There are so many bars in Las Vegas that if you tried to hit them all, it would take years and a good amount of your sanity. But like you learned after bringing airplane bottles of whiskey to your cousin’s school play, just because you can drink somewhere, doesn’t mean you should. When you want to go somewhere other than your hotel room to become not sober - and to drink something other than watered-down vodka sodas in a club - these are the best places to go. Print this out, get it airbrush-tattooed on your forearm, whatever you have to do, and then check out as many as you can. Some are cocktail bars, some are closer to dives, and some are something in between, but all of them are essential to any Vegas trip.
This guide is presented by Palms Las Vegas.
We’ve all fantasized about hitting it big in Vegas. There would be comped suites that could comfortably fit an entire basketball team, spa treatments, and lots of people who know our name and keep asking us if we need anything. The bar we’d go to in that fantasy would be Mr. Coco. From the archway entrance to the complimentary drink in the elevator up, you’ll feel like someone who regularly pushes a stack of chips to the center of the table and says “all in,” even if you’re more of a nickel slot machine fan. The cocktails are pricey but delicious and include things like the negroni bianca (get it with mezcal) and The Vicky topped with passion fruit foam. And if you want to drag out your special treatment for a while, there’s live jazz on Thursday nights and a food menu of small bites (and amazing bread pudding).
Once you finish your conference commitments for the day and start looking forward to getting back into your hotel bed, you may also want to be social and put at least two drinks on the company card. Juniper Cocktail Lounge in the Park MGM is an ideal spot to bring a few coworkers who are willing to pass around their drinks so you can all try more of the menu. With spacious bar and lounge areas, it’s easy to grab a table and it works just as well if you want to meet other people as it does if you want to recount how many times the speaker today said “synergy” in a small group after a long day.
Atomic Liquors is Las Vegas’ oldest free-standing bar and used to host “Atomic Watch Parties” back when nuclear testing occurred only 60 miles outside of town. Now they serve “Atomic Cocktails” and a wide range of draft beers, and have walls covered with a ton of original 1950s signage. This is definitely the place to bring your history nerd friends and show them the glass-covered floor safe that’s been sealed in its original location near the back entrance of the bar. And if you get hungry, walk 30 feet to The Kitchen at Atomic and order some food.
It’s a three-day weekend and you’re making the trek to Vegas like the 300,000 other people who needed to get away. You arrive at The Cosmopolitan only to be met with the longest check-in line you have ever seen. Instead of melting down, take a few steps past the registration desk and grab a seat at the Vesper Bar. You’ll find the Vesper - shaken or stirred - and other cocktails separated into “Classics” and “Vesper Interpretations.” Choose something from the menu or, if you’ve had enough of making decisions today and you just want to put your life in someone else’s hands, take advantage of the knowledgeable bartenders and have them create something specifically for you.
You’re ready to go out: you’ve changed outfits four times, drank all the probably-not-complimentary bottles of water in your hotel room, and taken enough photos that you’re considering upgrading your storage. When you want a place that will match your level of enthusiasm, make your way to Greene St. Kitchen. You enter this place through a vintage Coke refrigerator door that opens into a classic old-school arcade with graffiti-ed walls. Then as you keep walking in further, you’ll find things like a caged bar and giant Mickey hands making an LV sign. Grab a cocktail and order some elevated bar food, like Philly cheesesteak egg rolls, vegan sliders, and the duck pancakes.
Vegas sometimes feels like one large, boozy amusement park. So when you get to Golden Tiki, walk past a skeleton with a bandanna, and hear vaguely familiar music, you might worry the city found a way to import the Pirates of the Caribbean ride into Chinatown. Thankfully, though, Disneyland is about 250 miles away from this 24-hour spot and instead of an animatronic Jack Sparrow, you’ll find a way nicer tiki bar than the one you dragged your friends to on Spring Break years ago. There’s a long list of tropical drinks and even boozy Dole Whip, in case you really want to push the theme-park feel.
Maybe you ventured over to the Arts Factory for a little bit of culture, or you wanted to visit the chapel where Britney Spears got married. Either way, you’ve ended up in the Arts District, and you should check out Velveteen Rabbit before you head back to the Strip. This creative cocktail bar is constantly changing its menu using seasonal and house-made ingredients, like a drink with sundried tomato, olive oil, and black pepper mezcal. They’re also focused on local music and art, so chances are you’ll find a tarot reading or a psych-rock band playing among the vintage furniture and bottle chandeliers.
Once you’ve had a drink at Velveteen, head across the street to ReBar. You’ll be immediately and pleasantly overwhelmed by the insane assortment of kitsch - from light-up signs on the walls to mismatched vintage furniture to a painted bicycle - since this place is half bar, half antique store. You could stay a while trying to analyze the three square feet of wall behind you, but you might as well have a drink in your hand - they have plenty of beer, wine, and cocktails. They also serve food, like sausages on buns from a local bakery, and surprisingly good vegan options.
Esther’s Kitchen has a deceptively strong bar menu for a casual Italian spot in downtown Las Vegas. They mix classics with creative drinks like the Pie Felicia, a sour made with blueberry-infused bourbon and lavender bitters, and they have plenty of bottles of wine as well as affordable by-the-glass options, most around $9-10. If you order a drink at the bar, you can enjoy Pastaholics Anonymous from 5-7pm and 9-11pm when all pastas are half-off. Just make sure you come early since it’s first come, first served and there are only 10 seats.
Hitting all of the best places in Vegas in one trip is near impossible, but one that should be at the top of your list is Herbs and Rye. Located off-Strip, Herbs and Rye serves some of our favorite cocktails and steaks in town. This is another spot that might be a restaurant first, but still manages to make some of the best drinks around. Their cocktail menu is organized in chronological order, highlighting different drinks from different time periods like the Original Collins (made with Genever, the liquor that gin evolved from) from the Gothic Age. Plus, their Happy Hour (5-8pm and 12-3am) is one of the best in Vegas since you can get drinks and steaks for half price.
Casino bars usually bring to mind watery rum punches and built-in screens for playing poker at your seat. So when you walk past the blackjack tables in the Palms to find a huge deconstructed shark and Unknown’s cocktail menu with things like a barrel-aged negroni and an allspice dark and stormy, you’ll have to reconsider your expectations. That might just be the motto for a trip to Vegas, though. Sitting at the circular bar is perfect for people watching or testing out your new pick-up line that starts with “there are plenty of fish in the sea” before mumbling something about sharks sleeping with their eyes open and introducing yourself.
The Laundry Room is the bar equivalent of those Russian nesting dolls your aunt always brought back from her trips (that were never to Russia). It’s a reservation-by-text-only speakeasy located inside another bar called Commonwealth in the Fremont East District. Their menu consists of drinks that all have a minimum of five interesting ingredients, though the bartenders are more than happy to take on a challenge so try and come up with a request to stump them. This is the perfect spot to start the night with a few friends when you want to feel a little in-the-know.
Odds are after a day spent listening to your tour guide on the best “dam” Hoover Dam tour, you’re going to need a lot of alcohol. Convince the driver to stop at Khoury’s Fine Wine and Spirits on the way back. They have an extensive selection of specialty wines, craft beers, and small-batch spirits, as well as rotating wines and taps that you can try while you shop for your hotel fridge. And if you happen to be in town mid-week, head out for the weekly wine tastings on Thursdays and tapping events on Wednesdays paired with food trucks like Meats Gone Wild (try the alligator spare ribs, seriously).
Yes, Frankie’s Tiki Room is another tiki bar and yes, it’s exactly what you picture when you close your eyes and imagine one. It’s small and smokey with tiki totems, pufferfish light fixtures, and palm fronds hanging from all surfaces. But we love the nostalgia and the fact that they go hard on the theme doesn’t mean it isn’t a fun place. It’s also open 24 hours a day, so it’s a spot you might head to while it’s still light outside and leave wondering what day it is and if you missed your flight. If you get hungry, head across the street to Del Taco and avoid the urge to try walking up to the drive-in window. Just go inside - they’re open 24 hours and sincerely frown on jokes about invisible cars, trust us.
The last three times you looked down at your watch it said 12:45am, so you suddenly realize two things: you definitely shouldn’t have worn it in the pool and it’s way later than you thought it was. Sure, you should probably head home, but when you want one last drink to wind down, have it at Dino’s. It’s dive-y and a great place to get a few cheap drinks and play some pool. There’s also karaoke Thursdays through Saturdays, and if you’re lucky, you might see some Vegas newlyweds being serenaded with “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by a very celebratory couple that might soon be newly wed, even though they only met a few hours ago. If you get hungry and it’s before 12am, walk across the street for some Venezuelan arepas or to the little shack with amazing Puerto Rican food.
Making your way to Ghost Donkey feel suspiciously like the beginning to a donkey-themed horror movie. Thankfully, after walking through The Cosmopolitan and entering through a green exit door with a pink donkey on it inside the Block 16 Food Hall, you’ll find one of the best secret bars in Vegas instead of a strange scene of possessed livestock. It has the largest mezcal selection in the state, so the right call here is to order a few to try, though they have plenty of cocktails if that’s not your thing. Between the twinkling lights, neon sign, and their not-too-loud mix of reggaeton, Latin, and cumbia music, this small speakeasy is a great spot for a low-key pregame, date night, or solo adventure.
Hidden away on the west side of the Strip is The Sand Dollar Lounge, which is one of our favorite spots to unwind at after a long day of work meetings. There are pool tables, shuffleboard, and occasional live music, along with surprisingly good pizza. Their whiskey selection and cocktail menu are great, but it’s a lot of fun to make your way through the shot and beer combos named after cities, like the Chicago (Jameson and a Miller High Life) and the Austin (Cimarrón Blanco and a Shiner Bock)
You’re only in Vegas for a few days and tonight’s the night you’ve decided to pull out that all-sequined outfit you drunkenly and excitedly bought on final sale for 74% off right after you booked this trip. The only way to do it justice is to wear it hotel-hopping down the Strip, and Libertine Social in the Mandalay Bay is where you should start. They serve seasonal cocktails and retro drinks, along with a menu of small plates and snacks. It’s the type of place you’ll end up inviting the table next to you to share some yellowtail cones - then probably the rest of the night’s activities too.
There are a few common themes throughout all James Bond movies - beautiful women who inevitably double-cross him, fancy vehicles with cool spy features, and chase scenes. And if there were a chase scene through The Venetian and he needed somewhere to hide, he’d go to Rosina. Everything is gold-trimmed and there are stamped ice cubes, “Champagne Call Buttons” at each table, and a secret menu with drinks like the Blackthorn, with whiskey, vermouth, and absinthe. Regardless of who you bring here, they’ll be impressed, so come with a few coworkers post-convention or for one of the classiest nightcaps you can find in Vegas.
Whether you decided to check out Flock and Fowl, or you needed to ride the Slotzilla, you’re downtown and in need of a last drink before you crawl into bed. Mike Morey’s Sip’N’Tip, which is slightly hidden down a side street, is a great place to escape the madness. With only about 30 seats, it’s not the place to bring every person you met while waiting to ride a zip line modeled after a slot machine (and will definitely keep in touch with). Instead, come with a few friends, make your way through the long beer list, and add your own Polaroid to their massive collection.