Courtesy of MGM Resorts International

As part of a new series, Travel + Leisure is exploring America one three-day weekend at a time. Here’s what to do on a short trip to Las Vegas. 

Andrea Bennett

It takes virtually no effort to burn out after a single day in Las Vegas, where extravagance isn’t an extra—it’s expected! Pace your perfect three-day trip with a balance of indulgence and recovery, and you won’t feel like the Toxic Avenger on your plane ride home to reality. The perfect vacation in Vegas combines incredible attractions like fine dining, some soft adventure, and a few ways to take in those incredible desert views.

Day One

One of the worst-kept secrets in Las Vegas: a one-day car rental usually costs less than a 10-minute taxi ride from McCarran Airport to the Strip. To get the best value on your on-and-off-Strip adventure, rent a car from the airport to use off-Strip, and use a taxi, Uber, or Lyft while cocktailing. Keep in mind that while self- and valet-parking at Strip casinos has historically been free, MGM-owned resorts recently instituted parking charges of up to $18.

Sticking to one casino resort for dining, entertainment, and clubbing is a great way to make the first night manageable. Michael Mina’s Bardot Brasserie serves elevated French food in a luxury room that feels like a standalone brasserie. Thought you were over the humble roast chicken? Mina treats his like Peking duck. And don’t miss the ultimate comfort food: onion soup with Périgord truffle, braised oxtail and a poached egg. If you have long night ahead of you and want to keep things light, hit the patio at Herringbone, where you can order cooked or raw shellfish platters in “dinghy,” “sailboat,” or “yacht” sizes in the lounge space with a view of the pool. You can walk it all off just a few minutes away at The Park between Monte Carlo and New York New York before taking in a concert at Las Vegas’s brand-new T-Mobile Arena. If you’re up for a late night, check out Aria’s “intimate” new 24,000-square-foot club of the moment, Jewel, by Hakkasan Group. Go all in by reserving one of its five VIP rooms that look over the crowd.

Day Two

Atone for last night’s sins with a juice from one of the city’s many new juice bars (in Cosmopolitan, it’s The Juice Standard, whose cold-pressed juices, plus an egg sandwich from nearby Eggslut, will bring you right back to life).

Then hop in the car for a 20-minute drive west into the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, the nearly 200,000-acre desert wonderland with more than 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing and mountain biking. Of the many trails, the 6.3-mile hike to Las Vegas Overlook is one of the most spectacular—and manageable for most fitness levels. Reward yourself afterward by checking into the newly revamped spa at Red Rock Resort for a personalized facial with products by Dr. Harold Lancer (Beyoncé’s dermatologist), acupuncture, or a lounge in the outdoor shower garden.

Once you’re relaxed, head back to the Strip for a little pre-dinner shopping on the Esplanades at Wynn. Don’t miss the new Salvatore Ferragamo boutique (opening September 8), a sequel to its Beverly Hills flagship on Rodeo Drive, which is carrying an exclusive-to-Wynn Gancio Lock handbag and (very Vegas) gold leather lace-up sandals. Book a table at Lakeside for a taste of Chef David Walzog’s simply prepared Hawaiian day boat fish, line-caught by family fishermen in Hana, Maui, and often shipped within 24 hours right to the restaurant—fresher than that found at many beachside spots on Maui itself. The onaga (a long-tailed snapper) with shiitake mushrooms, baby bok choy and miso-butter sauce is a Walzog favorite. If you book well in advance, ask for the table right on the Lake of Dreams, so you can catch the surreal, Max Headroom–like show that appears on the wall of water every half hour or so.

End the evening at Intrigue, the loungey club with a fabulous waterfall (and pyrotechnics), whose late night programming often involves surprise celeb guests and super DJs. Or if you’re feeling a little crazier, go to XS, whose resident DJs include Alsesso, Kaskade, and David Guetta. Treat yourself to bottle service in one of the cabana around Encore pool.

Related: 31 Free Things to Do in Las Vegas

Day 3

It would hardly be a Vegas trip without one of the must-see-to-believe buffets, and Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is the king of them all, with more than 500 dishes—from a huge raw bar to dim sum, to baked-to-order soufflés—available at any time. If you’re starting early, you can upgrade with unlimited mimosas. Don’t like serving yourself? One of the best brunches on the Strip is Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, on the 10th floor of Venetian’s Venezia tower. Order any of the traditional French specialties; but the must-have starter is the pecan sticky bun—large enough for a table to share.

Don’t leave Vegas without taking a turn on the High Roller at the Linq, which, at 550 feet tall, is the highest Ferris wheel in the world. You’ll get a 360-degree view of the Vegas valley. For the very virtuous, an amazing new yoga session with a live instructor guides you through an hour-long circuit of soothing yoga—stopping at the apex to take in the view. Or book a flight on one of Sundance Helicopters’ modern, chrome choppers: Taking in the Grand Canyon at sunset (from beginning to end, it’s a three and a half hour experience) includes a 3,200-foot descent for Champagne at the base of the canyon and concludes with a flight over the lights of the Strip.

Alain Ducasse’s Rivea, in the Delano, is a perfect final-night dinner spot. Set on the 64th floor amid warm jewel tones, and around its massive Champagne bubble glass installation, shareable Mediterranean cuisine influenced by the French Riviera (don’t miss the socca—crispy chickpea flour crépes, the unofficial street food of Nice). And take in the dramatic views of the Strip from the adjoining Skyfall Lounge, with a cocktail made just for the occasion, like the “Artificial Horizon”—Champagne, Bacardi eight-year-old rum, Clear Creek pear liqueur, and lemon juice. You’ve now seen Vegas from some of its best perches.

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