Las Vegas Boulevard has grown from a gamble of its own into a gambler’s paradise ever since the Flamingo opened its doors in 1946.
Over that span, classic casinos on the Las Vegas Strip like the Aladdin, the Dunes, and the Riviera have all came and went, having been replaced by Planet Hollywood, the Bellagio, and the Las Vegas Global Business District, respectively.
A corporate building spree in the 1990s saw The Strip transform like never before, with glitzy mega-casino resorts springing from the desert sands to dominate the landscape. Today, driving through The Strip for the first time – with its iconic neon lights and massive facades – has become a time-honored tradition among gamblers and tourists alike.
But with 28 unique casino properties lining Las Vegas Boulevard nowadays, finding your way to the perfect stay has become quite difficult.
Each of the properties found in this world-famous gambling district offers a distinct vibe, based on its overall theme, the culinary options on its menu, luxury amenities, non-gambling entertainment options, and odds furnished to gamblers. And if you don’t know one place from the next, it can be all too easy to spend your precious trip to Sin City staying somewhere that doesn’t really do it for you.
On that note, I recently had the pleasure of enjoying an extended stay on The Strip, so I made it my mission to visit all 28 casinos for myself. What follows is a completely subjective ranking, based on my own experiences alone, of the top seven casinos you’ll encounter when you visit The Strip for yourself.
1 – Wynn
One of the few venues not falling under the MGM Resorts or Caesars Entertainment umbrella, Wynn is the namesake of former casino mogul Steve Wynn.
Simply put, Las Vegas wouldn’t be what it is today without Wynn’s guidance, as his glory days produced fixtures like the Mirage and the Bellagio on The Strip, as well as Golden Nugget in the Downtown district.
But after selling those properties off and launching his own company, Wynn Resorts, the influential architect of modern Las Vegas built the Wynn Las Vegas in 2005.
Everything about this place impressed me, from the ultra-chic décor and luxurious setting to the top-notch service delivered with a smile.
Even so, you don’t have to book a room here to pay a visit to the Wynn and see what all the fuss is about.
2 – Venetian
Another casino built as a monument to one man, the Venetian is the brainchild of multibillionaire gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson wanted the Venetian to be the biggest and best casino on The Strip when it opened in 1999, and his $1.3 billion investment certainly shows even today.
Personally, I enjoy the blend of modern luxury with Old World stylings, as the Venetian is themed around Venice and its famous canals. You can even take a gondola ride through the outdoor canal recreation, which offers the perfect place for a romantic date.
And if you’re a poker player, don’t forget to hit the Venetian Poker Room, home to many of the most popular tournament series among the local pros.
3 – Aria (CityCenter)
Whenever I want to feel young again, I find myself hitting the town at Aria, one of the newer casinos to go up on The Strip.
Aria opened in 2009 as part of the ambitious CityCenter project, a mixed-use area combining hotel towers and attached casino with permanent living spaces, a high-end outlet mall, and so much more.
The beauty of enjoying an evening at the Aria is that you don’t even need to gamble as this place offers the full spectrum of amenities on the side. Spas, buffets, nightclubs – what more could you ask for when visiting the Las Vegas Strip?
This blend of gambling and non-gambling offerings might be why Aria has become so popular with the 20-something crowd since it opened.
But if gambling is what floats your boat, Aria also has that covered in spades with low-limit tables and player-friendly odds across the board.
4 – Encore
If you like what you see at the Wynn, why not double-dip by visiting its sister property, Encore?
From the exterior, Encore is a carbon copy of the Wynn, hence the pun in its name. In other words, the Wynn worked out so well for Steve that he decided to go for two by building a tribute to the original.
Between the regular AAA Five Diamond awards doled out to Encore and its world-famous Encore Beach Nightclub, this place quickly became one of my personal favorites upon my first visit.
5 – Caesars Palace
An oldie, but a goodie, Caesars Palace has been one of The Strip’s staple destinations since opening in 1966.
If you’ve ever seen the hit comedy “The Hangover,” you’re already well familiar with Caesars Palace (and no, the real Caesar didn’t live here). You’d be forgiven for pulling an Alan and asking though, because the exterior and interior combine to form one of the more faithful cultural recreations found on The Strip.
Everything here is colossal in size and scope, giving gamblers the feeling that they’ve gone back in time to the Roman Empire’s glory days.
And don’t forget to bring an empty stomach before hitting the Bacchanal Buffet, which routinely takes top honors as the best all-you-can-eat spread in Sin City.
6 – Bellagio
Beginning with the dancing fountain show outside which wows tourists from all over the world and followed by the gorgeous Dale Chihuly hand-blown glass exhibit Fiori di Como that covers more than 2,000 square feet, the Bellagio is a casino unlike any other.
The MGM Resorts owned Bellagio is a monument to everything The Strip should be, providing gamblers and non-gamblers alike with an endless array of entertainment options. Simply put, you could spend a full week at the Bellagio and leave with an unmistakable urge to come back at the earliest opportunity.
From the high-stakes area, “Bobby’s Room,” where poker legends like Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey can be seen in their natural habitat to the full-scale shopping mall seamlessly integrated within the overall property, you owe it to yourself to see everything this amazing casino destination has to offer firsthand.
7 – Planet Hollywood
You’ll come for the affordable rooms and player-friendly gambling, but you’ll stay for Miracle Mile, a Willy Wonka-like drag encompassing all the shopping your heart desires.
Planet Hollywood represents the perfect ideal for a “mid-range” stay on The Strip, combining a luxurious feel with low prices, while never sacrificing customer service as a result.
And if you’re a fan of the famous live shows held daily in most major casinos on The Strip, check out The Mezzanine at Planet Hollywood for the time of your life.
I even got to take my teenage daughter to see Gwen Stefani, of “No Doubt” fame, from the front row, all without breaking the bank. Winning jackpots on the slots is always a treat but seeing your kid’s face light up with a smile when the curtain goes up is what makes Planet Hollywood a real winner in my book.
Visiting the fabulous Las Vegas Strip is always a mixed bag. Depending on your personal preferences when it comes to entertainment, dining, shopping, and of course, gambling, one mega-casino resort on The Strip can offer a completely different experience than the one right next door.
Throw in pricing considerations, service and staff, loyalty programs, and other features, and it typically takes tourists at least three trips to get their bearings. I only hope that this seven-venue Part I installment of my personal experience touring all 28 properties found on Las Vegas Boulevard can help make that task a little bit easier.