As one of the biggest party scenes in the world, most people think of Las Vegas as a group destination. Whether for a bachelor party, a different sort of celebration or even just two lovebirds headed to the Little White Wedding Chapel, Las Vegas fun seekers usually travel in groups. Believe it or not, however, there also exists a group of people who actually travel to Las Vegas without any company. No, we’re not talking about the business traveler who wasn’t able to drum up enough convention interest around the office. These soloers come to enjoy the city just like everyone else.
We recently had a brief chat with Gray Cargill, the face behind The Vegas Solo, wanting to learn a little more about the unique website. Of course, we had to get the inside scoop on the best kept secrets of solo travel, too. Check out our interview below:
My first solo trip was to England in my late 20s—at least I consider it a solo trip, since I didn’t know anyone else in the group I was traveling with prior to the trip. I had been wanting to travel for some time, but didn’t have a travel companion. Then I saw a three-week course being offered through my university called “Shakespeare on the Page and Stage in England”. I was an English major in college. The idea of seeing England that way was just too tempting, so I decided to go for it. It was a fabulous first experience. I had plenty of time to myself to explore London, but also group activities.
I did some research ahead of time, but this was pre-Google, so it wasn’t nearly the same kind of research I’m able to do today! I had to use a guidebook to figure out what I wanted to do during my free time there. Beyond that, my first truly solo trip was to Las Vegas. I am a planner by nature, so I can’t help myself; I always plan the heck out of my trips. I research everything I might want to do, try to get the lay of the land ahead of time, query others who have been there on safety issues, etc.
2. How did you wind up blogging about solo travel? What’s the response been like?
I was looking for a creative writing outlet and decided I should write about something I feel strongly about, and I feel strongly about solo travel. People in my everyday life were always telling me they thought I was brave for traveling alone, or that they couldn’t do it, and I decided it was time to set out to show people that solo travel doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. The response has been far greater than I ever expected. There’s a lot of interest in solo travel out there.
3. With the correct guidance could anyone have a good time in Vegas alone, or does it take a particular personality? What advice would you give to someone on the fence?
That’s a tough question to answer. Las Vegas isn’t for everyone. If you have an addictive personality, for instance, it might be best to avoid it, because you will be surrounded by temptations all the time. That said, I think a lot of people decide they wouldn’t like Las Vegas before they even give it a try because of preconceived notions of what it’s like; in fact, I used to feel that way.
Knowing what I know about Las Vegas now, I could probably pull together an itinerary for just about anyone, as long as I knew what sorts of things they enjoy doing, that would enable them to have a great vacation there. My advice is always to do your research, and lots of it. The more you learn about what’s available in Las Vegas, the more you realize those preconceived notions are just a small part of the picture.
4. When heading to Las Vegas, a lot of people want to know how many days they should stay. What’s your typical trip like?
That really depends on a lot of different factors, like your budget, how far you’re coming from, and the pace you set once you’re there. If you are the type who is up all night and getting little sleep in Vegas, it’s probably best to go for shorter trips, because it’s hard to maintain that pace for long. For me, it’s a full day’s travel for me to get there, so I usually like to stay 5-7 nights. But I’m also getting a good night’s sleep every night, because I’m not into the nightclub scene. There’s certainly plenty to do to keep you busy for a week—more, if you take day trips outside of Las Vegas, like to the Grand Canyon. I’ve also been trying to build in “rest time” during my days to sit out by the pool or take a nap or whatever. If you did a “commando” trip, where you take the city by storm, you could do a lot in 3-4 days.
5. What is the one thing people should know before they head off to Vegas on a solo adventure?
Be prepared to have a great time. One of the reasons I love Las Vegas so much is that it’s the solo-friendliest city I’ve ever visited. They don’t bat an eye at people traveling alone there. You get the same service everyone else does, and it’s easy to meet people. Other tourists are always in a great mood, so they’re more approachable. And there is such a variety of things to do, you won’t get bored.
Eat at a buffet to build your confidence, but don't miss out on the city's fabulous dining just because you're a party of one.
6. On your blog, you discuss dining alone in Vegas. There is a fairly strong social stigma associated with dining alone in a restaurant. What would you recommend to help someone build the courage to give it a shot?
A couple of things. First, try a buffet. With buffets, there’s no awkward wait time between ordering and having your meal served—you’re off and running as soon as you walk in. Most people won’t know you’re dining alone, because everyone gets up for seconds and thirds at buffets, so there are always people sitting there alone—whether they’re actually dining alone or not. Second, sit at the bar of a restaurant. This way, you can interact with at least the bartender, if not other diners sitting next to you. But I almost always have a great experience even dining at a table in a nice restaurant in Las Vegas. You have to remember lots of conventions are held in Las Vegas, so they’re used to people dining alone. Ask for a table with a view if one is available and people-watch. It’s one of my favorite activities when I’m dining out.
7. With all of the conventions and business events, there is never a shortage of solo travelers in Las Vegas. How often do you reach out and find a crowd to hang out with? Any tips for us?
I try to reach out to people on each trip I take, and now I actually have friends who live in Las Vegas, so it’s a bit easier. It’s helpful if you are social media-savvy. In the beginning, I tried to join in meetups scheduled by others on Vegas message forums online (and if there weren’t any scheduled while I was going to be there, I’d schedule one myself). That’s really the best way to build in some social time ahead of your trip, if you’re worried you won’t meet people organically while you’re there. I’d suggest trying Twitter and Facebook, too. See if there are any Tweetups happening while you’re in town; they can be a lot of fun.
8. Describe your favorite experience on a solo trip to Las Vegas.
I think I’d have to go with a recurring favorite experience, which is walking up and down the Strip at night. Two of my favorite things about Las Vegas are seeing everything all lit up at night and people-watching. You don’t need a companion to enjoy it.
9. Give us a quick rundown of your Las Vegas favorites. Hotel, restaurant, attraction, show.
I’m making a strangled gurgling sound right now, because it’s so hard to pick a single favorite! For hotel, I’d have to say the Bellagio. It’s one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed at, and the location on the Strip is perfect. If you can get a room with a view of the fountain show, it’s heaven. I’m not sure I have a favorite restaurant. To me, a favorite is one where you feel you want to eat there every time you’re in town. There are so many wonderful restaurants in Las Vegas, I keep trying new ones every time I go.
My favorite attraction is the Bellagio Fountain Show, no question. The best show I’ve seen in Vegas was Celine Dion’s former show at Caesars Palace. I haven’t seen the new show, so I can’t say how I’ll feel about it. I also really loved Human Nature. I’d go back to see them again and again.
Whether traveling solo or in a group of 20, the Dancing Fountains of Bellagio are a can't miss attraction.
10. Any other top destinations you recommend for solo travel?
It would probably be easier to say which ones I don’t recommend, and that would basically be any region or country that is violent, politically unstable, that has human rights violations, and/or treats women like second-class citizens. Those aren’t countries I’m in a big hurry to visit. Otherwise, the sky’s the limit. London and Paris are wonderful. I adored Barcelona, Spain and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Cities like Miami, New Orleans, and New York have a lot to offer. I really have nothing bad to say about any of the destinations I’ve visited, unless the weather was poor, and that’s just luck of the draw, isn’t it? If you like Disney, I’d suggest a solo trip to Disney World. It’s wonderful to be able to indulge your inner child and do what you want, when you want at a place like that.
That covers our curiosities on Las Vegas solo travel! Be sure to check out the blog and Las Vegas guides over at vegassolo.com and don’t forget to follow Gray on Twitter (@VegasSolo).
Thanks again to Gray for lending us the time and knowledge!
Photo credits: MGM Grand Buffet, Fountains of Bellagio