Fun Things To Do Alone In Las Vegas

Very few people like to travel alone, but Las Vegas is a great place to have fun whether you're teamed up or flying solo.

A few nights ago, I spoke to a friend who was headed for a convention in Las Vegas.

"You poor thing," I teased him.

"Yeah," he said seriously, missing the sarcasm. "I hate traveling by myself. Nothing to do but sit in a hotel room and watch TV."

I told my friend what I'm telling you right now: Whether you're on your own or with a group, Las Vegas offers a feast of delights suited to any taste. So, before you retreat to the television, try these suggestions for a fun-filled Vegas trip.

And if you're one of those types who worries you'll look like a loser if you do anything alone, don't worry about flying solo here. There's so much going on that no one will notice or care that you're not teamed up. They'll be too busy trying to spot a celebrity, or talk their own sweetie out of gambling away the plane tickets home, to give you a second thought.

1. TEST YOUR LUCK

Gambling--or gaming as they call it now--is still king in Las Vegas. There are three basic options for gaming: slot machines, video poker, and table games.

Slot machines, once called one-armed bandits, are extremely popular because they require no skill and no thought to play. Place your coin in the slot, press the button (pulling the arm on the slot machine is definitely five minutes ago), and wait to see whether you win or lose.

Slot machines accept denominations from pennies to hundreds of dollars. And don't worry about finding a theme to suit you. Gone are the days of monotonous apples, cherries, and oranges. Today, you can play games based on every possible topic from alien invasions to fairy tales to hillbillies to jinxes to sevens. Whichever machine you choose, always place the maximum bet. You'll win more if you hit a jackpot. Find a machine near a lounge, and you can listen to live music, drink the casino's alcohol (no charge, it's a comp), and play to your heart's delight.

Video poker is played much like real poker, except you play only against the machine, and bluffing is not an option. You're dealt five cards, and have an option to "hold" any, all, or none of them. The cards you haven't held are then discarded and replaced with new cards. If you have a high enough hand, the machine pays off. Strategy is easy to pick up, and if you're stumped, plastic cards outlining basic video poker strategies are available in almost every gift shop. When playing video poker, it's smart to choose the machines with the largest payouts. Again, always bet maximum credits.

Table games such as blackjack, craps, roulette, Pai Gow poker, baccarat, casino war, etc. are intimidating for some people because they require interaction with dealers and other players. For instance, a friend of mine who is a whiz at blackjack strategy on paper, won't go near the tables because she's afraid the dealer will be mean to her if she's slow. These fears are largely unfounded. Dealers depend on gratuities for a good part of their income, and as a result, most are friendly and helpful and some will even offer advice on basic strategy. If you find yourself at a table where the dealer is unprofessional, move on to another table fast. Life is too short to be hassled by obnoxious dealers.

The best way to learn the rules of the table games is to attend the free lessons most casinos offer. You can also purchase strategy cards in souvenir shops. When you join a table, don't be nervous about telling the dealer you're a beginner. He or she will be glad to guide you through the first few hands.

2. TAKE IN THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF THE STRIP

Gaming not your thing? Don't give up hope. Even if you never touch a slot machine or go near a blackjack table, there's plenty to see in Las Vegas. Whether you think it's trash or treasure, you have to be a little impressed by a city that claims a pyramid, a castle, a palace, the Eiffel Tower, the streets of Venice, a circus, and an Italian village all in less than twenty square miles.

Sightseeing on the Strip is best done after the sun goes down. In daylight, the city looks a little shabby and silly. At night, the lights come on and her beauty shines through.



Start with a trip to the south end of the Strip to admire Excalibur, the shining white castle with neon turrets; the Luxor, a black pyramid beaming a single ray of light into the night; and the deliciously green MGM Grand. If you want to explore inside a casino, save yourself for New York, New York. It's built inside and outside to reproduce the bustling streets of the Big Apple.

As you reach the middle strip, take some time to stop and watch the choreographed fountains of the Bellagio writhe and pump to music. Even if you have to wait a few minutes for the next show, it's well worth your time.

In the mid-Strip, you'll also find the Flamingo Hotel of Bugsy Siegel days. Although the hotel has been remodeled and redecorated so often that Mr. Siegel probably wouldn't recognize it, it's still an interesting piece of Vegas history. Across the street, Caesars Palace offers stunning views of ancient Rome.

Also of interest in the middle of the strip is the Mirage. Go inside through the moving walkway (not the front entrance), and find yourself face to face with a white tiger or lion from the menagerie of Siegfried and Roy. Although these two popular magicians are no longer performing, the Mirage continues to offer a gift shop dedicated to their work and conservation efforts.

Next door to the Mirage is the TI (formerly Treasure Island, before Vegas decided to lose it's family theme). In the evenings--weather conditions permitting--you can stop here for a free show, The Sirens of TI.

The north part of the Strip is not as well developed as the south and middle parts of the Strip are. When Steve Wynn opens his new resort in April 2005, the standards of the neighborhood may improve, but for now, satisfy yourself with the thought that you're seeing Vegas history. The Riviera (built in 1955), the Sahara (1952), the Frontier (1952), and the Stardust (1958) are some of the oldest hotels on the Strip. Circus Circus and the Stratosphere are also worth a look.

3. RELAX IN THE LOUNGES

Las Vegas has a huge selection of lounges where you can relax, have a quiet drink, and listen to live entertainment. My personal favorites are Shadows, at Caesars Palace, where you can watch the silhouetted forms of seemingly nude dancers perform feats of grace and imagination; and the AVA lounge at the Mirage which offers a serene tropical setting and an amazing selection of drinks. You might also consider Cleopatra's barge at Caesars Palace, as there's a rumor that touching the breasts of the figure carved into the front of the barge will bring you luck with your gambling.

4. GO TO A SHOW

Las Vegas has come into its own as an entertainment presence, with amazing magical and musical features--and often prices to match.

Want to see a production of Cirque du Soleil? You're in the right place. Cirque currently has four shows running in Las Vegas (Mystere, TI; O, Bellagio; Zumanity, New York, New York; and KA, MGM Grand). Interested in Celine Dion or Elton John? They have their own theater at Caesars Palace. Is magic more your thing? Try Penn and Teller (Rio), Rick Thomas (Tropicana) and Lance Burton (Monte Carlo). Looking for topless dancers? Check out Jubilee! (Bally's), La Femme (MGM Grand), or Midnight Fantasy (Luxor). And don't forget the musicals, comedy, male erotic dancing, impersonations, and shows that defy categorization.

If there's a show you absolutely want to see on your trip, it's better to book tickets in advance than risk being disappointed by a "sold out" sign at the box office. But if you're fairly flexible, you might consider trying a service like Tickets2Nite, located at the Showcase Mall beside the MGM Grand, or Tix4Tonight, located in the Fashion Show Mall. These services buy tickets that have not sold for same day shows at a deep discount and pass some of that discount on to the consumer. This is where being a single traveler can work to your advantage. It's much easier to find ONE good seat to a popular show than it is to find two or more.

So, there you have it. Four tips for enjoying your solo trip to Las Vegas. Take care and have fun!

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