You probably saw some of those photos and videos on social media channels showing crowded Vegas casinos on the first days and nights of reopening. Many Downtown and off-Strip resorts threw open their doors at midnight on June 4, while the bigger Strip spots waited until that morning to welcome guests.
You probably have mixed feelings about those images—happy to see a portion of the Valley’s hospitality industry back on the job, smiles covered by masks, but a bit concerned or maybe outright afraid of crowds returning to casinos, bars and restaurants. You probably noticed many of those guests were not wearing masks and did not appear to be maintaining distance from one another.
I was on the Strip at several different properties throughout that reopening day, and I have mixed feelings, too. I’d like to see a lot more Vegas visitors taking care of the workers who take care of them, the dedicated and passionate people who truly create the experiences that drew so many travelers back so soon. But this was only the first weekend. People need to take a break from reality, and this is the best place to do it. I have to believe customers will follow guidelines more closely and take better advantage of the safety tools and protocols supplied by casinos.
We all understand there are lots of people out there who simply aren’t ready to travel and visit Las Vegas yet, just as there are many locals who don’t feel completely comfortable revisiting their favorite neighborhood restaurants, taverns and favorite gaming spots yet. But if you’re interested in the Strip right now, you might discover a different experience that suits you better than the Vegas you remember.
I’ve spent the past four years attending and writing about the biggest, loudest, craziest entertainment events to ever occur in Las Vegas. Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and Aerosmith residency concert spectaculars at Park Theater. Sold-out Vegas Golden Knights games at T-Mobile Arena. Weekend food and music festivals that take over entire resorts and hedonistic Memorial Day pool club parties with thousands of revelers. They are amazing and exhausting, and none of them can happen right now.
I’m 43 years old. I see tourists my age and older (and sometimes younger) making their way through the casinos and malls and crowded Strip spaces, trying to get around all that excitement and traffic to the Vegas stuff for which they came. Sometimes it’s a bit much. Don’t misunderstand: We need that big stuff, and it’s coming back soon. But if you prefer a more relaxing Vegas vacation, if you’ve ever fought your way to a restaurant or spa or store on Las Vegas Boulevard while wishing things would calm down a little bit, today’s Strip is yours for the taking.
There are fewer people everywhere. Hotel guests can still go to the pool, where there’s music and drink service, but there is no booming bass from the dayclub. You can still see a live band and terrific singers performing at the Mayfair Supper Club at Bellagio and relax with a cocktail and some DJ-curated tunes at Encore’s Eastside Lounge, but those elegant venues will be at half capacity or less.
Roaming through one of the Strip’s luxury malls has never been more tranquil, and if you’re actually spending money, it feels like a VIP private shopping experience. And contrary to some reports, you don’t have to make a reservation to dine at a fancy restaurant. You can keep it spontaneous at some resorts and just show up. And instead of waiting, you can cruise the casino until you get a text message alert that your table is ready.
There’s a different energy in each of these spaces absent the buzz of nightlife, which includes shows, concerts and clubs. But without that one thing to plan your night around, there’s a new kind of freedom. Nothing is necessary. You don’t have to be anywhere, anytime. You can stick to your own hotel and really explore its offerings, or deep dive into Strip scenery and all the amenities elsewhere. (The highest concentration of current activity is the center Strip stretch of the Cosmopolitan, Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Flamingo.)
If you come to Vegas for the fabulous service and hospitality, that part should be better than ever. Those smiling masked people have never been more excited to see you and will likely go beyond “above and beyond” to make your return a memorable celebration. All you have to do is show up. And when you think of all the Vegas fun you’ve had, remember why that happened and who was responsible.