My two favorite things in life are Atlassian Summit and travel! Atlassian’s flagship event, the annual user conference, is in Las Vegas Nevada this April. This will be my eighth Summit and my fourth trip to Vegas! I took the Mandalay Bay photo above in 2006. By now I know a lot about both and am excited to share my conference travel tips.
Make a checklist list of what you plan to accomplish and who you’re hoping to meet at Summit. What do you want to learn from Atlassian? Which Solution Partners will you seek out? I always have a list of names, contact information, and where I might find each person or company.
Las Vegas is a 24 hour city in the middle of the desert. It’s hot, dusty, expensive, exciting, thrilling, and like no other place I’ve been. Here are some tips to help you get around while you’re in town for the Atlassian conference.
The conference is located in an area of Vegas known as “the Strip.” Most of the iconic pictures you’ve seen are probably of this area. The Strip is 4 miles (6.4 k) long and stretches from Mandalay Bay to the Stratosphere Tower. There’s also an area 10 miles (16 k) north known as “downtown”, “old Vegas”, or “Fremont Street”. I’ve stayed in both areas and love them for different reasons. Both have an abundance of casinos, glitz, food, and entertainment opportunities. When you’ve done everything you wanted to do on the Strip, head downtown for a different vibe.
If you’re staying on or near the Strip, there’s no need to rent a car. Parking is difficult and traffic is plentiful. Most casinos charge for parking and its never cheap. Instead, use a taxi or a ride-share service, like Uber or Lyft. Download and create an account in one of these mobile apps before you arrive. Taxis don’t stop on the Strip; catch one from a casino or hotel instead.
Bring good walking shoes and expect to walk a lot. Casino properties are huge and are further apart then they look. Your steps add up while you’re weaving between them and traversing pedestrian foot bridges. There’s a great map of all the major casinos here (.pdf format).
I know some of you have planned a pilgrimage to In-N-Out Burger (fast food hamburgers) on Dean Martin Dr. Please don’t attempt to walk there; it’s not as close as it appears. Also, there are plenty of other (cheap and expensive) hamburger options.
There’s an elevated, electric tram between the Mandalay Bay, Luxor, and the Excalibur casinos. Get on the free Mandalay Bay Tram from the north east corner of the conference casino, past Starlight Tattoo and the House of Blues Restaurant & Bar. Information on other casino trams is available here.
Whether you’re walking or driving, always be aware of your surroundings. There’s a lot of activity and a lot of distractions. The traffic lights operate differently here than in other states. If I remember correctly, the green left turn light fires after the straight light turns red. Always cross the street in marked locations or use pedestrian bridges. Be especially careful if you stop at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign. It is literally in the middle of a busy road. In 2008 they finally added 12 parking spaces which are accessible when heading away from the Strip.
Mandalay Bay, our conference hotel, has table games and slots, 30 restaurants, a Starbucks, and loads of entertainment and nightlife options. It also features the Shark Reef Aquarium ($25 USD), a 1.6 million gallon wave pool with a quarter-mile-long lazy river (free for hotel guests, $20 for non-hotel guests Mon-Thurs), and shopping at Mandalay Place. If you’re in Vegas for additional non-conference days, I encourage you to venture out and explore the other casinos as well. Each one has a unique flavor and interesting things to see. I love the steam rising from manhole covers at New York New York, the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas, and the canals of Venice at the Venetian. It’s not as amazing the real thing, but it’s still fun to see.
Many casinos and hotels have both free and paid attractions and shows. The most popular free attraction is the water, music, and light show called “Fountains of Bellagio” at the Bellagio. See other free attractions here.
Paid shows are numerous. My favorite is Le Rêve, a water, fire, swimming, and acrobatics show. I saw it on my very first Vegas trip and have tickets to go again this year. You can’t go wrong with a production show like Le Rêve or a Cirque de Soleil show like “O“. They are also variety shows, magic shows, adult entertainment, comedy shows, concerts, and special interest performances like Zombie Burlesque!
Atlassian feeds you well on conference days, so you won’t have to worry about food. But on other days, there’s no shortage of options or cuisines for every budget.
For an “all you can eat” or variety experience, the legendary Vegas buffetsare the place to be. My top three favorites are: Wicked Spoon at The Cosmopolitan, The Buffet at Wynn (especially their Friday and Saturday “seafood spectacular”), and Le Village Buffet at Paris. For similar food at a cheaper price, eat at lunch time instead.
This year, I’m excited to visit the Eataly Italian marketplace at MGM. Eataly is in 12 countries but the Vegas location just opened in Dec 2018. If there’s time, I hope to check try dining in the dark at Blackout. I also promised Chris Lutz he could get his uni (sea urchin) fix at Nobu at the Hard Rock.
The air is very dry in this part of the United States. Avoid dehydration by drinking more water than normal.
It’s easy to exceed your budget if you don’t limit your expenses. The sales tax in Las Vegas is 8.25%, so don’t forget to factor that in. Also, don’t forget about the daily resort fee that’s added to your hotel cost. At Mandalay Bay, the daily fee is $37 plus tax. Gratituties add up too. Here’s a guide to tipping in Vegas.
I once had a debit card and a credit card, from two different banks, declined at the same shop. This was very inconvenient. Prevent it by taking action before your trip.
Las Vegas has a free-for-all reputation. But many things you may have heard are legal simply aren’t. I encourage you to do you own research and check out the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s website for official information.
Also, cameras are everywhere (even outside.) Don’t recreate the movie The Hangover!
Do you have extra time in Vegas? A few days under glittering casino lights may have you craving time outdoors. There are many neat places nearby to visit. You’ll need a rental car or to join one of the many tours that leave from Vegas. I recommend arranging tours online before you arrive.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
A 13 mile scenic drive with stunning canyon views
Cost: $15 per vehicle
Distance from convention center: 21.5 miles
Notes: The route has tolls
Valley of Fire State Park
Bright red Aztec sandstone nestled in gray and tan limestone mountains
Cost: $10 per vehicle
Distance from convention center: 55.2 miles
Notes: Your last chance to stock up on fuel and water is at the Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza at the corner of I-15 N and Valley of Fire Highway.
A concrete arch-gravity dam in the on the border between NV and AZ
Cost: $15 per person (tour)
Distance from convention center: 37 miles
This year I’m taking a side trip to Death Valley National Park. I love the national parks and this is one I’ve always wanted to visit.
Cost: $30 per vehicle
Distance from convention center: Over 100 miles
Continue to Part 2 of the Atlassian Summit Travel Guide – Vegas Edition
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