If money, money, money, must be funny in a rich man’s world, they would find Las Vegas hilarious!
Over the course of a century, this piece of sandy desert in the US state of Nevada has been transformed into a high-rise, high-rolling hive of gambling activity, surrounded by themed resorts, lush green golf courses, sprawling pools, and dancing fountains. Here, money circulates 24 hours a day — and if you don’t have any, at least try and look like you do!
On the face of it, Vegas suggests nothing but glitz, glamour, and good times. However, beneath the surface, as gambling revenues plateau, you’ll find a beating heart searching for new blood. The city sees its future as both a tourist mecca and business hub — and while one’s in the bag, it’s working hard to achieve the other.
This Las Vegas travel guide is packed with ideas for things to see and do. Enjoy your visit.
Las Vegas for history lovers
Las Vegas was established with the coming of the railroad to the wild west.
From humble beginnings on Fremont Street under the patronage of gangsters keen to clean their cash, the city we know today gradually emerged. Downtown Las Vegas (DTLV) — home to the Golden Nugget casino and other iconic landmarks of the 1940s and 50s — now hosts the sensory-assaulting Fremont Street Experience. Get your adrenaline fix as the Slot Zilla Zip Line flies you at over 60 kilometres per hour beneath the world’s largest LED screen.
The Strip — a section of Las Vegas Boulevard just south of the city-proper — houses many of the world’s largest hotels, all competing to fill their share of 60,000+ rooms. From the opulence of the Bellagio and the cool of The Cosmopolitan, to the epic proportions of Caesars Palace and MGM Grand, and the spectacle of Egyptian-themed Luxor, New York New York (which recreates the NYC skyline), and Paris (with its replica Eiffel Tower), there’s an option to appeal to everyone.
The lighting along the Strip is truly mind-blowing and you can take a fascinating step back in time at The Neon Museum — a boneyard for retired signs. Entry is by appointment only and spots fill quickly. The ultra famous ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada’ sign lives on and is located on the southern approach to the Strip. It was erected in 1959.
Tap into another intriguing part of the city’s past at The Mob Museum in Downtown. It will guide you through Vegas’ bad old days.
Top cultural activities in Las Vegas
The array of entertainment options on offer in Las Vegas is truly staggering.
Everyone who is anyone in entertainment has performed here. Some pop in for ‘one night only’, while others take up semi-permanent residence. Britney Spears, Elton John, and Donny and Marie have all called the city home. Check the Las Vegas Entertainment Guide for a complete rundown of who’s performing where during your stay.
The fantasy theatrics of Cirque du Soleil have been holding Vegas audiences spellbound since 1992. There are multiple shows running at any one time, each featuring spectacular acrobatics, stunning sets, and soaring musical scores. ‘O’ at the Bellagio, where performers breathe air from divers submerged under a stage filled with water, will take your breath away.
If you love watching a rabbit being pulled out of a hat, Las Vegas also has that well and truly covered. See MGM-resident David Copperfield for grand scale, and Penn and Teller at Rio for a hilarious blend of illusion and comedy.
For a dose of high culture, head to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. It partners with prestigious museums and galleries from around the world to host touring exhibitions, and is, as they say, ‘where great art goes on vacation’.
Great places to eat in Las Vegas
Rising early for breakfast may not be on the to-do list for many visitors to Las Vegas, but brunch is another thing entirely!
The Cosmopolitan Hotel’s Wicked Spoon serves one of the best on the strip, complete with free flowing Bloody Marys and champagne to kick-start the day.
For casual fare with flair, you can’t beat the Mon Ami Gabi terrace restaurant at Paris. Dine directly opposite the Bellagio’s dancing fountains and enjoy a steak frites under the cooling mist.
If you’re celebrating something special, splash out on a Michelin-starred dining experience at the Bellagio’s French eatery, Picasso. Feast on a five-course degustation, surrounded by millions of dollars worth of art, including a number of original works by the restaurant’s namesake.
Cocktails and other alcoholic beverages are a staple of the Vegas diet, as evidenced by the multitude of giant plastic Eiffel Towers, pyramids, and other hotel replica drink containers wandering the streets in the hands of revellers. The theory is that generous pouring will encourage you to stay around and try your luck at the tables and slot machines. Drink and gamble responsibly; have a winning target and losing limit, and be prepared to walk away when you reach one or the other.
Where to shop in Las Vegas
If you’re lucky enough to win big, you’ll need something to spend it on.
Luxury reigns supreme at The Shops at Crystals in the heart of the Strip. Louis Vuitton and Gucci set the standard for stunning showrooms, and braving brooding doormen is the norm. At the northern end of the Strip, the Fashion Show Mall has broader appeal and over 250 stores (including a Saks and Macy’s).
If you’re on the hunt for a bargain, seek out the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets west of Downtown. Note: The food hall is average, so just shop and leave.
Ways to relax in Las Vegas
With so many hotels vying for attention, huge money has been invested into creating ‘wow’ factor within their grounds.
Simply wander from one to the next and enjoy the spectacle. From a recreated Grand Canal (complete with crooning gondoliers) at The Venetian, to a roller coaster that flies around the rooftop of New York New York, there’s plenty to keep you well and truly entertained.
Vegas’ weather is perfect for hitting the pool, and daily pool parties pump. Try Encore Beach Club at Wynn, or Marquee at The Cosmopolitan. One of the coolest spaces along the Strip is Drai’s Beach Club — the rooftop pool at The Cromwell. BTW, the more ladies in your group, the better. Don’t even think of turning up with ten blokes and expecting to get in.
There are, of course, pools where you can relax without the risk of doing permanent injury to your hearing. If you’re staying off the Strip, some of its hotels welcome non-guests. Tropicana will allow you to utilise their pool deck for $10 (at the time of writing) — a bargain by Las Vegas standards!
The club scene in Vegas is huge — huge spaces, huge crowds, and huge prices. The party generally gets started around midnight and continues into the early hours. Hakkasan and Omnia are the places to be seen.
Top Oz Tours offers a great range of USA day tours, guided experiences, and attraction tickets and passes. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book through us, and you’ll have access to the widest choice of activities and most competitive prices.
Do you have any tips to add to our Las Vegas travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
As a travel blogger and photographer, Neil Brook travels the world looking to meet interesting people, taste great food, and find different angles from which to write about his adventures. He is privileged to have lived in Australia, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom. More a traveller than a tourist, Neil prefers to mix with the locals, learn their history and culture, and walk the backstreets to uncover hidden gems worthy of praise in words or quiet moments of private reflection.