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5 Things You Should Know About Las Vegas

Sin City. The city of neon lights. An eyesore in the desert. The place where anything can happen.

Whatever you want to call it, Las Vegas continues to be a hot destination for those looking for a weekend away, a romantic escape or an extended vacation in the sun. Whether they’ve been to Las Vegas or not, many people have pre-conceived notions about what they’ll find when they arrive. Some of them are true (the food really is that good), and some of them are not (prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas), but regardless of why you want to visit, here are five things you should know about the city.

Las Vegas isn’t only for adults.

People know Las Vegas as an adult’s playground, and there are undoubtedly components of the city that are only friendly for those over 21. But Las Vegas is still a family friendly destination. In fact, there are a number of hotels and activities that cater to families. Circus Circus, Excalibur and New York New York are three good hotel options on the Strip, though there are many other decent hotels for families off the Strip as well, if you happen to have a rental car.

As for things to do with the family, you have a wide range of options when it comes to shows and activities. In addition to a smattering of magic, acrobatic and full performance shows, there are less expensive options when it comes to entertainment as well. The Bellagio fountains are fun for everyone and the animal exhibits at MGM Grand and the Flamingo are both free of charge. The AdventureDome at Circus Circus entertains kids and teens for hours on end, and there are also several educational exhibits and cultural events that might be of interest to families. Whatever you might want to do with your family, chances are you can do it in Las Vegas.

Our best hint: Avoid holiday seasons and travel midweek if possible.

>>More information about family friendly shows in Las Vegas.
>>More information about family friendly hotels in Las Vegas.

>>More information about Las Vegas for teens.
>>More information about Las Vegas for kids.

Las Vegas can be affordable.

It would be very possible to spend every last penny in your savings account on a Las Vegas vacation … if you splurged on VIP service at the nightclubs, lost track of your funds at the strip club and stayed in an over-the-top Las Vegas suite. But most people who travel to Las Vegas are on some sort of budget, and it’s more than possible to stay within your price range when you visit.

People get into trouble when they take the mantra “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” too seriously. Your credit card debt will go home with you, so be smart about your financial planning for your Las Vegas vacation from beginning to end. Take the time to search for cheap flights to Las Vegas and consider looking for less expensive accommodations. Traveling in the off-season or searching for discounts on show tickets and activities before you arrive will help alleviate the stress once you’re in Sin City. And if you really want to hang on to your cash, avoid spending it in the casino. You might get a small payout, but chances are you’ll leave with less than when you arrived.

Our best hint: Leave your credit card in your room when you gamble. Instead, take only what you can afford to lose.

>>More information about coupons and discounts in Las Vegas.
>>More information about budget hotels in Las Vegas.

The most appealing parts of Las Vegas are NOT confined to the Strip.

The four miles of Las Vegas Boulevard between Mandalay Bay and the Stratosphere (known as the Strip) may be what Las Vegas is best known for, but there’s so much more to the city. In addition to checking out the Strip, any first-time trip to Las Vegas should include a visit to the downtown area, which is where “old Vegas” can be found. Cheap coin slots, $1.00 margaritas and street entertainment are all part of the fun once you venture into downtown.

In order to best explore the city beyond the Strip, consider renting a car. Once you’ve done this, spend an afternoon hitting up fun sites such as the Neon Museum Boneyard and the Pinball Hall of Fame. You can also reach several interesting day trip locations from Las Vegas, including the Hoover Dam (and the nearby Hoover Dam bridge) as well as Lake Mead National Recreational Area. If you enjoy hiking, consider visiting Valley of Fire State Park or Red Rock Canyon, both of which offer a variety of trails and scenic drives. For those who are up for something a bit more adventurous, consider a long day trip or overnight trip to one of several national parks within a few hours’ drive of Las Vegas.

Our best hint: Despite the hype to visit the Grand Canyon in a day, it is a long day consisting primarily of driving. If at all possible, make it an overnight trip. Otherwise, sign up for a guided tour so that you can maximize your time and don’t have to worry about the details.

>>More information about national parks near Las Vegas.
>>More information about outdoor activities near Las Vegas.
>>More information about downtown Las Vegas.
>>More information about free things to do off the Strip.

The weather rocks.

Admittedly, Las Vegas gets a little hot during the summer months, but for the most part, the weather in Sin City is fantastic. Chances are the forecast will be sunny, clear and warm when you visit. If you ask locals when they most prefer the city’s weather, they’d likely say September through November and February through May, as this is when you’ll find temps in the 70-90F range, lots of sun and comfortable breezes.

Regardless of when you visit, though, chances are you’ll be able to do things you couldn’t do year round if you’re visiting from the snowy north. Golf courses have tee times twelve months a year, and some of the pools are even open all year round. Even though the weather in Las Vegas is ideal, you should know that the desert can get a bit chilly in the evenings.

Our best tip: Visit in the spring or fall for good weather and the biggest selection of local outdoor activities.

>>More information about Las Vegas weather.

You don’t have to attend a conference to enjoy the convention scene.

With its thousands of hotel rooms and countless square feet of meeting space, Las Vegas is a hot spot for conventions. In fact, some of the most popular conventions in the world—the Consumer Electronics Show, the Adult Entertainment Expo, the largest tattoo convention—are held in Las Vegas. Though you’ll need to be registered to attend all of the events affiliated with any conferences, many of these conventions offer opportunities for interested individuals to participate.

If your Las Vegas visit happens to coincide with a convention of interest, look ahead of time to see if you can buy a pass to the expo center. This will give you a chance to browse the latest products and rub elbows with some of the big names in the industry. Post-conference hours, keep your eyes open for information regarding after parties or meet ups at bars or nightclubs. Most establishments don’t just close down for a convention, so chances are you can get in to do some mingling regardless of the fact that you’re not wearing a conference badge.

Our best tip: If you’re set on attending a specific convention, plan in advance. There may be a limited number of casual attendee passes available to the public.

>>More information about the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Photo credit: Child (coalesceO), Money (Mayu ;P), Hoover Dam (Alessandra S. Alba), Sunshine (hmerinomx), Tattoos (vissago)