If you have been to Las Vegas several times and didn’t even know about the Monorail, don’t feel bad. It runs behind the Strip, on the east side and mostly out of the public eye.
Fiscally speaking, this is probably for the best. If it were visible from the Strip, it would have to be covered with a gazillion LEDs to fit in. Its opening delayed two years due to recurring mechanical difficulties, and down to 4.2 million annual riders from a pre-recession peak of 7.9, the Las Vegas Monorail Company probably couldn’t afford that electric bill.
As it stands, the Monorail is fairly straightforward. No slot machines, no EDM DJ, no showgirls or magicians unless they’re off the clock between gigs. Just a clean, fast, reliable monorail service every 6 to 8 minutes for a 15-minute ride the 3.9 miles between the MGM Grand and SLS Hotel and Casino. Advertising is clearly a key source of operating revenue. Occasional sponsorship deals turn a train car or a whole station into a billboard.
Launched in 1995 to connect the MGM Grand and Bally’s, the Las Vegas Monorail was expanded in 2002 and taken over by a non-profit public corporation. Still originating at the MGM Grand, stops beyond Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas now include the Flamingo and Caesar’s Palace; Harrah’s and the Linq; the Las Vegas Convention Center; the Westgate; and SLS (formerly the Sahara).
Here’s the downside to a monorail that runs behind the Strip rather than through it – the stations can be hard to find. Some of the stops are inside the casinos, famously designed to be labyrinths that keep you inside and spending money. Don’t count on adequate signage; the casino owners don’t want you to find it. Asking directions from shady croupiers and costumed cocktail waitresses can feel like a quest in a console RPG (“The Adventure of Linq”).
The website is cumbersome and unhelpful; there is no app. You can, however, follow the Monorail on Instagram, @lvmonorail.
If your revelry takes you to the west side of the Strip – say, the Bellagio or Excalibur – then the trek across Las Vegas Blvd to a monorail stop becomes a hike as well as a quest. The dirty secret of the Las Vegas Monorail is that if you only want to go one or two stops, you may be better off walking. The walk to and from stations can be longer than the direct route.
That being said, if you need to go several miles – the convention center to the MGM Grand, for instance – the monorail is a great way to travel. At $5 for a single ride ticket it isn’t the cheapest public transit in the world. It’s more economical than a taxi or an Uber, however. $12 ticket day passes and $28 three-day passes are a much better value. $1 Nevada-Resident discount fares are available with a valid Nevada ID, but only for two rides a day.
The hours of operation are serviceable. Trains run from 7am to midnight on Mondays; 7am to 2am Tuesday through Thursday; and 7am to 3am Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If you plan to party until four or five in the morning, you’re out of luck, but be reasonable – will you really be in a headspace to find the station after a night like that? Maybe the hotel you’re partying in has vacancies …
VERDICT: Useful if you have the right point of origin and destination (and possibly a treasure map leading to it), the Las Vegas Monorail is a pleasant ride. Getting to it is another story.