March Madness is just around the corner. And one single destination (outside of the actual NCAA men’s basketball tournament, mind you) has become a hotbed for hardcourt fans—Las Vegas.
The city seems purposefully built to host thousands of rabid sports fans who want to place bets on their team and watch the outcomes play out while cheering or jeering at cascading walls of high-def TVs. And, of course, there’s the food, beer, cocktails, gaming and, well, things best left to your imagination.
So for those headed to Vegas during the tournament (March 13-April 2), here’s a quick guide to wring every last drop of fun, excitement and indulgence out of the city.
Best Sports Bar Experience
Lagasse’s Stadium, named after famed chef Emeril Lagasse, is tucked inside The Palazzo and provides one of the best seats in Vegas for one-stop tournament watching. Upgrade to a luxury box, or simply enjoy the stadium seating which fills much of the open restaurant that angles down before a massive wall of HD-TVs. You can listen to any game showing via the free hearTV app on your smartphone. The venue serves serious fare and fun dishes like Stadium Nachos and Lobster Grilled Cheese, plus beer and cocktails, and has a sports book on site so fans never have to leave the venue to place their bets.
Catch a Different Game
If you’re looking for a palate cleanser from the hardcourt action, hit the ice. Las Vegas is a hockey city. As of the 2017-18 season, the city hosts the NHL’s newest franchise, the Golden Knights, who play at the T-Mobile Arena on the main strip. The party atmosphere just outside the venue is only rivaled by the excitement inside, where hometown fans put their hockey fever on full display. And yes, the team is surprisingly good. Check their schedule to find a game this March.
Best Place to Grab A Beer…or two…or five
If you decide to see the Golden Knights (or just want to sample fabulous local and national craft beers while watching the tournament on TV), head to Beerhaus at The Park, located near T-Mobile Arena. Hockey fans congregate there to sample dozens of beers on tap, grab a bite—try the warm pretzels with beer cheese dip—and watch pre-game as the Golden Knights drum line comes marching past to the rowdy cheers of hockey faithful.
Check out the Soon-To-Be Las Vegas Raiders
Sure, the Raiders aren’t heading to Las Vegas just yet, but you can get a sneak peek at what’s to come and learn more about the history of the NFL franchise by stopping by The Raiders Preview Center, located in Town Square well off the strip. The 7,500-square-foot interactive facility allows football fans a chance to not only see the Raiders’ actual Super Bowl rings and Lombardi Trophies, but also sign up for PSLs and learn more about the 65,000-capacity stadium (model pictured above) that’s set to open adjacent to the strip in 2020.
Best Place for an Amazing Burger and Obscene Shake
Inside The Venetian is The Back Tap, a New York-based restaurant that offers up craft burgers and massive shakes. They serve up burgers of every type (even vegan), but for a melt-in-your-mouth experience, try The Old Fashioned that’s topped with crimini mushrooms, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and horseradish. And for dessert, grab one of their Crazyshakes. These towering shakes have names like Cotton Candy, Bam Bam Shake (covered in Fruity Pebbles) and Cookies ‘N Cream Supreme (a full-sized ice cream sandwich is used as garnish) serve as a reminder of why you’re there…to live a little.
Best Buffet… In the History of Forever
To celebrate your March Madness winnings, or just to soak up the beer, hit a buffet. The mother of all buffets is the Bacchanal Buffet inside Caesars Palace. It’s like Disney World for foodies. The buffet stretches on and on with a mind-boggling number of options, including prime rib, crab legs, sushi, roasted South Carolina shrimp and grits, oak-grilled lamb chops, pizza, gelato, baked-to-order souffles and more. In all, there are nine distinct restaurants, ranging from Italian to Japanese, in one location with nearly 500 dishes to choose from.
Las Vegas is filled great bars and amazing cocktails. But two stand above the rest if you’re looking for a life-changing beverage with a kick. The first can be found at the newly-opened Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen. Located at Caesars Palace, this restaurant by the famed angry chef, has spectacular food, but their cocktails will blow you away. Try one called Meet Your Maker, which centers around Maker’s Mark bourbon and fresh strawberries.
The second can be found at the Libertine Social in Mandalay Bay. Examine their list of Swizzles (one pictured above), an alcoholic drink that incorporates rum, bitters, juices, and crushed ice that’s mixed with a wooden “swizzle” stirring stick. Order a pitcher for you and your buddies and you’ll be the most popular guy there.
Now, bring on March Madness!