- I spent a weekend in Las Vegas and the city's precautions made me feel pretty safe.
- The city had plenty of signs reminding visitors to keep their distance from one another and wear masks.
- Pool parties and massive concerts weren't happening, but many Vegas shows and mainstays were still open.
- Most of the people I saw were wearing masks and I also noticed staff members frequently cleaning chips and slot machines.
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I'm no stranger to Las Vegas, Nevada.
I've been to Sin City during its popular Electric Daisy Carnival when hotels are in such high demand that rooms cost over $600 a night. I've also visited in January when the colder desert temperatures leave the Strip pretty empty.
But this was my first time in Vegas during a global pandemic.
During my trip, I wanted to see if the city's "Roadmap to Recovery" plan and new safety protocols were being followed. I was also curious how much of Las Vegas was open, especially since it usually relies on indoor entertainment.
Read on to see what my weekend in Las Vegas was like.
The hotels seemed crowded, but there were a lot of safety measures in place
When we arrived in the parking garage of the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino on a Friday night, it was packed.
The lot was already almost completely full at 10 p.m. and we had to wind our way up to the top floor to find a spot.
I noticed some of the hotels on the Strip were still offering valet service, but I was more comfortable with parking my own car.
There were a lot of people outside of the hotel, too.
Upon entering the hotel's lobby, it was clear that this was not the Vegas that I was used to visiting, but that was totally OK with me. I know all of the safety measures in place are designed to protect the city's visitors and residents.
As soon as I stepped into the hotel, I saw hand-sanitizer dispensers and spacing markers on the floor everywhere I looked.
The most prominent, center display at the hotel's gift shop was a selection of brightly colored masks, instead of the usual clubbing clothes and swimsuit displays.
The check-in process was also different from what I'm used to
This was my third time staying at the Flamingo, but it was my first time visiting since these stricter health and safety precautions have been implemented.
Before we checked in we waited in a line to have our temperatures checked in a large machine that reminded me of airport security.
There were more stickers on the floor to remind people to stay 6 feet away from each other while they waited in line.
Usually, upon arrival, we check in with a person at a desk who takes our credit card and checks our IDs by hand, but this time it was all done through a machine.
The machine asked us if we wanted housekeeping services during our stay. We opted out.
After dropping off our bags, we headed to The Cosmopolitan to get cocktails, which meant walking through the Strip.
Fortunately, the impressive views of the city had not changed.
The Strip was pretty busy, and there were social-distancing markers at popular attractions
The Strip was pretty crowded, which wasn't too surprising considering Las Vegas has always been the most bustling after the sun goes down.
On the way to get cocktails at The Cosmo, we stopped to watch the fountain show at The Bellagio, which is a Las Vegas staple.
The "Fountains of Bellagio" runs every 30 minutes or every 15 minutes depending on the time — so there's no shortage of opportunities to catch the show.
This year, there were markers on the ground for people to stand on so they could watch the fountains while staying a safe distance apart.
I was impressed by how people weren't crowding the railing like they usually can during these shows.
At the bars and restaurants we visited, it seemed clear that if you didn't follow the rules you'd be asked to leave
I'm not a fan of eating indoors right now, but it was challenging to find food on the Strip. Since desert temperatures can be high and the area is crowded, outdoor dining is limited. Plus there aren't any grocery stores on the Strip where we could just grab a salad to-go.
Fortunately, I think the places we visited seemed to be adhering to the current indoor-dining safety guidelines fairly well.
Editor's Note: Experts say and research has shown that indoor dining is still one of the most unsafe activities to do right now, especially in a place like Nevada, which is currently experiencing record-high cases and hospitalizations.
Upon arriving at The Cosmopolitan, we underwent a security check and temperature check. There were signs everywhere reminding people to wear their masks unless they were actively eating, drinking, or smoking.
At the Chandelier Bar, we were seated at a table in the lounge but told not to remove our masks until we were served our drinks. There were contactless QR code menus to use for ordering.
Everyone around us seemed to be respecting the safety protocols at the lounge because it seemed clear you would be asked to leave if you didn't.
Some eateries we passed had made a point to put masks on their mascots. Most of these places had markers on the floor, too, to help customers space out.
After drinks, we headed to dinner at Cañonita at The Venetian, which offered contactless services including QR code menus and mobile-pay options.
Before we were seated, we did another health screening and had our temperatures checked. The tables seemed to be spaced out pretty well.
The next morning, we saw crowded pockets as we walked down the Strip, and I'd say 85% of people were wearing masks
One of my favorite activities to do when I'm in Las Vegas is just to walk down the Strip and people watch.
There were crowded pockets as we walked down the sidewalk — but it was nowhere near as congested as when I've visited around this time of year in the past. Since it was daytime, the area was even quieter.
Las Vegas is also well-known for is its fabulous pools (and pool parties). Some of the resort's pools were closed for the season but others remained open with strict capacity limits.
None of these resorts seemed to currently be hosting parties, and it was weird to see the pools so empty on such a warm day.
Eventually, we headed to the casinos.
In one casino, I saw workers spraying slot machines with disinfectant and cleaning the chips with towels and sanitizer
According to the reopening plan, casinos are currently supposed to adhere to 50% maximum-capacity requirements. Face masks are mandatory.
The casinos weren't quite as crowded as I've seen them in the past, but they were still pretty full — especially at night.
I saw casino workers constantly spraying down and sanitizing slot machines, which were mostly spaced out.
It was nice to see the machines physically being cleaned instead of just reading signs about the casino's disinfecting policies.
Editor's Note: Surface transmission was thought to be a major driver of virus spread early in the pandemic, but it's since become clear that COVID-19 is not primarily spread by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth or nose.
Some machines had bright-red stickers on them reminding people not to stand close to another person.
I even saw dealers sanitizing the chips between games. It made me wonder if this is what casinos should've been doing all along — you can never be too careful.
At one point, while gambling in Paris Las Vegas, the roulette technician told me to "get back," because there was a four-person limit at our table. Since my partner was gambling and I was not, I could not stand within 6 feet of the table.
The rule had slipped my mind — multiple signs in the area said "Spectators are not allowed under social distancing guidelines" — and it was comforting to have it enforced, even if it meant I couldn't watch the game.
At the race and sportsbooks zones, chairs and tables in the viewing areas were also adjusted to allow for appropriate social distancing. Again, there were hand-sanitizer dispensers everywhere.
If you didn't have a mask on you because you forgot it in your room or in the car, the security desks at the casinos were giving them out.
I also appreciated how the signs inside the casinos were telling people that their masks must cover their mouth and nose.
Even the restrooms were different — the one I stopped in at The Venetian had what appeared to be plexiglass dividers between each sink. I was pretty impressed.
Even Caesar and Mr. Las Vegas were wearing masks
One of the details I appreciated is that Vegas has clearly put a lot of effort into how the eternal "locals" are all proudly sporting their masks.
From Caesar standing tall outside of his palace to Lady Liberty towering near The New York-New York — these iconic Vegas landmarks seemed to scream, "Wear your masks!"
Even Mr. Las Vegas himself is everywhere on this poster, reminding people to mask up or ship out (but in a classy way).
The shopping displays throughout Vegas were uplifting and filled with masks
Indoor shopping was open at a limited capacity, and masks were mandatory.
The entrance had QR codes that you could scan to check updated store hours and see what's open.
I was impressed with how many of the shopping displays promoted a message of safety and positivity. I also noticed a lot of window displays were filled with masks.
Most mannequins were wearing masks and some of the signs in the windows even had encouraging messages, like "You're Doing Great."
Throughout my trip, I saw displays advertising indoor shows, which had been put on hold or modified
Some buildings had signs up for popular shows that are currently on hold, like Cirque du Soleil's "The Beatles LOVE," which suspended production in March due to COVID-19 concerns.
But plenty of other shows were back and running with new social-distance guidelines.
Most of the shows being advertised had limited capacity and, in some cases, performances were happening in larger theaters to accommodate social distancing.
Many of the returning comedy and magic shows had just begun running again in November after being put on hold earlier this year amid the ongoing pandemic.
Usually, live concerts are one of my favorite parts of Vegas and it was noticeably missing.
Concerts are understandably a no-go at the moment, but I couldn't help but feel like there was nothing to do in Vegas at night — I'm used to seeing a DJ come onstage at 1 a.m.
A lot of popular activities were still open, and the downtown area was pretty crowded, too
The High Roller, the Strip's enormous Ferris wheel is back up and running, as is the Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck Excursion at Paris. The Gondola rides at The Venetian seemed to be in full swing.
I also stopped by downtown Las Vegas, which seemed to be going strong. My guess is that a lot of people came here to try to avoid the crowds of the Strip.
There were a number of fairly new restaurants and hotels in the area, including the massive Circa Resort and Casino that opened to the public in October.
The 21 and up resort was huge and had a casino, pool amphitheater, and massive seating complex where you can participate in competitive betting.
In more normal times, I could see this pool amphitheater being totally packed with visitors. Currently, though, it was empty.
The downtown area also had a Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall and attraction that's partially outdoors but covered by an LED ceiling.
There was security patrolling through on bikes to make sure everyone was wearing masks and ample signage about social distancing.
I felt completely safe during my trip, but I know it will take a long time for Vegas to fully recover
In 2019, Vegas had 42.5 million visitors. Since the city reopened in June, it's seen a 51% decrease in visitors from last year.
But even though there were fewer visitors and some activities were off-limits, the city was far from a ghost town.
Plenty of people were gambling, walking around the Strip, and dining in Vegas mainstays — the big difference is that hand sanitizer, safety-related signs, and masks were everywhere.
It seemed clear to me that the city is working really hard to promote and create a safe environment for guests. But, of course, no system is perfect. It's going to take a long time for Sin City to fully recover, especially without opportunities to host huge conventions, big parties, and massive concerts.
Above all, Las Vegas is still very much Las Vegas —it just feels a bit different right now.
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