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A fabulous weekend in Vegas

Viva, Las Vegas! In these tough economic times everyone deserves a break from reality, and Las Vegas is the cure for the common vacation.
/ Source: Special to msnbc.com

Viva, Las Vegas! In these tough economic times everyone deserves a break from reality, and Las Vegas is the cure for the common vacation. Make the most of your Vegas trip with these helpful tips.

Before you leave home, prepare for your trip by booking your room. Staying downtown or off-Strip can save you money, but with amazing deals and added “perks”, staying on the Strip is really your best bet. The Strip refers to the portion of Las Vegas Blvd., where all the major resorts are located. If you’re looking for a four star vacation, check out the Venetian, with its “authentic” Italian landscape, Caesars Palace, which has undergone a major renovation in the last few years, the Bellagio with it’s impressive lake, or the Wynn, Vegas’s newest resort. While not considered one of the finest resorts on the Strip, the MGM Grand, is one of the biggest and best, and the beds are considered the most comfortable in town. All five of these hotels are running amazing specials into the fall, offering such extras as free cash for the slots, and free food and discounts at night clubs, bars and restaurants.

With the hotel booked, it’s time to look at flights. Three days, two nights is more than enough time to spend in Vegas, and most major airlines have non-stop flights from just about anywhere in the United States, and Jet Blue, Southwest and Virgin America often run specials.

Now, with the hotel and flights set, it’s time to start planning the meat of your trip. Here are some suggestions on what to see, where to eat and what to do in Sin City.

Friday night:
After you arrive and check into your hotel, you’re going to want to eat. If you’re coming from the East Coast, your internal clock might be a bit off, so a good meal just might be what the doctor ordered! With a plethora of restaurants to choose from, you can’t go wrong at just about any restaurant, but Bouchon, located in the Venetian Hotel, is an excellent way to start your trip. Thomas Keller’s French bistro takes you to a world far away from the bright lights of Vegas. In Bouchon, you are transported to a French bistro with authentic flavors and amazing service. The food is top-notch and the desserts are the tops.

After dinner it’s time for a show — and what’s more Vegas than Cirque du Soleil? If you haven’t seen one of these high-flying shows, run, don’t walk to get your tickets. At KÀ, at the MGM Grand, you can see the most amazing acrobats fly around the theater doing things that you thought were not humanly possible, and at “O” at the Bellagio, you will see the performers creating magic in a stage that is a deep pool of water. What makes the Cirque shows so amazing, in addition to the performers, are the theaters that the shows are in —every theater has been specially built for the show that it houses and nowhere else but Vegas can you see it.

After the entertainment, make your way back to your hotel by walking the Strip. Vegas definitely attracts its share of unique individuals so enjoy the sights and sounds of Sin City — check out the other casinos and enjoy people watching.

Saturday:
After a good night’s rest, it’s time to explore Vegas during the day. The best way to start your day is with a good breakfast, and one of the best is at Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro at Caesars Palace. For $16.00 you can have all the French pastries, juices, fruits and other amazing delicacies you can eat! Get there before 11:30 a.m., and enjoy one of the best deals in Vegas.

With a full stomach, it’s time to make the most of your day. Be sure to take advantage of the pool at your hotel. Most hotels on the Strip have amazing pools and some, like the Mandalay Bay Resort, have lazy rivers and wave pools. Every pool has a bar — and relaxing with a frothy frozen drink is a great way to spend a few hours in Vegas. 

If you’re looking for something a bit more cultural ... if that’s the right word, then I strongly suggest you check out the Liberace Museum. A free shuttle makes the rounds to most of the hotels and takes you to one of the most unique museums you will ever go to. The Liberace Museum is made up of two separate buildings housing his collection of cars, pianos and costumes. Whether you are a fan or not, this museum will make you shout for more. Liberace was an outrageous talent and his museum lives up to his persona. 

Saturday night in Vegas can be a lot of things. It can be a drunken frat party or a relaxing dinner at one of the best restaurants in the world. It can also be an opportunity to check out some world-class entertainers. Cher and Bette Midler have been in rotation at the Coliseum at Caesars Palace for the last year, both performing what some consider to be, independently, the ultimate concert experience Vegas has ever seen. More than a concert, each performer puts on a show that will leave your jaw dropped and in awe of their talents, voice and presence. Do yourself a favor and book a ticket for whoever is performing in the Coliseum the night you are there. And don’t forget about dinner! Caesars Palace is currently running specials where you can eat in one of their amazing restaurants and book your tickets as part of a deal.

Sunday:
By this point, you have seen amazing performances, eaten fantastic food and walked up and down the Strip ... so what is there left to do? Shop! Vegas has become the Mecca for shopping in addition to gambling. The Fashion Show is a giant mall located right on the Strip and every hotel has it’s own shopping area with brand name stores, but the place that blows them all away is the Caesars Forum Shops. Much more than a mall, the Forum Shops have created a Roman village complete with a painted sky. Highlights of the shops include a spiral staircase that is really an escalator, and statues that talk and put on a show. Treat yourself to lunch at Spago, the Wolfgang Puck restaurant or one of the other dozens of restaurants in the shopping complex and end your time in Vegas with an only-in-Vegas shopping experience. 

Remember ... if you walk away with money in your pocket — you’re a winner!