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Las Vegas Travel Guide

About Las Vegas

Pulsing out of the sands like a neon-lit mirage, Las Vegas is the world’s capital of gambling, with 24-hour excess and glitzy entertainment also reigning. Nowhere throws a party quite like Vegas, which has long been known as a centre of decadence that gives plenty of bang for your buck. But in recent years, it has been developing more of a luxury feel, with world-class restaurants and more elegant hotels cropping up.

As a fantasy-island escape from the ‘real world’, the self-styled city (out on its own near Nevada’s southern tip) is almost beyond comparison. The electric frenzy of The Strip flows through the centre of an adult playground of epic proportions. Since gambling was introduced here in the 1930s, Las Vegas has gone through several phases to reach today’s realm of sprawling hotel-casino complexes crowding the skyline.

Classier options have emerged in the city of late, with a slew of Michelin-starred gourmet restaurants opening in place of the former all-you-can-eat buffets. There are also several glamorous international hotel chains competing to attract wealthier jetsetters, making some of the older dens of iniquity look a little tacky and out-dated. The largest, most famous hotel-casinos are worlds unto themselves with gambling, accommodation, shopping, dining, circuses, and theme parks all rolled into one.

When cut loose in one of these self-contained emporiums, visiting rookies can lose all sense of time and space. It might be midnight or midday – the party doesn’t stop. Complimentary drinks are offered to gamblers, and the roulette wheel spins from dusk ’til dawn. There’s invariably a group of stragglers or early risers propping up the bar, while cabaret performances and clubs run late into the night.

However, there’s more to the city than hedonistic nightclubs and blackjack tables. Venture away from The Strip, and Vegas hosts top-notch art galleries, heritage museums and jaw-dropping nature. But the truth is that you’ll always be drawn back to the city’s modern-day pleasure palaces. After all, this is Sin City.

Key facts

Population:
583756
Latitude:
36.114646
Longitude:
-115.172816

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New York New York Hotel and Casino

This 2,000-room resort and casino is easy to spot: it's the one with the Statue of Liberty out front, standing proudly beside a miniature Brooklyn Bridge. Rooms in its Empire State and Chrysler Building towers are large, well-appointed and can be surprisingly good value. If you pick upon the faint sounds of screaming coming from outside, don't be alarmed. It's adrenaline junkies hurtling around the full-size rollercoaster that loops around the perimeter.

Fremont Hotel

It may not have an Eiffel Tower outside or a Grand Canal running through it, but the Fremont has a longer-standing claim to be one of Las Vegas's best-loved landmarks. Now the heart of the Fremont Street Experience, when it was built in 1956 it was the first high-rise hotel in the downtown area. Its history might be long in the tooth (for this city), but the 447 spacious guestrooms are regularly renovated and modernised.

El Cortez Hotel

One of the more modest casinos in Las Vegas, El Cortez's roots actually go back to the era of 'Bugsy' Siegel, one of the city's founders. These days, this Las Vegas hotel advertises a modest selection of rooms with furnishings that are generally simple but comfortable. The friendly atmosphere and central location to downtown attractions have long been one of the draws, despite it now being outmatched by the grandiose casinos of the Strip.

MGM Grand Hotel and Casino

An inventory of over 5,000 rooms makes the MGM Grand one of the big players in terms of volume, but they've done their best to retain some character. Black-and-white movie photos adorn the guest rooms, and the art deco furniture also helps. Joël Robuchon, Michael Mina and Tom Colicchio add their names to the top-class dining rooms. The casino is gigantic, with Cirque du Soleil among the entertainment options.

Green Valley Ranch Resort

Located in Henderson, a short drive outside of Las Vegas, Green Valley Ranch Resort puts the focus on pampering and provides a break from the pace of The Strip. The resort is a rambling Mediterranean hacienda and houses eight restaurants, a cinema and a European-inspired intimate casino. The main buildings open onto the pool area with a small sand beach and private lounging beds in a more modern European setting.

Palms Casino Resort

The Palms is one of the newer hotel/casino resorts in Las Vegas, and caters to the young, moneyed celebrity and wannabe crowd. Chicago's famous Ghostbar has a franchise here, and is one of the gathering spots for the rich and beautiful. Guest rooms feature the usual amenities as well as the not so usual, including private outdoor Jacuzzis and an on-resort palm-reader.