As long as you aren’t planning your vasectomy this year on March 22nd and don’t have tickets to one of the opening round games in Hartford, Salt Lake City, Des Moines, Jacksonville, Tulsa, Columbus, Columbia, or San Jose (after looking at that list, maybe even IF you have seats), you should be in Vegas for the best long weekend of the year!
Vegas is the place to be for the sporting event of the world. You have massive TVs, awesome viewing parties, sports books everywhere, mobile (legal) betting, and everything you could want to watch a sporting event. If you are a college basketball junkie, this is the motherland. If you think your office March Madness pool is a good time, wait till you see all the betting options in Vegas!
Here for a list of Viewing Parties? Check out the March Madness in Las Vegas Group on Facebook for the best list. Haven’t booked your hotel? It’s Now or Never! They open in January, so if you’re reading this and already book, get over there soon to get your ticket!
Want in on the Action? Here’s What’s Available
Types of March Madness Trips
There are four types of people who go to Vegas for March Madness and each have different needs for the trip. I think it’s important to consider what type of March Madness fan you are and plan accordingly, because there’s nothing worse partial views and bad seats due to poor planning.
Here are the traveler personas that I find in Vegas. You may fit in a couple, but one is likely to be your main motivation for attending. Decide which fits you best and check out the tips to ensure you have the best experience possible.
This fan has one or two teams that they religiously follow and they MUST watch. The trip will revolve around their games and the schedule (are they playing Thursday? What time?). Are you going with other Mega-Fans from the same team? Or worse, rivals who play at the same time? If you don’t know this about your group, it’s time to find out ASAP.
You won’t know when your team is playing until the Sunday before the tournament, so it’s important to plan for your options. First, if you want to ensure you have prime seating for your games (and all games) and that you can have a place for all your friend’s teams, a viewing party might be the way to go. These are often in hotel ballrooms and have tons of large TVs setup everywhere showing all the games. They are usually not cheap (running from $100-$300+) and often are all-inclusive (all you can eat/drink) or you on a minimum ($200 to get in, but you get $200 worth of food and drink).
Another advantages of the viewing parties is that you can find a group that’s pulling for your team. This is especially critical if you’re in Vegas with a bunch of rivals or you only have a small group. And at the end of every game, you learn of a whole group of new “Mega-Fans” that need your team to win (or score more or not score more but still win, depending on their bet).
If you want more budget-friendly options, sports books or sports bars (true or covered for the weekend) may be a better bet. You will want to leave plenty of time for your game(s) of choice, but this is a good option if you don’t plan on sitting and watching the majority of the 48 games over the opening four days. If you’re doing a bar that takes reservations, get your reservation in as soon as your team’s time is announced to ensure you have a good seat.
If you have a group and want to ensure you have the best seat in the house, get a suite or larger room so you can watch the game in the room. This won’t work for everyone (because part of the fun is the atmosphere everywhere as the games come down the stretch) and I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s not a bad backup plan. You also have to remember the timezone change… games start at 9:00 am. If you know you may party a little too hard the night before and your team has the 9:00 am game, having a place in the room to watch isn’t a bad plan at all.
You’ll want to understand what your needs are as a superfan and who you are going with ASAP. Viewing parties can sell out or can be by invite only. You want to make sure you’re planning these out before landing in Vegas if you have your heart set on a particular venue or party. If not, you can always find a place! Last year, we watched the Butler game in the casino bar at Aria, finding seats right at tip-off, so it can be done!
This persona has never missed a March Madness game and doesn’t plan to start in Vegas. They love the games and/or have large sums of money riding on seemingly every play. These can also be a Mega-Fan, but it matters less because they plan on watching every game!
If you want don’t want to miss a single second of March Madness, the Viewing Parties are designed just for you! Find one that meets your budget and just do it.
If you’re only interested in certain games and are with a Basketball-Jones, don’t hesitate to split up. There’s nothing worse than fighting over when and where you’re going to watch games. This is why planning (and understanding your crew) really comes into play. I want to have the option to watch every game and especially want to watch the last few minutes, but I don’t want to sit in the same place the whole day. Make sure you know this, your friendship depends on it.
These are Super-Fans who’s team didn’t make the big dance or got eliminated or just sports junkies who don’t obsess over college basketball. I call them the Meteorologist because they are just there for the big event, love the atmosphere, and want the game-winning three’s to “rain” down from the underdogs.
eliminated or just sports junkies who don’t obsess over college basketball. I call them the Meteorologist because they are just there for the big event, love the atmosphere, and want the game-winning three’s to “rain” down from the underdogs.
If you just love the atmosphere, making some wagers, and soaking up the madness, you are probably a meteorologist. Last year, this was me, with my team (Go Hoosiers) missing the big dance. I always root for the (non-Purdue) Indiana teams, so I still had a dog in the fight, but it wasn’t MY team.
I was with a crew with every persona, so it was a delicate balance. We ended up splitting up differently each day depending on who was playing and what was going on.
Even if you are a Super-Fan, you may be this persona for half the time.
For this persona, it’s always good to keep options open. I was at the blackjack table during one game session and almost the entire casino stopped to watch the last minute of a close game. Another time, we stopped at the hotel bar to watch the last 4 minutes of two close games. Hundreds of people gathered as the games came to a close, scattering after the final buzzer. You can find tables/slots/books with tv’s everywhere, so the atmosphere can be found anywhere. Don’t feel like you have to do a Viewing Party to have a great time!
This persona just heard there was a Vegas trip and doesn’t care about basketball or sports betting. While I don’t understand (well, one guy was from Canada and it wasn’t hockey), it is still important to understand. The key for this type is to ensure there’s at least 2 of them and ideally, they are friends. Let them go do there thing and meet up for dinner and nightlife after the games.
Be picky with who you invite and ensure that this type of persona will work with your type of trip. It’s easy to assume everyone going is going to be into watching the games, but if you aren’t sure, ASK.
So we’ve probably convinced you already, but here are the top reasons you should spend the end of March in Vegas. Now it’s time to take action. The first weekend of the tournament is one of the more expensive times to visit Vegas, but with a guy’s trip, this isn’t a problem. Get three guys that love sports and split the room. Location is less important during March Madness that usual in Vegas because almost everyone is there for the tournament and there are watch parties up and down the strip and downtown.
Viewing Parties & Alumni Events for March Madness
Viewing Parties are on the best ways to experience March Madness in Vegas. They often include drinks and food for the entire day and plenty of screens to watch all the games. Most venues have at least one viewing party, whether in a hotel ballroom or one of the many bars in the casinos.
Viewing parties usually start selling tickets in early to mid-January (so right now!), so if you want to get the best action, start now!
Be sure to check your local Alumni Association, which often times have
Join the March Madness in Las Vegas Group on Facebook for meetups, discounts, viewing party promoters, and much more! This is my go-to group for everything March Madness in Vegas.
Watching the Big Dance on the Go
Everywhere in Vegas will have games on, from the casino floors to the bars to the restaurants to the outdoor patios. You will find games on the strip, downtown, and everywhere in between. Last year, we had no set schedule and always found a good place to watch the game while wondering around Vegas.
You can also watch games on the March Madness app on your smartphone. The one word of warning is that the streaming is delayed, so if you’re watching while walking through the casino, you’ll hear things before you see it.
A few notes on betting during March Madness. Get them in early! Especially if you are one of those people who likes to talk to a cashier, placing those bets on Wednesday or after the games for the night before will be critical. There are hundreds of thousands of people in Vegas watching the games and the lines will form before every game. If you’re at a book or busy viewing party, it can be nearly impossible to place those bets without missing large chunks of other games.
The better way to bet is using one of the mobile betting apps. Most of the large books have these apps, but there is a catch. You have to add money to the app from the book (usually) and get it all
I HIGHLY recommend this. The first thing I do when I get into Vegas on Wednesday is to put a couple hundred on the app. Even if I plan to make other bets, this gives me the option to place a bet that I forgot, OR, my favorite, make bets during the game. With these apps, the spreads often change as the game is in progress which gives you opportunities even if miss the tip.
Just remember, often times you have to also go to the sport book cashier to cash out that money you’ve won. Don’t get stuck between missing your flight and being able to afford rent next month… Be sure to understand the cash out policies and if you can cash out at multiple casinos (like any MGM casino, which gives you more options).
Hotels & Airfare
The first week of March Madness can be one of the more expensive weeks of the year in Vegas. Often times those comped rooms that you get in early March aren’t included. That’s not to say you can’t get a good deal, but know that it’s not going to be as cheap as you may remember.
In addition, flights are in higher demand and cost more. A normal flights costs about $340 from Indianapolis on Southwest. This time, it was well over $400 and the flight I normally take to get the LAS was sold out. If you’re interested, I recommend booking as soon as possible.