One of my favorite fun and free activities on the Las Vegas Strip is casino trekking – in and out of a series of casinos to check out the sights and themes plus log some exercise time.
Mandalay Bay to the MGM Grand and Back
Start at the elegant Mandalay Bay where, after a spin around some interesting decor, you can walk through the shopping arcades over to the Luxor and then Excalibur. At Excalibur you’ll have a brief excursion outside on the pedestrian bridge to cross over to New York New York, then another pedestrian bridge to MGM Grand. When you’ve had your fill of casinos, backtrack to the Excalibur to get the Express Tram back to Mandalay Bay.
The Mandalay Bay casino has a manly vibe inside, dark good looks in tones of chocolate brown with a kind of Asian fusion theme going on. It used to be my favorite casino just for its futuristic glass restrooms hidden behind curtains of chain beads and dancing fountains. Those terrific restrooms are gone along with China Grill where they were located, but Mandalay Bay still has some fun sights.
The entry from the self-parking structure to the casino leads right to the statue of the beheaded Lenin and the Red Square restaurant and lounge. Make sure you take a look at the Russian themed interior of the restaurant – love that onion dome chandelier.
Turn right at the fountain to head to the Aureole restaurant to see the spectacular four story Wine Tower. If you’re lucky you might see the staff in action when a diner orders a bottle for them to retrieve. On a huge wall to the right of the wine tower is the Body Parts wall. That torso within hands reach looks a little polished…
Head through the casino to the northern end in the direction of the House of Blues to check out the fun exterior.
You can take the free tram from Mandalay Bay to the Luxor, but the Mandalay Bay Shopping arcade starts right next to the House of Blues and leads directly to the mezzanine level of the Luxor.
Tip: Don’t miss the Peter Lik gallery in the Mandalay Shopping arcade! Gorgeous photography printed on silver-halide paper, many of these landscape pieces make you feel like you can walk right into them.
The Luxor has never been a favorite of mine, but your first sight on entering from the shopping arcade is a Wow. Egyptian theme of course, this is the pyramid shaped casino with the piercing spotlight shooting straight up from the top that you can see from all over Vegas every night. The fascinating “Bodies” exhibition is here (fitting, hmm?) and a Titanic artifacts exhibition. If you haven’t seen Bodies, well – don’t miss it!
The mezzanine of the Luxor is above the gaming area, head down the escalator or elevator and find the shopping arcade connecting the Luxor and Excalibur.
One of the more kid-friendly casinos with lots of toy stores, arcade games, fast food eateries and a Tournament show, the Excalibur isn’t interesting inside. Trek on through to the opposite end and the pedestrian bridge to New York New York.
New York New York
The pedestrian bridge lands you on the mezzanine level of the New York New York casino. Walk by shops to the escalator and down to the gaming level. This casino has a fun “neighborhood” theme – lots to look at and fun to walk through. The fabulous show Zumanity is in the theater here – if you want something quintessentially Las Vegas, go see Zumanity. But make sure you know what you’re getting into…
Good Stop: Fulton Fish Frye is a good stop for fish and chips, not expensive and 2 big pieces of fish.
Fun stuff: You’ll probably get a glimpse of the roller coaster as it screams through a section inside the casino.
Find your way back to the escalator and up and out to the pedestrian bridge leading to the MGM Grand.
The MGM Grand is enormous. You’d think it would have a Hollywood theme, but no. It’s not really interesting inside
except for the really cool Rainforest Cafe with huge fish tanks, quirky fun decor and yes, even sound affects! The Rainforest Cafe is a chain, done the BEST right here.
September Update: The Rainforest Cafe closed its 20 year run at the MGM in September, but you can still see the fun characters and sound affects at the new location on the Strip close to Planet Hollywood.
Back to Mandalay Bay
Had enough Casino Treking? Head back over the pedestrian bridge to the Excalibur, but turn left to get to the tram. The free and fast express tram will whisk you directly back to Mandalay Bay in about 2 minutes with only a 5 minute wait.
There’s something for everyone in the variety of casinos and doing a casino trek is a fun way to experience them. You can have a great time in Vegas even if you don’t gamble (like me!)
Parking Update: Free parking, a long time tradition at the Strip casinos, has disappeared at all the MGM Resorts properties (including Mandalay Bay) and at other casinos – be prepared to pay to park anywhere around $7-8 for 4 hours or $10-$14 for 4 to 24 hours. But there may still be free parking at some casinos, best to google for the latest info.
What else do you do in Las Vegas when you don’t gamble? How to Love Las Vegas When You Don’t Gamble
Have you been casino trekking in Las Vegas? What’s your favorite casino?