Big, bold, bright and ever so brash, this man-made oasis in the midst of the Mojave Desert is a unique 24-hour city. Home to some of the world’s largest, most spectacular and tackiest hotels and casinos, it’s a place created solely for the human pursuit of pleasure and entertainment.
If you like a flutter, Las Vegas is unbeatable, and every possible form of gambling is on offer. Join the hordes at the one-armed bandits or make like 007 at the poker table. Enjoy world-class shows and sporting events, and a wide range of night-time entertainment. There’s great weather year-round, so if you like glitz and glamour with a sizeable dash of kitsch, then Las Vegas could be your ultimate holiday destination.
Getting there/getting around Las Vegas
Airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Continental and American Airlines all fly to Las Vegas, and you can find direct flights, although they’re usually a little more expensive. Many flights involve a stop-over in cities such as New York, Chicago and Washington DC, so if you want to visit two cities in one trip, allow a couple of days between connecting flights for some exploring.
Las Vegas is a very compact city and many popular attractions are found around The Strip and downtown. There are lots of transportation options, including the city bus service and the Las Vegas Monorail, one of the most modern systems of its kind in the world. Catching a cab is easy enough for short journeys, or you could splash out and turn heads by renting a vintage car such as a Cadillac.
Sightseeing in Las Vegas
The main attractions are the hotels themselves, so head for Las Vegas Boulevard, otherwise known as The Strip. At the Venetian Hotel and Casino, they spent around two billion dollars recreating, you guessed it, Venice. Guests can travel around in a gondola, as real canals run through the hotel, and the ‘sky’ is actually an enormous ceiling fresco.
The Bellagio is one of Las Vegas’s most opulent hotels and most popular casinos; you’ll find an Italian theme and a vast garden there. Its best-known attraction is its amazing water show, which is described as a breathtaking union of water, music and light. At the Mirage, there’s a volcano which shoots flames into the sky at regular intervals every evening and the Luxor hotel, dedicated to ancient Egypt, is pyramid-shaped.
Newlyweds are not an unusual sight in Las Vegas, as people from all over the world come here to get hitched. It may not be all that romantic, but it’s certainly a cheap option, as you can tie the knot for as little as £200. When you get bored with the casinos, slither into a wetsuit and head to Lake Mead, about 30 miles east of Las Vegas. You can enjoy boating, waterskiing and even scuba diving here. Snowskiers can thrill to the downhill at the Lee Canyon Ski Area on Chesterson Peak in the Toiyabe National Forest, about 80 miles north-west of Vegas.
Family attractions in Las Vegas
Las Vegas isn’t the best destination for a family holiday as, of course, the casinos do not admit children. This isn’t always a problem if you don’t expect to spend that much time gambling, as many hotels provide children’s entertainment, baby-sitting services and crèches.
If you do travel with the whole family then there are good theme parks at Circus Circus and the MGM Grand, a waterpark on the Strip, several rollercoasters, arcades, movie theatres, animal attractions and a couple of child-friendly production shows. They will, of course, be blown away by the hotels too.
Day trips from Las Vegas
One world-famous attraction just a few hours’ drive from Las Vegas which should not be missed is the Grand Canyon. At a mile deep, 277 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, it rarely fails to take the breath away. Get a bird’s-eye view of the chasm in a helicopter or small plane, or stride out over the canyon’s latest addition, the Skywalk, a glass bridge suspended 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. If you’re scared of heights, don’t bother. More than just an amazing sight, the canyon has excellent hiking, horse riding and walking.
Back towards Las Vegas, but still along the Colorado River, is the Hoover Dam. Built during the Great Depression in the 1930s, it’s about 300 metres across and holds back the contents of Lake Mead.
Shopping in Las Vegas
The city’s two best malls are the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace and the Fashion Show Mall. The Forum Shops have more than 150 boutiques and shops, such as Niketown and Gap, as well as 15 speciality restaurants. The Fashion Show mall boasts seven department stores (think Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s) plus another 250 speciality stores and restaurants. It’s covered by a canopy called The Cloud, which provides shade for the outdoor plaza by day and acts a projection screen for light shows at night.
You’ll find tacky souvenir shops everywhere you turn on the Strip – the kitsch is fabulous! Perhaps surprisingly, Las Vegas is also a great place to shop for antiques and art.
Eating out in Las Vegas
The restaurants, diners and cafés of Las Vegas seem to cater for absolutely every taste and budget. Of course, you’ll find all your favourite American fast-food outlets such as McDonald’s and KFC; otherwise, choose from sushi, Italian, ribs, seafood, Chinese, Tex-Mex, vegetarian, Thai, French – whatever takes your fancy, really.
In the big hotels, the influx of A-list chefs has also made Las Vegas a bit of a culinary hot spot, so if you want to splash out, you’re never far from a high-class gourmet experience. Mon Ami Gabi, a Parisian-style brasserie, has an enviable location right on The Strip, so if you enjoy a spot of people-watching, this is the place for you.
Nightlife in Las Vegas
Some of the world’s biggest superstars perform regularly in the city. Every hotel offers at least one sumptuous show, and there’s something for everyone, whether you’re into music, magic or cabaret. Most bars stay open 24 hours a day, but most clubs close on Sunday and Monday. Las Vegas is great for clubs and live music, and the best-known venues for live music are probably the House of Blues or The Joint (at the Hard Rock Hotel).
You can hear live jazz every night of the week in Las Vegas – try OPM at Caesars Palace. Las Vegas is also home to the Nevada Symphony Orchestra, the Nevada Opera Theatre, the Las Vegas Civic Symphony and the Nevada Chamber Symphony. If you’re a boxing fan, then time your trip right and you might be lucky enough to catch a world-class boxing match at the MGM or Caesars.