, 3-2 single and double deck blackjack, and 10x odds on craps. Stroll through the Fremont Street Experience and you’ll still find a few penny slots, which have mostly disappeared from the Strip. Walk through The D and you’ll find the only Sigma Derby left in town. It’s an old-school game in which miniature mechanic horses race around a track.
- Best Neighborhoods in Las Vegas for Food & Restaurants: The Strip and Chinatown
Las Vegas is world famous for its restaurant scene. Count Gordon Ramsay, Guy Savoy, Giada de Laurentiis, Bobby Flay, and the late Joel Robuchon as celebrity chefs with a strong presence on the Strip. Most big resorts have all the bases covered, from French and Italian to Mexican, Japanese, and of course, great steakhouses. However, neighborhood dining has taken on a life of its own in recent years. That’s especially true in Chinatown — a hotbed of Asian dining where you’ll often find the Strip’s top chefs eating on their downtime.
- Best Neighborhoods in Las Vegas for Families: Henderson and Summerlin
Las Vegas has one of the fastest growing housing markets in the country and prime examples can be found in opposite ends of the valley. Henderson feels like the southeast corner of Vegas but is actually the second largest city in Nevada. Summerlin is a master-planned community on the far west side. Both areas have their share of parks, walking trails, restaurants, and contemporary shopping centers. Homes range from affordable to lavish luxury estates.
- Best Neighborhood in Las Vegas for the First Timer: The Strip
When visiting Las Vegas for the first time, dive into the deep end of the pool and book a hotel room on the Strip. While you’re at it, spend a little extra on a view facing the bright lights of the boulevard. Staying on the Strip is a fully immersive experience, where you can enjoy sights, parties, dinners, and attractions — and then retreat to your room with the quick press of an elevator button. Wake up and do it all over again.
- Most Romantic Neighborhood in Las Vegas: The Strip and Mt. Charleston
The Strip is busy and crowded, but it’s also full of romantic moments. Enjoy drinks with a view at lounges like Skyfall at the Delano or Skybar at the Waldorf Astoria. Spend a quiet evening of multi-course French dining at Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace or Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand. However, for something completely different, bring your significant other to Mt. Charleston. With an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, couples can enjoy the cool temperatures, winter snow, and warm drinks at the Mt. Charleston Lodge.
- Best Neighborhood in Las Vegas for a Local Vibe: Downtown
Once you escape the bright lights of the Fremont Street Experience, you’ll quickly realize Downtown has a strong connection to Vegas locals that’s both authentic and full of history. The bars and restaurants in the Fremont East district are social and engaging. Explore further east and you’ll come across PublicUs, a coffeehouse where the baristas are almost like bartenders. However, the Arts District offers the most local flavor and is one of the fastest growing areas in Vegas. Hit up bars like the Velveteen Rabbit and ReBar. You’ll feel a world away from the Strip.
- Best Neighborhood in Las Vegas for Walking: The Strip
You’ve got four miles of sights to see, so put your feet to good use. Exploring the Strip can be exhausting, but extremely convenient with pedestrian bridges, escalators, and overpasses. Free trams operate between the Mirage and Treasure Island… Bellagio, Shops at Crystals, and Aria… and Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and Excalibur, which definitely help give your feet a rest in between the shops, bars, restaurants, and casinos.
- Safest Areas of Las Vegas:
Is the Strip free of crime? No, but it’s very safe, especially if you stick to where it’s busy. The suburbs, like Henderson, Summerlin, Southern Highlands, and the Southwest Valley are generally safe, but designed for cars more than foot traffic. Downtown is safe if you stay close to Fremont Street and tourist-friendly business areas.
- Unsafe Areas of Las Vegas:
Don’t explore off the beaten near the North Strip and Downtown. Stick to busy tourist areas and you’ll be fine. Don’t take shortcuts on dark roads or through alleyways. North Las Vegas has the highest crime rates in the valley, but there’s little reason for out-of-towners to be there. Some areas east of the Strip are sketchy, especially the Twain/Swenson area and the Boulder Strip. Cannabis dispensaries in the industrial corridor west of the Strip are within walking distance to major resorts, but those trips are best made in daytime, not night.
The 10 Best Neighborhoods in Las Vegas for Tourists
1. The Strip
There’s no doubt about it. The Strip is ground zero for tourists looking to absorb the sights, sounds, and excitement of Las Vegas. While the entire Strip runs about four miles between Russell and Sahara, most of the action is in the mid-to-south end between the two Wynn resorts and the Mandalay Bay property, which also includes the Delano and Four Seasons. The area is loaded with entertainment, including six Cirque du Soleil productions and residencies ranging from Lady Gaga and Cher at the Park Theater to Rod Stewart and Reba McEntire with Brooks & Dunn at the Colosseum, and Gwen Stefani at the Axis Theater. While casinos were once designed to keep visitors indoors, outdoor spaces like The LINQ (home to the High Roller wheel and the first zipline on the Strip) and The Park outside the T-Mobile Arena are now taking advantage of younger generations less interested in gambling. That’s also true for the lineup of nightclubs and pool parties at the major resorts. However, it’s the restaurants that have the broadest appeal. Las Vegas has some of the very best dining destinations in the world with a variety of styles and an army of celebrity chefs well represented. High-end shopping centers are an especially strong draw for foreign tourists.
Here’s where you’ll find the spirit and scenery of classic Las Vegas. Located directly north of the Strip, Downtown is the heart of the official “city of Las Vegas” and divided into several districts. Tourists will be most interested in the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block pedestrian mall that’s closed to traffic and home to numerous casinos, hotels, restaurants, and other attractions, including the Slotzilla zipline ride. Fremont East is best known for its bars while the Downtown Arts District is an up-and-coming area geared toward locals with second-hand shops and an impressive emerging dining scene. Make a point to visit the Neon Museum, where vintage neon marquees are on display, and the Smith Center, a gorgeous building that’s home to the Las Vegas Philharmonic and touring Broadway shows.
Summerlin is a master-planned community of 35 square miles that dominates the west valley of Las Vegas. It’s divided into a variety of family-oriented home communities with golf courses, walking trails, and hundreds of parks. Summerlin is about a 15-minute drive from the Strip and close to both Red Rock Canyon and Mt. Charleston. The area has grown from being primarily residential to having attractions of its own, including Red Rock Resort, City National Arena (where the Vegas Golden Knights practice in front of the general public), and outdoor retail districts like Tivoli Village and Downtown Summerlin. The Summerlin Parkway is a direct highway to the Strip and Downtown.
4. Henderson & Lake Las Vegas
Henderson is the second-largest city in Nevada and while mostly a residential community, still has appeal for out-of-towners. It occupies the southeast quarter of the valley and feels like part of Las Vegas. Henderson has a large network of parks and walking trails, making it a highly desirable place to live. Hotels like The M Resort and Green Valley Ranch are attractive for people who want deluxe accommodation close to the Strip without the busy crowds that come with actually being on the Strip. Water Street in the downtown district has its share of small businesses and casinos. Lake Las Vegas is just a few minutes away and a true escape with a handful of hotels and restaurants on the water.
5. North Strip
The north end of the Strip feels a bit disconnected from the rest of the tourist corridor, thanks to stalled projects like the Fontainebleau and the implosion of the Riviera, which left little more than a parking lot behind. However, you can still find great deals (and recent renovations) at both the SLS and Stratosphere, which is the tallest structure in the western United States. This area is also where the Strip begins to merge with Downtown. It’s an odd location, littered with pawn shops, wedding chapels, and bail bondsman services, but it’s also got a few hidden gems. Check out Dino’s (a dive bar with great karaoke), the Golden Steer Steakhouse, and the Goodwich, home to the best sandwiches in Vegas.
6. Boulder City & Lake Mead
It’s not uncommon for Las Vegas tourists to set aside a day to head west and visit the Hoover Dam. It’s near Boulder City, a town that’s mostly residential and one of the few in Nevada that doesn’t allow casinos. It’s a charming area with parks, restaurants, bars, and a family-friendly atmosphere. The historic Boulder Dam Hotel has a downstairs speakeasy and a free museum in the lobby dedicated to the history of the Hoover Dam. Other nearby attractions include boating and rafting at Lake Mead, Bootleg Canyon zipline park, and the Nevada State Railroad Museum with fully operational historic locomotives. If you still need to gamble, the Hoover Dam Lodge is far enough outside city limits to have a casino.
Las Vegas has one of the most underrated Chinatowns in the country. It’s home to incredible restaurants, including Raku for its robata grill, Yui for upscale sushi, and Monta Noodle House for the best ramen in town. The district also shows diversity with non-Asian businesses like the Golden Tiki lounge, Sand Dollar blues bar, Partage for French fine dining, Mordeo for wine and global cuisine, and Sparrow + Wolf, where no style of food is off limits. Chinatown, which dominates the two miles of Spring Mountain Road west of the Strip is a place to visit for cuisine and culture, not to book a hotel room. The closest hotels are to the east on the Strip or north on Flamingo.
The far west valley of Las Vegas is a top destination for nature lovers, especially federally protected Red Rock Canyon, where colorful sandstone peaks attract bikers, hikers, and rock climbers. Detour to Blue Diamond (an old mining community with Cottonwood Station, a charming casual restaurant with great pizzas) or Bonnie Springs Ranch, a faithful recreation of an Old West town. Drive up to Mt. Charleson for cooler temperatures and snow covered mountains. It’s a popular winter getaway for those who love skiing, sledding, snowboarding, or a warm cup of hot chocolate.
The area east of the Strip is mostly an older residential area, but has a few things of interest to out-of-towners: mainly the airport and the Convention Center. Both are in close proximity to hotels, casinos, and restaurants a bit more affordable than what you’ll find on the Strip. Head farther east to the Boulder Strip and you’ll hit a trio of locals-focused casinos (Boulder Station, Sam’s Town, and Eastside Cannery) and Sam Boyd Stadium, home to the UNLV Rebels football team.
10. Primm, Goodsprings, & Jean
For most travelers driving on Interstate 15 from California, their first taste of Las Vegas culture comes right over the state line at Primm, which has a little more to offer than a gas refill. Stick around a while at one of three hotels, each with their own casinos. Whiskey Pete’s is best known for having the bullet-riddled car that belonged to Bonnie and Clyde on display in the lobby. Buffalo Bill’s has a roller coaster that passes through it, a fun buffalo-shaped pool, and the Star of the Desert Arena, which hosts national touring acts. Primm Valley Resorts is little more conventional, but close to the outlet mall, where you can find items for far less than at the luxury shopping centers on the Strip. Continue about 13 miles north to Terrible’s, where the Batmobile and other classic cars are on display in the lobby. Venture off the beaten trail to the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings. The oldest bar in Southern Nevada has seen a few welcome renovations in recent years, but remains a charming relic of the Old West.
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