Why 2020 is your lucky year for Las Vegas
The first ever Vegas-bound flight touched down a century ago. Now, an average of 500 flights from around the world descend on the glittering desert icon each day. Shouldn't you be on one of several that fly direct from the UK?
Even if you’ve already spent some time here, 2020 is an epic year to return. There’s so much on the docket that whatever your favourite pursuits -- live entertainment, foodie tourism, the great outdoors, pro sports -- you’ll hit the jackpot. To see what we mean, read on.
For the entertainment enthusiast
Earning its rep as entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas serves up hundreds of options on any given night -- whether you're in the mood for theatre, a concert, comedy, dance, acrobatics, magic or frankly anything else. Here's a short list of some of the hottest tickets for 2020:
Atomic Saloon Show at The Venetian
It’s "Westworld" meets "Britain’s Got Talent" with a little bawdy "Blazing Saddles" humour thrown in. Set in a futuristic wild west bordello, the Atomic Saloon Show includes everything from a preacher with an aerial act to a nun who plays “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” on the xylophone with a ping pong ball. Top that.
Kelly Clarkson’s Invincible Residency at Planet Hollywood
The pop star/TV host has earned a whole succession of bona fides since she first appeared on the scene as the inaugural champion of "American Idol" inaugural in 2002 -- for starters, three Grammys, 36 million singles sold and her very own talk show. Now she can add Las Vegas Diva to her resume. Clarkson will break away for a 16-date Las Vegas residency this spring, summer and fall. Catch her live while you can. The woman is very busy.
Foreigner at The Venetian Theatre
It’s, well, urgent that you book your tickets for Foreigner on The Strip asap. The classic rock band will be playing only a 10-show run at The Venetian through 25 April. With so many iconic hits through the years -- including “Hot Blooded” and “Cold as Ice” -- lead singer Kelly Hansen recently lamented to Rolling Stone that the band is having a hard time deciding what not to play.
Keith Urban Live -- Las Vegas at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace
The CMA Entertainer of the year will play a total of 12 shows over the course of the year. Packed with hits -- think “Somebody Like You” and “Days Go By” -- Urban Live promises to be an arena-style show in a more intimate theatre setting.
Sting: My Songs at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace
Promoters have long been asking Sting to do a residency on The Strip, but not until this year was the timing right to bring this Englishman to... Las Vegas. Starting in May, he'll be playing 16 shows here --and while his soothing voice and arsenal of hits would be enough to please any music fan, he’s added a bit of Vegas flair to the mix (dramatic visuals, for starters).
Life is Beautiful Festival in Downtown Las Vegas
The annual event takes place 18-20 September and transforms 18 downtown blocks into a street festival on steroids, with offerings from the city’s best restaurants, comedy acts, immersive art experiences and musical acts. Past participants have included everyone from Post Malone to Stevie Wonder to Billie Eilish, so clearly, you'll want to stay tuned for this year's lineup.
Lady Gaga at Park Theater
Taking an unorthodox approach to her residency here -- and you'd of course expect no less from her -- Gaga is staging two entirely different shows. The first, Enigma, runs from late April to mid-May, when a number of her hits will be reconfigured into a whole experiential odyssey. Then there's Lady Gaga Jazz & Piano, which also runs in May, when she'll intersperse pared-down versions of her own hits with others from the Great American Songbook. For fans who can't possibly be expected to choose between the two, going in May lets you see both back to back.
Superstar DJ Residencies
Here's the thing about a Vegas dance party: the clubs are over the top (see: the fabled OMNIA chandelier), but the talent is next level. Among the internationally renowned DJs doing extended residencies in Vegas this year are Calvin Harris at OMNIA at Caesars Palace, Diplo at Wynn Las Vegas, Tiësto at Hakkasan and The Chainsmokers at XS Nightclub.
For the foodie
Wolfgang, Giada, Gordon... just when you thought the gang was all here, the celebrity chef takeover of the Vegas foodie scene continues. And foodies can't get here fast enough to taste the results. Here's just the starter course of the 2020 menu:
Elio at the Wynn
A longtime fixture on the World's 50 Best Restaurants List thanks to his outposts in New York and Mexico City, Enrique Olvera is partnering with the award-winning Chef Daniela Soto-Innes, who already oversees his New York establishments, on this new endeavour at Wynn Las Vegas. Word is, this will be a sleek, contemporary Mexican spot -- set to debut in March with (as always) a meticulously sourced menu. Later in the year, another World's 50 Best alum will be joining the ranks of new Wynn recruits: Thomas Keller, of French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon fame, will be opening an as yet unnamed -- but already hotly anticipated -- restaurant of his own.
The Slanted Door at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace
Charlie Phan, the chef behind San Francisco's iconic The Slanted Door is bringing his culinary magic to Vegas this year. Existing standouts include cellophane noodles with Dungeness crab and organic chicken claypot with caramel sauce, but there's little doubt this new location will be serving up some superstars of its own.
Majordomo Meat & Fish at The Venetian
David Chang's cult favourite Netflix show many be called Ugly Delicious, but there's nothing ugly -- and everything delicious -- about the chef's new Vegas eatery Majordomo Meat & Fish. With its large raw bar and stunning tanks of live fish and lobsters, the restaurant is all about freshness. Feeling less spendy? Head to sister restaurant Moon Palace across the hall for starters, among other treats.
If you're into sports
Back in the day, watching pro sports in Vegas generally meant keeping your eyes glued to TV monitors in casino sportsbooks. And sure, those ultimate man caves still exist. But over the past two years -- with hockey, women’s basketball and football teams now calling Vegas home -- the city has seriously upped its live events game.
Hockey at T-Mobile Arena
How’s this for beginner’s luck? In year one of pro hockey in the desert, Vegas fans saw their motley crew of castoffs go all the way to the finals. Three years later, Vegas Golden Knights jerseys are still a must-have for home fans -- and a steady stream of opposing fans who've taken the best road trip in hockey means the T-Mobile Arena is rocking at every game. Pro tip: Pack ear plugs. This is home to the loudest goal horn in hockey, and they light the lamp often in Vegas.
American Football at Allegiant Stadium
The shiny new steel superstructure that is Allegiant Stadium fits right into a city skyline that’s big on flash. And as of September 2020, that black dome will host regular season pro football for the first time in Vegas, so don't be surprised when Las Vegas Raiders black jerseys start trending on the Strip. America’s biggest game on America’s biggest entertainment stage? Sounds about right.
For football fans who want to get their fix a little earlier, the NFL Draft will be held in Vegas for the first time in 2020 (23-25 April). What used to be a glorified conference call to select new players for league has turned into a year-round pundit-fest with a three-day grand finale when franchise destinies are set in motion.
Vegas is still the pro boxing capital of the world. Some of the most famous (and infamous) bouts in the history of the sport have happened here, thanks to such legends as Ali, Lewis, Tyson and Mayweather, to name a few. Small wonder that 2020's throwing some major punches, including a much-anticipated heavyweight rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury on 22 February at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
UFC at MGM Grand Garden Arena, T-Mobile Arena, or Mandalay Bay Events Center
The UFC and Vegas are the perfect match -- marquee names, exciting action and big wins and losses. Next up at the Octagon in 2020: UFC 248 on 7 March.
For the nature lover
In a city known for its man-made glitz, the surrounding wilderness is easy to overlook -- until you're standing, slack-jawed, amid the amazing mountains, canyons and wildlife that were there long before the first croupier. And given how close at hand these natural wonders are, trust us, you don't want to miss them.
Hiking and biking trails
You could make an entire trip of hitting the local trails, but some of the most popular are around Red Rock Canyon, and the spectacular sandstone formations of Valley of Fire State Park. Meanwhile, Mt. Charleston is a must for its surprising Alpine trails. Part of The Spring Mountains -- considered a "sky island" where high elevation species are able to thrive mid-Mojave -- this easy getaway juxtaposes gorgeously against the more expected desert landscapes.
Just 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam is a marvel of the modern world. In addition to its incredible hydroelectric operation, the dam is a beautiful Art Deco relic of the 1930s. Take a day trip on your own or join one of the many guided tours that leave from Las Vegas.
Riding the rails
Not far from The Strip, Rail Explorers in Boulder City lets you experience the railroad in a new way -- pedal-powered rail bikes take you on a scenic tour of the same tracks that helped build the Hoover Dam. Bonus: Admission to Nevada Southern Railroad Museum is included.
Seven Magic Mountains
The desert art installation so beloved that its local run keeps getting extended, this collection of eye-popping boulder totems by Ugo Rondinone should be here through at least the end of 2021. But if influencers have their say, this Insta-gold installation isn't ever leaving.
Whether you take a four-hour door-to-door helicopter trip to the Grand Canyon -- or make the four-hour scenic drive -- there's no wrong way to do this side trip. One of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, the Grand Canyon comes with endless exploration ops: Jeep, horse -- or maybe even your own charter train through the National Park. You haven't strayed far from high-roller territory, after all.
Pro tips: Five things to know before you go
1. For travelers who've come from across the pond, Las Vegas makes the perfect jumping-off point to other U.S. attractions. So once you've done all you want to do here, keep in mind that you're an hour and 20 minutes away from LA by plane (and flights are cheap). You're also close to a number of the most celebrated national parks in the US, even beyond the Grand Canyon. Think Zion and Bryce Canyon, for starters.
2. If you can build some mid-week nights into your Las Vegas stay, even the poshest hotels can look suddenly affordable. You'll also be competing with fewer high-rollers for the best seats at the best shows -- and the best reservation times at the best restaurants. You'll even find that there's more breathing room in some of the most popular outdoor destinations.
3. Know your American holidays. While popular three-day weekends like Memorial Day and July 4th can be busier than usual, weekend room rates tend to be more affordable around Easter and Thanksgiving. In fact, the four weeks (and weekends) between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a fantastic time for hotel deals. Also bear in mind that a number of British holidays aren't typically days off for Americans -- V-E Day and Easter Monday, for example -- so you won't find the city packed (or charging peak prices) at those times.
4. If you spend more than a few days in town -- as anyone who's made the trip from the UK may well want to do -- you can have a split-personality stay. The hotels around Lake Las Vegas offer a laid-back, retreat-like counterpoint to the full-on action of the hotels on or around the Strip. Switching spots halfway through almost feels like you're getting a bonus vacation.
5. For some quality downtime, book a day pass at one of the area's epic resort spas. For about half the cost of one treatment, you'll get access to the spa amenities, which typically involve a steam room, sauna, plunge pool, relaxation area and healthy snacks.