Vegas Vacation movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Vegas Vacation filmed?

1997

About Vegas Vacation

In his feature directorial debut, Stephen Kessler helmed Vegas Vacation. The 1997 comedy film is the fourth National Lampoon’s Vacation release. Elisa Bell penned the screenplay based on Bell and Bob Ducsay’s written story.

The movie follows Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his family as they embark on a Las Vegas vacation. Picking up from the third film, a sizable bonus Clark receives from Frank Shirley, after the approval of a food preservative product he assisted in conceiving, also allows him to splurge on his vows renewal.

His wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and their daughter Audrey (Marisol Nichols) aren’t too thrilled about the Sin City trip, knowing that it isn’t the most family-friendly place. On the other hand, their son Rusty (Ethan Embry) is stoked about the getaway.

In Vegas, a series of misadventures befall the Griswolds, starting with their visit to the Siegfried & Roy show. They also visit Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his wife Catherine (Miriam Flynn), who is Ellen’s cousin.

The Griswolds agree to enjoy a solo “alone day,” leaving each family member to their own devices. Clark ventures into the casino to quench his gambling addiction, and he keeps losing to Marty (Wallace Shawn), a snide blackjack dealer. Having chewed more than he can swallow, he ends up burning a hole in the family’s finances by losing $22,600.

A Frank Sinatra (Toby Huss) lookalike helps Rusty get a fake ID, and under the pseudonym Nick Pappagiorgio, he soon becomes one of the casino’s high rollers. As for Audrey, she shadows Vicki (Shae D’lyn), Eddie’s free-spirited daughter who is an exotic dancer.

Learning that Clark has lost a chunk of their fortunes, Ellen and the kids leave him. Clark soon realizes that he has hit rock bottom. He stops caring about the lost cash and instead shifts his focus to getting his family back.

City Locations

Las Vegas, Long Beach, Hoover Dam, Jean, Mesa

Location Types

Hotels/Motels, Restaurants, Studios

Location Styles

Boutique Hotel, Luxury Hotel, Hotel/Motel-style, Resort

Vegas Vacation Locations

After initial delays, the slate went down on the Vegas Vacation production in May 1996. The filmmakers expected to get the bulk of filming in southern Nevada within 10 days and shoot the rest of the movie in California studios.

Filming on-location in Las Vegas was meant to take up the last two and a half months of production. By June, the production unit was recording at Hoover Dam with John Robotham stepping in as Chase’s stunt double.

Jerry Weintraub, the film’s producer, and his wife Jane Morgan got hitched at the Chapel of the Bells in the ‘60s. The Vegas chapel served as one of the movie’s film locations, and Weintraub had a cameo in the movie as Gilly from Philly.

Vegas Vacation film sets were set up at the Las Vegas Video Sound Production Center. Here is a recap of some of the best scenes from the film and details about their real-life filming locations.

Fun facts:

Vegas Vacation was the first film in the series that didn’t have the National Lampoon title. It was also the first Lampoon movie that John Hughes didn’t write. It was also the fourth time that the filmmakers recast the roles of Rusty and Audrey,

Clark tells his family about the trip scene in Vegas Vacation

Long Beach, California

The film opens with Clark driving his SUV home, and we hear the radio DJ announcing that “it is 4.22, Thursday in Chicago, Illinois.” He is absent-mindedly looking through a brochure featuring The Mirage on the front cover. He gets home and breaks the news to his family about the planned Vegas holiday.

Picking up from the National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, he cashed in on assisting with the development of a food preservative that guarantees freshness for years. Shirley keeps his word and extends Clark a sizable cash bonus, which allows him to take his family on a trip to Vegas with a vows renewal as part of the itinerary.

While the radio implies that the Griswolds live in Chicago, the house scenes were filmed in Long Beach California. The city is a rich cultural hub with 50 square miles of photogenic filming areas.

Some of the highlights include the permanently docked Deco line, RMS Queen Mary, and the Aquarium of the Pacific. Start your journey towards exploring the Vegas Vacation location aboard buses 121, 93, 92, 173, or 232.

Clark causes a leak at the Hoover Dam scene in Vegas Vacation

Hoover Dam, Arizona

After visiting Cousin Eddie and Catherine, the group embarks on a tour of Hoover Dam led by a guide called Arty. Welcoming them for the tour, he says, “I’m about to take you through a fully functional power plant, so please, no one wander off the dam tour, and please take all the dam pictures you want.”

Clark gets separated from the rest after he accidentally causes the dam’s interior walkways to start leaking. His attempts to fix the leak using chewing gum prove futile.

As the roaring waters become more menacing, he has to climb his way out of the scaffold. The rest fail to hear his cries for help but eventually, Clark gets to the top of the dam.

The Hoover Dam, at the Nevada Border, served as the setting for the epic Vegas Vacation action scene. It took several takes, a series of bolts, and ropes to film the scene, 637 feet above the power plant.

It is equally as thrilling to view the concrete arch-gravity dam while on a kayak tour. While in the area, plan a visit to Lake Mead and go on a wildlife sighting expedition while crossing the Memorial Bridge.

The family visits Cousin Eddie scene in Vegas Vacation

Jean, Nevada

Eddie and Catherine live at a former hydrogen-bomb test site in the desert. When the Griswolds visit, Eddie welcomes them with a cooled chicken lunch cooked on a hot radiation rock.

Unsurprisingly, Rusty got sick after devouring the meal. Brings to mind Uncle Eddie’s response when Clark asked him if anyone ever told him that he was bad luck. Cousin Eddie responded, “Those were my mother's dying words. But I guess if your body is covered in third-degree burns, and your foot's caught in a bear trap, you tend to start talking crazy.”

The Cousin Eddie house scenes were filmed in Jean, Nevada. The small commercial town, formerly known as Goodsprings Junction, doesn’t have any residents. However, most people living in the nearby communities of Sandy Valley and Primm list their mailing addresses in Jean, where the main post office rests.

The Vegas Vacation location has hosted several art exhibit installations including the 1962 “Study for An End of the World, No. 2.” Michael Heizer's 1968 zig-zag trench installation and Ugo Rondinone’s 2016 “Seven Magic Mountains” are other exhibits the town has hosted.

Ellen joins Wayne Newton on stage scene in Vegas Vacation

Mirage Hotel & Casino, 3400 Las Vegas Boulevard

On the second night, the family scores tickets to a Wayne Newton concert. Ellen also receives a beautiful dress to wear to the event, and she gets to share the stage with the musical maestro.

Unknown to her, Newton became enraptured by her the first instance he saw her on the crowded casino floor. The next day, when each family member sets off on an alone day, Ellen spends time with Mr. Las Vegas. Hearing that Clark works in food preservation, Newton delivers the memorable line “What a gas.”

Weintraub’s connections helped the Vegas Vacation production unit gain access to the Mirage Hotel & Casino. The late producer was close friends with the then establishment’s owner, Steve Wynn. Portions of the casino, including the Siegfried & Roy show and the resort’s diving dolphins, closed down during filming.

A bulk of the scenes were filmed at the Mirage, including when Rusty wins four cars from playing the slots. Buses 119, DEUCE, 202, and 203 can get you to the Mirage Hotel & Casino.

Clark and Eddie gamble at a rundown casino scene in Vegas Vacation

Klondike Hotel and Casino, 5191 Las Vegas Boulevard

Following Clark’s downturn at the blackjack tables, Uncle Eddie comes to his rescue. He digs up the cash buried in his yard, and the pair set off to a local rundown casino hoping to win the money Clark lost back.

While at the casino, they play a series of fake games, and Clark remarks, “Eddie, this is great! They don’t have these games at the Mirage.” That includes variations of “Coin Toss War,” “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” “Guess Which Hand,” and “Pick a Number from 1 to 10.” Continuing with the running shtick, they also lose all of Eddie’s money.

The now-defunct Klondike Hotel and Casino at 5191 Las Vegas Boulevard is where they filmed those scenes. Also known as the Klondike Inn, the Vegas Strip casino had roots in 1962, and in 2004, the Royal Palm Las Vegas purchased the premises.

The Palm Vegas intended to convert the property into a condo hotel resort and casino but their plans never materialized. They had since demolished the Klondike, and in 2008 Harley-Davidson bought the lot and set up a dealership on the land.

The Griswolds meet Mr. Ellis scene in Vegas Vacation

Garden Arena, MGM Grand Hotel

In a bid to get his family back, Clark gathers them to gamble away the last two dollars in his pockets saying, “Oh, Keno! This is easy.’ They adopt a lonely elderly man (Sid Caesar) for the night, who they meet while playing the game.

The man wins the game but in the burst of joy, he passes out. He comes to long enough to share a message with Clark before dropping his winning ticket. Clark tells Ellen that the old man instructed him to take the ticket. Sadly, the paramedics arrive to declare him dead.

The Griswolds find out that he was called Mr. Ellis and all he ever desired was to connect with a friend. At the last minute, Clark dives in for the winning ticket, and the cash allows him and Ellen to renew their vows. Clark also offers Eddie $5,000 for his kindness.

The Garden Arena, found within the MGM Grand Hotel at 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard, served as a Vegas Vacation film set for some casino scenes. In its almost three decades of existence, the MGM Grand Garden Arena has hosted hundreds of events.

The hotel offers top-notch services, with amenities including concierge service, in-room dining, top golf, and access to a pool complex. Get to the MGM Grand Garden Arena via the LVM Monorail or bus 119, 201, or DEUCE.

Conclusion

Wayne Newton also opened up the doors of his Casa de Shenandoah for some of the Vegas Vacation” scenes. Other notable filming locations include the Neon Museum, O’Shea Casino, and the Fremont Street Experience. Club Paradise on Harmon Avenue, just across the Hard Rock Hotel, is where they filmed the scenes where Vicki hooked up Audrey with a dancing gig at Club Areola.

According to IMDB, the production also filmed scenes at the Mojave Desert, Sands Hotel at 3355 Las Vegas Boulevard South, and the McCarran International Airport. In California, Baker and Orange provided backdrops for some of the film’s scenes.