Chances are, if you’re coming to Vegas, at some point you’ll be standing in line—or better yet, have the good sense to make that overpriced sanity-saver, the VIP reservation—at a nightclub in town. There are a few other things you can do to speed your entry to a Vegas nightclub, like patronize nightclub affiliates (for instance, Andrea’s restaurant at Wynn has its own entrance to Surrender; Tao Bistro diners get into the nightclub without a wait); or you can try to make a reservation through the concierge, if the club is in your hotel. Consider this bit of Las Vegas etiquette, too: Don’t prevail upon a local for your “hook up” unless this is a friend with whom you are in regular contact. Do you know how many former acquaintances have hit me up over Facebook for club connections? Neither do I, because I’ve lost count. I’m always delighted to make connections for close friends, though, and your true Vegas buddies probably are as well. Either way, here are some nearly foolproof venues for a good and memorable night:
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Marquee Nightclub and Dayclub
This club at The Cosmopolitan—with its three distinct rooms and attached day club for outdoor gaming—is one of the best nightclub bets on the Strip, in terms of consistently packed crowds. The dark rooms with faux-croc flooring are surrounded by spacious leather booths; you can either reserve bottle service, or make your way to The Library (complete with fireplace, book-lined walls, billiards and naughty-librarian servers) if you prefer to avoid the sea of writhing bodies. You can work through the website to get on the guest list, but that’s no guarantee you’ll get in Take note that club gatekeepers don’t love guys traveling in packs; if you’re in a mixed group, add a couple of ladies to your entourage.
With its gold-plated chandeliers, gold-embossed crocodile VIP booths and even a gold bas-relief of actual employees this club at Encore is a tribute to the wonderful, ahem, excess that is Las Vegas. During the day, it opens up to a massive pool area for hotel guests, who can order bottle service in its cabanas. Sunday nights in the scorching summer are when night owls head to its (literally) cooler after-dark pool party, Night Swim at XS. You can party in the pool, play a hand of blackjack at one of the outdoor tables, or rent one of 26 cabanas to party more privately. Some of the best DJs in the business play here, like AVICII, Kaskade and ZEDD.
The Cantonese-themed restaurant chain that began with its Christian Liaigre-designed London location has swept the world—and now has locations in Mumbai, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Miami and New York City. But its largest location is here at the MGM Grand. While other Hakkasan restaurants get clubbier as the night wears on, the Vegas location combines the restaurant with a 75,000-square-foot, five-floor nightclub. This is where you’ll want to go if you’re the kind of drunken masochist who wants to get cake and Champagne thrown all over you by resident DJ Steve Aoki. The winning DJ lineup also includes Tiesto and Afrojack. You’ll definitely want to start in the restaurant and stay all night.
Before Sam Nazarian gutted the old Sahara and made it into the new SLS Las Vegas, he transformed Bellagio’s Fontana Bar into Hyde Bellagio, with Philippe Starck. It does double-duty as a subdued lounge until 10 p.m., and then evolves into a thumping scene with the one of the most hilariously excessive bottle service programs in Las Vegas (not to mention the best view of the Fountains of Bellagio). If you’re into conspicuous consumption, order from a bottle service menu at one of the 40 VIP tables that includes alcohol delivered by fantasy characters such as Superman—who soars across the club to your table—or a sexy server on a motorcycle. If you’re willing to lay out $250,000, you can buy the front-and-center table that includes a 30-liter bottle of Ace of Spades Champagne and the control button for the fountains (which you can hit after they usually end for the night).
SLS Las Vegas is an incredible transformation of the old Sahara, but happily not so drastic that you can’t feel its historic bones. LiFE, its 20,000-square-foot club, could be characterized as “intimate” by Las Vegas standards, but it still has tiered VIP seating, plus mechanical rigging and zip lines (you know, just in case, for aerialists), and is connected to rooftop pool Beach LiFE. But the real magic is its music program: Former Swedish House Mafia member Steve Angello just signed on for a two-year residency, and DJ Erick Morillo is known for going on late—and staying later.