Vegas Driving 101: Making the most of your trip

Motorists navigate rush hour traffic on Interstate 15 near the Strip. Las Vegas Sun file photo.

Motorists navigate rush hour traffic on Interstate 15 near the Strip. Las Vegas Sun file photo.

It may seem odd coming from me to give driving advice. I’m notorious for getting lost and it takes me a few times to remember how to get to my friend’s house. While my directions may not seem reliable in some of the residential parts of town, I managed to pick up the short cuts around the Las Vegas Strip. After all, who wants to drive or sit through traffic longer than you have to? Here are a few tips to help make driving easier during your Las Vegas trip.

Learn to make Dean Martin Drive, Frank Sinatra Drive and Harmon Avenue your best friends.

  • With New Year’s Eve around the corner, keep in mind that the Las Vegas Strip is closed after 6 p.m. If you plan on parking in one of the hotel garages, it has to be before 6 p.m. and you won’t be able to leave before midnight. However, if you want to enjoy the festivities the Strip has to offer but don’t want to linger around for six hours before the countdown, you’ll be happy Vegas offers back streets running parallel to Las Vegas Boulevard and Interstate 15.
    Dean Martin Drive
    (formerly known as Industrial Road) connects you to locations like Fashion Show mall and Circus Circus without having to fuss with the Strip. Parking is available in the back of these locations, so you can come and go as you please. (This applies when the Las Vegas marathon is running as well. A few weeks ago during the marathon, I was able to take this back street and parked at Circus Circus’ outdoor lot while Las Vegas Boulevard was closed off.) Also, if you want to drive to the Rio, the Palms or Palms Place quickly, travel west on Tropicana Avenue, make a right on Dean Martin Drive and a left on Rio Boulevard. This takes you right to the Rio. If you want to get to the Palms, simply turn left (west) on Flamingo Road.
  • Another great street is Frank Sinatra Drive. This street connects major hotels (by parking lots and garages) on the west side of the Strip from Mandalay Bay to Caesars Palace. Just note that once you’re on it, the only way off this road (not counting hotel garages) is Russell Road to the south and Dean Martin to the north. If you’re driving north on I-15, the Frank Sinatra exit is before Flamingo Road. With this street, you have access to parking garages including Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo and Caesars Palace. While Bellagio only offers employee parking in this back street, you can still park at Monte Carlo and either walk over or take the free tram to Bellagio. I like to use this street when I’m shopping at Mandalay Place and want to head over to Caesars Palace’s Forum Shops in a jiffy.
  • On the east side of the Strip (these include hotels like Tropicana, MGM Grand, Planet Hollywood, Flamingo, Venetian and Wynn Las Vegas), there’s the popular backstreet, Koval Lane. The only downside about it is I think it became too popular! This street also has tons of stops signs, construction, lights and commercial traffic congestion. I would only take this street if I’m venturing from Venetian or Palazzo to Harrah’s or Flamingo. It still beats the traffic of Las Vegas Boulevard, but don’t expect it to be smooth sailing like Frank Sinatra Drive either.
  • Another street I like taking to avoid Las Vegas Boulevard’s traffic is Harmon Avenue. If  you’re driving west on Harmon (away from Hard Rock and toward Las Vegas Boulevard), this is the way you’ll want to take if you’re visiting Planet Hollywood, Paris Las Vegas, CityCenter or Mandarin Oriental. While you can’t go past the Las Vegas Boulevard on New Year’s Eve to get to CityCenter or Mandarin Oriental, you can still park at Planet Hollywood’s back parking garage. To get to Planet Hollywood, drive west on Harmon toward the Strip. Turn right on Audrie Lane. The parking garage will be on your left. If you want to drive to Paris Las Vegas, keep driving straight to the stop sign. Turn left and the parking garage will be on your right.

These are just a few of the driving tips that helped me navigate my many adventures to the Las Vegas Strip. Now that you’ve got these driving tips down, we’d like to share a couple of parking tips.

  • The great thing about hotel garage parking is that it’s free! However, some of these can be a pain to drive through. I’ve noticed if the hotel has an outdoor parking lot, take advantage of it. You’ll be in and out faster and won’t have to worry about occasional parking garage traffic. Outdoor parking is available at Mandalay Bay (by the convention center), Circus Circus and Monte Carlo.
  • You’ll find the most open parking spots on the hotel garage’s roof than any other floor. Try and park on the highest level if you can. (Make sure this is OK though — some floors are designated for employee parking only.) One word of caution. In the summer, the upper floor of the garage will also be the hottest as there’s no roof and the sun reflects off concrete all day.
  • Make sure you follow the arrows in a parking garage. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve driven the wrong direction, only to get honked at by other drivers. Take a look at our parking garage guide for more helpful hints.
  • Get ready to walk: You may be happy that you snagged a spot in a free garage, but be prepared for long treks to get to the casino or to the front entrance of a hotel. Bring comfortable shoes. If you have a lot of luggage, I advise using valet when you check-in and check-out to avoid carting the luggage across the hotel casino floor. You can use the garage during the rest of your trip.
  • If you’re parked at one casino and don’t feel like getting in your car again to drive to another one, there is a free tram that stops at Bellagio, Monte Carlo and CityCenter.

We hope this makes driving around the crazy Las Vegas Strip traffic a breeze. If you’re coming here for the holiday please remember to drive safe and have a designated driver just in case. Traffic or no traffic, always give yourselves a couple of hours to drive and find parking so you make the most of your trip, especially during the holidays.

Comments

Most folks take their Vegas jackpot winnings back home, but my dad decided to stay here instead. That’s how I left Seattle almost 20 years ago. I moved from greenery and rainy days to hot summers, palm trees and desert. As much as I love my hometown, I decided to stick around Vegas. This city just has so much to offer. You don’t even have to be a gambler, bar hopper or an all-night partier. I love Vegas for its awesome vegan-friendly spots, concerts, swanky hotel suites and spas so big, they’re like castles. The pool scene is not too shabby either, which is why I love taking stay-cations. Besides living it up -- Vegas style -- I’m hanging out with my handsome hubby, adorable baby girl, two cats and super-fluffy Shih-Tzu. I’m also a huge fan of '90s music, shows and movies. You can find me on Google+ and Twitter.