There's just something about Las Vegas. The city is the backdrop, and often a character itself, in hit television shows and major movies. It's a hotbed for celebrity gossip and a home-away-from-home for Average Joes and Josephines.
What is it about this relatively young city that has made it such a focal point? From The Strip that slices through this rapidly growing city to the shores of Lake Mead to the south, there's more to Las Vegas than most travel-destination cities.
In fact, there's a great deal that many don't know about Las Vegas. There's a tender side to go with its star-filled history. Mormon settlers came from Salt Lake City in the mid-1800s, and railroad developers made tracks to Las Vegas in the 1890s. A town began to form, and the city was founded May 15, 1905, as a railroad stopover for those heading west.
The real growth spurt of Las Vegas can be traced to 1931, when the Nevada Legislature formally legalized gambling. Gangster Bugsy Seigel opened the Flamingo Hotel in 1946, and the Las Vegas that's now known as the "Entertainment Capital of the World" was born.
From the fledgling art community downtown to the million-dollar suites on Las Vegas Boulevard, this is a city that grew from 5,000 to nearly 2 million in one century, growing from a watering hole for gold rushers to a play destination for the world. In 2005, a record 38.6 million people visited this jewel in the desert.
The Best of Las Vegas
The Las Vegas metropolitan area is 600 square miles of stores, offices, and other buildings just like any other small downtown. But if you look closer, this town is undergoing major development projects in multiple areas.
New condo high-rise buildings are being planned, the Union Park Development Project will mix residential and high-rise buildings, and municipal officials have agreed to change the zoning rules on Freemont Street so more bars are allowed closer together. These changes are under way in the hopes that more tourists will explore the downtown area instead of limiting themselves to the Las Vegas Strip.
The Las Vegas Strip is only a four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, but it is glamorous with its luxurious resort hotels, lavish pools, acres of casino floors, Mobil Five-Star restaurants, and seemingly endless number of major attractions. That's why The Strip oftentimes defines this city to the world.
The anything-goes vibe is apparent here, from the Egyptian artifacts at Luxor on the south end of the boulevard to the XScream thrill ride that shoots riders 800 feet over The Strip at the Stratosphere on the north end of the boulevard.
There are also the wildlife attractions that have continuously been voted the best by locals, such as the Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand, Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden, the Dolphin Habitat, the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, and bird-watching at the Wetlands State Park in the southern part of the valley.
Another draw is the food. Celebrity chefs such as Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Tom Colicchio, and Wolfgang Puck have restaurants in Las Vegas. A favorite of the stars is Flay's Mesa Grill at Caesar's Palace, where you can nosh on coffee spice-rubbed rotisserie filet mignon with wild mushroom-ancho chile sauce.
Whether coming for a well-earned vacation or building an itinerary to see the sights around your convention schedule, you'll want to make the most of every minute you spend in this bright city. Be aware that many visitors leave feeling they only sampled a small amount of attractions, shows, restaurants, and outdoor activities compared to the vast array available. There's simply too much entertainment and activities to keep you busy no matter how long you choose to stay.
Fast Facts & Info
Geography and landscape: Las Vegas, which means "The Meadows" in Spanish, was once abundant in water and brush. The valley is an arid basin surrounded by mountains that range in color from pink to ash gray, which makes for picture-perfect sunrises and sunsets.
Spring Mountains and Red Rock Canyon are located to the west, Frenchman Mountain and Lake Mead to the east, the McCullough Range to the south, and the Sheep Mountains or Range to the north. The surrounding area is rocky and dusty, but within the city of Las Vegas itself, travelers will find an urban oasis filled with a lot of greenery and buildings.
The Las Vegas Strip, often called The Strip, only stretches four miles on Las Vegas Boulevard, from the Stratosphere at the northern end and the Mandalay Bay on the southern end. This short stretch houses many of the largest hotels, casinos, and attractions. For those flying into town, McCarran International Airport is conveniently located on the southern end of The Strip.
The city of Henderson, an old mining town, is a bedroom community located just 15 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip. Henderson is the second largest city in Nevada, so don't think it's a sleepy little town. Henderson has become one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, with nearly 250,000 people currently calling it home.
General orientation: Las Vegas is divided by the bustling Strip, which runs north to south through the valley. Most new residents choosing to move to the city opt to settle far from the tourist action and into the tony Summerlin in the west and Green Valley in the east.
The main highway, Interstate 15, parallels The Strip and feeds California, Utah, and Northern Nevada residents in and out of the city as well as the trucks that carry fresh flowers, uniforms, paper products, and other essentials for the various hotels in Vegas.
US 95 crisscrosses Interstate 15 at the head of The Strip and serves the community by carrying residents from the east and west areas of the valley. The most recent addition to the valley's road systems is the Interstate 215 Beltway, which loops around the city and lightens the arteries feeding in and out of the city.
Safety: Just like many other major cities, Las Vegas prides itself on its security measures and, as a result, the city is generally safe. Visitors, however, should be careful when traveling in the darker, less populated areas on both the north and south ends of The Strip. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department patrols The Strip on bikes and is quick to control any rowdy revelers.
Also be prepared for direct marketers who will constantly approach you with fliers and handbills. They aren't a safety concern, but they have the potential of being an annoyance, particularly if you prefer to be left alone.
Population: Las Vegas is the most populated city in the state of Nevada, with 1.8 million people calling the valley home, mainly due to its weather, the supply of jobs in the hotel business, and the lack of sales tax. However, fewer than 600,000 people live within the city limits of Las Vegas.
Climate/weather: Bring your sunscreen no matter what time of year it is because Las Vegas is host to an average of 310 sunny days annually. Although the temperatures can climb to well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the late summer months, the nights are on average a cool (for the desert) 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
The average annual temperature is a rather pleasant 66.3 degrees Fahrenheit, with low humidity. Winter temperatures can dip into the 40s on occasion but usually hover around the high 50s or 60s, with lows in the 30s.
Although rainfall is sparse, averaging a mere 4.19 inches annually, flooding in the summer months can strand visitors who have ventured into the desert for a little outdoor rest and relaxation. Flash floods are common in July and August, and warnings are prevalent, urging people to stay high and dry when outside.
If you stick to The Strip, you won't have much trouble navigating this city. However, there are some must-see attractions that lay beyond the main drag, so check out the next section for tips on getting around Las Vegas.
Getting In, Getting Around Las Vegas
Las Vegas transportation is plentiful. Use the following tips to help you get around this rollicking city.
From the Airport
Located on the southern end of The Strip, McCarran International Airport is an ultramodern facility that even provides slot and video poker machines. But don't expect to hear the satisfying clank of coins as they fall from a winning machine. The airport has paperless slots, in which you give your money to a cashier and she gives you a slip of paper to slide, quietly, into the machine.
Rental car: At McCarran Airport, the major rental car companies have booths located in the baggage claim area. Shuttles for each car rental company are located just outside baggage claim and can take you directly to the car lot. The rates vary from around $18 for a compact car to $100 for a deluxe SUV. Off-site car rental companies can be contacted using free phones available near the baggage claim areas.
If you want to get around town easily, specifically if you plan any excursions off The Strip that aren't taking a guided tour, you'll want to rent a car. Many visitors opt to rent a car for getting away to scenic spots outside of town. Don't worry about where to park because all of the hotels have rental car parking areas.
Taxi: A lengthy taxi stand is located just outside the east side of the airport baggage claim area, outside Exits 1 through 5. Airport personnel are available on the taxi curb to help you flag one. Be aware that you will be charged $1.20 on all fares that originate at the airport.
From the airport, you can expect to pay $8 to $9.50 for a taxi ride to the southern end of The Strip, $9.50 to $12 to get to the center Strip, $13 to reach the Stratosphere Hotel, and $15 to $17 to get to downtown Las Vegas.
This flat fee is in addition to whatever you choose to tip the driver, which is generally $1 to $2 for a fare below $10. If the fare is higher, which is possible in this spread-out town, and if the driver is friendly and helps with your luggage, you might end up paying a 15 to 20 percent tip.
Before you duck into a cab, keep in mind that the amount of passengers is limited to a maximum of five people.
Public transportation: You can catch a shuttle at the north and west sides of the baggage claim areas, just outside door Exits 8 to 14. Bell Trans and Grayline/Coach (702-739-5700) are the two most popular, but there are five companies that service the Las Vegas area. Shuttle service between the airport and The Strip costs about $4 per person and about $5 per person for a ride between the airport and downtown Las Vegas. Shuttles operate 24/7 in this nonstop town, and they are the best option because it's closer to the baggage claim area and the drivers are helpful with luggage and tourist information. Also, the shuttles often provide magazines with coupons and up-to-date information on headliners and attractions in Las Vegas.
Another option is using the Citizens Area Transit Bus System located on the ground level at McCarran. A one-way fare on Route 301 to The Strip will cost $2; a one-way fare off-strip on other routes will cost $1.25. A total of 49 bus routes are available to take you throughout the Las Vegas and surrounding areas, so check with the Citizens Area Transit System (702-228-7433) for the latest schedules.
Rush hour: With tremendous growth occurring in Las Vegas, out-of-towners should be aware that rush hours can be hectic. Rush hours are typically between 6:30 am and 10 am and 3 pm and 6:30 pm. During those designated times, Interstate 15 and US 95 become clogged with commuters traveling from east and west and north to south. And the Rainbow Curve, the area of US 95 between Lake Mead and Jones Boulevards running both north and south, becomes a virtual parking lot, as does the Spaghetti Bowl, where Interstate 15 and US 95 cross.
Rules of the road: Las Vegas is built on a grid, so if you happen to get a bit lost, continue to take rights or lefts and you'll wind up where you started.
While driving in Las Vegas, watch out for the cab drivers. They're notorious for quickly cutting in front of you or flying across three lanes to turn left from the far right turn lane.
Many visiting drivers don't understand that you can turn right on red (unless otherwise stated). Locals will be quick to remind you of this with a long, healthy honk if you hesitate.
Public transportation, fares: The Citizens Area Transit Bus System has routes running along The Strip 24 hours, but be careful if you venture to other areas like downtown, where you can only catch a bus from 5:30 am until 1:30 am. You don't want to get stranded far from your hotel room and end up paying $40 for a taxi to drive you back. The one-way bus fare on The Strip is $2 per ride; $1.25 in other areas like downtown. Exact fare is always required.
The Las Vegas Strip Trolley is a convenient way to travel Las Vegas Boulevard from 9:30 am to 1:30 am daily. The trolley's North Loop serves the major Strip hotels and the South Loop, then makes its way to the South Coast Hotel & Casino and Las Vegas Outlet Center, among other stops. The cost is $2.50 per ride, and exact fare is required.
The Deuce is a double-decker bus that services Las Vegas Boulevard. You can choose between 53 upper deck seats and 27 lower deck seats. A one-way fare is $2 or you can buy an all-day pass for $5.
The Las Vegas Monorail runs along the east side of The Strip between the Mobil Three-Star MGM Grand and the Mobil Two-Star Sahara hotels. This is a relatively new addition to Las Vegas, and it has yet to work out all the kinks. The Monorail has broken down a few times with travelers on board who must wait for it to get fixed or get off the tracks. The price is $5 for a one-way ticket, $9 for a two-way ticket, and $40 for a three-day pass.
Two monorail lines operate free of charge on the west side of The Strip. One tram runs in a loop 24 hours daily between Excalibur, the Mobil Three-Star Luxor, and the Mobil Three-Star Mandalay Bay. The other monorail system travels between the Mobil Three-Star Treasure Island and the Mobil Three-Star The Mirage from 7 am to 2 am daily.
Taxis, on foot, or by bike: Basic taxi fare is $3 for the first mile, $1.80 for each additional mile, and $.35 a minute while stopped at a red light. Taxis can only hold up to five passengers.
Watch out for cab drivers that might try to take you the long way around the city to get to your hotel. McCarran Airport is nestled against the south end of The Strip and most hotels are not more than a $20 cab ride away.
If you plan to hoof it in Las Vegas, join the crowd. Winter, fall, and spring months are perfect for walking from hotel to hotel. The hotels are set up to get you in their establishment, so you won't have to wander far. They want to make it as easy as possible to come in and spend money, which is why they spent lots of money on elevated walkways that carry you over the major intersections along The Strip.
If you're interested in bike riding to your destination, you'll quickly discover this isn't a bike-friendly town. You can rent bikes, mopeds, Segways, and scooters on The Strip, but with the clogged sidewalks and fast-moving cabs, these aren't very popular modes of transportation. And there aren't many bike racks to hold the items when you're sidetracked by the next big attraction you stumble across. In fact, the only bikes you'll see on The Strip belong to the Las Vegas Metro Police on patrol.
Although there are bike lanes in many residential neighborhoods, most serious bike riders get out of town to the picturesque, and cooler, mountain areas with maintained bike lanes.
Obviously, if you're up for gambling and taking in a show, you've come to the right place. But Las Vegas offers much more than casinos and shows -- if you're interested, you can find such unique spots as the Atomic Testing Museum and the Botanical Cactus Garden. See the next page for information on the many special events and attractions in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Special Events & Attractions
Las Vegas has something for everyone and knows how to present it in a big, glamorous way unlike any other place on Earth. No matter where you look, the young and young-at-heart will find enough year-round attractions to keep them busy. Theme parks, roller coasters, museums, exotic gardens, live animals, and more are available.
Those who enjoy reading about celebrities will be star struck when they can catch a show with such major headliners as Wayne Newton and Celine Dion. Most recently, Reba McEntire, Toni Braxton, Liza Minnelli, and Elton John have found temporary homes throughout the year in Strip showrooms.
Wherever you gamble in Vegas, whether it's the floors of casinos on The Strip or the smaller casinos in the downtown, your chances of winning are the same. Cocktail servers bring free drinks to playing customers. If you like your drinks quickly, it's best to play at a bar, where the machines are set into the top of the bar and your server is right there to wait on you.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Las Vegas
The Aquarium at the Mobil Two-Star Silverton Hotel (3333 Blue Diamond Rd) is a 117,000-gallon saltwater aquarium that holds more than 5,000 exotic fish and three species of string rays and sharks. It's free to watch the fish and animals swim between among vibrant coral. If you're lucky, you can catch a marine biologist feeding them three times a day.
King Tutankhamun's Tomb & Museum at the Mobil Three-Star Luxor Hotel (3900 Las Vegas Blvd) is an authentic reproduction of the boy king's tomb to the exact measurement. Artisans reproduced his treasures using authentic 3,300-year-old methods such as gold leaf and linens, precious pigments, and tools. Each was meticulously positioned according to the records maintained by the original Carter expedition.
The replicas include a re-creation of the sarcophagus of Egypt's boy king exactly as it looked when archaeologists unearthed it. You can take home a replica of original artifacts, writings, baskets, sarcophagi, statues, and vases.
The Fountains at the Mobil Four-Star Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd) come to life shooting water on cue while music plays in the background every 30 minutes during the day, or every 15 minutes from 8 pm to midnight. The 1,200 nozzles and 4,500 lights are well in synch with the music that includes Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me To The Moon." If you're a movie buff, the fountains were featured at the end of Oceans Eleven, the movie featuring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Julia Roberts.
The Volcano at the Mobil Three-Star Mirage (3400 Las Vegas Blvd) erupts every hour from 8 pm to midnight. The best spot to watch the orange flames leap 100 feet above the water is to stand on The Strip side of the pond and arrive 10 minutes early to secure your spot.
Take a ride on Speed at the Mobil Two-Star Sahara Hotel (2535 Las Vegas Blvd), in which an electromagnetic force is used to slingshot a rollercoaster from 0 to 35 mph in 2 seconds, then 35 mph to 70 mph in another 2 seconds. Hold onto your shorts because the biggest drop is 224 feet. Once you reach the peak, the rollercoaster reverses and runs the whole course backward. It will be over before you know it, so don't close your eyes on this 45-second ride.
You can also test your nerves and lungs on XScream at The Stratosphere Hotel (2000 Las Vegas Blvd). The ride travels to the top of the Stratosphere Tower (866 feet), then the ride's arm stretches the car out over the edge about 31 feet, so you're hanging at a 30-degree angle. Take off any eyeglasses or jewelry before you get on.
The Imperial Palace Auto Collection (3535 Las Vegas Blvd South) is a treat for car enthusiasts as well as car history buffs. This oddity contains more than 200 antique, classic, and special interest automobiles, explaining the history of the automobile in a plush, gallery-like setting on the fifth floor of the Asian-themed Imperial Palace.
The Wildlife Habitat at the Mobil Two-Star Flamingo Las Vegas (3555 Las Vegas Blvd) features more than 300 birds, imported trees and flowers, and walkways along streams and waterfalls. You'll even spot turtles, koi fish, and penguins (yes, penguins).
The Lion Habitat at the Mobil Three-Star MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Blvd) is the place to go if you love lions. You can watch the kings of the jungle feed, play, groom, or sleep through a 1-1/2 inch thick glass.
The Conservatory found in the Mobil Four-Star Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd) features hundreds of flowers and rare trees from across the United States beautifully arranged in 14,000 square feet under a 55-foot glass ceiling. You can walk on paths between the plants, including a 105-year-old banyan tree from Palm Beach. A crew of horticulturists replaces the flowers in the conservatory exhibit every two weeks.
Explore mementos of Las Vegas's past at The Neon Museum (east end of the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas). The museum features a free walking tour of numerous restored neon signs that once lit up the streets of The Strip and downtown Las Vegas. You'll see the Hacienda Horse and Rider sign (created in 1967), Aladdin's Genie Lamp, and the Flame Restaurant sign, among dozens more.
The museum was created to preserve pieces of Vegas history, especially after many hotels and casinos have been knocked down. The museum includes a three-acre lot called The Boneyard, where non-restored historic signs are kept. A tour of the Boneyard requires an appointment.
The Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History (4505 S Maryland Parkway, on the campus of the University of Nevada) is a tribute to the natural history of Southern Nevada. Dozens of exhibits and displays feature models of old animal inhabitants, live reptiles, desert lizards, and desert tortoises.
A large portion of the exhibit honors the way of life of the Paiute and Hopi Native American Indians. You can see tools, baskets, clothing, and other remnants of their daily lives. There are also interactive exhibits like the Navajo loom for weaving.
The Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Garden (2 Cactus Garden Dr, 10 miles from The Strip) features a free behind-the-scenes look at the candy-making process of Caramel Splendors, Lemon Satin Cremes, Almond Butter Krisps, and other treats. Afterward, you can explore the three-acre botanical cactus garden that surrounds the factory. More than 350 species of cactus live and thrive here. It's carefully designed so you can follow walkways through the property and occasionally find a bench from which to admire the natural plants.
The Atomic Testing Museum (755 E Flamingo Rd) is an 8,000-square-foot gallery of the atomic age that erupted in the still sleepy town of Las Vegas during the 1950s. A gift shop allows patrons to take home a souvenir of that bygone era that helped to shape the country's stance on the Cold War.
The Bonnie and Clyde Getaway Car (31900 Las Vegas Blvd, 702-679-RIDE) features the original Ford that bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot in during a police roadside ambush in Louisiana in May 1934. The exhibits include the shirt that Clyde died in, a belt and necklace made by Clyde during his early prison days, and 17 Barrow family photos.
Go back to the heyday of Nevada when it all started in the 1880s at Bonnie Springs Old Nevada (1 Gunfighter Lane, Blue Diamond), which is about 40 minutes outside of Las Vegas. The mining town reproduction offers horseback riding, a petting zoo, historic exhibits, and occasional Western shows along its streets. Wild horses and burros can be seen on the way to Bonnie Springs as well as while you're there.
Las Vegas may not be the first place you think of for arts and culture, but there are some surprising treasures both on The Strip and off the beaten path. See the next page for more on arts and culture in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Arts & Culture
Many locals bemoan the lack of culture in Las Vegas, but there's a bit of something for everyone if you look hard enough. Much of the focus of Las Vegas's museums is on the city's history. Other museums pinpoint local artists. One thing about Vegas: there are a lot of people with financial resources who made this town a viable city, and they tend to offer their time, and open wallets, to rare art works for tourists and locals alike to enjoy.
The Guggenhiem at the Mobil Four-Star Venetian holds works from around the world. The Mobil Four-Star Bellagio has the Gallery of Fine Art that tends to mix it up with works from pop culture, such as Andy Warhol, and classics such as Monet. There's always a bit of the world of art to be seen somewhere in Las Vegas.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Las Vegas
The Las Vegas Art Museum (9600 W Sahara Ave) brings a bit of the world to this desert town by featuring international contemporary artists. On-site docents offer insightful tours. The museum rotates works from international artists as well as those of Martin Mull and glassblower genius Michael Chihuly.
Opened in 2001 with mixed reviews, the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum (3355 Las Vegas Blvd) offers an unprecedented opportunity to view some of the world's finest art and special exhibits. The museum, designed by acclaimed architect Rem Koolhaas, houses new exhibits once to twice a year. Note that it draws from the collections of the renowned Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (3600 Las Vegas Blvd) will feature 50-plus photographs of American landscapes by renowned photographer Ansel Adams through May 2007. He is most known for his black-and-white photo of the Yosemite Valley in California. The exhibit will include one of Adams's first cameras and the Presidential Medal of Freedom he received from President Jimmy Carter.
The Judy Bayley Theatre (4505 S Maryland Parkway on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas) hosts visiting ballet companies and annual holiday productions. The Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall (4505 S Maryland Parkway) features speakers and performers like Wynton Marsalis and the Nevada Ballet's annual Nutcracker production.
Nevada Ballet Theatre (1651 Inner Circle) is a 41-member company consisting of talented dancers from around the world and artists with international performing credits. They perform throughout the year at various venues in Las Vegas.
Located in downtown Las Vegas, Cashman Field Center (850 Las Vegas Blvd North) holds such musicals as Cats and Les Miserables throughout the year. It's mostly known as the home of the Las Vegas 51s, the minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 28,000-square-foot, four-story M&M's World, located in The Showcase Mall (3785 Las Vegas Blvd) houses a museum dedicated to candy. The site includes awesome displays and a 3-D movie theater.
New York City may have the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but Las Vegas has the Liberace Museum (1775 E Tropicana Ave). The building is filled with the maestro's flamboyant accessories, from mirror-lined pianos to his rhinestone-covered capes.
With so many old buildings torn down to make way for bigger, better ones, Las Vegas is not the best place to see examples of historic architecture. However, some landmarks remain, many of which are a must-see for tourists. Check out the next section for information on the architecture and landmarks in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Architecture & Landmarks
It's difficult to find many historic buildings in Las Vegas, especially on the The Strip, because this town tries to reinvent itself every few years. Hotel and casino owners are known for imploding older buildings, like the historic Dunes, Sands, Hacienda, Landmark, and Aladdin hotels to make way for the new. This is mainly because land and water are so precious along The Strip, and casino moguls attempt to build the best and most modern to continue to attract tourists and top each other in the race to be the next big thing.
The downtown Las Vegas area, however, has several older buildings with some even listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of those buildings include the Old Mormon Fort, the Fifth Street School, and the Art-Deco architecture of the first Las Vegas High School.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Las Vegas
Check out the Old Vegas Mormon State Historic Park (500 E Washington St) in downtown Las Vegas. The old Mormon Adobe Fort was the site of the first permanent non-native settlers in the Las Vegas Valley.
A group of Mormon missionaries built the adobe fort close to the Las Vegas Creek in 1855. It was abandoned a few years later, but a remnant of the original fort remains, serving as a visitor center with displays and historical information. There are series of programs throughout the summer that are perfect for families to enjoy times gone by.
The Golden Gate Hotel (1 Fremont St) was originally built in 1906 and was the site of the first telephone in Las Vegas. Just a few blocks away is the stunning Old Post Office building (301 Stewart Ave). This neoclassical structure was erected in 1931 as part of the government's New Deal building projects during the Great Depression. In the 1950s, this building was used as a federal courthouse where hearings on organized crime were held. Today the building serves as a museum and art gallery.
The Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts (315 S Seventh St) was once home to Las Vegas High School, the only secondary school in the area until the 1950s. The building still is a great example of art deco architecture with its concrete cast and stucco friezes depicting animals, vegetation, and medallions.
A dozen Railroad Cottages (between Second and Fourth Sts and Clark and Garces aves) still remain out of 64 originally built around 1900. Railroad workers used the bungalow-style homes before World War I. These homes are recognized as a national historic district.
El Portal Theatre (310 Fremont St) was home to the city's first movie theater. The hacienda-style theater once held leather seats and a large movie screen but has been converted into a gift shop.
El Cortez Hotel and Casino (600 Fremont St) was once owned by gangster Bugsy Siegel, but he sold it in the 1940s to pay for construction of the Mobil Three-Star Flamingo Hotel.
The Huntridge Theatre (1208 E Charleston Blvd) was a premiere movie house in the 1940s and was visited by such celebrities as Jerry Lewis and Abbott and Costello. The building is one of the few standing examples of modern-style buildings and was used as a place for live music performances in the early 1990s. The building is currently closed with no known plans for reopening.
Celebrities and locals have attempted to build a historical memorial to old Las Vegas, particularly the neon signs of the mid-20th century, along Fremont Street and in the downtown area. Although it's currently closed, you can see the exterior of the famed Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino (900 W Bonanza Rd), opened in 1955 for only a quick five months. It was Las Vegas' first interracial entertainment facility and attracted members of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, the Platters, Maurice and Gregory Hines.
Over the years, minor celebrities and major city officials have attempted to revive the Moulin Rouge. But in 2003, just as its doors were rumored to open once again, a major fire destroyed the casino.
The hotel, the front facade (designed by architects Zick and Sharp), and the famous sign remain behind leaning wire fences. Although it's closed, it's worth the drive to check out the marvelous front sign and surrounding houses from the 1940s.
The Mobil Three-Star Paris Las Vegas Casino Resort (3655 Las Vegas Blvd South) has its own 1/3-scale replica Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumph. The 50-story tower offers glass elevator rides leading to an observation deck with a breathtaking view of The Strip.
Clark County Heritage Museum (1820 S Boulder Hwy) is a bit amateur but quite the Cold War museum. Tree-lined streets hold homes that were architecturally significant to Las Vegas through the 1930s to 1960s. Each house is complete with furniture, electronics, appliances, and decorations of the period. Guests walk from house to house, and plaques inform them of the significance of each. Railroad cars, which were integral to Las Vegas's growth, are also featured.
Don't spend all your money in the casinos! Save some for the stores. Shopping in Vegas can be quite a score, if you know where to go. See the next page for Las Vegas shopping tips.
Las Vegas Shopping
You can take a break from spending money at the casinos and instead find almost any kind of store to suit your budget -- from bargains to high-end retail or specialty shops. The key is to know where to look.
Some of the best retailers are situated along The Strip. Chanel, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., White House/Black Market, and more vie for customers. No matter what hotel you decide to stay in, you're only minutes from phenomenal shopping. And the hotel planners didn't just set up shops around the casino. They've created shopping experiences, where you can watch free shows, be fooled by living statues, take in a thunderstorm, and relax on benches under faux skies that turn from dusk to dawn on the hour.
Downtown Las Vegas offers its own share of specialty shops, high-end retail, and antique stores to satisfy your shopping frenzy. It even has it own outdoor mall or strip malls, depending on whether you want to walk around under canopies in the dry weather or indoors with the air conditioning.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is home to many outlet malls that attract the typical tourist looking for a deal. The Las Vegas Premium Outlets (875 S Grand Central Pkwy in downtown Las Vegas) houses outlet stores, such as A/X Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and Calvin Klein, with savings from 25 to 65 percent off everyday prices. More than 120 stores are located in 435,000 square feet, and various store exteriors are color coordinated so you can easily follow a map and navigate the shopping area.
Another local find is what locals call Antique Row (1109 Western Ave in downtown Las Vegas). You can pick up anything from costume jewelry from the 1940s and '50s to casino chips, furniture, linens, and dishware. You can also find discontinued hotel silverware and dishes. The area is strewn with little houses and clumps of stores. Another good place to find quality antiques is the Gypsy Caravan Antiques (1302 S Third St).
Chinatown Plaza (4255 Spring Mountain Rd) is located only one mile west of the Las Vegas Strip. This plaza has a large collection of Asian businesses and restaurants, and even offers an Asian supermarket. Its specialty shops sell jade jewelry, spices, teas, art, and novelties. This first master-planned Chinatown in America has unique Tong Dynasty architecture.
The Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas at Primm (32100 Las Vegas Blvd) is a 45-minute drive outside Las Vegas. This mall, located on the California-Nevada state line, has 100-plus shops ranging from high-end retail shops like Coach and Escada to outlet shops such as Nautica Outlet, Nine West, and Last-Call Nieman Marcus Store. Shuttles operate daily form the MGM Grand and the Desert Passage to this outlet extravaganza.
The District of Green Valley Ranch (2240 Village Walk Dr, Henderson) offers 40-plus specialty retail stores and restaurants on tree-lined streets and cobblestone sidewalks. The amount of bargains or gems you'll find will depend on how long you want to look. Its numerous stores include REI (outdoor gear), Anthropologie (clothing and home decor), and Pottery Barn (home decor, knick knacks and crafts).
The Stratosphere Tower Shops atop The Stratosphere Hotel (2000 Las Vegas Blvd) wind their way along the corridor leading to the Thrill Rides, 800 feet above the city at the north end of The Strip. The shops are mom and pop, along with a few amenities such as the Roni Josef Spa and Salon. It's a trek to the shops, but the view at the end is awesome. It's a perfect way to spend an afternoon and catch the sunset over the mountains to the west at the end of your shopping spree.
Expect to run into a celebrity or two at The Forum Shops at the Mobil Three-Star Caesars Palace (3500 Las Vegas Blvd). This 560,000-square-foot shopping experience brings fantasy to life. High-end stores such as Kate Spade, Judith Leiber, and Coach coexist among such top-rated restaurants as Sushi Roku and Boa Steakhouse.
There's no shortage of hip Vegas night spots, including several dance clubs where celebrity sightings are the norm. Learn about these and other entertainment options on the next page.
Las Vegas Nightlife & Entertainment
Anywhere you go there's something going on at night in Las Vegas. From a hot craps game that has attracted a crowd to "flair" bartenders who flip and throw the bottles in the air, you'll find most anyone is up for anything in the nightlife atmosphere.
If you're interested in seeing a Las Vegas show, talk with your hotel's concierge about securing tickets because some shows sell out months in advance, but hotels often have tickets for their guests. Otherwise, you can try to track down tickets on your own through various ticket-selling Web sites.
If you want to hang out where the locals go, you may have to get off the beaten path and travel to some out-of-the-way places. There are always the ultra-lounges, such as Tabu at MGM Grand and Light at Bellagio, for celebrity sightings, top DJs spinning house music, and dancing until the wee hours. But these can be expensive and rather boring if the crowd is dull. The party in Vegas doesn't get started until at least midnight, when most of the production shows have closed for the night.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Las Vegas
Pure nightclub at Mobil Three-Star Caesars Palace (3570 S Las Vegas Blvd) is where many up-and-coming rappers and pop musicians hop onstage to sing the praises of their latest single, hoping for ink in the morning papers as well as feedback from fans.
One of the latest clubs to make a mark on the scene is the 10,000-square-foot Tao nightclub at Mobil Four-Star Venetian (3355 La Vegas Blvd South). Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Chloe Sevigny, and others make it a point to check out Tao's connected Bistro for a bite before hitting this cavernous club's dance floor. The resident DJs spin house music and hip hop.
The Rain Las Vegas nightclub inside the Mobil Three-Star Palms Casino Resort (4321 W Flamingo Rd) has guests walking through a futuristic tunnel and exiting onto a dance floor highlighted by a state-of-the-art light system. The sound system is kicking, and you can dance the night away while passersby check you out through a wall of windows facing The Strip.
Jet, inside the Mobil Three-Star Mirage Casino and Hotel (3400 Las Vegas Blvd), is an ultra-modern, sleek nightclub featuring three dance rooms -- one for rock/hip hop/and dance, the second for house music, and the third for eclectic mixes. When you get thirsty, you can go to any of the four full-service bars.
Dance into the wee hours at Studio 54 nightclub at the Mobil Three-Star MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Blvd). This nightclub puts a modern twist on the classic nightclub by offering retro, progressive, and top-of-the-chart dance music on four dance floors. When you need to take a break, you can watch live dancers, wall walkers, or bungee jumpers. The 22,000-square-foot nightclub includes seven semi-private lounges, but you must be 21 or older to enjoy all that the facility has to offer.
The Foundation Room inside the Mobil Three-Star Mandalay Bay Hotel (3950 Las Vegas Blvd) is usually exclusive, but it's open to the public for an after-hours "Godspeed" party on Monday evenings. DJs play some of the hottest sets while guests dance or enjoy the view of The Strip or eastern Las Vegas Valley from the 43rd floor balcony.
The Beauty Bar (517 Fremont St) is a trendy, retro-cool bar with a 1950s beauty salon decor. The 2,100-square-foot location is always jumping with live DJs every night and a funky, soul party hosted the first Friday of the month.
The Strip may be where you get your groove on, but for serious local flavor, the Double Down (4640 Paradise Rd), two blocks from The Strip, has it hands down. This bar is home to local musicians, artists, photographers, and writers, as well as out-of-towners in the know. The drinks are reasonable, and the jukebox rocks with every genre of music.
Sushi Roku inside the Forum Shops at Mobil Three-Star Caesars Palace (3500 Las Vegas Blvd South), and its sister restaurant next door, the newly opened BOA Steakhouse (3500 Las Vegas Blvd S), were designed to capture the essence of the hip, young Hollywood dining experience. Sushi Roku is known as a celebrity haunt that attracts such stars as Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, and Charlize Theron.
For comedy, there are two clubs that feature up-and-coming and well-known stand-up comedians. The Improv at the Mobil Three-Star Harrah's (3475 Las Vegas Blvd South) and The Comedy Stop at The Tropicana (3801 Las Vegas Blvd South) both will cost you less than $30 per ticket, which includes two free drinks.
Need an Elvis fix? Legends In Concert at The Imperial Palace (3535 Las Vegas Blvd South) has one of the best shows on The Strip, and the cast includes impersonators portraying Prince, Tina Turner, Britney Spears, The Temptations, and Jay Leno.
Ivan Duke's Forty Deuce show inside Mobil Three-Star Mandalay Bay Casino (3930 Las Vegas Blvd) features burlesque dancers performing to a three-piece band in a 1920s speakeasy atmosphere. A DJ is also on the premises to entertain the crowd with hip hop and dance music.
After a few late nights of gambling in the casinos, you may be in need of some downtime. Go to the next page to learn about some of the best places for relaxing and unwinding in Las Vegas.
Relaxing & Unwinding in Las Vegas
Las Vegas can be tiring, considering it's the city that never sleeps. Everything from grocery stores to wedding chapels is open 24/7. But if you're looking for a low-key getaway, there's plenty to sample to help you relax and unwind.
Each major hotel is home to deluxe spas for those who want to be pampered for hours on end. Or if you want the feeling of being on a secluded lake, there's dining along the banks of many of the city's manmade ponds.
The surrounding area, although it's a desert, offers its own opportunities to enjoy nature in all its glory. Area state parks offer self-guided tours and interpretive trails, and botanical parks showcase the animals and plants of this southwestern region. You can also look to several golf courses to help you escape on the greens. So if you can't find something relaxing, then you just haven't looked.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Las Vegas
The best way to unwind is a trip out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area (1000 Scenic Dr), where you can take in the stars and breathe fresh desert air in less than an hour's drive. Las Vegas isn't fantastic for literal stargazers, as the massive lights of the city block out many of the constellations, but the mountains rising around you in the dark and the sky opening above those peaks make for an awesome experience.
The Red Rock loop, about 35 minutes from The Strip, is a five-mile expanse of two-lane road that hugs the park's looming mountains. This is also a relaxing bike ride during the day in cooler months.
The city of Las Vegas sits at an elevation of roughly 2,400 feet above sea level, so it's a climb of more than one vertical mile to the top of Mount Charleston (about 15 miles northwest on Highway 95). And in winter, great skiing can be found at nearby Lee Canyon. It takes less than one hour to drive from the Las Vegas Strip to the top of Mount Charleston. With pine and aspen trees and 52 miles of hiking trails, Mount Charleston looks like a little piece of Colorado transplanted to southern Nevada.
The Floyd Lamb State Park (9200 Tule Springs Rd) is a 2,000-acre recreational park with four small fishing lakes, so it's best to pack your fishing pole in the car before heading over. Other family members can enjoy the walking or bicycle paths, volleyball courts, and horseshoe pits.
Badlands Golf Club (9119 Alta Dr) offers three sets of nine holes on a course designed by former PGAers Chi Chi Rodriguez and Johnny Miller. Part of the course offers challenges for seasoned players and yet is playable for beginners, too.
The Royal Links Golf Club (5995 E Vegas Valley Dr, 702-366-1616) tries to re-create an atmosphere of traditional Scottish or Irish golf links on this par-72 course. The Painted Desert Golf Club (5555 Painted Mirage Rd, 800-470-4622) is a par-72 course designed by architect Jay Morrish. It's designed for all skill levels, especially since eight of the nine par-fours measure less than 400 yards.
The Spa at Mobil Three-Star Bally's Las Vegas (3645 Las Vegas Blvd) offers some of the most exotic body-care treatments. The co-ed fitness center features state-of-the art equipment, including computerized circuit training and free weights.
One of the best places to enjoy a kiss is on a gondola floating through the canals of the Mobil Four-Star Venetian Hotel (3355 Las Vegas Blvd) or in front of the musically choreographed water and light show known as the Fountains at the Mobil Four-Star Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd).
If you'd rather explore Vegas with the help of a guided tour, check out the next section for suggestions.
Las Vegas Organized Tours Overview
While many tourists prefer to wander The Strip, stopping at the many highlights along the way, others prefer to have a more organized approach. Following are details on some of the best tours around.
The Thrill Ride Adventure Tour will take you on five of the biggest scream rides located on the Las Vegas Strip. The tour takes about five hours and involves some walking.
A Las Vegas Evening Tour is a six-hour guide to experience several major stops along the famous Vegas Strip. The itinerary can vary each evening, so make sure to check all the planned stops before signing on.
You can cruise The Strip in a limo, and pull the Megabucks machine at five casinos as part of your Megabucks Limo Tours.
Catch a glimpse of some of the major sites of downtown Las Vegas as part of the Mini City Tour. You will visit Fremont Street, where the first casinos were located, stop at the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Gardens, and even drive through some of the city's residential neighborhoods.
The Twilight Tour includes flying over Hoover Dam at sunset, seeing panoramic views of Lake Mead, and taking in The Strip as all its lights turn on for the evening -- all from the vantage point of this two-hour helicopter ride.
Sightseeing Tours Unlimited of Nevada also offers daily bus tours to Hoover Dam along with a Hoover Dam-Lake Mead Cruise. The latter tour even includes a buffet lunch at a nearby casino. Sightseeing Tours also offers daily ground and air tours to the Grand Canyon.
Luxury can be yours at the many deluxe accommodations in Las Vegas. You can also find a bargain, especially during the summer or winter holidays. See the next section for our Las Vegas hotels guide.
Las Vegas Hotels Guide
If you're looking for luxury accommodations, stay at the Mobil Four-Star Four Seasons Hotel (3960 Las Vegas Blvd S), which is nestled onto the same property as Mobil Three-Star Mandalay Bay and Mandalay's latest addition, THEHotel, on the south end of The Strip. It features amazing amenities, including stellar service from check-in to checkout, and one of the best spas around -- The Bathhouse.
Another underrated but luxurious and elegant hotel is the Mobil Four-Star Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd South), with plush beds and views of the lake that casino mogul Steve Wynn built with fountains that dance to music.
Las Vegas is cheapest during the off-season -- around mid-summer usually, when it's terribly hot -- and around the holidays, late November through January, excluding one of the biggest Vegas holidays that takes a week to celebrate, New Year's Eve. Room rates can run from $55 to more than $200 for a room on The Strip. When rooms aren't filling, hotels will knock down prices quickly.
From buffets to fine dining, Las Vegas restaurants suit any taste. See our Las Vegas restaurants guide in the next section.
Las Vegas Restaurants Guide
Once known for its buffets and prime rib dinners, Las Vegas is anything but boring for the palette. From international chefs to brilliant buffets that cost around $20 a person, there are many culinary choices in this bright city that never sleeps.
For a classic Las Vegas vibe, Alan Albert's (3763 Las Vegas Blvd South) has thick cuts of steak and fresh seafood, particularly lobster, flown in daily. For more than three decades the LeWinter family has prepared the most delicious steaks and lobster in the city. All the fare is served up with genuine, old Las Vegas hospitality.
The Rosewood Grille (3763 Las Vegas Blvd) has won several top honors, including 10 Wine Spectator awards for its extensive wine collection. The company has live Maine lobster flown in to supply its elegant eateries. A perfect pairing at this a la carte restaurant is the filet mignon paired with the garlic-flavored mashed potatoes or mushrooms in a light sauce.
Gaylord India at the Mobil Three-Star Rio Hotel (3700 W Flamingo Road) is an authentic India-inspired dining experience. It serves Northern Indian cuisine, featuring authentic tandoori and Mughlai-style dishes. A must-try dish is the lamb samosa, a crisp turnover stuffed with spiced ground lamb.
The Florida Cafe Cuban Restaurant (1401 Las Vegas Blvd) inside the Howard Johnson Hotel has some of the finest authentic food from Cuba. Owner Sergio Perez brought his grandmother's favorite recipes to life eight years ago, and the place has created a name for itself among the lunch crowd. The pressed Cuban pork sandwich, beef tamales, fried pork skins, cicharrones (fried pork rinds), and fried plantains are hot sellers.
Mobil Three-Star Shibuya, a sleek urban Japanese restaurant housed in the Mobil Three-Star MGM Grand (3799 Las Vegas Blvd), you can enjoy a menu of freshly prepared ingredients, stellar sushi, and a wide selection of sake. Try the roasted duck breast or the kobe beef tenderloin.
For dining outside during the cooler months, Mon Ami Gabi Restaurant at Paris Las Vegas (3655 Las Vegas Blvd South) offers classic French bistro fair, such as the steak sandwich on a baguette with thick cut fries or a classic quiche Lorraine and a glass of crisp, light house white wine. It's a great way to people watch, munch on fresh French bread, or sip on wines from the restaurant's extensive wine list.
Chicago Joe's (820 S 4th St) is a longtime Las Vegas favorite. The brick building with lace curtains is tucked away near downtown. It's a bit like eating a good, old-fashioned Italian meal at your grandmother's house. The portions are huge, so you may want to share, but the price is reasonable. The chicken Angelo is so tender you can eat it with a spoon, and the pasta is light but hearty.
No matter which type of restaurant you choose to dine at, servers expect the standard 15 to 20 percent tip for good service. Servers at Las Vegas buffets usually receive $1 or $2 per head when they bring your drinks.
Ready to take on Las Vegas? Check out the next page for some suggested itineraries designed to help you fit as many highlights as possible into your trip.
Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Las Vegas
There are a ton of things to do in Las Vegas, so you may want to come up with a plan of attack. The following itineraries will help you fit in the many attractions of Vegas, from entertaining shows and nature exhibits to art museums and unique architectural landmarks.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Las Vegas
From wild rides to exotic animal displays, Las Vegas has more special events and attractions than you've likely seen anywhere. Here are some suggested itineraries that will enable you to experience many of the must-see attractions in Las Vegas:
1 day: You can spend the day on Las Vegas Boulevard visiting the attractions at the various hotels along The Strip. Check out the more than 5,000 exotic fishes, sharks, and sting rays living at The Aquarium at the Mobil Two-Star Silverton Hotel (3333 Blue Diamond Rd). This 117,000-gallon saltwater aquarium isn't your typical exhibit. Then admire the gold leaf linens, masks, and other treasures of King Tutankhamun's Tomb & Museum at the Mobil Three-Star Luxor Hotel (3900 Las Vegas Blvd).
Step over to watch the tigers through a glass wall at the Mobil Three-Star MGM Grand Hotel's Lion Habitat (3799 Las Vegas Blvd), then admire the flamingos, turtle, koi fish, and penguins living in a tropical setting at The Wildlife Habitat in the Mobil Three-Star Flamingo Las Vegas (3555 Las Vegas Blvd).
Test your nerves and limits by stepping on Speed, a rollercoaster ride at the Mobil Two-Star Sahara Hotel (2535 Las Vegas Blvd). Speed is different from other roller coasters because it explodes out of the starting gate. If your stomach can actually be hungry afterward, you'll find six serving stations, and little or no waiting, at the Sahara Buffet.
Stop by the Moroccan-themed Sahara and sample the fare of all six stations: seafood, pizza, pasta, Asian, barbecue, omelette, and the carving board. The Sahara Buffet is known around town for its good value, and that means delicious food at a fair price.
The Imperial Palace (3535 Las Vegas Blvd) has a popular attraction, especially for those nostalgic for stars gone by. You can play blackjack against Dolly Parton, Elvis, Ricky Martin, Rod Stewart, Janet Jackson, Dolly Parton, and other celebrity impersonators. They're known as "Dealertainers," and they make 21 more fun than ever.
As the sun sets over the city, head over to The Fountains at the Mobil Four-Star Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd) to watch 1,200 nozzles shoot water on cue while songs play and lights flash every 15 minutes between 8 pm and midnight. Then visit the Vocano at the Mobil Three-Star Mirage (3400 Las Vegas Blvd), which erupts every hour from 8 pm to midnight.
2 days: Spend the day at the Las Vegas Mini Grand Prix (1401 N Rainbow Blvd). This theme park has something for kids of all ages, including an extensive arcade, large slides, mini rollercoaster, and kart racing on four tracks.
If you're looking for another option, you can find dozens of rides for all levels of thrill seekers at The Adventuredome (2880 Las Vegas Blvd), a 51/2-acre indoor theme park at the Circus Circus Hotel. Among The Adventuredome's 24 rides and attractions are the Canyon Blaster roller coaster, Rim Runner water chute adventure, Sling Shot tower ride, Inverter Counter-rotation Ride, and the incomparable Chaos. Best part? Admission to The Adventuredome is free, and you can buy tickets to different rides as you choose.
GameWorks (3769 Las Vegas Blvd) is a special entertainment environment that allows adults and children to experience more than 200 video game scenarios or interactive attractions in life-size fashion. You can digitally compete in skateboarding or motorcycle riding and climb into animated tanks for battle. The fun includes a 75-foot-tall climbing structure. GameWorks has a full-service restaurant with casual decor and a bar serving specialty martinis and cocktails for adults.
3 days: Skydiving without ever leaving the ground? What will they think of next? Don't want to spend the money, or the risk of heart failure, jumping from an airplane? At Flyaway Indoor Skydiving of Las Vegas (200 Convention Center Dr), you can experience the exhilaration of parachute jumping without getting in a plane. A wind tunnel and supervised "flight" are part of the $60 package.
Brazil's Carnivale comes alive at the Rio's free Carnival Show In The Sky seven times daily in the Masquerade Village (3700 W Flamingo Rd, casino wing of the Mobil Three-Star Rio Hotel). Floats make figure eights across the Masquerade Village ceiling as gamblers on the casino floor gaze up to see the pageantry. Visitors can also watch from a second-floor balcony. Beads are thrown and little souvenirs, so it's great for picking up free stuff.
Four world-class thrill rides can be found just above the observation deck level of the Stratosphere Tower (2000 Las Vegas Blvd, Stratosphere Hotel). Gather up your courage and ride the Big Shot, The High Roller, XScream, and Insanity.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Las Vegas
The arts and culture scene of Las Vegas includes such treasures as the offbeat Liberace Museum to the refined Guggenheim Hermitage Museum. The following suggested itineraries are designed to help you see as much of Las Vegas' arts and culture as possible.
1 day: Visit the beautiful landscapes and portraits of America all in one convenient spot at Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (3600 Las Vegas Blvd).
Then step on board and learn about the historic oceanliner that sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit" has a long-standing display at The Tropicana Hotel (3801 S Las Vegas Blvd). The 25,000-square-foot exhibit includes such items as a suitcase, felt bowler hat, ship's whistles, and a large part of the ship itself. You can also walk through authentic replicas of first-class and third-class passenger rooms.
Settle in for some seriously good food at Mobil Two-Star Pietro's Restaurant on the mezzanine level of The Tropicana. You can dine on fresh pasta served tableside or simply order a few tasty appetizers, such as the Pate de Maison served en croute with a tangy lingonberry sauce or the delectable Escargots a la Bourguignonne in herbed garlic butter. Or, from the master himself, try Pietro's roasted rack of lamb or the famous Chateaubriand for Two, expertly flamed tableside to mouth-watering perfection.
In the evening, take a stroll through Las Vegas of the past with a tour of the Liberace Museum (1775 E Tropicana Ave). His talented piano concerts were a treat, and his diamond-dressed fingers and rhinestone-studded elaborate costumes were a show unto themselves.
2 days: Spend the morning at the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum (3355 Las Vegas Blvd), which offers an unprecedented opportunity to view some of the world's finest art and special exhibitions.
You'll also find international art gems and some local talent during an afternoon at The Las Vegas Art Museum (9600 W Sahara Ave). You can mix up your itinerary with some appreciation for pop culture with a visit to the Valentino's Zoot Suit Collection (906 S 6th St, 702-383-9555). The facility displays clothing from the 1940s and '50s, including Zoot Suits, men's fedoras, and women's pumps from that era.
3 days: For a very local flavor of fine art, folk art, and sculptures, browse through the 3,600-square-foot building of Left of Center Art Gallery and Studio (2207 W Gowan Rd North, 702-647-7378). You can even check the schedule for artists hosting discussions, classes, or workshops.
Check out the entertainment list for the University of Nevada's Performing Arts Center (4505 S Maryland Parkway). This venue might seem small since it's located on a college campus, but it has attracted some big names over the years, including Yo-Yo Ma and the Shanghi Ballet, and lecturers/authors like Cokie Roberts and John Irving. Afterward, enjoy a thick steak or catch of the day at Alan Albert's (3763 Las Vegas Blvd South).
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Las Vegas
Vegas features many unique landmarks, such as the Old Vegas Mormon State Historic Park and the Las Vegas Academy of Performing. Even better, many of these sights are architectural treasures as well. Visit some of the best by following these itineraries:
1 day: Take a tour of downtown Las Vegas and marvel at many of the older buildings and its history. Visit the old Mormon Adobe Fort at the Old Vegas Mormon State Historic Park (500 E Washington St). Stop by the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts (315 S Seventh St), which is an art deco-style building that once housed Las Vegas High School.
Stop by El Cortez Hotel and Casino (600 Fremont St), which was once owned by gangster Bugsy Siegel. Then cruise past the Huntridge Theatre (1208 E Charleston Blvd) to look at the modern-style exterior that was once a beloved movie house and then music venue.
When you get hungry, try the Triple George Grill, a classic seafood and steakhouse (201 N 3rd St). Some popular menu items include George's chopped salad or broiled salmon Caesar.
2 days: Spend the day at Clark County Heritage Museum (1820 S Boulder Hwy, Henderson), which is a Cold War Museum. It includes tree-lined streets of homes that were architecturally significant to Las Vegas through the 1930s to '60s. For dinner, grab a table for a hearty burger or sandwich at Carl's Jr (758 S Boulder Hwy).
3 days: Not more than an hour's drive from the city, Tule Springs features Floyd Lamb State Park (9200 Tule Springs Rd), a 1940s ranch that includes a mish-mash of 23 well-kept buildings. This was originally a dude ranch for those who wanted to get quick residency status to obtain an even quicker divorce. Of some significance, the buildings are the best example of a divorce ranch remaining in the United States, since the integrity of the buildings hasn't been modified for upgrades or aesthetic enhancements.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Shopping in Las Vegas
Shopping in Vegas is a sure bet for anyone, whether your pocketbook is busting with casino winnings or you're on a limited budget. Follow these suggested itineraries for:
1 day: It's cool and relaxing at the Via Bellagio Shops at the Mobil Four-Star Bellagio Hotel (3600 Las Vegas Blvd). The upscale stores wind around Lake Bellagio, featuring The Fountains. You can take in lunch at one of the upscale restaurants, such as the Mobil Two-Star Todd English's Olives, and peruse the lighted cases of jewelry at Tiffany & Co, or pick up a Chanel bag next door. Local tip: Get your makeup done at Chanel before a glamorous night out.
The new flagship store of the national Bass Pro Shops chain can be found at the Mobil Two-Star Silverton Casino-Lodge (3333 Blue Diamond Rd). This 165,000-square-foot store has everything a sportsman (or sportswoman) could ever want, and it's become an attraction unto itself.
Then you can get a ride over to The Las Vegas Premium Outlets (875 S Grand Central Pkwy in downtown Las Vegas). More than 120 outlet stores offer savings up to 65 percent off regular retail prices.
Antique Row (1109 Western Ave) stretches about 10 blocks down Charleston to Maryland Parkway and is peppered with clusters of antique shops that specialize in various collectibles, such as clothing, furniture, jewelry, dishes, and toys. The Funk House (1228 S Casino Center Dr) features vintage memorabilia and new art by local artists.
2 days: Las Vegas Antique & Gift Mall (2330 Industrial Rd) is just one block from The Strip. The 25,000-square-foot mall specializes in American, European, Asian, and mid-century modern art as well as art deco and Victorian pieces. Antique Mall of America (9151 Las Vegas Blvd, No. 344) is huge with 43,000 square feet of space filled with antiques, including collectible items and gifts such as art, jewelry, accessories, furniture, home decor, and china.
Then grab a shuttle and head over to the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas at Primm (32100 Las Vegas Blvd), which is a 45-minute ride outside Las Vegas. You'll find anything and everything at the 100-plus shops ranging from high-end retail to outlet shops.
3 days: You should spend as long as you like walking down the tree-dotted streets and cobblestone sidewalks of the District of Green Valley Ranch (2240 Village Walk Dr, Henderson). There are 40-plus specialty retail stores and restaurants to while away the hours. For a uniquely educational experience, check out Mel Fisher's Treasures (2235 Village Walk Dr). The store displays cargo salvaged from a Spanish galleon that sunk off the coast of Florida nearly 400 years ago.
When it's time for some food, make sure to stop in at Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-b-que (2245 Village Walk Dr, Henderson) and try the tri-tip sandwich, which is Angus beef slow cooked in barbecue sauce and placed on a potato bun.
Take the monorail or a cab over to the two-story Mandalay Place inside the Mobil Three-Star Mandalay Bay Resort (3950 Las Vegas Blvd). It's a not-so-typical mall that connects the Mandalay Bay to an adjacent building. Fringe finds include Urban Outfitters, Oilily, Nike Golf, and Blank Space. Munch on the Kobe burger at Burger Bar and pick up some to-die-for confections at Chocolate Swan.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Las Vegas
The nightlife truly never ends in Las Vegas. The following suggested itineraries will help you get a handle on the many options.
1 day: The Empire Ballroom (3765 Las Vegas Blvd) has $2 drink specials every Friday night, truly great dance music, and occasional surprise guest DJs who have come from the latest A-list party, as well as a mixed crowd of visitors, starlets, show people, and locals. In fact, you can make an evening of visiting various nightclubs along The Strip. Dance under flashing lights and a futuristic setting at the Rain Las Vegas nightclub inside the Mobil Three-Star Palms Casino Resort (4321 W Flamingo Rd). Then, stop in for a drink and some more dance music at the trendy 1950s salon decor at The Beauty Bar (517 Freemont St).
Body English nightclub at Mobil Three-Star Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (4455 Paradise Rd) is decorated like a British rock star's pad with mirrored walls, $250,000 chandeliers, leather booths, and black walls. It's definitely a hot spot for dancing and being seen.
If you aren't too worn out from Vegas's nightlife, a Bloody Mary at Hash House A Go Go (6800 W Sahara Ave) is the perfect pick-me-up the morning after. Many show people tend to gather for breakfast there for the huge platters of specialty breakfast foods, such as Salmon Eggs Benedict and acres of French toast with fresh maple syrup. It's a bit out of the way but worth the drive to the west side of town.
2 days: You can try your luck on the casino floor in the morning or afternoon. Most casinos on The Strip or downtown Las Vegas host daily gaming tournaments, like the free daily slot tournaments from 10 am to 5:30 pm at The Plaza (1 S Main St, downtown Las Vegas). Hundreds of dollars in prizes are awarded each day. Slot tournaments are preferred over regular slot play because you can estimate what your potential losses might be, including the entry fee. Just check the tournament schedules posted at the casinos.
You should spend an evening taking in a cabaret or other major professional production filled with a lot of bling. The Folies Bergere at The Tropicana Hotel and Casino (3801 Las Vegas Blvd South) debuted in 1959 and has been wowing audiences with its cabaret acts ever since. Who can resist beautiful women in revealing, dazzling costumes or other talented cast members dancing, singing, juggling, and more?
Ivan Duke's Forty Deuce show inside Mobil Three-Star Mandalay Bay Casino (3930 Las Vegas Blvd) is an elegantly appointed club decorated with plush lounge chairs, tiered seating, and cocktail table lamps with red shades. You can watch the burlesque shows or sit back and listen the DJ. You never know who you will see there because celebrities visit the club often.
Afterward, grab a table or a stool at the Rumjungle in the Mobil Three-Star Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino (3950 Las Vegas Blvd South). It's a good place to grab a late dinner, but after hours turns into a full-on nightclub with platform-top dancing girls and Latin music.
3 days: Las Vegas is also home to several major music venues that are worth visiting because of the acoustics and well-thought-out facilities. The Aladdin Theatre for The Performing Arts at the Mobil Three-Star Aladdin Hotel (3667 Las Vegas Blvd South) can seat up to 7,000 people, but the size of the audience varies depending on the type of show featured -- major concert tour, Broadway show, or dance company. The Mandalay Bay Events Center (3950 Las Vegas Blvd South) is a 12,000-seat arena that has housed a wide range of events, from championship boxing to rock 'n' roll shows.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Las Vegas
Take a break from the buzz of The Strip and relax and unwind at these Las Vegas attractions:
1 day: Spend part of the day getting back to nature by climbing the wall, literally, at the Powerhouse Rock Climbing Center (8201 W Charleston Blvd, 702-254-5604). The building houses 9,000 square feet of climbing surfaces. Even if you've never tried it before, instructors are available to help you learn the basics or rework some of your previous skills.
Go swimming, play horseshoes, or walk around the 320-acre site of Sunset Park (2601 E Sunset Blvd, 702-455-8200). This is a great location to pack a picnic basket and while away the afternoon.
Grab a pint and listen to stories at JC Wooloughan's Irish Pub inside the Rampart Casino (221 N Rampart Blvd) in Summerlin. The pub was built in Ireland and shipped from Dublin piece by piece to make for an authentic Irish experience.
Marche Bacchus (2620 Regatta Dr) is a revered local secret. The French owners have an extensive wine list, or you can buy your own bottle for a small corking fee from the front-end shop. Diners can sit inside or out on the shores of the Desert Lakes housing community and enjoy the stellar French fare. Pate, steak tartar, tuna carpaccio, and fresh cheese platters are among the most popular menu items.
2 days: Cool down with a 30-mile drive out to Lake Mead (601 National Highway, Boulder). Stop by Frenchman Mountain for a quick hike and interpretive tour to learn about the geology of the mountain and the valley. In case you didn't know, Lake Mead is the 16th largest man-made lake in the world and the largest man-made lake in the Western Hemisphere.
The Great Unconformity Interpretive Trail is an easy 400-meter (one-quarter of a mile) hike that flags a few interesting rock exposures and explains some of the major topographic features and geologic evolution of southern Nevada. The trail is a quick little jaunt and provides a nice view of Las Vegas from the overlook at the top. The geology of the Las Vegas Valley and surrounding landscape lends itself to some great hiking opportunities.
3 days: Golf is always a good way to spend the day in Las Vegas, even if the weather climbs above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The Red Rock Country Club Arroyo Course (2250 Red Springs Dr) is the second Arnold Palmer signature course to open in Vegas and offers desert and mountain terrain thoroughfares with amazing views of the Red Rock Canyon. Or take in the Jupiter Golf Center (70 W Craig Road) and blow off some steam at the driving range or batting cages.
If you want to fire off some rounds, check out the esteemed local rifle range at The Gun Store (2900 E Tropicana Ave). You can shoot off pistols and guns that are banned in most states but are legal in Nevada due to its liberal gun laws.
For a relaxing evening, lounge on the leather daybeds in the hip lounge at V Bar located inside the Mobil Four-Star Venetian Hotel (3355 Las Vegas Blvd). Many local singles hangout here to sit and sip their drinks, or just to be seen.
As you can see, Las Vegas has more to offer than just a bunch of casinos on The Strip. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of activities, including museums, nature exhibits, spa treatments, and, of course, entertaining shows. Visit Vegas today to explore this jewel in the desert.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kimberley McGee is a nationally published writer and columnist based in Las Vegas. She has written for Item magazine, Skyguide Go, Redbook, and The New York Post.
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