Hidden Secrets of Vegas

In a place like Las Vegas – with so much to experience – you’ll want to make the most of every minute. This is no easy feat, considering the city is packed with interesting sights, sounds, foods, drinks, activities and much more. So we’ve compiled a few tips to make you aware of shortcuts, transportation tricks, hidden restaurants and discounts to some of the most popular shops and iconic venues.

Shortcuts and little-known entrances

There’s a quick way to get to the Atlantis aquarium in The Forum Shops at Caesars.

There’s a quick way to get to the Atlantis aquarium in The Forum Shops at Caesars.

● Planning to see Disney’s “The Lion King” or explore The Shoppes at Mandalay Place? You can avoid crossing Mandalay Bay’s massive casino floor by valet parking at THEhotel. Enter the lobby and follow the hallway that winds past THEcafé and the entrance to Mix Lounge – you’ll end up near the box office, theater and gift shop for the beloved Broadway musical. Plus, you’re just a short stroll from the escalators leading to and from the unique retail venue on the sky bridge that connects Mandalay Bay and Luxor.

● Heading to The Forum Shops at Caesars? There’s a back entrance that leads directly into the area where the Atlantis aquarium is located. Use either the valet on the north side of Caesars Palace or the parking garage situated just beyond it. Walk to the “Stop” sign and continue across the street. There’s an entrance used mostly by employees that goes down a hallway, by some restrooms and then out into the mall near The Cheesecake Factory. Entering this way means you can bypass the casino and a large section of gigantic retail complex.

Transportation advice

● Searching for cheap transportation? If you don’t want to rent a car or pay high cab fares during your Vegas visit, the easiest and most affordable way to get around town is via The Deuce (a gold double-decker bus) and the Strip & Downtown Express (a.k.a., the SDX). These two lines have stops at all the major resorts, shopping centers and attractions on or near the Strip and in downtown. A one-time, 24-hour pass costs only $7. Depending on where you’re staying, you might be able to take advantage of free shuttle buses. The Coast properties provide free shuttles between Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Casino, The Orleans and Gold Coast. The Silverton has free shuttles to McCarran International Airport and The Forum Shops at Caesars. There are also free trams connecting Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay as well as Bellagio, Monte Carlo and Crystals at CityCenter (near Aria).

Buses in Las Vegas are both affordable and easily accessible.

Buses in Las Vegas are both affordable and easily accessible.

● If you are driving and looking for ways to avoid Las Vegas Boulevard, Frank Sinatra Drive is one great option. Situated on the west side of the Strip, it runs between Caesars Palace and Mandalay Bay, connecting all the major resorts via their parking garages. Just try to stay away from it between 3 and 5 p.m., when a major shift change occurs.

● Speaking of streets that run parallel to the Strip, Paradise Road, which lies to the east, is another fine alternative. It runs all the way from Tropicana Avenue to St. Louis Avenue, which intersects with Las Vegas Boulevard in front of the Stratosphere. Unlike Frank Sinatra Drive, there are several signals on this thoroughfare and it tends to be congested on weekend nights and during big conventions – but it’s still speedier than the Strip. Plus, it’s the same route the SDX bus utilizes to quickly travel from downtown to the heart of the Strip.

● Planning a visit to downtown? Parking at the historic El Cortez is free and plentiful. Along with a convenient valet, the resort boasts approximately 1,200 free self-parking spots spread across two large parking structures. And, during events like First Fridays, a free shuttle serves a stop right outside the resort’s main entrance.

● The Las Vegas Monorail also covers the Strip. Convenient for a few hotels (MGM Grand, Bally’s, Paris Las Vegas, Harrah’s, Imperial Palace and the Las Vegas Hilton) and for business travelers en route to the Las Vegas Convention Center, it’s actually out of the way for the majority of the city’s resorts and does not provide access to the airport or downtown.

Hidden restaurants

● There’s a secret pizza counter at The Cosmopolitan. You can order New York-style slices here. No signage identifies it. Just go to the third story and hunt for a narrow hallway (with a pinball machine) between two of the resort’s swankier restaurants. This little pizza place has a subway vibe and is perfect for partiers looking for a quick, affordable bite in the wee hours.

The artful Mexican restaurant Mundo is a hidden gem in downtown.

The artful Mexican restaurant Mundo is a hidden gem in downtown.

● In downtown there’s a trendy but little known restaurant at the Las Vegas Design Center called Mundo, which means “world” in Spanish. Naturally, thanks to the location, it features chic, contemporary décor. Mundo boasts the culinary artistry of chef Robert Solano, who has won awards for his innovative preparations. Among the flavorful Mexican-inspired menu are three items not to miss: Wagyu skirt steak fajitas, pulled chicken tamales and shrimp Diablo.

● Battista’s Hole in the Wall is tucked about a block off of the Strip behind the Flamingo hotel. Opened in 1970, it’s one of those amazing, time-warp Vegas restaurants where things are still done precisely as they were 40 years ago. Founded by Battista Locatelli, it offers a chalkboard full of Italian entrées instead of a menu. Whether it’s the fettucine, lasagna, manicotti or cioppino, each item is made from an ancient family recipe with strict attention to detail. The service is great fun (thanks to Gordy, the accordion player, who is a Vegas institution in himself), the house wine is unlimited, and the cappucino served for dessert is heavenly.

● Lotus of Siam is located less than a mile east of the Strip in the Commercial Center. It’s been heralded by critics as one of the best Thai restaurants in North America. Saipin Chutima, who prepares northern-style Thai food, owns and operates it with her husband. If you go, be sure to try the golden tofu appetizer, a plate of deep fried tofu cubes with a bowl of homemade sweet and sour sauce. The drunken noodles and crispy duck with Panang are also amazing.

Discover delicious custard at Lov-It’s walk-up window in downtown.

Discover delicious custard at Luv-It’s walk-up window in downtown.

● The Hawaiian Marketplace is located on the Strip across from CityCenter. Upon a quick glance, you may not notice that this island-style shopping complex features several eateries – as they are located inside away from all the retail activity. In fact, far in the back is Tamba Indian Cuisine. This charming restaurant with exotic décor is open for lunch and dinner. The menu includes favorites like chicken tikka masala, tandoori murg, lamb vindaloo and other Indian delights. Plus, the garlic naan bread is to die for!

● Dessert enthusiasts must visit Luv-It Frozen Custard. Delicious treats are dispensed through an unassuming walk-up window situated across the street from the Stratosphere at the gateway to downtown. Founded in 1973, it has always relied on word-of-mouth advertising. The custard, which is basically a form of ice cream with eggs in the mix, is made fresh daily in vanilla, chocolate and two special flavors – including seasonal ones like eggnog and peppermint in wintertime.

Slick deals and discounts

● Buy a ticket to the Buffet of the Buffets. This all-access pass allows you to feed your face for 24 hours at any of Caesars Entertainment Corporation’s participating buffets. This includes Lago Buffet at Caesars Palace, Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Le Village Buffet at Paris Las Vegas, Paradise Garden Buffet at the Flamingo, Carnival World Buffet at the Rio, Flavors at Harrah’s and Emperor’s Buffet at Imperial Palace. (Note: A fee applies to add admission to the Village Seafood Buffet at Rio.) Have breakfast, scoff a snack, munch down lunch, devour dinner and sample several decadent desserts – for one full day, you can fuel up wherever and whenever you choose. The Buffet of Buffets pass costs $44.99 (for Total Rewards members) or $49.99 (for nonmembers). Alternatively, you can stay for a minimum of two nights at Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Paris Las Vegas, Flamingo, Rio, Harrah’s, Bally’s or Imperial Palace and receive two Buffet of the Buffets passes for free.

Total Rewards cards

Joining a players club – like the Total Rewards program – has a lot of benefits.

● Nearly every casino in Las Vegas boasts some kind of players club or loyalty program. And when you join, you get free stuff! Simply find the special promotions booth where you’ll fill out a short application, show a driver’s license and be issued a card on the spot. Usually, you’ll also receive offers for free or discounted food, entertainment and casino play…and sometimes logo items like a T-shirt, baseball cap or keychain. Members of slot and players clubs get invited to tournaments and other special events with reduced room rates. Some of the best ones link multiple properties. For example, with the Total Rewards club, you get benefits at eight great properties: Bally’s, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah’s, Imperial Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Rio and Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. MGM Resorts International’s loyalty program is M life, which links all their Las Vegas properties – Mandalay Bay, THEhotel, Aria, Bellagio, Vdara, MGM Grand, The Signature at MGM Grand, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor and Excalibur – with their other resorts around the world.

● Look for coupon books, which are also known as “funbooks” in some casinos. The El Cortez has one available upon request with special drink and gaming offers. You’ll find coupon books at several shopping centers. At the Las Vegas Premium Outlets – North and Las Vegas Premium Outlets – South, you can join the VIP Shopper Club, giving you exclusive member benefits including online coupons and a voucher for a free VIP coupon book. And there are printable coupons online for The Shoppes at Mandalay Place.

● Always check the back of your tickets for discounts and deals. The Hard Rock Hotel just launched a “Show Your Stub” promotion. It encourages music lovers to take advantage of great after-concert offers by simply showing their ticket stubs. This means you’ll get exclusive discounts at food, beverage and retail outlets throughout the resort for up to 24 hours following any ticketed event.

● Check the deals page at VEGAS.com. You’ll discover fabulous discounts on hotel stays, shows tickets, air+hotel packages and tours along with free upgrades here.


I’m a Las Vegas native. By profession, I write at Vegas.com. Mostly about the city’s hotels, but on other topics – gaming and transportation – too. I really love staying at hotels. And the ones here are among the biggest and best in the world. Some key things I’ve learned: Resort fees are inescapable (frustrating but true), a friendly attitude at the front desk may score you a great view and over-the-top room amenities – bath butlers, Japanese tea service, menus with “intimate” items – do exist. What else should you know about me? Well, I’m comfortable at a blackjack table. And I like eating late-night pancakes in hotel coffee shops. A lot. Follow Renee on Google+.