Nightlife in Las Vegas: the club scene

by Julia Buckley

Where to go clubbing in Sin City.

Las Vegas’ clubs are some of the best known in the USA, thanks to their almost weekly appearances in the gossip magazines. They’re as celeb-studded as you’d think – actors, models, sports stars and people who are famous for being famous will either be partying (in the VIP area) or “hosting” – which can be anything from performing, giving a quick shout out to the crowd or simply being in the room.

Entry is strictly controlled – you need to dress up (the uniforms are largely shirts and jeans for guys, and belt-like dresses for girls) and get there early (around 11.30pm) to get in fastest. For (slightly) cheaper entry, it’s worth getting on the guestlist – either by passing by the club on another night or asking your hotel concierge to put you on there (it’s much easier if you’re staying at the same hotel) – though not essential, as guestlist lines are often as long as, if not longer, than the standard entry queues.

The people on the door can pretty much charge what they like for entry – another reason to dress up, as they can hike the prices up if your appearance doesn’t appeal. And try and get as many women in your party as possible – all guy groups will be kept waiting for a long time at the door, in the hope that you’ll buy a VIP table with bottle service (where your minimum spend will be about US$300 - each). It’s excruciatingly expensive, but on the plus side, you might end up on the table next to whichever celeb is in the club.

Pretty much every hotel has a club, but the hottest one in 2010 has been Surrender at the Wynn (3121 Las Vegas Blvd S, 702 770 7300, www.surrendernightclub.com), which opened in May. It’s nothing like the clubs you’ll be used to back home – a small room with a dance floor opens out onto the magnificent Encore Beach Club complex (pools, palm trees, VIP bungalows and an open air gaming section).

Another newbie, Haze (3730 Las Vegas Blvd S, 702 693 8300, www.lightgroup.com) in the basement at Aria – it opened in December 00, has a great atmosphere (it’s probably my favourite club), although it’s not so easy on the eye as most of the other Vegas clubs – it reminds me of a huge hangar with a tiny podium in the middle of the dancefloor for the celeb hosts.

Vanity at the Hard Rock (4455 Paradise Road, 702 693 5555, www.vanitylv.com) completes the trio of new clubs. Like Haze, it opened last December, and while it’s smaller than most other clubs in Vegas, no expense has been spared on the decor – it’s a glam affair of mirrors, a vast chandelier and what are probably the prettiest loos in Vegas.

Of the other clubs, Pure at Caesars Palace (3570 Las Vegas Blvd S, 702 731 7873, www.purethenightclub.com) is perennially popular (I’m not a fan of the downstairs dancefloor, but I adore the balcony upstairs, which has unbeatable views of the Strip), XS at Wynn (3131 Las Vegas Blvd S, 702 770 0097, www.xslasvegas.com) is another outdoor club set around a pool, LAX at the Luxor (3900 Las Vegas Blvd S, 702 262 4529, www.laxthenightclub.com) is always good for a night out with a younger, more studenty crowd. And after you’ve danced your way through those, the place to finish the weekend is Drai’s (3595 Las Vegas Blvd S, 702 737 0555, www.drais.net), in the basement of cheap casino Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall, opposite Caesars, It only opens at 1am and it’s invariably where clubbers and celebs end up burning the early morning oil.

You can also read advice on Nightlife in Las Vegas: the shows or visit Nightlife in Las Vegas: where to drink.

Where to stay

You can see my full list of recommendations here – Las Vegas Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Las Vegas.

Julia Buckley

I edit VegasChatter, Conde Nast’s Vegas blog, and work as a freelance journalist for newspapers such as the Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Guardian, News of the World and various websites and magazines.

Ironically, I’d never had any interest in going to Vegas but when I took a road trip across America last summer, I thought I may as well pop by for three days. Ten days later, I forced myself back on the road, obsessed about Vegas all the way across America, and was over the moon when, somewhere in Mississippi, I found out that the newspaper that I worked for was to be closed down. Instead of looking for another job in London, I came home, packed up my stuff, and caught a plane back to Vegas to start life as a freelance.

My Vegas

Where I always grab a coffee: On the terrace at Serendipity 3. The service is great, the views of the Strip are spectacular, and if I’m tempted to grab some food, too, I have a two foot high menu to choose from.

My favourite stroll: The Moenkopi loop at Red Rock Canyon. It’s a short two mile trail from the Visitor Centre and back, across desert land and up onto a limestone bluff that was once a seabed millions of years ago. There’s hardly anyone there, the views are extraordinary, and you feel completely disconnected from the craziness of Vegas. When it’s not too hot, I’m there every day.

Fiction for inspiration: There are many, of course, but my favourite is probably Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S Thompson – it really encapsulates the spirit of the city and the freedom it unleashes in people (you don’t have to be on a shedload of drugs to relate to this!). I’m also really fond of Divas Las Vegas, by Belinda Jones – it’s a fun chicklit book, and although I’m not usually into that genre at all, I have yet to find a better introduction to the city - she used to live here and her love for the place is really infectious.

Where to be seen: Encore Beach Club – the private pool at the Encore hotel (even guests have to pay to get in) was the biggest opening this summer, and it’s still the place to be seen. If you’d rather go out at night, rather than lounge by a pool, you’ll be pleased to know that at nighttime they open up an adjacent room and turn it into a poolside nightclub called Surrender. It’s definitely where all the cool kids are going this year.

The most breathtaking view: On the way back from the Hoover Dam (or the Grand Canyon) on the 515 highway from Boulder City, there’s a point, as you swing round past Henderson (a suburb of Vegas) where the Strip, with the mountains behind it, suddenly comes into view. It makes my eyes prickle every time – and as you get closer, switching onto the 215 west, the views only get better.

The best spot for peace and quiet: The gardens at the Flamingo Las Vegas – and no, you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy them, as you can walk straight in. Lots of grass, plenty of nooks, and bright pink flamingos stalking by.

Shopaolics beware: I spend far too much time at Nordstrom Rack, the cut price outlet version of the posh department store, Nordstrom. It’s a 20 minute drive from the Strip in the suburb of Henderson, but if you buy a few things, it’s worth the taxi ride or the cost of the car hire. I’m also addicted to America’s Primark, Century 21 – the new flagship store in Fashion Show Mall is like a second home to me, and prices are so low that my credit card barely registers my presence there.

City soundtrack: So many options! To remind me of Vegas as I like it (laid back but elegant), anything by Frank Sinatra. And if you want to experience the thriving rock music scene here, you can’t do better than The Killers.

Don’t leave without… Going into the desert, and seeing a show. It doesn’t matter if you’re not sporty, or you don’t like musicals – the desert will floor you, and the shows are so infectious you can’t not love them. My favourite at the moment is Vegas! The Show at the Miracle Mile mall.