Las Vegas hotels are cities within a city, especially on The Strip, where the properties are so large and labyrinthian, you might want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs — or poker chips, as the case may be — when leaving your room to explore the place. The hotel-casinos are designed to be all-inclusive destination spots, with an abundance of restaurants, bars, shopping outlets, salons, spas and other attractions so that you never have to leave the property if you so choose, which can be an asset in the brutal Las Vegas summer heat where temperatures regularly soar past 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 C) from June through September.
1. MGM Grand
The biggest of the big, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese of the Vegas casino circuit, the MGM Grand is so massive with its 6,852 rooms, that if you stayed in a different room every night, it would take you nearly 18 years to have occupied them all. The dining and entertainment options here as outsize as the mammoth golden lion out front, with the MGM Grand Garden Arena frequently hosting big concerts and boxing and UFC cards, Hakkasan serving as the main nightlife attraction, Wet Republic catering to the pool party set and Joel Robuchon offering some of the finest dining in the city with its world-renowned French cuisine. A good place to stay if an abundance of entertainment options are a priority.
2. Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Since opening in 2010, the aptly-named Cosmopolitan has become a popular spot for clubgoers thanks to being the home of Marquee Dayclub & Nightclub in addition to hosting numerous events during the week of massive dance music festival the Electric Daisy Carnival each May. The gorgeous The Chandelier bar, housed inside a three-story chandelier, is a main attraction in the center of the multi-level casino, which also features riotous, adults-only variety show “Opium,” hideaway bar The Barbershop Cuts and Cocktails and luxe concert hall The Chelsea, where everybody from Lady Gaga to Bruno Mars to The Black Keys have played. If you’re looking for one of the hipper properties on The Strip, look no further.
3. Wynn Las Vegas
The place where high rollers roll, Wynn Las Vegas will send penny pinchers fleeing for the exits faster than you can blow your kid’s college fund at the blackjack table. Home to one of the city’s flagship nightclubs in XS and day-time party spots in Encore Beach Club (located in adjoining sister property Encore), the Wynn is tailored for big spenders, from luxury retailers like Rolex, Prada and Louis Vuitton to its exclusive country club, which offers the only golf course on The Strip. This is the place to indulge in the most extravagant and swanky side of Vegas.
4. The Cromwell
Once home to the kind of divey joints where you could score cheap draft beers at the cost of little more than a hangover the next day, this property has since been transformed into a luxury boutique hotel as of 2014. The main lures for revellers here are Drai’s After Hours, long considered one of the city’s premiere late, late-night spots for decades now in the basement of the hotel, and the newer, rooftop Drai’s Beachclub and Nightclub 11-stories above The Strip, where DJs and a loaded roster of hip-hop and R&B acts perform. Smaller than the other properties here, The Cromwell offers a boutique hotel/casino experience that’s a departure from the numerous Strip behemoths.
5. Caesars Palace
Julius Caesar’s ambitions were outsize, as is the property that bears his surname, naturally. From massive nightclub Omnia, where superstar DJ-producer Calvin Harris is a resident, to swank concert hall The Colosseum, which has been home to extended engagements from superstars like Celine Dion, Elton John and Keith Urban, to Cirque Du Soleil’s Beatles-themed “Love” show, to high-end mall The Forum Shops, Caesars attempts to approximate the sweeping scale of the Roman empire with slightly less bloodshed. Come here for shopping, dining, clubbing, concerts and Vegas production shows all under one sprawling roof.
Having become as synonymous with Las Vegas as Elvis’ golden shades and souvenir dice clocks that no one really wants, the fountains in front of the Bellagio are a must-see for visitors to the city. Inside the opulent hotel-casino, the attractions include Cirque Du Soleil’s aquatic “O” production, a lush, eye-popping botanical garden and velvety lounge the Petrossian Bar, known for its afternoon tea service from 1 to 4 p.m. In addition to the Wynn, the Bellagio is the place to experience Vegas at its most opulent — and pricey.
Once characterized by “Popular Mechanics” magazine as arguably “the most technologically advanced hotel ever built,” this dazzling hotel-casino consisting of two glass towers, Aria opened in late 2009. Every room features a touch-screen automation system that does everything from automatically opening and closing the curtains to regulating the temperature of the room when guests come and go. Aria’s main nightlife attraction, the Jewel nightclub, gleams like its namesake thanks to 1,400 square feet of LED ribbon lights. One of the newer properties on The Strip, the Aria is where to go for Vegas at its most modern and contemporary.
8. The Venetian/Palazzo
When combined with attached sister property the Palazzo and adjacent Sands Expo Convention Center, the Venetian ranks as the world’s second biggest hotel and likely the only one where you can catch a gondola ride on an indoor canal a la Venice with a roof. Speaking of large, there’s the towering bronze Buddha statue that highlights the decor of restaurant/nightclub Tao, a hot spot since 2005, which is an eternity in a city of near-constant change like Vegas. Not quite as pricey as Wynn Las Vegas or the Bellagio, this is a high-end destination spot that’s a bit more affordable for those looking for a taste of the upscale.
9. Downtown Grand
Downtown Vegas hotels are more about being frugal than being hip, though this property is an exception. Formerly the Lady Luck, which dated back to the early ‘60s, the renovated Downtown Grand opened in 2013 and brought a new, younger dimension to the area, with DJs spinning on the casino floor on Friday and Saturday nights as well as on the Citrus Grand Pool Deck and live bands at restaurant-venue Freedom Beat. It’s a new look in an old part of town. If you want the more budget-friendly Downtown experience without low-budget-looking lodgings, the Downtown Grand fits the bill.
10. El Cortez
Just how vintage is this vintage property? Some of the rooms are only accessible by stairs, as even elevators represent too much of a modern flourish. Still, if old school is what you’re looking for, class is fully in session at this venerable casino, which opened in 1941 and is one of the only properties in Vegas to retain its original signage and facade. There are few bells and whistles here outside the throwback atmosphere with historical pictures on the walls of the casino floor, and the rates reflect as much: Depending on the season, rooms can be had for under $25 before resort fees. Still, the property is no dive, making this a popular spot for the cost-conscious.