The Best of Las Vegas, According to an Insider

Mandalay Bay's Kathleen Hopay shares her favorite restaurants, shows and experiences.

Kathleen Hopay has lived in Las Vegas for 10 years after moving to the city from the East Coast. "I always wanted to live in a warm climate and knew that with my hotel and hospitality background Las Vegas was the place for me," she says. The concierge at Mandalay Bay started at Aria, then moved on to work in a supervisory role for Cirque du Soleil's "Viva Elvis" and "Zarkana." Here she shares some of her top tips for Las Vegas visitors. 

Who is your favorite Las Vegas celebrity chef?

Las Vegas has become a mecca of celebrity chefs in recent years. Gordon Ramsay recently opened Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace with an astounding 12,000 reservations booked within just 10 days. I usually ask my guests what type of cuisine they are in the mood for on that particular day before I suggest a particular celebrity chef. As for myself, I love Giada at the Cromwell. As she says, 'it is a little bit of everything but not a lot of anything' and the restaurant is open for brunch, lunch and dinner. I recommend ordering the eggplant tapenade, lemon spaghetti and the lemon ricotta cookies. Incredible flavors and the presentation is always top notch. A fabulous view of The Fountains of Bellagio along with outstanding service makes this a stand out in my opinion.

I want to experience classic Las Vegas. Where do you recommend that I go?

The Neon Museum is such an amazing place! I love how the preservation of Las Vegas has been kept intact. It is like taking a step into the past and walking through history. Every town has its own story and for Vegas it is in its lights and signs. It is a one-hour tour guided by someone who is knowledgeable about each of the pieces and encourages questions and interactions from all who partake in the tour. They offer day and night tours, and at night a few of the restored signs are lit and brought back to life in their shining glory.

Where do you like to do some people-watching in Las Vegas?

I would have to say Mon Ami Gabi at Paris which offers the ultimate Strip-side dining experience. People watching isn’t the only reason to come to Las Vegas, however you will come across people of all ages, walks of life and from all around the globe.

Michael Jackson One

What’s the must-see show in Las Vegas right now?

I have a few suggestions for this question. First, without a doubt, Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson ONE" at Mandalay Bay. In the world of pop music, there can only be one King, and the show is a heartfelt tribute to his work, spirit and legacy. Words cannot express how moved people are by the performance. Recently it celebrated its 2,000th show and it continues to be a very popular show for guests.

Second, if you are in the mood for a live performer, look no further than Matt Goss at 1 Oak at The Mirage. 'Old School, New Cool' is how the show is marketed. A British-born gent who engages the audience with his multi-pieced band and compared to the Rat Pack, Goss is dubbed 'The New King of Vegas' and his show should not be missed.     

What tips do you give first-timers?

The first thing I tell them is that I hope you didn’t bring new shoes because chances are, you are going to get blisters—but of course we have Band-aids if needed. Everything seems close in proximity but in reality much further than it looks. Utilize the tram and monorail systems to navigate the Strip. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I always suggest that guests become M life Rewards members to save on experiences and get future offers to return back. I always offer them the Where Magazine, which gives first time guests a compilation of all that Vegas has to offer and features a two-page map to help visitors get around easier.

Describe your perfect evening out in Las Vegas.

If I was planning my perfect evening, it would start with an early dinner, then on to a show. From there I would like to take a Maverick Helicopter night tour of the Las Vegas Strip and end it at a club, preferably one at the Wynn or Encore because they both have some of the most-requested DJs in the world. When a guest asks me this question, I always ask what type of budget they have because I can always customize a perfect evening no matter what the budget.