Secret to great Las Vegas Strip Photos: Parking Garages!
It's hard to get a great photo of the Las Vegas Strip from down on the ground, as you're right in the middle of it.
You can try standing in one of the overhead crosswalks, but they are covered in dirty glass, making it hard to get a great shot.
You can pay $20 to $40 to go to the top of an attraction like at the Paris, Linq or Strat, but again, you will encounter cages and dirty windows to contend with.
Or you could drive right in to one of the many parking garages in Las Vegas, go to the roof, and set up for your shot.
On a recent jaunt to Vegas, I did just that, checking out most of the key garages in town so you wouldn't have to. Some were fantastic, others so-so and a few absolutely terrible.
Please click the above video to hear and see all about it.
Meanwhile, I can expand here:
The first thing you need to know: parking is no longer free at most Vegas casinos. However, some good news for us: most resorts offer 1 hour of free parking, which is more than enough time to drive up and get our shots. But be warned: After one hour, rates kick in big time, as much as $20 or more for the day.
Photo tips: I usually shoot everything on the regular smartphone wide lens, if I can, for the best shot without distractions. Going to the ultra-wide lens usually brings in stuff you don’t want to see, like excess roof and wires. A panorama is usually a good idea, but only if you can see more of the strip. More on that in a minute
And let me cut to the chase: the best views come from the roofs of the Mirage and Bellagio, the worst from the Wynn and Circa. But for a more detailed look:
Let’s go up the Strip, starting at the bottom and working our way up.
We begin with the Aria, a complex that also includes the Cosmopolitan and Waldorf-Astoria hotels. You can’t get a classic view of the Strip here, but you can pick up an interesting shot of the MGM and shops, as well as the backside of the New York New York hotel, and all those massive new buildings that are part of the Aria complex.
Across the street is Paris, which is interesting. You don’t see the Strip at all, but instead get a fascinating look at the back of the French themed hotel, where it’s clear they put most of their money into the front, with the replica of the Eiffel Tower. However, this is a cool structure that looks not like a French building, but one you’d expect to see in New York, with great detail. Go figure.
If you want to see the Strip from the Paris, you’ll need to pay $25 to go to the top of the Tower, and struggle to fit your camera lens through the cages up there. But If you time it right, you might get a great overhead shot of the Bellagio fountain.
And speaking of the Bellagio, directly across from the Paris is one of the great, classic Strip views, from up on the 8th story of the garage. You get the Eiffel Tower of the Paris, the way you want to see it, plus the hot air balloon, ferris wheel of the Linq, the old Bally’s hotel, which is now the Horseshoe, and the pink of the Flamingo, the first major hotel on the strip circa the 1940s.
By the way, a big wide shot in pano mode doesn’t work here, because of the many distractions, but this is a great place to use the telephoto lens on your smartphone and get interesting closeups of the buildings.
Caesars Palace is next door, but the garage is behind the hotel and you can’t see much beyond a look at one of the newer Caesars high rises.
But however disappointing Caesars is, you’ll make up for it by going next door to the Mirage roof. Here’s where you will get your best classic postcard view of the Strip, with the Mirage mnarquee, pink Flamingo, Eiffel Tower and Caesars Palace.
Important note: the Mirage was recently purchased by the Hard Rock Hotel, which plans to tear it down and start over again within the next few years. So enjoy the view while you can.
After the joys of the Mirage and Bellagio, I must admit the rest of the garages are very disappointing.
The massive Wynn complex can give you an interesting view of its buildings, but no strip view.
The new Resorts International mega-property lets you take an interesting perspective of the action below, but not much interest above.
The Strat has a fantastic Strip view on a rooftop deck, but you have to pay $30 to catch it. Unfortunately, the garage doesn’t have much of a view, and worse of all, the roof of the garage isn’t even open to cars.
Ditto for the view downtown from the new Circa, which offers parking in the “Garage Mahal,” a self-described fancier, better lit experience than most Vegas garages. But when you try to get to the top, that's roped off for valet and staff members.
Another option, and this is a good one, is off the strip, at the Virgin Hotel, which, not to confuse you, used to be the Hard Rock. From the garage roof, you’ve got the best expansive view of the Strip, from Mandalay Bay up to the Wynn. There’s some distractions below, like apartment buildings and such, so compose the shot accordingly. Because the view is so wide, the inclination is to do a panorama, but if you do so, remember to edit and crop.
That's your look at the Strip. If you go to Vegas, give it a try and let me know how you fared!