Bodybuilder's Guide to Las Vegas (without spending a fortune)
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Another Olympia means another September trip to Vegas. If it’s last minute or you just want to immerse yourself in the full bodybuilding experience, here’s your insider’s guide to the weekend’s happenings.
To start, the hornet’s nest is the Orleans Hotel, which is a mile off the Strip. It’s already sold out, but just hanging around the casino or the restaurants, especially after the Saturday night final, means you’ll see a who’s who of bodybuilders past and present. Sure, the food’s not all that great and the smoke-filled hallways can literally bring you to tears, but for the fan, it’s an experience you’ll want to catch. And parking at the Orleans is still free.
If you’ve got money, you’re set. (And if you’ve really got money, the Nobu Hotel’s Nobu Villa (at Caesar’s Palace) clocks in at $35,000 a night, as does the Palms Casino’s Sky Villa.) The city has become increasingly expensive; the sky-high prices really add up fast, especially when it comes to hidden fees. Most of the larger hotels now charge resort fees, up to $50 per room per night, even if you don’t use the facilities (namely, the pool area and fitness room). Expect to pay top dollar for cocktails, too, especially poolside. If you don’t have a room already, consider an outlier hotel, such as the Station Casinos (there are nine in all) most of them near the perimeter of the city, which can be far less expensive (free parking and most don’t have resort fees). Hotel rates typically vary with the number of conventions in town and the price variance week to week can be substantial; at press time, there don’t look to be bargains on the Strip, but I found one Station Casino under $100 a night. Wherever you choose, don’t forget to factor in add-on charges!
If you’re looking to rub elbows with top execs in the supplement biz, or even looking to land a job, The Renaissance across from the Convention Center is where to spend some time in the lobby. That’s where the supplement industry’s power brokers stay, many of whom are also bodybuilders or former greats.
POWER MEALS & GETTING AROUND
Wherever you stay, convenience counts; you can spend 30 to 45 minutes going anywhere because of heavy traffic and long traffic lights near the Strip. Look for breakfast bargains at your hotel (do your homework online before heading out); it’s easy to build a healthy, protein-packed breakfast at a buffet if you’ve got great willpower. If not, you may walk away with a 2,000+ calorie meal.
If you’re heading over to the Expo (open Friday and Saturday only) at the Las Vegas Convention Center (free shuttle from the Orleans, and it’s also a stop for the above-ground Monorail, $5 each ride or $13/day, runs till 3 a.m.) There’s a cafeteria at the Expo Hall that’s satisfactory but nary a restaurant unless you take an Uber to get away from the crowds. Oh yeah, unless they’ve fixed it, getting any kind of cellular signal inside the Convention Center is nearly impossible, so posting your highlights will have to wait till you get back to the hotel.
GETTING IN A WORKOUT
If you just have to train, I’d recommend your hotel gym if you’re already paying a resort fee. These places aren’t just a room with a Universal machine anymore; they’re very well equipped and rather luxurious, loaded with equipment. The old Gold’s Gyms don’t exist anymore, but you’ll see plenty of out-of-town bodybuilders at just about any facility. The City Athletic Club (7980 W. Sahara) is a bit out of the way but a very popular training facility for hardcore gym rats. The Las Vegas Athletic Clubs are also a good option because they’re so big and super-convenient with eight locations throughout the valley. The Lift Factory is definitely a must see gym. Just remember, getting to one takes time when traffic volume is high.
VEGAS AFTER DARK
Plan on making dinner reservations well before mealtime or expect a lengthy wait. Vegas has high-end restaurants just about everywhere, so long as you have the time and available credit on your platinum card. There’s a tremendous number of offerings to cater to any taste, making this a great weekend to be off your diet. If you’re watching your figure, the usual options are here, and the rules for eating healthfully don’t change just because you’re in Vegas. If you’re looking for a great post-workout meal, check out Protein House (9555 S. Eastern, south of McCarron Airport). If you’re determined to not go off your diet, good luck. And there’s always mealpreplv702.com.
If you have time for a show, there’s something here for just about every taste. I’d start looking online before getting here for discount tickets (Google “Vegas discount show tickets”). A slower weekday show may be easier to nab than a pricier, primetime ticket. If you want to try something fun and amazing, go see the Cirque du Soleil production of Le Rêve at the Wynn (closed Wednesdays and Thursdays). Carrot Top is a funnyman who was formerly a bodybuilder; his show is at the Luxor. Remember, traffic about that time is super crazy, so consider the Monorail, or give yourself extra time and be patient.
Late-night clubs can be a fun way to end the night (unless, like many, you tend to wake up on park benches). At press time, we haven’t heard word of an official after-party, but it would be rare if there weren’t one. Keep your ears open. Sunday pool parties are also popular; the days of Rehab at the Hard Rock are gone, but last year the Encore Beach Club (at the Wynn) hosted one, and sometimes you get a world-famous DJ to boot. Check JackColton.com for more information. Online, former Mr. Olympia and Vegas resident Jay Cutler lists the Spearmint Rhino, Sapphire, and Crazy Horse Too as Vegas’ best strip clubs!
For those on better behavior, the world’s largest Ferris Wheel High Roller (520 feet, behind the Linq Hotel) gives a bird’s eye view of the Strip and is a memorable experience. Each car also has its own bar, too. Go online for discount tickets.
IT’S GONNA BE HOT
Projections for temperatures for the Olympia weekend are highs of 100 degrees and lows of about 72. The monsoon season is ending about that time, so you might pack a small umbrella just in case of a late-afternoon downpour. They happen rather randomly, but this summer has been pretty dry.
Finally, beware the low-cost hotel trap on the Strip. My former employer got me a room at the Aria a few years back, and my entire daily allowance was gone after breakfast! As a budget traveler, I’m inclined also to get a bottle of vodka beforehand and buy some munchies to last between meals, especially if you’re on your own dime.
For compete schedule of events, visit MrOlympia.com.