Las Vegas puts the madness in March Madness each year with droves of rabid fans invading the city during the storied event. The opening weekend of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament is especially crazy, with only the Super Bowl drawing more fans to Sin City for a sporting event. Finding a place to camp out and take in games is very easy. Every casino on the strip has a sport book with amazing amenities and as a result, there are not many “Sports Bars” to attend. That leads to one of the bigger challenges of watching March Madness in Vegas – finding a seat for the game. But if you want to go where the atmosphere is truly “madness”, here are the top five venues not to miss.
Pete and Shorty’s Book and Bar Hooters 115 E. Tropicana Ave. (702) 739-9000
A majority of March Madness participants are obviously men. Many groups of friends converge for the ultimate “man weekend” experience and for that, there is Pete and Shorty’s. Located next to the Hooter’s Casino book, the establishment has an old corner bar feel from home that is open 24 hours. Come stake out a spot early on game day. Don’t worry about missing any of the action, there are over twenty 42″ plasma televisions scattered throughout the facility so wherever you are, you’ll see the game. Pete and Shorty’s are known for its calm and relaxed atmosphere, but that will all change when the game starts. They serve traditional American cuisine for around $10, but their specialty is slider type burgers called “Shorty’s”. The world famous Hooter’s service is an added bonus, and may be the only thing that could compete for attention to the game.
Las Vegas Hilton 3000 Paradise Rd. (702) 732-5111
Most famously known for Elvis Presley’s run of fifty eight consecutive sold out shows in 1969 and the hit, Viva Las Vegas, the Hilton has a spacious sports book area in the heart of the casino. Giant screens play all of the games and there are over 1,000 comfortable theater seats to relax. The 8th Pole Bar offers great beverages and service. I personally experienced watching Wisconsin and Ohio State battle in football at the Hilton a few years back while attending a trade show. Legions of fellow Badger fans and Buckeye supporters engaged in friendly and not so friendly banter while pulling in bettors in the mix. I had one of the best times in Vegas during the game, and can only imagine the pandemonium of March Madness.
MGM Grand Race and Sports Book 3799 Las Vegas Blvd S (702) 891-7777
Several acquaintances of mine recently returned from Las Vegas and raved about the updated MGM Sports Book. With over 5,300 square feet of newly updated space including thirty six 60″ and twenty four 42″ plasma televisions basketball fans will simply drool over the incredible layout. Get there early though, as seating is somewhat limited. But, for the ultimate experience, the MGM has “Skyboxes” that overlook the floor and can fit eight to ten people. It would be the ultimate March Madness experience, but it would also require your “ultimate wallet”. The MGM Sports Book is not as popular as the others listed, so you may have better success landing a seat. In any event, the new updates and hip atmosphere would make it a great choice for Tournament action.
Caesar’s Palace Sports Book 3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South (702) 731-7110
Even Julius Caesar himself would be impressed. The biggest and easily the most popular sports book in Las Vegas is at Caesar’s Palace. With over 15,000 square feet and several massive 12’x15′ television screens, a dozen 50″ plasma screens and arrays of LED signage make it a basketball junkie’s paradise. Seating is very difficult to obtain due to the large number of fans that attend. Sleeping in the chairs is not allowed, so don’t think about camping out overnight. Groups of diehards watch over seats in shifts and some even go as far as hiring people to stay overnight and guard the precious spots for them. Yes, it’s that popular. If you are unfortunate to not obtain a seat, there is plenty of room to stand and enjoy the game too. I watched college football at Caesar’s and can attest that the raucous atmosphere combined with some of the most crazed fans of Vegas make Caesar’s a must for the fanatic.
ESPN Zone New York-New York Hotel and Casino 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. South (702) 933-3776
ESPN is known as the world-wide leader in Sports. Now, add world-wide leader in Sports hospitality. Located on the New York, New York Casino complex, the ESPN Zone is the ultimate location for watching the Men’s NCAA Tournament. The most popular area is known as the Screening Room and contains two fourteen foot wide HD TV’s. I had dinner at the ESPN Zone with a great customer and colleague who graduated from Northwestern near the mammoth screen and we were able to view the Cats in action. Needless to say, our client relations are much better. In addition to the large screen, monitors and televisions encase the entire building and there is literally no vantage point that you can’t see the game, including the rest rooms! ESPN Zone also has Wi-Fi that allows uber dork fans to get real time stats or chat. Once the games are over, there is a mind boggling arcade area where you can use virtual reality to box, shoot real free throws to going bowling. ESPN Zone also was named the #1 Sports Bar in the 2008 AOL Las Vegas City Guide 2008. I couldn’t agree more. Reservations are accepted and getting a table will be challenging. But, there is so much more to do there, it won’t even matter.
Lace up the high tops, put on your team colors and have a fantastic March Madness experience in Vegas. Viva to the Final 4!