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A Vacation Insiders Guide


NOT JUST FOR PARTYING... The last time I was in Vegas was 1997, on the last leg of an around-theworld tour, post university, with a group of guys. Need I say more?! Cue Amy Firmani, our Vegas insider, here to convince us all that Vegas is so much more than a party town. Don't believe her? I suggest you read on... Zip lining, shark watching, waterslides, golf, shopping, world famous shows, parks and canyons, mountain biking, foodies, the list is endless. Heck Vegas even has the most churches per capita in the US. In a sinners paradise? I kid you not! Amy owns a villa in a quiet residential neighborhood south of the strip. Once her home, now a vacation rental, Amy is as qualified as anyone to show us the family side of a city that is synonymous with gambling and high octane partying. For me the real draw of Vegas is being able to enjoy the madness and then escape to the great outdoors. I'll never forget my first view of the Grand Canyon - simply awesome! And it's just a few hours by car, along with Death Valley, Bryce Canyon, and more. We also take a slight detour from our usual mantra of wanting to showcase independent places to stay. Amy managed to convince me that some of the big name hotels here are actually incredible places to stay. So we've featured a few of them in "Amy's tips on where to stay" towards the end of this guide. Forgive us the forray into the evil world of larger hotels!

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AMY FIRMANI... I came to Vegas because there was a cute guy living there that I was falling in love with – I was just out of law school and going there sounded like a fun break from the studies to spend time with him in all those exciting surroundings! A few months later we discovered a home being constructed that we saw as a diamond in the rough. It was a perfect location for us, close to the strip and many other amenities, yet in a quiet neighborhood. We purchased the house and were able to make design changes such as the fabulous circular staircase and relocating the garage entrance, creating a side driveway. We were just buying the house initially as an investment but over a few years we turned it into OUR beautiful home, adding personal touches to every room. We even added three kids and a dog! However, in mid-2012, the deteriorating economy in Las Vegas forced me to take a job in California and we had to relocate there. We had invested so much money into creating this beautiful home that we did not want to give it up – we had made it our dream home. Our hearts and love are still there!

“Our home had always been open to visitors - famiy from out-of-state, relatives & friends from Europe, an Italian exchange student and many more!”

Contact Amy: Simply click any of the buttons below to find out more about Amy's vacation rental in Vegas...

Alternatively feel free to call Amy direct on +1.702.835.6111

We had to either rent it full time or try it as a vacation rental. Our home had always been open to visitors – family from out-of–state, relatives and friends from Europe, an Italian exchange student and many more. We ourselves are big VRBO people. With three kids, we don’t really enjoy hotels. So we thought we’d try renting it as a vacation home. If we can’t live there, we are happy to share it with others who can enjoy it. It’s been a great experience and we’ve come to know a lot of interesting people. The once world champions in dodge ball stay with us every year. They love the spa to relax in after the games. We have had a group of soccer girls and their coaches from Denmark stay with us. The people who make Steaz Tea have stayed at the house (this is one of my favorite drinks!). Our guests also include some really fun groups from Canada. . . .those crazy Canadians love Vegas! Some of the best experiences we hear about come from families that use the house as a time to be together before they ship their son or daughter off to Iraq or someplace not so pleasant to serve our country (we give them 10% off as a thank you)... or the families that often tell each other, "We should all get together sometime in Vegas.” Finally they do make the plans and book our house and we love hearing that they had a great time together. These are the stories that make us realize that the decision to turn our wonderful home into a vacation rental was the right one!

Amy in Reviews:

Amy's Makeover:


We always found life in Vegas awesome - it's so much more than parties and gaming! Did you know that Vegas has the most churches per capita in the US, making it really a family place? Think about it - outside of the strip you have all the people who work on the strip, who have families. Which means, if you’re looking for something to do with your family away from the strip, you have plenty of options. For some outdoor fun you head to the Wet n Wild waterpark, recently rebuilt. For golfers there are some fantastic courses, too many to mention, but check out this link for a complete list. For those who need some retail therapy there are a few great malls off the strip like Town Square or Green Valley Ranch. For the thrill seekers (away from the tables) there are some fun roller coasters, all of them are great, if a little expensive. Definitely worth experiencing is the High Roller Ferris Wheel... at 500 ft in the air it's the world's largest observation wheel! And make sure you go to the top of the Stratosphere; it’s fabulous having a drink and watching the strip below as the bar rotates.

Then there are the shows. I would recommend O and the Beatles. There is a really good rat pack show in town. Vegas also has many of the most amazing places to eat on the planet, including the food festivals that the hotels host, like Vegas Uncork'd. Caesar's has a big one by the pools (picture above). You get all dressed up and hang with the cool crowd as you wander among tables of tiny bites of food from famous places in LV, LA and San Fran... all paired with wine. Truly an unbelievable experience. And all the money goes to charity! We also love to walk around Towne Square, catch a movie and sit outside at Brio by the fire pits with a latte and little goodies, watching people walk by. During the holidays, there is a cute Norman Rockwell House set up and Santa comes ... cutest place I have ever seen to visit Santa, that is for sure. Outside of Vegas there is also a lot to explore. Check out my great outdoors tips below. And don't forget Hoover Dam, often overlooked, but only about a 45 min drive. Did I say Vegas is so much more than parties and gaming? Yes, it really is a lovely family community!

Amy’s Great Outdoors Tips...

CANYONS... The Grand Canyon is just under 3 hours by car. Lesser known, but a couple of my favourites, Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon, also a few hours by car.

MOUNTAIN BIKING... For the adventurous you have some great mountain biking trails. I’ve had a few renters who tell me the trails are awesome!

DEATH VALLEY is around 90 minutes by car. If you’re lucky enough to be there in spring you’ll see the flowers in bloom, it’s really pretty.


Visit Red Rock at sunrise or sunset...


Caesars Palace...


Shark Reef followed by lunch at Mandalay Bay...


The Thrill of zip lining...



Red Rock is special. It is a wonderful place to climb and hike … but to see the sun rise and light up the rocks like fire…. It will take your breath away. The sunrise is spectacular. But if you cannot get up at 5 am, grab some snacks… prep a picnic… and head out for sunset. To see the red rocks light up and then the shadows take over, this is also quite amazing. And take an extra drive to Bonnie Springs to see an old western town.

This place is an icon. Rebuilt and rebuilt, but still so classy. Great pools, great events, great rooms, great mall … just a fun place to visit. Head over to the spa or salon for treatments (the spa is just beautiful, with saunas and pools…). Pay for a day pass, workout in the heavenly gym and then relax in a sauna. That is a good day! We also enjoy the mall and then a bit of people watching at one of the open air restaurants.

Well, this is off the beaten path! But so worth the trip. It is done Vegas style …. OVER THE TOP! The glowing jelly fish are just cool. And to see the sharks swimming over and under you… love it! Head over to the little Mexican café and sit outside for a great lunch or dinner after - it makes for a great way to spend a few hours.

2 great choices here in Vegas. Try the Voodoo Zipline between the Rio towers, where you'll hit speeds of 33 mph at 450 feet in the air! OR, for something of Vegas old school, above the original casinos and the great show in the sky, try the Fremont St line. Go on, you are in Vegas... do it!

So many shows… and they are so expensive. How do you decide which one to go to? While we can recommend a long list, this one stands out. It left us in awe. It was beyond amazing and something everyone should see. Acrobatics, synchronized swimming, diving. And all set around water and the concept of infinity. This is really only something you find in Vegas so go book your tickets!

WEEKEND HAUNTS AMY SUGGESTS... FOR THE GIRLS FOR THE GUYS TaylorMade Golf Center: Play 9 holes under floodlights with great views of the strip! Right across from Towne Square where the women can shop (see "for the girls"). Read more... Dig This, Drive a Bulldozer: It could only really happen in Vegas! Read this and I guarantee you'll want to go! Perfect Vegas mix of fun and crazy! The Steak House, Circus Circus: I know. I know. Circus Circus? I am not kidding – this is the best in town. Don't believe me? Check out the Yelp and Tripadvisor reviews! Yard House at Town Square: The beer is awesome and super cold, the games are always on and the local celebrities can be found sitting at the bar! Read more...

Blue Martini in Town Square: A fun place to hang out and watch a bit of the adult crowd of Vegas chill together. Not touristy… it's where the local professionals head. Check out the menu... Caesars Qua Baths & Spa: One of the best spas in the US according to Conde Nast! I can only agree it's incredible. I'd recommend a day pass to relax without rushing! Read more... Town Square Shopping: Great shopping and great food make this a perfect place for the girls to meet and spend a few hours. Pretty much all the major brands are there. Read more... Skinny Fats Restaurant: This place has menus for when you feel like being "bad" with your food choices, but actually know you're eating "good" :). Confused? Check it out.

Amy's Things to Avoid The strip by car in the evening...

Walking outside Fremont Street...

The cheesy part of the Strip...

Do not drive on Las Vegas Blvd in the early evening / night if you want to go somewhere! Find a back way – they exist (grab a map) or park at Mandalay Bay or Luxor and take the tram up to Excalibur! And use valet parking! MUCH less stressful and safer if you're alone or with small kids.

Once the center of drugs and prostitution, it has gone through a revitalization. It's still a rougher part of town, but I wouldn't call it dangerous, just not as safe. If you must walk around, stay in a group and don’t head into dark places. Basically use your common sense and you'll be absolutely fine!

These areas are mostly on the east side of the Strip, just past Flamingo and up to Sahara. Sometimes scary, often cheesy, usually drunken! AVOID... unless it's your thing! Just past MGM, there is a nice theater and a great M&M store, those are ok, but beyond that ... not so fabulous!

AMY’S TIPS ON WHERE TO STAY... Las Vegas has a number of options depending on your needs. Below is Amy's very own vacation rental, along with a couple of other suggestions. Should those all be booked up feel free to drop us a line and let us know. We're not a travel agency but will certainly try to lend a helping hand by offering some tips to make your search easier!

Amy’s Very Own...

Palazzo Paradiso is a 5 bedroom villa situated in an area of Vegas called Bermuda Springs, just off South Strip. It's perfect for accessing the glitz and glam of the strip, yet peaceful enough to allow you to recharge in luxurious surroundings! Visit Amy's Website to Find Out More

Amy Suggests...

A good alternative if I'm booked, it's close to my place and has a similar mix of inside and outside space, perfect for family gatherings or an escape with a group of friends. Georgeta is also an amazing owner - just look at the reviews at the below link! Visit Georgeta's HomeAway listing...

Amy Suggests...

On the strip Planet Hollywood has a great location and the price is good. The hotel at Mandalay Bay is nongaming, unbelievably beautiful and normally well priced. At the Venetian and the Palazzio the accommodations are all suites, so they are perfect for families. Take a look at Oyster's best kid friendly hotels...

We're here to help if you need... We get it, searching for the perfect place to stay can wear you down. So allow us to help you. Below are some suggestions to help make life easier. But if you're really stuck drop us a line and we'll try to help.

Places to Search...

Vacation rentals are growing in popularity. It's not just the extra space and freedom, but it's very often because the owners are personable and focused on service, like Amy! The widest selection can be found on sites like HomeAway, VRBO and FlipKey

OR Ask for Referrals...

As you trawl VRBO and other vacation rental sites you may come up against "sorry we're booked" responses. But owners frequently know other owners in the same area. So, if you come up against booked places just ask the owner if they can refer you!

OR Just Ask us...

Through our work with Amy, as well as our connections to other Vegas owners, we can help guide you in your search. Just drop us a line, let us know what's vexing you and we'll lend you a helping hand - we're not a travel agency but we can offer some tips!


PUT THE GUIDEBOOK DOWN... For real local knowledge put the heavy guidebook down and reach for an insider guide.

Vacation Insiders - travel guides direct from your host!

If you’re an accommodation owner and would like to participate in the Insider Guide series we’d love to hear from you! Email: or Web: VACATION INSIDERS © 2014 |

A Vacation Insiders Travel Guide to Las Vegas  
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