If you’re passing through McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, you can’t help but notice that the Strip is only about a mile away. A long layover in Vegas might mean you’ve got enough time to grab a taxi and see a few sights. But even if you don’t have enough time to leave the airport, you can still drop a few coins in a slot machine. How do you decide what to do with your limited time in Vegas?
Step One: Figure out if you should stay at McCarran or head to the Strip.
There you are with a layover in Vegas, and there the Strip is, enticingly close. There’s that big Luxor light, beckoning you. Before you head to the taxi line, do some math. Factor in waiting for taxis, security checks, and crowds along the Strip—then add in the serious distraction of a winning streak at the blackjack table. Make sure you’ve got plenty of time to leave the airport and make it back for your flight before you take that short taxi ride to Las Vegas Boulevard.
Step Two: Evaluate the options at McCarran.
Since Las Vegas specializes in helping people forget about generally important things—like upcoming flights—you should consider what you can do during your Vegas layover without leaving the airport. McCarran has thoughtfully provided slot machines throughout the airport, about fifty shops for browsing (including Bose and Brookstone), plenty of cocktail lounges, and dining options that include all the standard fast food places and even a Wolfgang Puck Express. You can also use the free WiFi, or visit the aviation museum. Lockers are located outside security checkpoints and will store your bags for up to 48 hours.
Step Three: If you’re leaving the airport, head to the South Strip.
Okay, to heck with all those mundane worries about missed flights—you’ve decided to maximize your Vegas layover and head to the Strip. Set a definite time to return to the airport, and then head to the South Strip area, which is the closest area to McCarran. At the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana, you will find the MGM Grand, New York-New York, the Tropicana, and the Excalibur (connected via tram to Mandalay Bay and the Luxor).
If you’re a shopper, Crystals at CityCenter and Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood aren’t far from this area. For buffets, try the nearby Paris or Planet Hollywood for mid-priced meals and lots of food. And if you’re counting on seeing one of the iconic Vegas street-side shows, the Bellagio’s fountains are the closest to the airport. The dancing waters start at 3 p.m. with shows every half an hour until 8 p.m., then every 15 minutes until midnight.
Step Four: Give yourself extra time to get back to McCarran.
Yes, there are wandering Elvi who will pose with you for pictures, and yes, you can walk around with Margaritas in gigantic containers, but back at McCarran, your flight is waiting and your layover in Vegas is about to end. Head back to the airport with some time to spare so you can find the locker you left your bags in, navigate the security checks, and find the gate for your flight. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find that lucky slot machine right before you board, and you’ll arrive home with enough cash to pay for a trip back to Vegas.