Sometimes I need a retreat from life’s worries, so I indulge in mini-sabbaticals often. I’ll pack an overnight duffel-bag and jet to a metropolis, beach or foreign locale. I prefer to spend these extended weekends in cities with pizzazz and culture, so I couldn’t resist when my aunt invited me to Las Vegas to celebrate her 40 birthday.

We would immerse in Vegas-culture for three days. I was determined to see as much of the city as I could within that time-frame. I’d visited Las Vegas in December 2012, but I didn’t explore much. This time was different.

We were exhausted when we left Las Vegas. We’d reconnoitered as much as the strip as we could and left with no complaints.

Considering a whirlwind weekend in Sin City? Here’s a mini-guide to enjoying the city.

You’ve got to live. Several hotels participate in M-Life, an incentive-based program that rewards users for gambling, shopping and traveling. You can connect the M-Life program to select retailers and brands, including Southwest Airlines, Avis Budget Group and Royal Caribbean International. More rewards are given as more points are accumulated. We stayed in a MGM Grand suite for free, but there are numerous hotels to choose from. Other participating hotels include Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Luxor and New York-New York.

 You’ve got to eat. The Las Vegas strip is lined with eateries, restaurants and buffets. Most of the food is overpriced, but there are several cheaper locales. There’s Pink’s, PF Changs, the Rainbow Café, Planet Hollywood, the Hard Rock Café, IHOP, Denny’s and even McDonalds. Most of the hotels also have buffets as well.

You’ve got to shop. Malls, malls and more malls line the Las Vegas strip and the outskirts. Most of the hotels, including the Palazzo/Venetian, have higher-end retailers like Christian Louboutin, but a mall on the outskirts of the Vegas strip offers everything from Lane Bryant to independent jewelry dealers.

You’ve got to be entertained. Isn’t that what Las Vegas is all about? We visited the Mandalay Bay shark reef and Madame Tussaud’s wax museum and we attended a Cirque du Soleil show. There are hundreds of nightly shows and tons of things to indulge in. You will be entertained. Las Vegas is also riddled with clubs, bars and lounges, but we avoided those.

You’ve got to drink. No vacation is complete without alcohol. Most Las Vegas casinos offer free cocktails to gamblers, but there are cheap alternatives for those avoiding the slot machines. We invested in Fat Tuesday’s Yard Dog cups. The daiquiri-bar serves frozen mixes for $10-to-$15. Fat Tuesday’s also refills all cups for a cheap price. Flavors range from Pina Colada to Long Island Iced Tea and bartenders can mix two-or-more flavors together. Best of all, Las Vegas has no outdoor-container laws, so it’s legal to drink while sightseeing.

Las Vegas offers it all: Entertainment, luxury and alcohol. I left with a yearning to visit again.

Chime in Clutchettes and gents. Have you been to Las Vegas? What did you do while you were there? What would you add to this list?

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    My hubs loves to gamble, so I usually get there once a year. I’ll second the renting a car to get to AZ or Utah – obviously the grand canyon is spectacular, but so are Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, and Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
    On buffets, I personally would recommend the 24/hr $49 Buffet of Buffets pass (through all Bally owned properties including Planet Hollywood, Rio, Paris – you can get at least 4 meals out of it (eat bfast an hour earlier the 2nd day).

  • AJ

    this is just in time, i heading to vegas for the first time on friday.

  • Shayla

    I agree. I’ll be going for my 25th birthday. Party it up! Of course with some relaxation and culture :)

  • Dee D

    This is pretty timely for me too lol. I’m going to Vegas for the first time this Sept. I’m ready to throw caution to the wind but my friend wants to plan everything from the minute we wake up to the minute we go to sleep : | She even made an itinerary of what we’ll be doing hour to hour. I’m scared I might not have any fun :( I might have to plan another Vegas trip next year with some of my more adventurous friends, the only problem is they’re usually broke, I guess that’s what happens when you’re too adventurous lol.

  • I’ve always wanted to go to Vegas. Unfortunately I just don’t have the money or time to across the entire nation. Nice guide. It’s fun to read for those of us who dream of visiting.

    • Jan

      sooo sad. Guess you don’t travel outside of the US then?!? More Americans need to travel both at home and especially abroad more often.. pronto!!! Passports for all!