After hours of parched desert scenery, thirsty road trippers arriving in Las Vegas by night are suddenly treated to the dazzling lights of the Vegas Strip as it looms out of the darkness.
For those arriving by air, a mere five-minute ride from the airport sees a city of surreal proportions quickly unfold. Mammoth fairy tale castles sit adjacent to sleek pyramids, Venetian architecture forms the backdrop to a towering Eiffel Tower and behind the Statue of Liberty, a roller coaster bursts out of the hotel wall.
This is Las Vegas, Nevada, and it is like nowhere else in the world.
Sights to Behold
Not one of the epic collection of famous name hotels and casinos in Las Vegas should be missed. After all, it’s their extravagance that has established the city as a honeypot for visitors in search of a good time.
Drop in to the MGM Grand to say hello to the hotel’s resident tigers that prowl an enormous enclosure in the expansive lobby. Like most hotels in Vegas, the MGM boasts its own casino, where visitors can try their hand at poker and a range of other table games or get lucky at the slots.
A short distance down the strip lies another of the jewels in the Vegas’ crown, and certainly one of the most exquisitely surreal experiences a visitor could ask for. Whether or not you’ve been to Italy’s original version of Venice, the Vegas hotel equivalent will not fail to astound you with its superb frescos and winding canals, complete with their own gondolas. Impressive replicas of St. Mark’s Square and Rialto Bridge are peppered between Italian-themed shops, markets and piazzas. The hotel is also home to Vegas’s own Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.
Hey, Big Spender
Whether you are a serious gamer or keen for a casual flutter on the slots; the sheer extravagance of Vegas’s casinos will not fail to impress. The Luxor’s Egyptian-themed casino is one of the strip’s best, but all offer a chilled escape from the balmy outdoor temperatures, and gamblers are supplied with a constant stream of beverages free of charge by attentive casino waitresses to fuel the spirit.
The lavish themed casinos at Caesar’s Palace, The Paris Hotel and Excalibur are also well worth a visit, even if it is just to marvel at the attention to detail in the themed décor. While gentlemen while away their Vegas afternoons with games of Black Jack, ladies often decide to indulge in a little retail therapy in one of the many high end shopping malls. Like Vegas’s hotels, the malls are lavishly decorated and reflect the opulence of the destination.
Home to the likes of Cartier, Christian Dior and Burberry, The Forum – Caesar Palace’s very own mall – is well worth a look if you have some cash to splash. In fact, many of the city’s hotels and casinos are actually linked by malls, so it’s possible to walk a fair distance down the infamous strip without ever stepping outside.
Tour Beyond the Tables
As well as over-the-top hotels, shopping malls and casinos, Vegas is, surprisingly, also home to a selection of attractions for visitors who prefer to revel in nature. Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden, located within the grounds of The Mirage Hotel, offers visitors the chance to meet a family of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins and a selection of rare wild cats including black panthers, white tigers and adorable white lions. Alternatively, a trip to The Mandalay Bay’s own aquarium will take you far beneath the sea to its own Shark Reef, which is also home to giant rays, endangered green sea turtles, piranha and a golden crocodile.
The sprawling hotels of Vegas are also home to a number of their own mini museums and unique learning centres, so visitors are free to take their pick of exciting exhibitions. The Luxor’s Titanic Exhibition is perhaps one of the most popular, despite the poignancy of the experience. Guests receive their own ticket aboard the ill-fated ocean liner which corresponds to one of the original passengers aboard the ship. After browsing over 300-artifacts recovered from the vessel and decorative sets from the hit 1997 movie, guests can find out whether the person their ticket belonged to survived the journey.
Art buffs may prefer a trip to the Bellagio’s Gallery of Fine Art. The gallery, which opened its doors in 1998, is a true feast for art enthusiasts, and houses an eclectic range of works by many of the 20th Century Masters including Monet, Picasso and Warhol. Visiting exhibitions scheduled to grace the walls of the gallery when I visited included work by Georgia O’Keefe, Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot.
Las Vegas is awash with one-of-a-kind experiences. If you only have time to choose a few of the best, consider some of the the suggestions below.
- The luxurious Bellagio hotel’s impressive fountain show is an impressive sight. Jets of water arc in wonderful patterns across the sky, soaring to heights of 460 feet – all in time to music! The water show is choreographed to tunes from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles, and is free for spectators to enjoy every fifteen minutes from 7pm until midnight.
- As hot as Vegas can be, a stroll down the colourful city strip is well worth an hour in the sun. You’ll pass some of the city’s most breath-taking sights and most likely meet a range of colourful characters too, from blushing brides to charismatic Elvis impersonators.
- Las Vegas has become legendary for spectacular Cirque du Soleil performances, where talented acrobats fuse a dramatic mix of circus arts and street performances to create stunning themed shows. Michael Jackson fans should head straight to Cirque du Soleil’s “One” at the Mandalay Bay, while the Beatles’ “Love” is on at The Mirage.
- To escape the city for a day, why not take a trip to the Grand Canyon? Situated just over the Nevada state border in Arizona, visitors that hire their own car can make the journey past Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam to visit this incredible natural wonder. If you really want a memorable excursion, you can explore the colossal rock formations by helicopter.
- In the age of selfies, social media conscious visitors often make a beeline for the legendary “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign. Located on the strip to the south of Russell Road, the historical sign famously reads “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada”.