UNITED STATES—Las Vegas is the USA’s premier tourist destination. Though metropolises like New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami play host to millions of tourists each year, the City of Lights was built explicitly as a getaway. It doesn’t just play host to international tourists, but to thousands of domestic travelers too.

Despite posting lower numbers than 2018 and 2019, Las Vegas welcomed 3.5 million tourists in May of this year. Back in 2019, the city’s annual tourist meter skyrocketed to 42.5 million. To entice newcomers to try their services, luxury resorts offer competitive bundled deals constantly.

For first-timers and seasoned visitors alike, the city’s revolving list of attractions, concerts, and casinos can be overwhelming. There’s no way to fit everything into a single trip—especially those that last only a few days. With such a range of offerings, it’s easy to miss out on hidden gems and the chance to explore.

Building a Vegas getaway? Keep in mind these three tips to optimize any itinerary.

Study Up

Regardless of experience and interest, it wouldn’t be a Vegas trip without a visit to the casino floor. There are more than a few ways to make blackjack or poker more engaging and playful, and the first is studying up on card games and casino decorum.

For example, poker hands can be difficult to memorize and value while playing live, but helpful guides can simplify the process. Even better, some are playful. Poker hands have a long and storied history of nicknames; there’s one called Anna Kournikova and another called the Broderick-Crawford.

Another savvy way to hit the Strip is to take a look at casino floor etiquette. Have no fear—countless other visitors are likely on their first trip to Sin City, so the rules are lax. In general, keep phones away (even for selfies), follow the dress code, lay cash down when buying chips, and always follow the dealer’s lead.

Plan Ahead

As mentioned above, the City of Lights is designed for the tourism industry. Most locals make their living by contributing to the area’s premier destinations, whether concerts, shows, or luxury locations like restaurants and spas. But, much like any popular destination, there’s another Vegas carefully hidden in the madness.

This is the Vegas that locals live in, and it’s worth a gander. For example, there’s a hidden James Turrell light show tucked inside a Louis Vuitton store. There’s also a Top Golf, which is a great and cheap alternative to the area’s pricey golf course excursions. There’s vintage shopping, trendy cycling classes, and killer bookstores—but the most popular casino resorts won’t be handing out pamphlets that highlight these hidden wonders.

Those looking to take full advantage of their time in Vegas will need to study casino games and etiquette—but they’ll also need to do a bit of research into the area’s top attractions. With its storied history, Vegas is one of the oddest locations in North America. Though harder to find, many destinations reflect this eccentricity (see: Downtown Container Park, made entirely of shipping containers).

Leave the Strip (Far Behind)

Those with a window seat may have noticed the impressive stretches of desert surrounding Las Vegas. In fact, many have likely heard of helicopter trips to the Hoover Dam. Those looking to truly experience Las Vegas will have to leave the city (far behind) at least once.

Visitors wanting to add wilderness to their itinerary will have plenty of options (so long as they’re willing to rent a car). Those with an interest in snow and mountains can head for Kyle Canyon during the winter months. Others who are keen to experience the desert can head to Bootleg Canyon, which was once used by bootleggers during the Prohibition era.

One of the city’s greatest outdoor wonders is an art installation called Seven Magic Mountains by Ugo Rondinone. Only 20 minutes from the Strip sits a neon rock installation that’s perfect for a dusk drive. Further down the highway is a ghost town called Rhyolite, which local artists have filled with unique outdoor sculptures.