What happens in Las Vegas? Well, for many of the more than 40 million who travel there each year – including about 8 million are international visitors – it’s four days and three nights of luxury resorts and casinos, nearly every type of entertainment and show, shopping at some of the best stores, world class dining and celebrity chefs, indulgent spa treatments, hotel swimming pools and golf. And many of us visit there for business travel, meetings and events.
If you’re visiting this city known as the entertainment capital of the world, there’s a good chance that you will either be staying along or near The Strip (Las Vegas Blvd.) or downtown Las Vegas (Freemont Street).
There are roughly 40 hotels along The Strip – which is filled with 4- and 5-star hotels – and 20 more in downtown Las Vegas. And it’s relatively easy to find a hotel to fit nearly every budget.
Of course, you’ll want to explore Vegas, either by walking The Strip (or Freemont Street), taking cabs (or car services) or there’s even an option to transfer between some hotels on the south end of the strip using a tram. And the people watching is great.
Las Vegas and The Strip have a couple dozen shopping malls, more than 150 shows, more than 60 golf courses and dozens of wedding chapels.
By now, nearly everyone knows that the days of cheap buffets are over (and that’s a good thing). But it’s possible to plan and organize an amazing and unforgettable experience (unless what happens in Vegas still needs to stay in Vegas) on all budgets.
Las Vegas Meetings and Events
While Las Vegas is definitely a business-friendly city for the meetings industry, roughly 10 percent of those who visit Las Vegas primarily do so to attend a convention, trade show or corporate meeting. More than 5 million attended 22,000 conventions in 2014, according to data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
It certainly helps that the city and its variety of offerings can lure the interest of those who are considering whether or not to attend. And about 4 in 10 use this as an opportunity to bring a spouse, family member or friend who is not part of the program.
For meeting professionals, Las Vegas really has their pick of options. Nearly every mega hotel along the strip (as well as those in the greater Las Vegas area) has the meeting space, venues, dining, entertainment and guest room options to host everything from an incentive program to a large international conventions.
Las Vegas Hotels
In my opinion, if you’re going to Vegas for business reasons, you’re going to focus your attention to the strip and those hotels that are nearby. And each of the mega hotels along Las Vegas Blvd. are self-contained resorts and each tends to have its own niche and theme. To be honest, I totally fall for that approach.
We all know that we’re not at a hotel that’s in the various cities and countries represented in the mix. Instead, you have an elaborate hotel that embraces the best and most popular qualities of the destinations rising from this desert city. And then each Vegas mega hotel usually has enough of everything you’d want – pools, spas, gaming, restaurants, shows, bars, nightclubs and more — to capture your attention for three nights that you may not even leave the property (that has happened several times on my visits).
And when it comes to meetings and conventions and catering to planners and business travelers, a few considerations include:
Aria (Center Strip). This 5-star mega hotel is part of MGM’s CityCenter complex, one of the world’s largest green developments (opened December 2009). It’s theme? Aria is a sustainable urban oasis concept – that means you aren’t approaching a concept hotel based on other parts of the world. Instead, it’s a unique, curved glass tower that you’ll find in any major city of the world. The lobby and ground level s surrounded by an impressive wall of windows. Guest rooms also have their own wall of windows. They are upscale and contemporary in design – with all of the technical gadgets you’d expect – and have a neutral palette. For meetings and events, the Aria Convention Center offers 300,000 square feet of space, including four ballrooms (20,000 to 50,000 square feet), 36 meeting and executive rooms.
Encore (North Strip). This 5-star mega hotel is part of the Wynn Las Vegas complex next door. Encore combines Asian influence with fun extravagance. Red chandeliers and flowers can be seen throughout the lobby and casino areas. Unlike other hotels in Vegas, the casino is understated, but there are plenty of options. Guest rooms are modern and have pillow-top beds (you can buy one if you’d like from their shop in the Esplanade), and there’s a Tower Suite that has a private entrance and check-in. The Encore Spa .Encore is For meetings and events, Encore’s convention space is added to Wynn to create 260,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. This area overlooks pools and gardens, as well as the Tom Fazio 18-hole golf course. all of the meeting rooms are open and all ballrooms have windows and patios. Plus, all catering is made fresh on premise.
Mandalay Bay (South Strip). This 5-star mega hotel has a tropical theme and caters to conventions and business events. Upon entry, you’re greeted by palm trees and a salt water tank that’s a teaser of the much larger Shark Reef Aquarium). Guest rooms in the Mandalay Bay Tower Rooms and Suites are vibrant, comfortable and contemporary in style with floor to ceiling windows. And have to say that the It is also here where you will find the Four Seasons Hotel Rooms & Suites as well as the Delano Las Vegas (opened in 2014, formerly THEhotel). For spa-goers, I have to say that the Mandalay Bay Spa is one of the best on The Strip. But, as initially mentioned, there’s a good chance you’re choosing or staying at Mandalay Bay because of its meetings capabilities. With 1.7 million square feet of space, it’s one of the biggest convention centers in Las Vegas.
Palazzo (North Strip). This Italian-themed, 5-star mega hotel has more than 3,000 guest rooms (generous in size, even by Vegas standards) and suites on 50 floors. It’s attached to the Sands Expo Center and connected to its sister hotel, The Venetian. Dining at the Palazzo is amazing: Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang (among others) have restaurants here. Speaking of which, the Tao Nightclub and Lavo Casino Clubs are great for nightlife. Plus Canyon Ranch, one of the best spas, is directly accessed through the Palazzo. For meetings and events, the Palazzo is part of the Sands Expo and Convention Center, owned and created by Sheldon Adelson, whose business career is rooted in the trade show industry (and the meeting and convention spaces truly cater to this industry).
The Las Vegas Strip is also home to many other impressive hotels. A few others I’ve visited for various reasons or stayed at include:
- Caesars Palace
- Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
- New York-New York
- Paris Las Vegas
- Treasure Island
- The Venetian
- Vdara Las Vegas
- Wynn Las Vegas
Best Spas in Las Vegas
Wellness enthusiasts already know that Las Vegas is a spa retreat. There are literally dozens here, and its seems to me that the spas are one of the city’s best kept secrets. But I’ve done my best to kick back and enjoy a range of treatments whenever I visit. Their changing areas are fully supplied with everything you need and the lounges are fully stocked. Some suggestions that I highly recommend to get you started:
- Canyon Ranch SpaClub at The Venetian & The Palazzo. If there’s one spa name that’s universally recognized it’s Canyon Ranch. And this is probably one of the biggest spas (and most popular) on The Strip. The Aquavana water and thermal environments alone are worth your time and visit – I’m a huge fan of it. But wellness is incorporated to your overall experience here – wet areas, treatments, fitness, salon services and dining. I’ve had a gentleman’s facial as well as a reiki treatment here. IF you’d like, the hotels’ pool are also just outside.
- Encore Spa. Continuing the hotel’s Asian theme, this spa offers the ultimate in personal comfort in an inspiring setting of elegance and luxury. The changing rooms are generous in size with large saunas and steam rooms. You’re then led through a corridor of gold lanterns and life-sized Buddhas to your treatment room. I visited when the hotel and spa first opened, and I enjoyed a sandalwood body scrub ritual that included a hot stone massage and then a gentleman’s facial. Encore Spa also has a full-service salon and boutique.
- ESPA at Vdara. Located in the all-suite, non-gaming, smoke-free, eco-friendly Vdata (behind Aria and part of CityCenter), ESPA has 18,000 square feet on two floors. Begin in the wet spa, which includes a sauna, eucalyptus steam room and whirlpool. Follow this with one of ESPA’s various treatment services (I had a men’s facial). The also have a full-service salon and boutique.
- Spa Bellagio. With 65,000 square feet of space, I’ve had an opportunity relax and enjoy the spa’s men’s wet area, including hot and cold plunge pools. Spa Bellagio offers a complete menu of services, including massage therapies, body treatments, facials, hydrotherapies, salon services, barber services and a fitness center.
- Spa Mandalay. Located on the hotel’s beach level, the 30,000 square foot, tropical-themed spa has 21 treatment rooms and separate lounges — plus a separate fitness center. After changing, use the wet areas here (they’re great): four whirlpools – two hot, one warm and one cold (use each) – as well as a sauna and steam room. To be honest, my experience was extremely private, only seeing four or five other guys while I was there. This was followed by a gentleman’s facial. Afterward, you can relax and watch TV in the lounge before heading to your next activity.
- The Spa at Mandarin Oriental. Guided by the hotel’s Asian heritage, the spa is located on two floors, offering a full range of treatment options as well as fitness and yoga facilities. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted with sandals and tea before you’re escorted to the changing facilities. Then you can enjoy the heat and wet areas – when I visited, I actually had the space completely to myself! Then I was taken to my scheduled treatments: a Chinese foot spa that reflects the Eastern ritual of welcoming and honoring guests into a home, followed by a relaxing massage for my feet and lower legs. I was then escorted to my facial, shoulder and neck massage. The host attendants here provide excellent service and maintain complete attention to every detail.
Las Vegas Restaurants
Today, Las Vegas has the most comprehensive collection of the world’s top chefs and television icons are satisfying Las Vegas’ visitors appetites. A few include: Mario Batali, David Burke, Bobby Flay, Thomas Keller, Emeril Lagasse, Rick Moonen, Wolfgang Puck, Joël Robuchon and Jet Tila, among others.
Each of the resort hotels on The Strip have a full range restaurants and choices for cuisines. And I believe they all have their standard American restaurants that offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. If your heart is set on a buffet (and I’m not sure why it would be), I do strongly recommend the breakfast and brunch buffets at Wynn.
My best advice is to pick the type of restaurant you want (fine dining, casual, etc.), explore the options, make reservations (very important), and enjoy the dining experience. I try to get to Vegas once each year, and these are the restaurants I’d recommend:
- Aquanox (Seafood, Palazzo)
- Aureole (Steak & Seafood, Mandalay Bay)
- B&B Ristorante (Italian, Palazzo)
- Botero (Steakhouse, Encore)
- Fleur by Hubert Keller (World Small Plates, Mandalay Bay)
- Grand Lux Café (American, Palazzo and Venetian)
- I Love Burgers (American, Palazzo)
- Javier’s (Mexican, Aria)
- Lotus of Siam (Northern Thai, but it’s in a strip mall)
- Morels French Steakhouse & Bistro (Steakhouse, Palazzo)
- Sinatra (Modern Italian, Wynn)
- Spago (Italian, Caesars Palace)
- Tao Asian Bistro (Asian, Palazzo)
- Wazuzu (Asian, Encore)
Top Las Vegas Shows
There are roughly 150 shows at any given time in Las Vegas, so there’s likely an option that will meet your interests. The majority of hotels in Vegas each have their own shows and theaters, so you may not even have to beyond your hotel, but there’s a good chance you’ll want to. Based on my visits to Vegas, here are some recommendations to get you started:
Cirque du Soleil began its shows in Quebec City, Canada, but Las Vegas is currently home to eight permanent Cirque shows with MGM Resorts International and many of its hotels along The Strip. If you haven’t seen a Cirque to Soleil performance, each show incorporates music, illusion and acrobatics in a way that really stimulates your senses. And the shows run the gamut – fun, energy, sensuality (so choose the show that’s right for you).
- See our Michael Jackson ONE review at Mandalay Bay
- Other Las Vegas Cirque shows include Criss Angel Believe (Luxor), Ka (MGM Grand), The Beatles Love (The Mirage), O (Bellagio), Mystere (Treasure Island), Zarkana (ARIA), Zumanity (New York-New York)
Le Rêve – The Dream is an impressive show that takes place in an aqua theater-in-the-round. Le Rêve has been at the Wynn since the hotel opened, and every seat offers great views. The show is fun and humorous statement about love and loss, and the performance includes incredible feats of strength as every scene emerges from the pool, including a daring dance through water and fire elements. Le Rêve has been voted “Best Production Show in Las Vegas” for an unprecedented five consecutive years. You won’t go wrong.
The Colosseum at Ceasars Palace is home to some of the greatest performers in the world. It has been home to Celine Dion, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carrie, and Reba, Brooks & Dunn – as well as Bette Midler, Cher, Jerry Seinfeld and Stevie Nicks, among others. The theater seats up to 4,300 people, and offers an extraordinary experience. Check the Colosseum at Caesars events schedule.
Las Vegas Nightlife
Depending on your interests and schedule, you’ll find more than enough ways to spend your nights – from people watching and walking along Las Vegas Boulevard and Freemont Street to enjoying drinks and music at a lobby lounge to partying and dancing the night away at nightclubs to the sounds of celebrity DJs the light and dancing all night long at one of Vegas’ top nightclubs. If you’re looking for some great options “after hours,” check out:
- Bar at Times Square (New York-New York)
- Blush Nightclub (Wynn)
- Tao Nightclub (Palazzo)
- The Bank (Bellagio)
- Tryst Nightclub (Wynn)
- XS Nightclub (Encore)
Las Vegas Logistics
Chances are, you’ll be arriving in Las Vegas through McCarran International Airport.
Local destination management companies are also very efficient at staffing guides around the baggage and departure areas that you’ll easily notice them. They do a great job with pointing conference attendees to event shuttles (so, if you’re attending a convention or program, this is the best way to go to and from your hotel)
Hotels along The Strip are located about 10 minutes from McCarran, and it’s about another 15 minutes to downtown Vegas from there (depending on traffic, which can really cause delays).
In general, you can easily transfer to your hotel using group shuttles, taxis – which seems to be the most popular option with business travelers – or by using group shuttles (very cost effective), limousines or get your own car rental (my personal opinion is that there’s little reason to rent a car in Las Vegas unless you want to explore Nevada past the city borders).
Tip: In general, ask your taxi driver to use the most direct local streets to your hotel on the strip (which should cost less than $20) rather than the Las Vegas Freeway — which may be the quicker route, but could also double the fee, depending on your location.
Each of the venues and activities mentioned in our Las Vegas review offers a range of unique group events. Las Vegas allows the perfect mix of resorts, business and activities – productions, plays and musicals, comedies, music, concerts, golf, spas and more.
For more information about Las Vegas business travel, meetings and events, contact the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Updated. Previously published October 9, 2015.