Losing Your Vegas Virginity: Turning 21 in Sin City

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Most 21st birthdays look like this: tequila at your local bar and 21 black marks up your arm. For girls, throw in a shot book and a tiara. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time to up the ante and celebrate this monumental night where it belongs—Las Vegas. (Pause reality and cue the house music.)

We spent five days in the partying capital of America to bring you our exclusive guide to celebrating the big 2-1 in Las Vegas.

The Entourage

Take three friends, no more, no less. Large groups will slow you down and fewer than four people will end up costing you more for the room. Single friends are ideal but taken ones make for excellent wingmen.

Plan Ahead

Making decisions will get more and more difficult as intoxicated nights wear on, so put a loose schedule together beforehand. For a weekend trip, you’ll want to include at least two possible restaurants, three nightclubs and one show. Save time on travel and plan to spend most nights at a single hotel, each of which will typically have gambling, nightlife, shows and more. During the day, take the Deuce bus along the strip, but bring extra cash for cabs at night.

Where to Crash

If you and your crew saved for luxury, then crash in style at Encore. After a night out in Vegas, there’s no place like a room with a heavenly down comforter coupled with automatic blackout blinds that keep the sun away till noon. Prepare yourself for an unbelievable view of the Strip from your floor-to-ceiling windows.

To crash on a budget, consider Sahara. It has a bed and a shower—what else do you really need? Other saving perks include buckets of beer at the pool and $1 blackjack.

Restaurants

Find a cheap café for lunch so you can indulge at dinner. Vegas dining is more than just a meal, it’s an experience.

TAO at the Venetian offers Pan Asian small plates great for sharing. But if it’s your birthday, splurge and order the filet. It comes raw and cooks in 10 seconds as you sway the thin slices through a small pot of boiling broth. The final touch—Wasabi sauce. You might say it’s the best steak of your life.

Instead of planning a trip to Germany for Oktoberfest, raise your stein at Hofbräuhaus, an authentic German restaurant where the beer maids carry paddles for some naughty fun (but only if you order a shot!). Consider this your break from long lines, fancy clothes and pricey cocktails. The later you stay, the rowdier it gets as the live music kicks in.

Society Café in Encore takes American classics like mac n’ cheese and homemade munchkin doughnuts to a new level. Don’t leave without a sip of a pear mojito, a shot of patron and a bite of chocolate cake.

No Vegas stay is complete without a cocktail before you fly home. High Society’s Sunday brunch at the Palms is great for a final moment of childhood on your birthday trip; the spread looks like a dream out of Hook—fruits, bagels, pizza, and desserts galore.

Entertainment

While the nightlife scene is a show in itself, the professionals really know how to wow. Ticket prices range from $40-$99 and some offer student discounts.

If you only plan to see one show in Vegas, make it Le Rêve at Wynn. Created by the same director of Cirque du Soleil’s “O,” this spectacular performance has a stage that submerges into water as synchronized swimmers and acrobats dive from extreme heights. It’s daring yet beautiful—you will be amazed.

Blue Man Group at the Venetian is unbeatable hilarity, incorporating a sewer system metaphor (toilet paper, pipes and all). You’ll forget that you’re watching mimes as they shoot paintballs from their mouths to create colorful spin art.

Penn & Teller at the Rio leaves you wondering if it’s magic or reality. Their clever acts have it all: smoke, fire, blood, bullets and screw guns. Surprise—you get to meet them at the end.

Lance Burton Magic at the Monte Carlo is a little more family-friendly, but nonetheless you get to see him disappear, levitate and pull doves out of thin air. His illusions are quick and impressive.

If Walt Disney World and a glitzy burlesque show had a baby, it would be Peepshow at Planet Hollywood. Yes, there are nearly a dozen nude dancers, but it’s tasteful and the skilled performance is a must-see.
For a different kind of entertainment, holler at Thunder From Down Under in the Excalibur. These Australians dance (even with audience members) while stripping down to their banana hammocks.

Nightlife

Skip the line, order a bottle and make your 21st a night to remember. Bottle service may seem expensive but once you split it between your friends it’s only a little more than ordering a few drinks at the bar. Plus, you’re treated like royalty and you’ll have a place for your group to chill.

Eva Longoria Parker’s club, Eve at City Center, has glamour written all over it. Imagine video screens along the dance floor, black and white VIP booths and money raining down on you. Check out its long list of celebrity performances.

Tryst at Wynn is above and beyond the most unbelievable club—the dance floor overlooks a lake and a massive waterfall. The house music will get you dancing, even on the tables…or maybe on the pole.

On a Saturday night, the decadent XS at Encore is the place to be and is making headlines all over Vegas. Start off on the plush couches, then join the party on the packed dance floor. The outdoor patio surrounds the pool with cabanas and more bars than you can count.

If you haven’t heard of Pure at Caesar’s, then you’ve been living under a rock. Party with the biggest celebrities at one of Vegas’ hottest clubs while overlooking the Strip.

For a little more low-key: Playboy Club is high up in the Palms and the waitresses are in sexy bunny gear, although some nights the crowd swings a little older. Blush at Encore feels very posh and its intimate atmosphere works well for socializing.

Pools

Once you roll out of bed, don’t bother getting dressed up. Instead, throw on your bathing suit and shades and join the other scantily clad people for tanning, drinking and gambling at Caesar’s, which features in-pool poker tables. Mandalay Bay is famous for its wave pool and sand beach. For an extension of Saturday night with celebrity DJs and a little more splash, head to the most raved about Sunday pool parties: Rehab at Hard Rock Hotel or Wet Republic at MGM Grand.

Be VIP

Losing your Vegas virginity is no joking matter, and if you plan on hopping to a few nightclubs for your 21st, you’ll want the Vegas-Passport VIP Concierge. They can set up limo service, VIP entrance to multiple clubs, tables and more. (877) 225-8284—tell ‘em College mag sent you and they’ll hook it up.

From the Las Vegas Experts

Check out our insider tips from Leslie Frisbee, editor of Las Vegas Magazine and Vegas2GO.

Avoiding lines:

  • Your concierge can help with line passes and discounts on tickets or ask your waiter if he/she can connect you with a nightclub’s VIP host.
  • “XS is always an insane line, so if you have a good group of people and a little bit bigger budget, I highly recommend a table.”
  • Stay clear of Vegas conventions—lines will be longer.

How not to be a gambling sucker:

  • Slot machines are known money suckers. Stick to the table games for better luck at winning.
  • Set a budget that you’re willing to lose and leave your ATM card in the safe upstairs.
  • Always get a player’s club card for discounts.
  • Learn from the pros; Las Vegas mag has a list of gaming lessons.

Best place to celebrate your 21st:

  • Celebrate it where all the celebrities do—TAO and LAVO. “They’ll treat you right on your birthday.” The casts of Twilight and The Hills were there this summer. “Let them know it’s your birthday and they’ll send out a dessert or cocktail.”

Guy’s guide to getting in:

  • “It never hurts to have a group of really attractive women with you.”
  • Dress to impress: dress pants and a button-up shirt are going to get you a long way. Don’t arrive in tennis shoes or sandals.
  • Get table or bottle service, which means VIP reservations that will get you in right away.

As College Magazine's Publisher, Amanda is passionate about creating the ultimate guide to college. She spends her free time soaking in the sun at Coronado dog beach or rocking her air guitar at The Casbah.

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