We love traveling at Medicareful Living. It can expand your perspective, keep you learning and active, and create memories that last a lifetime. However, a big journey can be daunting without help. We want to be that help, making sure you don’t miss a thing while you’re exploring this wide world we call home. Throughout this series, we’ll offer you tips on where to stay, what to see, and what to try, as well as answer some important questions. All opinions and facts in this article are through extensive research and personal experience. We have not received sponsorships or remuneration for our support or opinions.
Now that some semblance of normalcy is returning thanks to the efforts of our health care workers and everyone that’s done their part in getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control, travel is once again becoming possible and safe for the vaccianted (the CDC still suggests not traveling if you’re not unvaccinated). We suggest you wear a mask, socially distance, and getting a COVID vaccine as soon as you can (if you haven’t already), and follow all the rules and regulations of traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Las Vegas is one of those destinations that is unique compared to anywhere else in the world. You can say that about most places, true, but it really stands out when you consider it’s little oasis of light surrounded by desert. No other place in the world combines the aspects of fine dining, gambling, world-class shows, and debauchery, while still having family-friendly aspects, too. Sin City only becomes more attractive by being downright affordable for most people, especially if those who know where to look or are clever or lucky. And, the trip there is a relatively short flight (under five hours from anywhere in the continental United States) if you’re not within driving distance, making it perfect for a long weekend or a full-week trip.
We’ve actually mentioned Las Vegas as an excellent destination multiple times (see our senior vacations, New Year destinations, and Christmas destinations posts). So, for our next entry in the Medicareful Travel series, we’re going take a closer look at planning a trip to Las Vegas and investigate why seniors should (and often do) flock to this gem near the Mojave Desert.
Why Las Vegas Tours are Perfect for Seniors
We’ve already touched on why Las Vegas makes a nice trip for anyone, but if we’re focusing on seniors specifically, the benefits of this trip become even clearer. Most resorts have some sort of senior discount, along with the buffets and activities. Getting around Las Vegas is senior-friendly, too. Not only can you get a taxi or use a ride-sharing app like Uber (not suggested if you’re on the Strip since traffic can be a nightmare), you can also take advantage of the Las Vegas Monorail or one of the trams. These additional options are both affordable and can get you to most of the major resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. Depending on the resort you’re staying at, you may not even need to leave the building, since most of the larger resorts will have multiple restaurants, shows, and activities to keep you entertained and happy.
Where to Stay
When it comes to staying in Las Vegas, you have a lot of options. There are at least 32 resorts on the Las Vegas Strip alone, which is more than in some cities! There are positives and negatives to staying on and off the Strip that can make one option more suited to your needs than the other.
The Las Vegas Strip
The biggest reason to stay at a resort on the Las Vegas Strip comes down to one word: convenience. The largest resorts and casinos will have nearly the entire Las Vegas experience contained within them. For example, the largest resort in Las Vegas in terms of rooms, the MGM Grand, has nearly 30 restaurants, a massive casino, and amenities like pools and concierge services, and shows. Other notable resorts include Caesar’s Palace, the Bellagio, the Luxor, the Venetian, the Flamingo, and Tropicana.
Many of these resorts are large enough to either be stops on previously mentioned trams or are nearby one. The downside, of course, is that staying at one of these resorts may be a bit more expensive than staying at other places (though not always). Additionally, these types of places are busier (if you’re looking for a quieter place).
Off the Strip
Alternatively, you can find a smaller hotel that doesn’t have a casino or another place located off the Las Vegas Strip. There are resorts off the Strip — like the M Resort, the Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa, and the historic Golden Nugget — that are comparable to most of those on the Strip in terms of amenities and price. That said, many are competitively priced since they aren’t located in that central location. Also of note, many resorts off-Strip have lower minimums and better odds than their on-Strip counterparts. And, when you stay in downtown Las Vegas, as opposed to on the Strip, you have a chance to see vintage Las Vegas.
The downside of staying off the Strip is that getting to the central location of the Las Vegas Strip, where many of the bigger shows and restaurants are, is more difficult since it’s not really a walkable distance. You can take a bus, though it isn’t as quick or convenient as staying on the Strip. At the same time, the atmosphere off the Strip can sometimes be more party-like or even seedy, depending on where and when, due to the cheaper alcohol and gambling it can offer. This isn’t true for everywhere, but it’s worth researching the specifics when choosing a place.
What to Do
Las Vegas has to be considered one of the entertainment capitals of the world. No matter what your interests are, you can likely find something that fits them. Below, we list three different ideas of things to do in Vegas; however, there are many other activities available!
There aren’t many places on the planet where you can find the mix of entertainment that Las Vegas can boast. You can’t miss stalwart Vegas acts like Penn & Teller or the Blue Man Group! You’ll also find an innumerable number of Rat Pack tribute shows, harkening back to the entertainment that first got Sin City started. And, comedians have always had a home in Las Vegas, along with magicians and some of the biggest names in entertainment. In recent years, most resorts have even scheduled Cirque du Soleil productions, which combine acrobatics and music to create a one-of-a-kind experience.
Besides all the shows that require tickets, there are a few free shows, too. While walking the Strip, you may be able to catch the Bellagio Water Show, the free show at Circus Circus, or the eruption of the Mirage’s Volcano. Most of the resorts have some form of free entertainment, whether it’s an organized show like those mentioned or an experience like the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes, where you can get a gondola ride or hear live musicians. (Obviously, you will have to spend money if you want to buy items.)
Las Vegas is also home to a number of museums, though these are the most “Vegas” museums you could imagine. Where else could you find the Neon Museum — a museum celebrating the iconic neon signs — or the Mob Museum (aka the National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement). Other different museums located in the city are the Pinball Hall of Fame — the largest collection of pinball machines — and the National Atomic Testing Museum. Elsewhere in Vegas, you can also find a Madame Tussauds at the Venetian and Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition at the Luxor. These are only a few examples of the numerous museums located in and around the city that are worth checking out.
In addition, Las Vegas has gambling and table games, of course. If you’re not a gambler, but want to while you’re in Vegas, we suggest researching a bit to learn the games and etiquette for while you’re there. These will help you enjoy the games without upsetting anyone else. Just make sure you’re gambling smartly, since many casinos are set up to maximize how much money they win off you. There are a few ways you can beat the odds, but for the most part, your best bet is to give yourself a set amount of money you’re allowed to gamble with and a set amount of time to gamble. Stick to these limits so you don’t end up losing way more than you planned. There are many common Las Vegas gambling mistakes that you’ll want to avoid, but if you can, you may find yourself having a great time.
What to Eat
Unlike our previous two Medicareful Travel articles on Rome and Paris, respectively, Las Vegas isn’t known as a food capital, or really even a top food destination. In fact, over the years, Las Vegas has been more known for all-you-can-eat buffets, rather than exceptional dining. While these certainly still exists in Sin City, we think Vegas’ food reputation needs to change.
Today, there is a vibrant restaurant scene in Las Vegas with nearly every resort on and off the Strip boasting several exceptional restaurants to choose from. In fact, there are currently 10 restaurants in Las Vegas that have been awarded at least one Michelin Star, with Joel Robuchon earning the highest rating a restaurant can get — three Michelin Stars. Other restaurants in Vegas that haven’t received Michelin Stars are still definitely worth your time, from steakhouses to sushi to celebrity chef-owned restaurants.
At some point, you may get tired of the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas and decide to try something different. The city may seem isolated, situated in the desert as it is, but there are actually many options for a day trip or two.
Note: All distances are calculated from the attractions’ visitor centers.
Nearby National Parks
Near to Las Vegas is a wealth of national parks and nature reserves that will feel like a breath of fresh air if you’re tired of the concrete and neon. Notably, the Grand Canyon is a four-and-a-half-hour drive away from Vegas (the Grand Canyon Skywalk is a little over two hours). You can try a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon to get there a bit quicker. Other parks that are about the same distance or closer include Zion National Park (two hours 40 minutes) and Bryce Canyon National Park (four hours).
Explore the Desert
Not all parks are forests. Since Las Vegas is surrounded by desert, some of the most beautiful landscapes and ecosystems are a short drive away. The closest of these is the Red Rock Canyon, which is only 30 minutes outside of the Las Vegas Strip. Just over two hours away, you can visit one of the hottest places on Earth in Death Valley. Similarly, you can also spend a day in the Mojave National Preserve (one hour), Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (just under two hours), or Joshua Tree National Park (about three and a half hours).
While not quite as different as the national parks and desert trips, there’s another major destination that fairly close to Las Vegas — Los Angeles. If you choose to drive, you’ll be in the car for about four hours, though you can also get a flight and be there in just over an hour (for around $50 for a round-trip ticket). Whether you’re heading to Los Angeles for the day or as a second stop on your vacation, it makes for a quick change of scenery. We’ve written on why Los Angeles is a great vacation spot for seniors in the past, and if you’re already nearby, we think that’s all the more reason to check out Hollywood!
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If you think you have a gambling addiction, please be extremely careful if you’re visiting Las Vegas. We list numbers you can call for help here.