Every night of the week there are thousands of seats at dozens of shows waiting to be filled in Las Vegas. These shows are often permanent fixtures and many have customized theaters to accommodate their performances.
The problem isn’t figuring out if you should see a show when you’re in Las Vegas but rather which show you should choose. With so many options available, it can be a very overwhelming decision. To help you narrow your choices, here are the different types of shows you can expect to encounter. We’ve also provided examples of each type of show, and there are several others that aren’t mentioned here. Many also fall into more than one category.
There are always comedians coming and going on the Strip. Winner of America’s Got Talent and Mirage headliner Terry Fator is a crowd favorite as is Carrot Top at Luxor, though several other under-the-radar performers also entertain crowds. Some magic shows also incorporate some element of comedy in their performance such as the Mac King Comedy Magic Show.
Always be wary of taking the family to a comedy show. More often than not, they’re not appropriate for children.
If you are traveling to Las Vegas for the fantastic and over-the-top, there are no shortage of shows featuring acrobats that will leave you wondering how, exactly, they did that. These shows often sweep audiences away as they move from one act to another in quick progression. Sometimes an underlying plot helps progress the show, but, for the most part, these performances are designed to transport audiences into another world that includes strong men, trapeze artists and contortionists but little story line.
Cirque du Soleil has several shows on the Las Vegas Strip, all of which include acrobatics to some degree, but KA, Mystere and O are among the most popular. Le Reve is a spectacular water-based show similar to O, while Matsuri mixes acrobatics with dance and circus acts. Most of the acrobatic-centered shows are family friendly.
Prepare to be amazed by many magicians and illusionists in Las Vegas. Shows range from simple pulling-rabbits-from-hats routines to those that include near-death stunts. Some performers are more illusionists that traditional magicians (Criss Angel’s Believe is a good example).
Many magic shows have components of other types of shows. Penn and Teller, for example, serve up a show that is equal parts magic and comedy while headliner David Copperfield only performs drop-your-jaw magic. Not all magic shows are created equal nor are they all family friendly. Check for age restrictions before taking the kids.
>>Read a review of Penn & Teller
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The variety of shows in Las Vegas that are family friendly cover most of the general genres, so decide on your mood and pick a show that suits everyone. A handful of magic shows are appropriate for all ages, and some of the large-scale productions and Cirque shows have a display of colorful costumes, fun music and fast-paced storylines, which helps keep the little ones entertained. Gregory Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater is designed with kids in mind. The Tournament of Kings, a dinner show that requires people to eat with their hands, brings out the kid in everyone (though a recent addition to the show schedule includes a performance without the meal).
What is particularly nice about many of the shows that cater to families is that they are not kid specific but rather can be enjoyed by everyone in the clan. The kids will appreciate these shows for their entertainment value while Mom and Dad will enjoy them for the artistry and showmanship. Check specific show schedules for rules regarding minimum age requirements.
>>Are you traveling with a family? Here are the best hotels for families in Las Vegas.
There are many performance spaces along the Las Vegas Strip, some of which cater to musicians on a touring schedule, but Caesars Palace Colloseum is probably the best known space for permanent headliners, and Celine Dion, Elton John and Cher have all called the stage home for a healthy duration of time. Garth Brooks and Gordie Brown are two other popular acts.
Las Vegas has a concert line-up of big names all the time, and regardless of the night of the week, chances are you’ll find someone in town that you recognize. The most popular venues for rotating artists include the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay, Pearl Theater at The Palms and The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
Leave the kids at home when you head out for these shows, all of which require audience members to be at least 18 or 21 years old, depending on the show. This is Las Vegas, so scantily clad (or nude) performers are not out of the question. Some of these shows use sex as a vehicle throughout the show, such as Zumanity, which tags itself as the “sensual side of Cirque.” Peepshow and Bite are other popular adult-only offerings.
Because most of these shows involve nudity, leave your camera in your hotel room or check it at the theater door. If you’re caught using it, you will be asked to leave the show without a refund.
>>Read a review of Jubilee!
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Who needs Broadway when you’ve got Las Vegas? In addition to being a hotspot for shows by Cirque du Soleil, this is also a hub for large production shows such as The Lion King, Phantom and Jersey Boys to settle in. Although most shows have been altered so that they can be watched in one sitting without an intermission, nearly all of them receive rave reviews from the critics.
One of the things about the production shows that you won’t find with most shows in Las Vegas is that there is a plot line. In many of the entertainment-based performances, it’s hard to know when you’ve reached the end, but it’s easy to gauge the progress of these shows as they progress.
Old School Vegas
If you traveled all the way to Las Vegas on a search to find coin slots and old neon signs, then an old school Las Vegas show is right up your alley. These shows have stood the test of time and continue to be relatively popular with a discerning crowd. They don’t necessarily have the glitz and glam of the newer, fast-paced entertainment, but they will leave you with a small pang of nostalgia. Jubilee! is filled with classic showgirls while Barry Manilow pleases crowds with old favorites. Though new to Vegas, Matt Goss has an act reminiscent of the days of yore with a swing band and classic dancers.
Many of these shows are in the older resorts and don’t sell out as quickly as some of the more popular shows on the Strip, so it’s possible to get tickets for these performances at a fraction of the rate that many of the other shows go for.
>>Read a review of Jubilee!
There is no shortage of shows when it comes to celebrity tributes. After all, you’re visiting the city to see Elvis, Britney Spears, Joan Rivers and Christina Aguilera, right? For the most part, these tribute shows, which include American Superstars and Legends in Concert, are kitschy and nothing to write home about, but they are fun. A lot of these shows are also low-key and not as well known as many of the other shows on the Strip, which also makes them more affordable.
Cirque du Soleil has recently entered this category with its latest show openings on the Strip. The Beatles: Love is a tribute to the Fab Four while Viva Elvis honors the music of Elvis Presley. Rumor has it that a new Cirque show will pay a tribute to Michael Jackson.