I recently returned from a week in Las Vegas. I got a lot of questions about what Las Vegas is like right now. On the one hand, there’s all sorts of reporting about how the casinos are doing incredibly well despite the headwinds they’re facing. But on the flip side conventions and conferences struggle; reports from early January said CES in person attendance was down more than 75 percent from pre-pandemic levels.
But these don’t tell the whole story – what was Vegas like for me? Here’s what I experienced.
How Busy It Was Overall
I flew in early on a Saturday morning, and flew out on a red eye the Saturday that followed. So I got to see a whole cycle from weekend to weekdays to weekend again.
Weekends were by far much busier than weekdays. Given the lack of major conventions, I’m sure that’s not surprising to learn. But at times the casinos felt quite empty relative to normal – one casino my friend and I entered we commented to each other whether it was actually open.
If your aim is to plan a trip when it’s quieter, weekdays will be the trick, as you can expect more visitors on the weekends. But one wild card I hadn’t accounted for was there were two Raiders games that took place while I was there, both bringing in surges of locals to parts of the strip, which made everything much busier. My friend had the bright idea of going to Mirage the night of the first one, where we were able to walk into a restaurant without a reservation there, whereas down the strip near Allegiant Stadium it was vastly busier.
Speaking of restaurants, reduced hours and capacity are still a consistent thing here, similar to what I encountered in the fall. Except many places to have reduced days and/or hours to be available, and reservations will be helpful on busier nights.
We were able to get in with a 30 minute wait at Nine Fine Irishmen on a Saturday night, so the advice is of course not universal. And some places, like Public House at Luxor, don’t take reservations at all on game nights.
Some buffets are reopened, but many are working at reduced days and/or hours. That was the case with virtually all the MGM buffets, for instance.
Strip vs. Downtown
I was downtown for pieces of the weekdays and found downtown to be busier in some places than others. The Fremont Street Experience entertainment was going strong, and it was pretty busy in that area in particular.
Walking the strip on a weekend there was quite a bit of people; during the week is was clearly less so. Places like the Cosmopolitan, MGM Grand and New York-New York were hopping on the weekends.
I took a couple of Ubers, particularly on the weekends, and never encountered anything remotely close to surge pricing. I definitely saw it pop up in the fall when I was there, and I expect had I tried during the Raiders game window it might have been different, but overall I was pleasantly surprised to encounter pretty average pricing.
So for those who recall the reports of challenges getting around, taxi shortages and surge pricing on Uber, that seems to have calmed down substantially.
Also looking more promising was rental car pricing. When I rented a car for part of my trip last fall, pricing was definitely higher, and I didn’t really see many cars in the lots at the airport rental car hub last fall. The situation was definitely different in January when I joined my friend to pick up his rental.
I had also contemplated getting one of my own, and seeing it available for almost half the price I had booked in September. Obviously they’re different times of the year, so situations can evolve based on that, but it was quite a different scenario than I was expecting.
Airfares were also pretty stable as well, although the flight I booked and the flight I took were 100% different. American Airlines, which is who I booked this trip with to use some miles, changed my flights out and back by a couple of hours each, probably to consolidate things.
Flying both directions, the app offered me to bid to give up my seat for a travel credit should they need it, and the flights were pretty much full there and back.
Of course, many want to know how the gambling went. Compared to my last couple of trips, I did not have anything massive to share like I did from them. I had a couple of good winning runs, but it was definitely a tougher trip.
I sort of expected it, as law of averages says you can’t have runs like I did there every time, and I still had a couple of decent moments, including an unusually generous bonus trigger on Double Blessings and a nice string of line hits on Gold Bar 7s. That said, I came home with a portion of my budget and never ran out of daily budget money on any given day, so it certainly could’ve been worse.