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8 Ways Your Next Trip to Las Vegas Will Be Different

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Sin City, too.

Much of Las Vegas shut down in the early stages of the pandemic, but travelers have been making their way back to the gambling capital of the U.S. for months. From mandatory masks to capacity limits, new safety procedures are in place.

But after a recent visit to Las Vegas, I can confidently say: It's just … different. The constant buzz of the Las Vegas Strip is gone, at least for now. In its place, there's a tentative hum of a tourist mecca waiting, buying time until “normal” returns.

Whether you're a first-timer or a regular, here's a look at what you'll find on your next trip to Las Vegas.


New Safety Measures at the Airport

While travel is down across the board, Las Vegas is one of a handful of tourist destinations nationwide still luring tourists back during the pandemic.

After touching down at Las Vegas (LAS), you'll quickly see the airport has done more than perhaps any other to improve safety. There are automated hand sanitizers almost everywhere you look. You'll see and hear almost constant reminders, placards, posters, and overhead announcements to stay safe, keep at least 6 feet between strangers, wash your hands, and wear a mask. And because this is Las Vegas, it's all done with a gambling theme: “Don't roll the dice: Stay 6 feet apart!”


The airport has dubbed it “LAS All In,” and it's seriously impressive. Airport officials also say they've stepped up their cleaning throughout the airport, using higher-grade disinfectants. And while the airport can't control each and every passenger, there's no denying its enhanced safety protocols for COVID-19 are making a difference.

Looking to use a lounge on your way back home? The fabulous American Express Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas remains closed (and is undergoing an expansion) but you can get into The Club in Terminal 1D with a Priority Pass membership. Capacity is capped, seating is blocked to ensure social distancing, and all food and drinks are served by lounge attendants.


las vegas centurion lounge

Empty Streets, Busier Weekends


Look at this.


las vegas city street


In a half-dozen visits spread over the years, I have never seen Las Vegas Boulevard (aka “The Strip”) this empty. Not even close. Today in Las Vegas, the cars, trucks, and driving billboards that typically dominate the Strip have all but disappeared. Sidewalks and walking paths feel much emptier, too.

Or scope out the check-in area at Aria on a Thursday afternoon.


las vegas covid-19


It's a sign of the times. While visitors have returned to Las Vegas during the pandemic, it's nowhere near back to normal. Case in point: Visits to Las Vegas were down 57% in August compared to a year before, according to data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. That's a healthy increase from the 97% drop recorded in April 2020, but travel is still way down.

The rhythym in Las Vegas follows the same familiar formula. Weekdays are lighter until Thursday, when it begins to pick up for the weekend.

But now, weekdays are positively sleepy. And although it's noticeably busier on Friday and Saturdays, you can still feel the city is not buzzing along as usual.


Most Strip Resorts are Open Now

For months, much of the Las Vegas strip went dark as casinos and resorts closed down amid the pandemic. Fast forward to the fall, and almost every major property on the Las Vegas Strip has reopened.

Today, almost every major property on the Las Vegas Strip is back open for business. Most recently, Planet Hollywood opened its doors just last week on Oct. 8. Park MGM

As of publication, just two properties on the Strip remain closed:

  • The Cromwell
  • Rio Las Vegas


Mandatory Masks (& Some Temperature Checks)

Just because the Strip is back open for business doesn't mean it's business as usual inside hotels and casinos.

For starters, you'll have to wear a mask. Not just because it's common sense, but because of a statewide mandate. And in most cases, casinos are enforcing that with reminders around casino floors and public spaces and employees stationed at entrances to monitor mask usage as guests come in.


sign showing face covering policies


Some casinos and stores along the Strip even get a bit cheeky about it…


a sign for crossover in las vegas


But temperature checks aren't nearly as widespread. Wynn and Encore have thermal scanners to check temperatures of guests as they walk past, but otherwise this technology isn't common around the Strip.


cartier store in las vegas
A thermal scanner stationed at a Wynn entrance can check multiple guests' temperatures without stopping


Socially Distanced Gambling

Hitting the casino floor? There are changes in store there, too.

Many tables on each casino floor have simply shut down. The ones still playing have removed seats or capped capacity to help people spread out. And many tables with poker, roulette, craps, and blackjack have installed plexiglass partitions between players.


las vegas covid-19 tables


The same is true at the slots, where most casinos have removed seats between each machine or simply shut them down to give people more space while playing – or both.


las vegas covid-19 slots


Dining is Still Fine, But…

Going hungry in Las Vegas means you're just not trying.

With restaurant capacity limited at 50%, making a reservation is more important than ever. On the bright side, tables at most restaurants are appropriately spaced out. You can slip your mask off while eating and drinking, of course. And in my experience, every waiter was good about wearing a mask at all times – and wearing them properly.


las vegas bar
SkyBar at the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas


Just one thing to be aware of: COVID-19 surcharges. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that some restaurants are experimenting with a 4% surcharge “to help offset restrictions on our business resulting from the COVID-19 crisis.” It's not common yet, but that could change, too.
And yes, the food is still good.

las vegas covid-19
Pork Tenderloin at Mesa Grill in Caesar's Palace


Read our guide to matching hotel status to get a $100 dinner on the Las Vegas Strip!


Few Outdoor Dining Options

Getting a good meal in Vegas isn't a challenge. Eating a good meal outside? Well, that's another matter.

Most of the top eateries on the Strip are indoors. That's bad news if you're set on staying outdoors as much as possible due to COVID-19. But here are a few options to eat al fresco:

  • At Paris, you'll find Mon Ami Gabi as well as the rooftop Beer Garden
  • Head for The Linq and grab light bites from many restaurants in the Linq Promenade or head straight for Guy Fieri's patio.
  • Wynn and Encore have more restaurants with outdoor seating than any other resort on the Strip.
  • On the south end of the Strip, Border Grill at Mandalay Bay has plenty of outdoor seating.


The Great Outdoors Still Awaits

Here's one thing that hasn't changed in Las Vegas: Its proximity to some jawdropping scenery.

Now as ever, you can use Vegas as your starting point for an epic trip through Utah's national parks. Make your way through Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, and Capitol Reef. You won't regret it.


Utah National Parks


Want to stay closer to the city? Head for Red Rock Canyon, just a 30-minute drive west of the Strip.


red rock canyon


Or make the hour-long trek out to Valley of Fire State Park, packed with tons of amazing hiking and sights like the stunning Fire Wave.
valley of fire


Bottom Line

Just like the rest of the travel world, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed Las Vegas. While travelers are returning in greater numbers each month, it's still far from the norm. The Strip can still feel quite empty.

Add in all the changes resorts and casinos have made to keep tourists safe, and your next trip to Las Vegas will be unforgettable. Whether that's a good or bad thing is up to you…

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

1 Responses

  • A good summary. The Westgate, slightly off-strip, also does a temperature scan, but its device is not the more discreet, multi-person, no-need-to-stop-walking camera in use at the entrances to the Wynn and the Encore. At the Westgate, you have to self-align your face/forehead to it…no big deal. I’ll also add if anyone wants to shop in Vegas, they could get detained outside for a bit if a store’s capacity limit is reached. On a recent bustling Saturday, some stores at the Fashion Show Mall had folks lined up waiting to gain access.

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