People are fascinating to watch.
At airports, I try to guess their life stories. I wonder where they’re going; what far-off exotic destination are they traveling to or returning from? Who’s waiting for them when they get there? At the gate, I try to guess who has a first class ticket and who’ll be sitting in economy. (This is much harder than you might think.) I wonder who will be a hero in a crisis and who’s likely to create one. I also spend a lot of time coveting cute shoes and leather luggage.
People watching on the Las Vegas Strip is like nowhere else in the world. Party-loving tourists in Sin City have clearly bought into the ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ fallacy, shedding their inhibitions and putting on a free show that’s more entertaining than the Bellagio Fountains (especially late at night and early in the morning). While the wild ones are fun to watch, the well-behaved can be inspiring. They know they’re on display so they tend to dress up and show off their sense of style. Vegas is also a great place to spot celebrities. (I once saw Mario Lopez shooting a segment for Extra in front of Planet Hollywood. His dimples are even cuter in the flesh!)
Here are my picks for the best places on the Strip to eat, drink and people watch.
Stripside Cafe & Bar
Located just off the Las Vegas Strip near Absinthe’s white tent showroom, casual Stripside Cafe & Bar has a true Las Vegas retro vibe that everyone is sure to enjoy with design elements influenced by the iconic Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign. Inside, the restaurant can be noisy and the service slow, but if the weather is fine, put on your biggest movie star sunglasses and grab a seat on the patio, relax, and get your sugar fix with an indulgent Cookies & Cream Milkshake Mug. You’re sitting at the famous Four Corners of the Strip where, on average, 17,700 people walk past at any given hour on any given day. That’s a lot of people watching!
Mon Ami Gabi
Parisians perfected the art of people watching, sitting in picturesque cafes with their chairs turned towards the city’s Grand Boulevards and charming side streets. No surprise then that Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas makes my list. The food is classic French Bistro (and delicious!) but it’s the patio that puts the experience over the top. In true French fashion, you can sit for hours eating Steak Frites, sipping Champagne, and watching the world go by. Added bonus: the sidewalk here is prime real estate for buskers.
Insider’s Tip: This place is always packed but unless you’re absolutely ravenous it’s worth the wait. Restaurant staff will give you a disk that vibrates to alert you when your table is ready so you’re free to pass the time wandering the casino floor while trying your luck at the slots.
Jean Philippe Patisserie
Even though Las Vegas gets more than 300 days of sun annually, not every day is a patio day. In the summer, when temperatures soar over 40°C, it’s just too hot to sit outside. There’s plenty of great people watching spots indoors, though, like Jean Philippe Patisserie at ARIA Resort & Casino. This sweet spot serves French-inspired fare casino-side, like freshly made crepes, gourmet sandwiches and salads, and exquisite pastries and bonbons. Its location next to the guest elevators makes it ideal for people watching while savoring caramel-infused truffles and cappuccino in air-conditioned comfort.
Insider’s Tip: Cigarette smoke can be a bother when eating near the casino floor but the airflow in ARIA’s casino streams from the floor to the ceiling, resulting in an odor-free, more comfortable environment. (Traditional casino airflow is from the ceiling down, pushing the air around guests.)
OTTO Enoteca Pizzeria*
Venice’s beauty is faded and mellow, like a grand old dame with messy lipstick and support hose. Piazza San Marco and the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica are the jewels in her tarnished crown.
In contrast, Mario Batali’s OTTO is situated on the Venetian’s Piazza San Marco (Canal Level), an indoor shopping mall masquerading as an outdoor square.
Both piazzas are tourist meccas and fabulous places to sit back, relax, people watch, and spend the afternoon sipping a Venetian Spritz while sampling house-made salumi.
Insider’s Tip: Order the truffle pizza. The combination of earthy black truffle, wafer-thin potato, salty-creamy cheese, and peppery arugula, on top of a crisp griddle-cooked crust is sublime. When it arrives at your table, try not to moan aloud.
Located on the 23rd floor of the ultra-luxe Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the Mandarin Bar may not seem an obvious choice for people watching. With floor-to-ceiling windows on three walls, it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off the stunning view of the Strip. The ambiance is sophisticated, the setting is fabulous, and the guests are well-heeled. (The Mandarin Oriental is also a popular choice for LGBT travelers.) Plan to arrive just after the sun goes down. Order one of their signature cocktails, admire the beautiful people and indulge in a little innocent eavesdropping before heading out on the town.
Insider’s Tip: Order The Golden Leaf, a blend of Hendricks gin, Aperol, muddled mandarin oranges, pineapple juice, fresh lime juice and house-made simple syrup. Cocktails aren’t cheap here ($18) but the view alone is worth the price.
Looking for more people watching hot spots? Check out the pedestrian-only zone on legendary Fremont Street.
This post is in partnership with Expedia Canada & Food Bloggers of Canada
Editor’s Note: OTTO is no longer at The Venetian and is permanently closed.