Should I Visit Las Vegas In December Before Christmas?

Hi Ted,

Long time fan and reader of your newsletter. Love it! I’m thinking of coming to Las Vegas in December the week before Christmas but I’m flexible. When would you suggest? I always stay at Palazzo. Look forward to hearing from you.

Gary Pisani

Note: Gary is a long time member/subscriber to our Access Vegas Premium Insider Advantage. For about the price of a cup of coffee each month, Gary gets our Super Secret Deals list (hundreds of unpublished Las Vegas food and drink specials), our regular newsletter full of Las Vegas savings tips and tricks, plus our guarantee do do our very best to answer his Las Vegas questions. Be a smarter Las Vegas visitor next time. Join Today: Access Vegas Premium Insider Advantage

bellagio las vegas conservatory christmas
Bellagio Las Vegas Christmas Gardens Display.

Hi Gary,

Thanks for your longtime support! Great question. If you are flexible, the week before Christmas in Las Vegas can be one of the best times of the year to visit. Once the National Finals Rodeo leaves town (Dec. 7-16, 2017) and Christmas Eve, Las Vegas is the slowest you’ll see it all year. Here are the rest of the pros and cons:


– You’ll find some of the lowest room rates for Las Vegas hotels of the year. You can stay at the place you usually enjoy generally at a bit of a discount. Of this is a good time to shop around and maybe up your level of accommodations simply because the price will often be right.

– Elbow room. Everything (except the Las Vegas shows, which will be in the cons section) is still open. Just without such long lines or long waits. I’m not suggesting you’ll have Las Vegas completely to yourself. However, if you are used to being here during peak times, you’ll notice the difference.

– No scorching heat. This is a great time of year to finally take that Hoover Dam Las Vegas tour, drive the Lake Mead loop (Lakeshore Road), get out to Red Rock Canyon, or even up to the Valley Of Fire. Plus, car rentals should be cheaper to reflect the lack of demand.


– Much of the Las Vegas entertainment will be on Christmas vacation. Very few (if any) big concerts or headliners. Many of the shows will be closed. If major maintenance needs to be done to things like the Bellagio Fountains, this is when they will do it.

– It gets cold and dark EARLY. The sun is gone by 4:30 PM and while the average high is in the 50’s, temps plummet once it gets dark. Overnight lows around (or even below) freezing aren’t uncommon. Even if you stay at one of the few hotels which keep one of their pools heated all year, you probably won’t want to be using it.

Hope this helps!

Ted Newkirk
Founder/Managing Editor
Access Vegas

What Cheap Casinos Are A Short Walk Or Uber From The Las Vegas Strip?

Where are the cheap places to eat and gamble which are within walking distance of the Las Vegas Strip (or a very short/cheap Uber ride)?

Michael C.

Getting just off The Strip will save you a fortune (compared to Las Vegas Strip pricing). You’ll save far more than the few dollars an Uber will cost you. (Not yet an Uber user? Your first ride is on us, up to $20. See the end of the post).

Gold Coast: This spacious, no-frills property is part of the Boyd Gaming company, which means they share a players card with Main Street Station, The Fremont, and California casinos downtown Las Vegas. Of note is their multiple award-winning Ping Pang Pong Chinese kitchen. 1.1 miles west of The Strip on Flamingo.

Stage Door Casino: This popular “dive bar” is located just beyond The Cromwell on Flamingo. This combination bar and liquor store serves super cheap drinks (especially considering how close they are to The Strip) and currently runs a $3 beer and hot dog special. Gambling is limited to bar top machines.

Ellis Island Casino: They have their own (really cheap and good) beer, brewed on site. Plus, a great locals pizza place called Metro Pizza and a great BBQ place. Oh, and ask about the off-menu steak special in their diner. Visitors make the trip just for that steak special.

bbq serving platter ellis island las vegas nevada
BBQ platter at Ellis Island Casino in Las Vegas.

Plus, the full-service casino has really low limits and the bar pours some stiff but inexpensive drinks. Did we mention nightly karaoke? A favorite of casino workers when they get off work. 0.6 miles east of The Las Vegas Strip on Koval, kitty-corner from The Westin Las Vegas.

Tuscany Suites and Casino: Noted for their free lounge entertainment many nights and their Pub 365 with 365 beers available and a great bar menu of burgers, tacos, and small bites, this full-sized casino and locals hang-out is .7 miles east of The Strip on Flamingo.

First Uber Ride Free (new users only, $20 max) with our code UberAV. Download the app, easy to use, we love it!

Should I Stay At The El Cortez Hotel Casino In Downtown Las Vegas?

I’m thinking of staying at the El Cortez? I like the nostalgic thought of “old Vegas” but I want somewhere clean and nice. Also, is that part of downtown Las Vegas safe?

Lynn D.

el cortez las vegas lobby interior
The Lobby Stairs of the El Cortez Hotel Casino Las Vegas

The El Cortez is an often overlooked gem. If you want traditional, stay in their normal rooms (not the newer, hipper, more expensive Cabana suites across the street). The traditional rooms are clean and well-kept.

Located on East Fremont Street, it is a quick 2 block walk from the Fremont Street Experience. It is generally very safe, and surrounded by a number of great bars and restaurants.

The El Cortez has a full gambling casino with slots, table games, a sports book, and even keno! The slots are loose, and the table games have low limits with good rules.

Locals love their Parlour Bar happy hour with $5 appetizers, 1/2 priced draft beer, and 2-1 cocktails. Their other bar Ikes has similar (minus the appetizers) from 11PM – 1 AM.

Click for more info: El Cortez Hotel Casino Las Vegas

Las Vegas Taxi Took Me The Wrong Way To Airport, What To Do?

Just come back from Vegas yesterday after spending 10 days there. This was 5th time over the last few years.

Had an excellent time BUT was plagued by time share reps to the point where they was running after us ( husband and I). I tried everything from politely saying no to ignoring them . Nothing worked!!!!!! They were more of a nuisance than the sex card workers. Can you give advice please for when we come again.

We stayed at the Hilton Paradise Road. The taxi that took us back to the airport charged over 20 dollars and did not by any means go the quickest way.He turned onto the strip at Circus Circus and went the whole length of the strip!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Refused to tip him saying he had not chosen the quickest route. He then got very abusive. Can I ask for your advice about this 20 dollars, we usually pay 15 dollars.

Love Access Vegas!

Angela M.

Ted Responds:

Here’s the trick when dealing with the time share people: Tell them you are leaving town “tonight” (no matter how many days you have left). If you are leaving, you can’t go to a presentation and are of no use to them. Of, you can do what I do and say “I’m a local” because I sure don’t need a Las Vegas timeshare!

Having said that, yes… they can be pushy in this economy. And yes, it is irritating. And unfortunately they pay the hotels good money for those spots they occupy so nobody is going to do anything about it. (Short of a hotel getting hundreds of letters per day from angry patrons, which probably isn’t going to happen because no one realizes this relationship).

Another way to handle it is to do what I do with the pornslappers. (For you new readers, that isn’t a dirty sex term. It refers to the people who pass out business cards advertising “girls to you room”). I simply pretend they don’t exist. I don’t look at them, don’t listen to them, don’t make eye contact with them. It isn’t rude. They aren’t some friend from your city that you just happened to run into who wants to bend your ear. They want to distract you and waste your time. I simply don’t allow them to!

Yes, the taxi driver was screwing with you. The Hilton is on Paradise Road. Guess what… the airport is on Paradise Road! It is a 3.3 mile straight trip if you don’t detour. I’m going to give you some advice that I’ve had to start following myself as I’ve been screwed with on cab rides by people who don’t know I’m a local:

Get the cab company name and number every time you ride. Take two seconds to email/text it to yourself. Why? For a number of reasons.

  • If you leave your purse/wallet/bag or similar in the cab and you know the cab number, you can usually get it back quickly. Call the cab company, tell them the cab number, and the driver will head back your way (with the understanding that you need to pay for his time and miles). How do I know? My wallet rode off in a cab without me one time. It happens.
  • If the driver isn’t very nice to you, call the cab company and complain. Absolutely. If you have the cab company name and cab number, they know who the problem employee is. Cab drivers are a dime a dozen. The companies don’t want trouble. A rude driver might also do other things to hurt the company.
  • If you get long-hauled, you have a right to complain the the Taxicab Authority. They take complaints very seriously. If I remember correctly, three complaints and a driver loses his right to drive (I think for six months… it’s been a couple of years since I did this research). You can actually use this information in two ways:
    1. You can get out of the cab (wait until after he’s unloaded your luggage), tell the driver that he took the long way, and tell him you are calling the Taxi Authority. (Dial directory assistance if you need the number). They are screwed and they know it. If they start to put up a fuss, start to dial directory assistance on your phone and say “I’m calling them right now”. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they will decide that your ride was absolutely free (as long as you don’t make the call). They screwed with you… screw with them!
    2. If they are still abusive or argue, make the call and put in the complaint. Just remember… you do need to cab company name, cab number, and time of day to make this complaint. If you didn’t write it down (or text it to yourself) when you got in the cab, you’d better make note of it before he drives off.

In a perfect world, none of this should be necessary. And there are honest cab drivers out there. But the ones who aren’t should be held accountable.

One last tip: Don’t take too much of what a cabbie says to heart. They tend to be the worst conveyers of third-hand info out there. One cabbie was telling people that The Sahara was going to be blown up (not true). Another reader heard that The Stratosphere was closing (um, they just spent $20 million refurbishing the joint). Get your information from us instead!

CEO/Managing Editor

Comments on this topic? We want your opinion! Leave it below. Comments, questions or Vegas suggestions on other topics? Email us at [email protected]

Riviera Las Vegas – Access Vegas Readers Love It!

My sister and I stayed at the Riviera last spring and the room we had there was excellent. They have indeed been re-doing the rooms. We stayed in the Monaco tower which had all new refurbished rooms. The staff there was great and we had a great time. The food was also great at Kady’s with large portions and very tasty.

Novel from Frisco, TX

I stay at the Riviera & one other Casino every Month. Yes,  EVERY Month and have for many years. When the good times were rolling, other Strip Casinos treated people like we were lucky they let us in their precious door. Since I go to Vegas every Month, I have stayed at 90% of the Strip Casinos. I will no longer step foot into an MGM Mirage property due to the insulting treatment I received from their hosts. Harrah’s properties destroyed their players club and their Slot & Video Poker pay tables. Now, of course, they want me back. Too bad.

I was always treated as a welcome guest at the Riviera, even when times were good. To me, that’s the measure of who gets my business. Over the years, I have gotten to know most of the employees in most departments. The Riviera is struggling to stay alive right now & as such has had to make a lot of cuts in personnel. Many of my friends are on lay-off call back status. This naturally translates into less service in every Department.

The housekeepers are killing themselves to clean many more rooms with less staff but I still get a big smile, sometimes a big hug and a big welcome back from them. That’s much more important to me than how often the carpet gets deep cleaned. Every department treats me like they’re glad to have me back.

Yes, you will notice some things that are not up to snuff, but they’re doing to best they can to stay in Business during these tough times. I’d rather have an elevator floor not cleaned as often as it used to be than to have no Riviera at all.

You want clean elevator floors, go stay at the Wynn where 2 Months ago it took me 3 HOURS to check in and the service was terrible. OK, they had a phone in the bathroom. I was too exhausted from checking in to use it. I’ll trade in glitz and pretend glamor for genuine hospitality any day.

The Riviera gets my business and I hope, I hope they make it through these dark days. I overlook the little things they just can’t help and enjoy the friendly spirit in spite of their fear of losing their jobs.

Judy Hinkley

Hi, love your newsletter and I just went back a couple weeks and read that you needed some people that stayed at the Riv recently to write a quick review…..My girlfriend and I stayed there Easter weekend, and I had heard that a number of rooms were renovated, most notably the Monaco tower, and I was going to ask to get upgraded to that tower when we checked in, but we were put in there anyways. We were quite happy with it, carpets looked almost brand new, flat screen tv, and clean. Ya the view was of the back end looking at the Hilton and stuff like the air conditioner looked like it was 50 years old….didn’t matter I knew not to expect a 5 star room for the price, like I said it was clean and updated..

A couple of the towers looked like they hadn’t been updated though….can’t remember which ones and I was looking from the outside anyways, but for sure Monaco is OK

Keep up the good work, hope to be back in the summer

Dale from BC Canada

Ted Responds:

Lots of love for The Riviera. No question that it is an older property but with so many people wanting to do Las Vegas “old school” it sounds like an option to check out.

Readers, what has your experience with The Riviera been? Add comments below!

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor

Just Returned From Las Vegas: $20 Trick Worked, Loved Viva Elvis, Too Many Kids

I have been receiving your newsletter for some time, and I enjoy reading it every week as it has lots of helpful information. We just returned from four days in Vegas, and I would like to make these comments:

1. The $20 “Sandwich Trick” worked great at our hotel. The young man at Bally’s was very appreciative and immediately upgraded our room to a Diamond Level room in the North Tower.

2. Don’t believe what the critics say: the Elvis tribute show at the Aria City Center is fabulous! Our entire party thoroughly enjoyed it, and we plan to go again the next time we’re there.

3. There are WAY too many children running around the casinos, sidewalks on the strip, and restaurants. There were children on the edges of the casino floors as late as midnight — their moronic parents pulling and tugging them along! I have always believed there is a time and place to take children on vacation, and Las Vegas is definitely NOT the time nor the place!

Thank you,
Gatesville, TX

Ted Responds:

Thanks for the great report. Bally’s Las vegas is often overlooked but it is still a decent hotel with an incredible location!

Since a few people still don’t know what the $20 trick is:

The “$20 Rule” is always worth a try. Many Las Vegas hotels charge a premium for a Strip view, higher floors, better rooms, etc. The desk staff often has some latitude on upgrading guests. Place a folded up $20 bill on the counter partially under your ID and/or credit card so that the denomination is visible. As you slide them across, ask if a room with a Strip View or other upgrade may be available.

If they can’t accommodate you or insist on an extra charge you can simply retract the bill (they will only pick it up if they can take care of you). If they accommodate you, a small price to pay to see one of the most famous views in the world out of your window. If not, you are out nothing. You came to Las Vegas to gamble!

Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis is getting a 100% thumbs-up from all our readers. Critics didn’t seem big on the show when it opened, but what really counts is what the audience thinks.

While some parents will argue that they can do a successful vacation with their kids in tow, let’s face it: Las Vegas is a LOT more fun if just you and your special sweetie. Take the kids to Panama City Beach. Leave them with grandma when you come to Las Vegas.

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor

Visiting Locals Casinos In Las Vegas: Worth Checking Out Boulder/AZ Charlies/Sam’s Town/Cannery?

I follow a Yahoo group about Las Vegas. The following question was posed, and this was my response:

About every other trip to Vegas, we make it a point to take a day and go off-strip. For example, in the past 2 years, we took the following mini-trips to off strip casinos: 1. M Resort and South Point (both of these were great visits! The sports book/bar at South Point was a lot of fun!) 2. Red Rock and Rampart (we really liked Red Rock, but Rampart was a disappointment) 3. Palms and Rio (nothing too impressive with either of these. I’ve been to Rio for the WSOP before anyway)

For our next trip, we are talking about renting a car and going down Boulder Highway to see what’s out there. From some Google searches, it appears we have Arizona Charlies, Boulder Station, East Side Cannery, and Sam’s Town.

Does anyone have any recommendations for something in the Boulder Highway area I missed? Are all 4 of these casinos I mentioned worth visiting? Is Green Valley near Boulder Highway? I’d be interested to going to GV if it is.


Steve (in Philly)

Ted Responds:

All four are within a few minutes of each other and (to varying degrees) worth checking out. Sam’s Town especially with the indoor atrium and Cannery with the old school coin in/coin out machines.

If you had to skip one, skip Arizona Charlies (West). Decent but no frills. But really, even if you just spend 10 minutes walking through each one, they are all different so at least you’ll know what they are like.

The Firelight Buffet at Sam’s Town has been a long-time favorite. Special dinner nights there:

4:00pm – 9:00pm (Dinner starts at 3 PM on Fridays, cheaper price is for slot club card members)

Sunday – Steak Night $12.99 ($13.99)
Monday – Thursday $9.99 ($10.99)
Friday – Seafood Night $16.99 ($(17.99)
Saturday – Prime Rib Night $12.99 ($13.99)

Green Valley Ranch (GVR) isn’t in that area, but since you are out at Cannery, you might as well complete the loop by checking out Sunset Station, then GVR then back to The Strip. You’ll want to check out “The District” at GVR and see how the locals enjoy hanging out.

Map of the route with each stop marked:

View Larger Map

One final suggestion to those with a car: Check out Town Square (less than a mile south of Mandalay Bay, right on the Las Vegas Strip. Ace bus southbound on The Strip makes a stop there ). Super nice place with great restaurants, watering holes, shopping and an actual “central park” to enjoy. Hint: During the summer, enjoy it after sundown.

Town Square Las Vegas
Town Square Las Vegas

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor

Las Vegas Trip Report – Bad Rooms At Excalibur, Stratosphere, ACE Bus, Won $800, Will Be Back!

I have just returned from my 12th trip to your fine city, however I have a few gripes this time. I find that when we arrive at your hotel we normally get rotten rooms. The last three times it has happened, for example 2 years ago in Stratosphere we were booked months in advance and flying from Scotland, we arrived at 1am after about 17 hours of traveling to get a room on floor 3 of the old tower, the other one was remodeled, with a view of a wall! I went to the desk in the morning and we got put on floor 23 of the new tower but we had to pay extra.

This time it was Excalibur, we did get free upgrades but the lady at check in was not very forthcoming when I asked about higher rooms. Do we get looked over because we are not Americans, have you got any tips. We do stay for 10 nights every time, our rooms in Excaliber were lovely but the maids were hopeless. We used to leave our rooms at 8am and returned around 4pm to get changed, most days they had not done our rooms by then and a few days I got missed altogether.

I did enjoy the ace bus, always ended up sitting next to an interesting american person, although the aces at fremont street seemed to always take an age to arrive.

Nevermind I still love Vegas, its in my blood, and I will return next year.

Lorna Ballantine

Ps I won $800 on penny slots!

Ted Responds:

First of all, being from another doesn’t get you any better or worse treatment in Las Vegas. In fact, the Las Vegas tourism industry is very aware how valuable our international visitors are. Arrival time does matter into what kind of room you get. The hotels want everyone to have the best experience possible. They aren’t going to put you in a bad room or room facing a wall unless they have to and simply are pretty much all out of rooms. The earlier you arrive, the better room you are likely to get.

If you have no choice to but arrive late at night and you are staying a week or longer, by all means go to the front desk and point out the length of your stay and simply note “We’re staying a long time and going to be spending quite a bit of money here and it is really unpleasant to be stuck with a (note room inadequacies) room “. You’ll have the best chance of getting moved on Sunday middle-of-the-day when the weekend guests have cleared out and the weekday guests have not yet arrived. Getting moved on a Friday or Saturday will be pretty difficult as the hotel will generally be full.

Tipping at check-in still often (but not always… it is a gamble) helps get a better room. You fold up a $20 bill and hand it to the with your ID and credit card so they can see it (especially the denomination) and say “Is there anything available on a higher floor with a view or a nicer room?” If they do something for you, they keep the money. If not, they will return it or refuse to take it. In your case, I’d start by saying “We’ve come all the way from Scotland and are staying X amount of days and this is a special trip for us” and then ask about a higher floor or better room.

At the very worst, they will refuse to take your money and offer the upgrade if you pay for it.

There is no excuse for poor maid service. If they miss even one day, call the front desk and tell them that you have a maid issue and want to talk to a housekeeping manager or supervisor and complain to them. If the problem persists, go to the front desk and tell them that you have a housekeeping issue and that you’ve discussed it with housekeeping with no resolution and you need to talk to a hotel manager. I also wouldn’t shy away from asking that you be compensated a room night for the inconvenience at that point.

Congrats on the nice jackpot. Thanks for reading as we’ll continue to help you prepare for your next trip. Please tell our friends who like Vegas to subscribe as well!

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor

Las Vegas Trip Report – Stayed At Aria, Great Restaurants, Terrible Service

I’m a long time Las Vegas visitor so I just had to stay at the new hotel Aria, in City Center. The hotel was disappointing, although the restaurants were great. Particularly, American Fish and Mastro’s Ocean Club in Crystals.

I had several service problems at Aria. Aria staff didn’t clean my room one day because, “they had no one to clean it.” Or, so said the supervisor. I asked to see the Hotel manager when checking out to provide management some “feedback” about the hotels operations. Management was too busy to speak with me in person. I declined the phone conversation.

The Aria has very low quality quest services. I will not stay there again. It’s amazing that they can charge exorbitant rates and get away with that kind of service. Makes you wonder why visitors continue to put up with that nonsense when there are so many other choices to spend your vacation cash.

We saw Daughtery, LifeHouse and Cavo at the Orleans Casino. Great show, nice casino, friendly staff. Barry Manilow was good over at the Paris. Tickets are a little pricey for his show, but I thought he did a nice job.

Steve from Loveland, OH

Ted Responds:

Aria service is getting TERRIBLE reviews (including from you) and yet their CEO recently noted that service at MGM Mirage (Resorts International) properties have been improving. Something will have to give. Aria is having trouble getting the room rates that the 12 year old Bellagio commands and this isn’t helping. Unfortunately, complaints about service at Aria are all over the internet. Hard to believe they picked the cream of the crop from their other hotels. And in this economy with 14% unemployment here, you would think that the employees would be all over themselves to provide amazing customer service.

I agree… restaurants and the bars and lounges at CityCenter: Expensive but top notch. Love it. But service for the the hotel…. not good. Not funny to pay that kind of money and get Imperial Palace service.

Orleans Las Vegas is a great place to see a show. We often suggest checking out The Orleans for people who want to sample a “locals” hotel casino. They have a free shuttle from Bill’s Gambling Hall on The Strip. Call ahead for current shuttle information.

Barry Manilow is hanging in there… remember… he’s not 25 years old! Still getting great reviews for the show and his energy.

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor

Booking Las Vegas Hotels In Advance, Using Discount Online Booking?

I receive your Insider Vibe Newsletter and it is very informative. I am glad that there is someone out there sending out interesting newsletters. This is my first trip to Vegas and i had a question on booking a room at the Plaza Hotel and Casino.

I will be driving from Texas to Vegas with stops along the way so my question is: In the I4Vegas Discount Search is the rate quoted on your newsletter the same rate I would get if i just walked in the Plaza and booked a room without a reservation?

Keep up the good work!

Best Regards,


Ted Responds:

Good questions. First of all, hotel rates are like airfare. Often changing completely at the whims of supply and demand. There is no one “set” rate for a hotel room. You could walk in one minute and pay one rate, walk in a couple hours later and pay another rate.

When you use the i4Vegas booking engine on our site or newsletter, you’re getting discount rates for the following reasons:

i4Vegas buys blocks of rooms from hotels, way in advance and with a contract to do this month after month. Why would the hotels do this? All of a sudden, those rooms are guaranteed as sold whether i4Vegas fills them or not. The hotel does not have to deal with marketing, advertising, or booking these rooms. They sell the blocks at a healthy discount, i4Vegas takes the risk and then turns around and re-sells the rooms at small profit (making money on volume). You are making a non-refundable reservation. So for saving money, you are guaranteeing that room is SOLD.

It would be an extremely rare occurrence to walk up to a hotel desk and get that kind of discounted rate. And although Las Vegas isn’t always operating at 100% capacity because of the economy, it stopped being a good time to just show up in Las Vegas without a reservation a long, long time ago. You pick a time with a busy convention, fight, or other event filling rooms and you’ll be paying very high rates if you can find a room.

Plus, using the booking boxes on or in the newsletter helps keep our newsletter free. Significant manpower goes into the newsletter and i4Vegas is a sponsor that helps make it all possible. Their rates are among the lowest (if not THE lowest) you are going to find. Even if they are a couple of bucks more a night than another hotel booking service, think of it as a small price to support those who keep all this information coming your way.

Ted Newkirk
CEO, Managing Editor