Viva Las Vegas with Rick Garman

1. Where is the best place to try your luck if you’re not an experienced gambler?

People who haven’t had a lot of experience with games of chance may want to avoid the fancier casinos on The Strip, where the action at the tables is often serious, impatient, and expensive. It’s better to go Downtown where the limits are lower and the players and dealers are often friendlier. Tell them you’re a “newbie” and you’ll get all the help you need. Many of the casinos in Las Vegas, big and small, offer gaming lessons. You can inquire at the casino cashier cage or the players’ club desk for information.

2. What do you consider the top three shopping destinations in Vegas?

The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace are two of the most outrageous, must-see shopping destinations in the world, the former with a Venice theme complete with a canal and gondolas running up the center and the latter a Roman themed extravaganza. Beyond the visuals, both offer plenty of exciting, upscale stores that will give your credit cards a workout. If you’re looking for more of a bargain, head to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets near downtown where major retailers offer overstock and irregular merchandise at deep discounts.

3. What is the best dive bar in Vegas?

The Double Down Saloon is famous for its dive bar ethos and their motto, immortalized by a sign on the wall that reads “You puke, you clean.” It’s not for the faint of heart, but the crowd is a lot friendlier than you’d expect in this kind of joint, and the bands they book in are often fiercely talented.

4. What do you consider the best show in town?

It really depends on my mood and budget, but if you were to pin me down and force me to pick one I’d have to say “Mystere” by Cirque du Soleil. A mixture of circus style acts with avant garde performance art, the show is consistently satisfying even on repeat viewings. It’s the kind of show that will make you want to consult a thesaurus for new words to describe how amazing it is. Others that compete for my title of “best show in town” include Bette Midler, “KA” by Cirque du Soleil, “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” Rita Rudner, and Mac King.

5. If you can only visit for 24 hours, what’s the best way to spend such a small amount of time in such an action-packed city?

It should be obvious, but in case it’s not, choose a well-located hotel directly on The Strip. That’s where you’re going to find the bulk of the things you want to see. Spend the morning seeing the major sights, the afternoon shopping, the evening at a show, the late night at one of the fantastic clubs, and then stay up until dawn at your favorite slot machine or table game.

6. What do you consider the best place, or places, to stay on a budget?

Generally speaking, you have to get away from The Strip to find decent accommodations that won’t break the bank. In the Downtown area Main Street Station and The Golden Nugget offer nice rooms for a fraction of the cost of similar places on The Strip. Go farther into the north or east sides of town to find even better deals at hotel/casinos such as Santa Fe Station, Orleans, Boulder Station, and The Fiesta.

7. If you’re itching to get off the strip and explore, where should you go?

Again, it really depends on your mood and your budget. You could spend a day with nature and visit the Red Rock National Conservancy Area on the west side of Las Vegas, or Lake Mead on the east side of town. You could do a little shopping, eating, and golfing at the beautiful Lake Las Vegas area. Or you could simply check out the places that most locals go to for lower limit gambling and inexpensive buffets at the neighborhood casinos like Red Rock Station, Green Valley Ranch, Sunset Station, and more.

8. What are your top places for cheap eats?

You can usually not go wrong with a buffet. Because of the sheer amount of choices, you’re bound to find something you like. Of course, not all buffets are created equal, so the low-cost ones that are worth knowing about are the Main Street Station Garden Court Buffet, the Gold Coast Ports’o Call Buffet, The Santa Fe Station Feast Buffet, and the Cannery Row Buffet.

9. What’s the best way to get around town?

If you’re staying for only a couple of days and plan to stay on The Strip, then a combination of walking, the Deuce bus system, and the Las Vegas Monorail are your best (and cheapest) bets. If you’re there for a longer period of time and want to explore more of the city, then a rental car is a must. Yes, traffic can be nightmarish — but parking is free and plentiful everywhere, and it’s cheaper than taking cabs all over town.

10. If you’re going to Vegas for the weekend, what should you not forget to pack?

A pair of comfortable shoes is probably tops on the list — you don’t want to be walking up and down The Strip in those stilettos you are planning on wearing out to the club. Other than that, most Las Vegas hotel rooms offer everything from irons to shampoo to robes, and if it isn’t in the room there are a dozen places nearby for you to pick up what you may have forgotten.

11. When is the best time of the year to visit?

If you’re looking for the best bargains in terms of room rates then late summer (July and August), the weeks leading up to Christmas, and parts of January and February are usually the cheapest. Of course those are also the times with the worst weather (hot or cold) and the fewest options for entertainment as many shows go on hiatus and restaurants close in the slower periods. If you are looking for good weather with lots of things to do, try late spring (April and May) or fall (September and October). As you might expect, however, those are the busiest times of year and room rates will reflect that.

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