Insider Chat: Magician Mat Franco Shares His Vegas Tips

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Las Vegas is one of Travelzoo’s most-searched-for destinations, so we’re always looking for insider tips from those who call it home. We recently caught up with Mat Franco, the first — and only — magician to win “America’s Got Talent.” He’s been there headlining “Mat Franco: Magic Reinvented Nightly” since 2015, and he stepped away from the stage to share his favorite Vegas activities and meals with us.

Spoiler alert: We’re not the only ones who love the High Roller observation wheel.

TZ: You began your residency at the LINQ Hotel & Casino a couple of years back. What’s one thing you wish you knew about Vegas before you moved there?

MF: I wish I knew how cold it gets in Las Vegas! Most people associate the desert with the summer sun, but when it gets down to the 30’s during winter months, it makes you wish you packed a heavier jacket!

While summers can get warm in the Northeast (where you’re from), it’s not quite desert hot. Where’s your favorite place to keep cool in Vegas?

Mt. Charleston is a great getaway only 40 miles from the Las Vegas Strip. During the winter, there is snow on the mountains and they have outdoor activities like skiing and tubing. During the hot summer months, it’s commonplace for Mt. Charleston to be about 30 degrees cooler than Sin City. It’s a great place to have a picnic and camp out in a cabin or lodge.

While many people head to “Sin City” to gamble, drink and party, we know there’s much more to the area. What’s your favorite outdoorsy activity or daytrip from Las Vegas?

Red Rock National Conservation Area has breathtaking views to enjoy either driving, or hiking. If this is your thing, it’s totally worth the 30-minute ride from the Strip.

The best things in life are free (or so we’d often like to convince ourselves). What’s your favorite free thing to do in Las Vegas?

Seeing the Bellagio fountains in person while standing on the Vegas Strip is always a crowd pleaser. The famous choreographed dancing fountains have been featured on TV and movies for years, and it’s truly spectacular to experience up close.

If you had to leave Vegas tomorrow to never return again, what would you not leave without eating or doing?

VegeNation is an amazing restaurant in downtown Las Vegas. Everything on the menu is 100% plant based, but it’s very well disguised as traditional American food. The chef’s buffalo cauliflower is addicting. I have tried to duplicate the recipe at home with no success … yet!

Let’s say you’ve just won $20 at the slots — can you turn that into a meal?

Believe it or not, turning $20 into a meal in Vegas is pretty darn easy. To get the best bang for your buck, visit Hash House a Go-Go, where the portions are larger than life. That $20 might even feed two of you with a single order. Enjoy!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, in a city that’s known for being a bit over the top, what’s the best splurge meal or activity you’d recommend to high rollers?

You can never go wrong with Joe’s Seafood & Crab at Caesar’s Palace. Excellent cuisine. Elegant ambiance. Enough said.

There are about 600,000 people living in Las Vegas year-round … but where do they go? What’s your favorite off-the-Strip locals’ spot?

Gold Spike is a fun bar downtown that has outdoor games. Whether you’re sitting by the fire or playing tetherball, it’s a great local spot to kick back with a group of people.

If you could make those people disappear, what place would you love to have all to yourself and why?

This is a trick question because I can make people disappear. Jokes aside, I love the solitude of being in my theater at the LINQ either before or after the show, when the room is totally empty. There’s something surreal about it, and it’s the perfect place for me to relax and reflect.

Do you have any favorite shows in Vegas (other than your own, obviously)?

Right across the street from my show is a show called “Absinthe.” It’s an adult circus of sorts with astounding variety performers and raunchy comedy that has no boundaries. It’s a phenomenal show, but be sure to leave your judgment (and kids) at home.

You have friends in town, and they want the “Vegas experience.” Where would you send them for the best views and the best photo opportunities?

There’s no better way to see the Las Vegas Strip than on the High Roller at the LINQ Promenade. The High Roller is the world’s largest observation wheel, allowing you to see Vegas from various angles as you get up to 550 feet in the air. The full rotation takes 30 minutes, and there is even an option for a “Happy Half Hour” which means it’s open bar!

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