Las Vegas Insider: The Ultimate Guide
The first installment in EDGE's Las Vegas Insider series, Jim McMichael from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor's Authority offers his picks for where, when and how to experience the best of Vegas.
It'll be 12 years this March since Jim McMichael, Specialty Markets Manager for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), headed west from Florida for the desert oasis that now welcomes more than 42 million visitors per year.
Driven by world-class hospitality, Las Vegas draws a global community of entrepreneurs, chefs, and performing artists who arrive with fresh ideas who are setting the standard for the tourism community, but also contributing to a community that McMichael describes as very supportive and philanthropic.
Tasked with cultivating the destination's connection with the LGBT community, McMichael highlights the caliber of restaurant and entertainment options as a major draw and also encourages visitors to explore neighborhoods and outlying areas.
"Everyone knows Vegas, but they don't know Vegas," says McMichael of the vast offerings beyond the Strip. "When I have friends visiting and I show them around, they always ask afterwards 'Why haven't I seen this?'"
Mark Your Calendar: Pride & Beyond
Mark Your Calendar: Pride and Beyond
If you're looking to amp up your LGBT intake beyond the usual fabulousness that exudes any time of year, McMichael recommends syncing your travel plans with one of these key events:
Las Vegas PRIDE - More than 10,000 attendees participate in the downtown PRIDE Parade (which in true Vegas fashion, is at night) and Festival, which takes place at Sunset Park and packed with two entertainment stages and more than 100 exhibitors. October 2017. www.lasvegaspride.org
BiggerVegas - Go big or go home... or go bigger, as the organizers of BiggerVegas say. Described as "one of the largest social events for chubby gay men and their admirers." Held at the Tuscany Suites & Casino, the weekend promises multiple parties, grill-outs, and the new addition of seminars including appearances by notable gay authors Dan Olivero ("The Round World") and Phillip Barragan ("Fatizen 24602"). July 4-10, 2017. www.biggervegas.com
Sin City Shootout - One of the largest sporting events in the world, Sin City Shootout draws more than 9,000 participants competing in 25 different sports. From wrestling to darts, there's a place for anyone who wants to participate, along with plenty of opportunities to flirt with the competition. January 2018. www.sincityshootout.com
Under the Covers
When it comes to accommodations, Las Vegas offers a choice of more than 149,000 rooms. From budget-friendly digs to lie your head after the day's full-throttle adventures to luxurious suites where you'll likely take advantage of spa amenities and room service, the options are endless. Fortunately, McMichael offers some of his favorite staycation spots and suggests that you consider the kind of vibe you're looking for and book a property that will complement that experience.
Wynn Las Vegas and Encore at Wynn Las Vegas - Described by McMichael as "the epitome of perfection," the sister properties are packed with amenities, including chef-driven restaurants by Mark LoRusso (Costa di Mare) and David Walzog (SW Steakhouse), three-acre lake, and plenty of opportunities to spend your winnings at upscale outposts of Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Cartier.
Be sure to add a few extra days to your stay and head just 20 miles off the Strip to experience The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa. Nestled on the beautiful shores of Lake Las Vegas, the property boasts plenty of outdoor activities such as kayaking and outdoor yoga, or head to the adjacent Reflection Bay Golf Club to have a swing on the recently restored course.
For a more low-key setting to "unwind and kick off your shoes" as McMichael suggests, head to The Boulevard Pool at The Cosmopolitan. The social scene buzzes, but be sure to take in the panoramic views of The Las Vegas Strip.
To truly unplug, Delano Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay offers luxurious one-bedroom suites where you can lounge and reboot for the night's adventures, or head to The BATHHOUSE Spa, a 14,000-square-foot oasis where you can experience signature "Global Journeys" treatments, which highlight healing rituals from around the world.
Save Room For Dessert
Las Vegas's restaurant scene is a royal flush for culinary enthusiasts who want to experience the world's best chefs. McMichael highlights two of his favorites:
Giada - Celebrity chef and author Giada De Laurentiis has only one coveted restaurant, a sun-flooded dining room decked out in soothing shades of cream and taupe. "The food is absolutely amazing," McMichael says of the menu featuring her personal take on Italian classics such as red wine risotto and veal chop Saltimbocca.
Harvest by Roy Ellamar - One of the newest openings at Bellagio, this farm-to-table restaurant sources from local farmers and organizes the menu into categories such as Garden, Ocean and Ranch.
Want more tips from Vegas insiders? Keep an eye out for future Insider Guides all year long, as well as upcoming guides for weddings, honeymoons and anniversaries.