Travel Report Las Vegas
In the following Las Vegas travel report you will find hotel and restaurant suggestions, the best attractions and highlights in and around Las Vegas, including Valley of Fire and Grand Canyon West. Also a suggestion for a round trip itinerary and generally important tips for a trip to the USA.
Hotels Las Vegas
There are probably as many hotel beds in Las Vegas as there are in the rest of America, at least it feels that way. The MGM Grand alone has over 5,000 rooms. That gives you a good idea of how hard it is to choose.
Las Vegas - The Strip
Basically, you have to decide if you want a hotel on the Strip (Las Vegas Blvd). Most are 5 star hotels and accordingly higher in price. Or you go “off” Strip and then the prices drop quickly. We would not recommend the latter, with a few exceptions, such as the Marriott Apartment Hotels.
Hotels south on the Strip
Another decision is whether to go to the beginning of the Strip (south), with hotels like the Pyramid (Luxor), the Mandalay Bay, the Escalibur, the New York New York or the MGM Grand. These are a bit cheaper than the hotels in the “middle” of the Strip, some of which are also getting a bit long in the tooth.
Especially for Las Vegas: the nights from Mon-Thu are much cheaper than the nights from Thu-Moon. You should always keep this in mind and try to plan your trip accordingly.
- MGM Grand – Good rooms, good location, reasonable rates, unfortunately extremely large. Also the hotel features pictures from Hollywoodstars on every floor, which my father enjoyed the most.
- Luxor (the pyramid) – unique design with elevators moving sideways, a spectacular view inside the building, and good rooms at fair prices. If possible take a room with a view of the airport.
Hotels mid of strip
Alternatively, you go to the middle part, where, for example, Caesars Palace and the Bellagio are located and the modern boxes, such as the ARIA or “The Cosmopolitan”, which somehow do not want to fit into the picture, but determine the new Las Vegas, where it is less about “themes”.
- Caesars Palace – Very good rooms, top location, usually high prices, also very large, but a real classic that keeps reinventing itself. We book this when the Bellagio is too expensive again.
- Belaggio (our favorite to date) – the water features in front of the hotel are a magnet for every visitor to Las Vegas. Be sure to book a room with a view of the fountains. The music is transmitted to the rooms. Unique view of the city and the hustle and bustle. The rooms are very good and the Pool area is one of the best. Unfortunately, all this has its price.
- The Cosmopolitan (partly Marriott) – we don’t like it, but the view from every room is absolutely unbeatable if you are high enough. The rooms are up to the high standard of Marriott.
Photo from Cosmopolitan by Mayk Azzato
Hotels north of Strip
Then comes the end of the “new” Strip, a mixed part, with hotels like the Mirage, which unfortunately will soon be history, the Treasure Island, the Venetian and Palazzo, but also the Trump and the twin blocks of the Wynn and Encore. These form the conclusion of the newer Las Vegas. Everything after that is already what is called the old Vegas and which is located on the northern Strip.
- The Venetian / Palazzo – Very good rooms, good location, mostly high prices, also very large, but a highlight in itself with a replica Venice. The Venetian and the Palazzo are one hotel (!). Even if you book one, you can end up in the other. Parking is often a problem here.
- Wynn / Encore – top hotel, but we find the location already too far away when walking in the city, even if it is practically next to the Palazzo. The hotel has its own golf course, which gives you an idea of the size and cost over a billion dollars to build. Very nice pool area.
For restaurants, one can only say this much: There is something for everyone. The big hotels outdo each other with star chefs and their restaurants, from burger to gourmet. Each hotel also offers buffets at any time of the day or night, and they pay handsomely for it.
We tried both the restaurants on the Strip, as well as those in the hotels and were honestly – with a few exceptions – not really thrilled with any of the options. That’s essentially because you kind of feel robbed when you get the bill. Anyone with a car should just drive to a restaurant 2-3 miles off Strip in the evening. One will not regret that.
If you don’t want to have breakfast at the hotel, we recommend the
- Denny’s across from the Mirage. It is on the second floor and you should be there before 9am to get a seat at the window. The American breakfast is good and cheap and it is rather quieter in this bustling city.
- Mon Ami Gabi, just across the street from the Bellagio. You can sit inside or outside, has Parisian flair and a great view. It is rather expensive.
- Margarita Ville Las Vegas (Mexican), you can have a hearty breakfast here and there are usually price specials.
There are, as I said, countless possibilities to dine completely overpriced and the quality ranges from so-so to outstanding. Here are a few “normal” alternatives that are easy on the wallet.
- PF Chang’s – 3667 S Las Vegas Blvd, in the Planet Hollywood Hotel. Many know this chain, we love you. Good Chinese food and sushi at normal prices.
- Casanova – at the Venetian. Good Italian food, but unfortunately only indoors. Not such a nice atmosphere
- Panda Express – there are many here in Las Vegas and most are not nice, with one exception: 3999 S Las Vegas Blvd, near the Mandalay Bay hotel.
Attractions around the Strip in Las Vegas
In Las Vegas and especially on the Strip there is always something going on. Siegfried and Roy have made Las Vegas famous for entertainment with their magic show. Today there is everything from magic to concert to circus. Just have a look at Get your Guide, what is currently announced, but also available.
Our highlight was the water show “O” of Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio. It is sold out months in advance, but at the concierge of the Bellagio you can buy the “restanten” of the day. Mostly not cheap but good seats are almost always available.
MSG Sphere Las Vegas
More than 150 meters wide and 90 meters high and therefore hard to miss – The MSG Sphere, the newest attraction in Las Vegas, which opened after 4 years of construction in 2023. Construction costs of 2 billion US dollars and the largest 16K LED screen in the world are only 2 superlatives. The 55,700 square meter outer shell also looks like a giant screen. Simply gigantic and worth a visit. The MSG Sphere is located between Lynx and Paris and is easy to find as a glowing ball in the dark.
Photo MSG Sphere from Cosmopolitan by Mayk Azzato
Valley of Fire and Fire Wave
But Las Vegas, of course, has much more to offer than just the Strip. It is also the starting point for numerous excursions. From Las Vegas, for example, you can reach the Valley of Fire by car in an hour and that is very worthwhile. But there are also guided tours.
Since we have the Annual Park Pass, we choose the way through Lake Meat National Park, which is free for us. All others, should better drive over the I15.
The Valley of Fire costs 10,- USD entrance fee per car. At the Visitor Center you get a good map. We run several trails, despite the heat and are lucky to see some rare bighorn sheep.
In the end, we can only really recommend one trail: “Fire Wave”.
These rock formations unfold their magic in the afternoon light and provide unique photo opportunities.
We had about 36 degrees Celsius and although it is only 2km there and back we were glad to have 1.5l water with us and also extremely exhausted when we arrived back at the car. Definitely put on sturdy shoes and take enough water, at least at such high temperatures.
The Valley of Fire is definitely worth a visit.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Grand Canyon West and Skywalk
Another real highlight is the Grand Canyon West. Here you have 2 options. Either you go by car to the West Rim and the Skywalk (cheap solution and very time-consuming) or you use the much more comfortable option to connect the whole thing with a helicopter flight.
We did both and would only go by car if it then continues, for example, to Palm Springs and you combine it with an overnight stay in the canyon. We would not recommend it as a day trip. The helicopter is the better experience, where you can see other attractions like Las Vegas from above, Hoover Dam and the surrounding area of Las Vegas. The helicopter tours are offered in different options – for every budget.
If you go by car and spend the night there, there are actually only 2 real options. Once the Grand Canyon Western Ranch, where you can also eat very tasty and cozy dinner. The other one are the cabins in Grand Canyon West. But here you have to feed yourself, or like us, drive the 15 mile way back to the Grand Canyon Western Ranch. Nothing is open for breakfast either, but at least you can get a coffee and donut at the Skywalk. The park entrance fee is included with the cabins directly, but not the skywalk.
If you do the skywalk and view the canyon very early in the morning like we did, we recommend going back to Dolan Springs for breakfast and stopping at the Canyon Cafe. A real experience.
Neon Lights Museum Las Vegas
Another Las Vegas highlight is the Neon Lights Museum, which is located slightly outside of Las Vegas in a not so nice area. It is an association that cares about the preservation of the neon signs of Las Vegas and the visit should best be done at dark. We spotted many neon signs that we saw many years ago on the hotels themselves, which no longer exist. Our highlight was the “Stardust”, where the Trump now stands. A visit that also makes you a little sentimental, as it documents the transience and rapid growth of this city.
Freemont Street - the old Las Vegas
Fremont Street is the landmark of old Las Vegas. So to speak, where it all began. Meanwhile, nothing is left of the old charm. The entire street is covered with an LED ceiling, the music is loud and the images breathtaking. The entrance is free, contrary to other claims, unless you want to use the zip line, which goes once the whole street. Parking is available in one of the surrounding parking garages. A visit to the Stratosphere Tower is also easily possible from here.
The Westin Lake Las Vegas
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas and just want to relax and unwind, we recommend the Westin Las Vegas. Super beautifully located on Lake Las Vegas, it is an oasis of tranquility. Golfers will find what they are looking for here, but it is also possible to spend an afternoon sunbathing by the pool or taking long walks.
Calico Ghost Town
If you’re driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (or vice versa) and want to make a stop, we recommend Calico Ghost Town. An old abandoned settlement, which today has been converted into a small tourist attraction, but where there are still many of the old buildings, which are very suitable as a photo motif. You should allow 1-2h for this stop.
Suggested itinerary for a 20 day round trip, including Las Vegas, Yosemite and other national parks
Where is Las Vegas?
Where are the Valley of Fire, Las Vegas and the other stops along the route? What could a 20 day round trip look like?
Our 20 day round trip starts and ends in Los Angeles and goes first north to the Yosemite National Parl and then on the other side of the mountains to Las Vegas, before it goes back via Palm Springs. We have chosen the following stages:
1. Day: Munich -> Los Angeles -> Santa Monica (Courtyard Marriott Santa Monica)
2. Day: Santa Monica
3.Day: Santa Monica -> Visalia (Fairfield Inn Visalia Sequoia)
4.Day: Visalia -> Sequoia National Park -> Kings Canyon -> Fresno (Springhill Suites by Marriott Fresno)
5.Day: Fresno -> Yosemite National Park (Tenaya Lodge)
6.Day: Yosemite National Park (Best Western Plus Oakhurst)
7.Day: Yosemite National Park -> Mammoth Lakes (The Westin Monarch Resort)
8.Day: Mamoth Lakes -> Bodie (Ghost Town) ->Mono Lake -> Mammoth Lakes
9.Day: Mammoth Lakes
10.Day: Mammoth Lakes
11.Day: Mammoth Lakes -> Lone Pine -> Alabama Hills (Best Western Lone Pine)
12.Day: Lone Pine -> Furnace Creek / Death Valley (The Inn at Death Valley)
13.Day: Furnace Creek -> Las Vegas Lakes (The Westin Las Vegas Lakes)
14.Day: Las Vegas Lakes -> Valley of Fire -> Las Vegas Lakes
15.Day: Las Vegas Lakes -> Joshua Tree National Park -> Palm Springs (Renaissance Hotel Palm Springs)
16.Day: Palm Springs
17.Day: Palm Springs -> Santa Monica (JW Marriott Le Merigot)
18.-19.Day: Santa Monica
20.Day: Santa Monica -> Munich
What you should definitely think about when traveling to the USA:
Local currency: US dollar. If possible, take small USD bills with you for tips. Money can be withdrawn without problems at any ATM. Otherwise, credit card payments work everywhere without problems.
Vaccinations: Coming from Germany no vaccinations are required. However, the standard vaccinations are recommended, see suggestions from the Foreign Office.
Luggage: The photo equipment should definitely be taken on board, therefore pay attention to cabin luggage dimensions (!) Otherwise any kind of suitcase or bag will do.
Clothing: California is quite similar to the German climate, although it is always a few degrees warmer than in Germany and at least on the coast the thermometer rarely falls below 12 degrees Celsius. In the evening and in winter it can be fresh and windy, you should be prepared for that.
Visa: As a German citizen you do not need a visa, but the ESTA, which should be applied for at least 72 hours before departure (!).
Driver’s license: Normally, the German driver’s license is sufficient in the USA. If you want to be on the safe side, it is recommended that you also have an international driver’s license.
In America you pay almost everything with a credit card and who wants to rent a car needs one anyway.
Do I need a rental car for Las Vegas? Can I drive myself?
Yes, definitely, because somehow you have to get to Las Vegas (except by plane) and the easiest way is by car. Since most see Las Vegas as a stop on the round trip, we definitely recommend a rental car.
We almost always book with Check24. The price-performance ratio is hard to beat. When comparing ALWAYS pay attention to the booked category (the ACRISS code)!
Las Vegas, you love it or you hate it and rarely can you stand it for more than 3 nights. Too loud, too crowded, not to say overcrowded and a constant stream of tourists, always and everywhere. The hotel pools contain more chlorine than you would like and you still smell it hours later. The hotel rooms are mostly quiet and at the good hotels also very luxurious. The casinos still take cash, but no longer give out any. Gone are the days when you could play all evening with a bucket of coins and have fun without getting poor.
For us, Las Vegas is a love-hate relationship. The city is growing like an ulcer and now the focus is no longer on the casinos, but on entertainment. On a round trip through the American West, you can’t avoid Las Vegas as a stop in between. Yes, it is an experience and if you plan your time well, you can have a lot of fun. We have often said “never again” and yet have been there many times. One tip – you can celebrate New Year’s Eve really well here!
Order calendars from our photo tours?
starting 18,90€, Sizes A2-A5
What photography equipment should you take for Las Vegas?
The photo equipment we took to Las Vegas is listed below. In addition, you have the possibility to order the used photo equipment directly via our Photo-Shop and to request further technical details. There you can also find a lot of extras.
- Nikon D850
- Apple Iphone
- Nikon 70-200mm f/4
- Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2
Rucksack / Trolley:
- Lowepro Flipside 400 AW II