Surrounded by the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas has some of the most luxurious and lavish hotels and casinos in the world. Founded in 1905, the city used to be a small settlement established by Mormons. However, when the construction of Hoover Dam began and when the state of Nevada legalized gambling, Las Vegas became one of the most populous cities in the United States of America. During the 40’s the first luxurious casinos and hotels were built, attracting thousands of tourists every year.
Though the metropolitan area of Las Vegas is quite large, the actual downtown, where the majority of hotels, casinos and touristic attractions are, can be explored by foot. However, since the city lies right in the middle of the desert, during summertime, the temperatures can be unbearable. That is why most hotels are connected by underground, bridges and free shuttle rides. Which means most tourists don’t even have to step outside, in order to explore Las Vegas.
The city’s main avenues are lined with the largest casinos and hotels. Las Vegas Strip, a part of the Las Vegas Boulevard, is the best spot to start your journey through Sin City, and the best moment to do so is when the sun sets and the entire boulevard is alight with thousands of neon signs. A similar avenue is the Fremont Street, the first paved street in Las Vegas, and the place where the first casino was built. Today, tourists can marvel at a spectacular light and music show displayed on an impressive LED canopy, covering a section of the street, called the Fremont Street Experience.
The abundance of casinos and resorts are a major touristic attraction. People from all over the world come here in order to try their luck at one of the millions of poker tables and slots machines in the city. Whether you are an experienced player or a new comer, you’ll definitely find your favorite game.
Las Vegas is the epitome of entertainment, and some of the most prestigious shows are housed in the lavish resorts which line the Las Vegas Strip and Fremont Street. Places like the Colosseum at Caesars Palace host sold-out shows with world renowned performers almost every night.
Thrill seekers will also have a blast at many heart-stopping thrill rides throughout the city. Wheatear you choose to dive from 800 feet, or spin madly into the air, or just zip-line over a crowded venue, Las Vegas has plenty of scream inducing rides that you will not soon forget.
Sin City is also a mecca for shopping enthusiasts and most resorts have their own massive malls with hundreds of shops catering to any need. If that is not enough, there are several shopping malls that are not affiliated with any resort, including a beautiful open air one, which was designed to resemble a Mediterranean town.
Fine dining is more of an art form in Las Vegas thanks to its plethora of luxury restaurants many with Michelin stars, while spas, magnificent pools and exotic gardens complete the all-around amazing experience.
However Las Vegas is not all about hedonism. Curious tourists can find out more about the city’s interesting history, including the period of time when just 65 miles outside of Las Vegas American scientist were conducting atomic testing. What is more, those who want to find out all about the most secret place in America should not miss the Area 51 exhibit at the Atomic Testing Museum.
All in all, Las Vegas is a true wonderland for any tourist. With massive resorts where one can lose themselves for days if not weeks, Sin City can also be a dangerous place and if you’re not careful, you might leave the city with more than a souvenir. The intoxicating atmosphere of this town might make you forget how painfully easy it is to obtain a marriage license and the aftermath of your trip might even require a divorce lawyer. So proceed with caution, because not everything that happens in Vegas actually stays in Vegas!
1. Las Vegas Strip
The first thing any first time visitor in Las Vegas should do is take a stroll through the Las Vegas Strip. This popular stretch of the South Las Vegas Boulevard is also home to some of the most important casinos, hotels, theaters and museums in the city.
The Strip is over 4 miles long, south of Las Vegas’ city limits, and the best way to really take in the atmosphere of this world renowned city is to take a walk at nightfall when all the lights are turned on and the area really becomes alive.
On the Las Vegas Strip there are dozens of hotels and some of them are known as the largest ones in the world. In fact, there are over 62,000 hotel rooms on this stretch alone. Taking into account that the largest casinos can also be found on the Las Vegas Strip, it’s no wonder that this stretch of road has become one of the most famous and popular streets in the United States of America.
The actual Strip runs from the Treasure Island Hotel to Mandalay Bay Hotel, but you should definitely try to explore as much of the South Las Vegas Boulevard as possible. Of course there’s no better way to take in all the illuminated signs, beautiful window stores and street performances than by walking. But, if you are in the mood for something more interesting you can take a ride with the monorail and enjoy the views from above. Make sure you know exactly where all your stops are, because the monorail runs along the east side of the Las Vegas Strip, stopping behind several hotels.
Las Vegas is always full of places dedicated to entertain all the excited tourists, no matter the time of day… or night. However, the best time to start exploring the Strip is the moment when the sun sets. Once all the lights are turned on the boulevard comes to life. Make sure you stop to one of the many restaurants lining the Strip and have a delicious dinner while admiring the clamoring outside.
Return during daylight in order to take a closer look at the many hotels and spas, including the world famous Venetian Hotel, Caesars Palace, Hilton Las Vegas, MGM Grand, Mirage Hotel and Luxor Hotel. Also, make sure you and check out all the souvenir shops. Some of the most interesting and peculiar museums are also here.
After so many eclectic buildings, it’s time to really get into the Vegas spirit – try placing a bet at as many casinos as possible, and since the best ones are right on the Strip the entire endeavor is not just endlessly entertaining but also easy to succeed.
One of the most famous casinos in the entire world is right in the heart of Las Vegas. Bellagio is an iconic luxury hotel and casino, inspired by the small Italian town with the same name, located on the banks of Lake Como. The most famous feature of this hotel lies right in front of the building and it attracts thousands of visitors every day – the Bellagio dancing fountains. These beautiful fountains are right in the middle of an 8 acre lake between the Las Vegas Strip and the actual hotel building and it happens to be one of the most interesting and popular free attractions in the city.
The Fountains of Bellagio feature an amazing display with lights set to several musical hits every 15 minutes in the evenings. On weekends, the fountains also feature similar displays every hour in the afternoon. The view of the Bellagio through the colorful jets of water has become a symbol of the city and it was used in dozens of films and TV series.
The resort and casino was opened in 1998 on the site of another famous casino – The Dunes Hotel, which ran for almost four decades, before it was shut down in 1993. The Bellagio has almost 4,000 rooms, many restaurants, several with Michelin stars, and a buffet known as the best one on the Strip.
Bellagio features an impressive Conservatory and Botanical Garden with five seasonal themes, including the Chinese New Year. It is a great sport for guests to escape the noise and the commotion from the rest of the hotel, and enjoy some quiet time among a plethora of beautiful tropical flowers.
Another interesting attraction of the Bellagio is the Gallery of Fine Art, which houses many different exhibits, on loan from museums from all over the world.
However, the first thing that catches any visitor’s eye is the colorful Fiori di Como, an impressive 2,000 square feet display of colorful hand blown glass flowers. The display which is comprised from 2,000 pieces was created by famed American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, and it is perched up on the ceiling of the lobby.
Those who are interesting in taking a sow should not miss the opportunity to see the breathtaking aquatic production “O” by Cirque du Soleil. Though the Canadian entertainment company features many different shows in several venues in Las Vegas, the “O” production is by far the most impressive. The show takes place around a 1.5 million gallons swimming pool and all the acts involve swimming and diving.
However, the main reason for which visitors choose the Bellagio is, of course, the gambling. The casino features an over 110,000 square feet gaming space and the most popular game here is poker, thanks to its high table limits.
3. Stratosphere Tower
Though the glimmering lights of Las Vegas can be quite mesmerizing when admired from the streets, nothing beats the breath taking views from the Stratosphere Tower. North of the Las Vegas Strip, this is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States of America, hence the name.
The tower is part of the Stratosphere Las Vegas, a hotel and casino inaugurated in 1996, which has become popular not only for its great gaming space, but also for the Big Shot – the highest thrill ride in the world.
So, if you are not really interested in gambling or the prospect of winning (or losing, of course) is not thrilling enough, then you should definitely put this highlight on your must see list, or, better yet, you can even book a room here. The hotel features over 2,000 rooms and several great restaurants, including the famed revolving one on top of the tower.
Stratosphere Tower is over 1,100 feet high and visitors can choose from two observation decks, and indoor and an outdoor one. Whichever you may choose, the swiping views are truly spectacular, particularly at night.
Visitors can also enjoy a meal at the revolving restaurant fitly called Top of the World. This venue is popular not only for its exquisite menu and great atmosphere, but also for the fact that it revolves 360 degrees every 80 minutes. That way guests can enjoy the amazing views 800 feet above the ground while having a meal. Those who are afraid of heights can get some liquid courage at one of the bars near the observation decks, including AirBar, the highest one in Las Vegas.
If the amazing views over Sin City are still not exciting enough, then you should check out Stratosphere’s four thrill rides.
The Big Shot is the highest one in the world and one of Las Vegas’ most sought after attractions. The actual ride is a 160 feet tower, located right on top of the high deck of the Stratosphere. It features a rapid ascend and it accelerates to 45 miles per hour.
If shooting into the sky like that is too scary for you, then you can chose to dive off the tower. The SkyJump holds the world record for the highest commercial decelerator descent thanks to its official height of 829 feet. Visitors will receive a custom jump suit and a safety lesson before the heart-stopping jump. Screaming from the top of your lungs is optional.
Speaking of screaming, the third thrill ride Stratosphere Tower boasts is the X-Scream. This happens to be the world third highest thrill ride and it is very similar to a common roller coaster. It features a single open top car and a single piece of track 69 feet tall. The car goes up 27 feet over the edge of the building and then it stops sharply. The ride rolls back and forth and you’ll feel like you are about to fall off at any given moment.
If the SkyJump didn’t make you scream this roller coaster will. The last thrill ride’s name is also fitted to the experience – the Insanity Ride features a gigantic mechanical arm that extends over 60 feet over the edge of the tower. Guests are spun in open air 900 feet above the ground at a speed up to 3G and a 70 degree angle. If you can open your eyes while enjoying this ride you’ll be mesmerized by the incredible views over the city.
However, just like most hotels in Las Vegas, The Stratosphere is also a casino which features an 80,000 square feet of gaming space and it includes video poker, slot machines, race and sportsbooks and a poker room.
In the end, after so much adrenaline, guests can indulge in some retail therapy at the tower’s mall on the second level, where guests can choose from dozens of different shops.
4. Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park
The Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park, apart from boasting a very long name, is also the site where the first building was erected by Europeans in the area that would become Las Vegas, half a century later.
Not too far from the Las Vegas Strip, this state park was the first permanently settled portion of the Las Vegas valley. In 1855 a group of Mormon missionaries set camp on an oasis in the desert, near Las Vegas Creek, where they built an adobe fort and that marked the beginning of what will become one of the most famous cities in the world.
Most parts of the fort, those near the creek, can be seen to this day, though throughout history, the building’s ownership changed many times. During the middle of the 19th century, the property was bought by a miner who used parts of the building to erect a ranch house with a blacksmith shop and a store nearby. Years later the ranch was bought by another family who, in turn, sold it to the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad.
In the 70’s the fort and the land surrounding it were named historic places and since they have become a popular touristic attraction in the state of Nevada.
Inside the fort, visitors can admire several displays featuring the life and culture of Mormon settlers in the area.
The park is a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and discover a little piece of American history. Here you can take a stroll through the park and imagine how the first settlers used to live their quiet lives here.
However when planning your trip, you should take into account that the historic park is located in a desert after all, which means that during summer months the weather can be very hot and dry so don’t forget water and proper clothing.
5. New York – New York
Visitors who haven’t been to New York or simply want to relieve the times they have, should not miss the opportunity to admire the New York – New York Hotel and Casino, right on the Las Vegas Strip. The building, actually buildings, is very hard to miss thanks to its unique design meant to imitate the famous city’s skyline, including famous building like Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and, of course, the emblematic Statue of Liberty.
What is more, right in front of the hotel there’s a lake meant to represent the New York Harbor, alongside replicas of the Main Immigration Building on Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Central Terminal.
The similarities don’t end here. The main areas of the resort are named after famous places in the Big Apple, including the game area, which is called Central Park, while the shopping area is named after Greenwich Village.
The hotel was opened in 1997 and has over 2,000 rooms. The most popular attraction here, after the games, is the Roller Coaster. This thrill ride is over 200 feet high and has a drop of about 144 feet and a 180-degree “heartline” twist and dive maneuver. The most interesting part of this ride is the fact that it travels through almost the entire hotel inside and out, past most buildings, and the cars resemble the famous yellow cabs in New York.
This hotel also houses many bars and restaurants including Coyote Ugly, inspired by the movie with the same name.
Visitors with a sweet tooth will be in heaven at the Hershey’s Chocolate World, a two stories lounge featuring every Hershey product ever created. Here children and adults alike can indulge in freshly made Hershey sweets, all the while admiring the 800 pound chocolate replica of the Statue of Liberty or the wall covered in Hershey’s Kiss dispensers.
If you are interested in taking in a show, the New York – New York hosts the popular Zumanity production by Cirque du Soleil. The cabaret style show is the first “adult-themed” production of the famed Canadian company and it features dance and acrobatics set on erotic songs.
The resort’s 84,000 square foot gaming area features over 1,500 slot machines and dozens of gaming tables including blackjack, poker and roulette.
6. Fremont Street
Apart from the Las Vegas Strip, Fremont Street is one of the most popular avenues in Las Vegas. Both areas are very similar, with glimmering lights and crowds of rowdy tourists going in and out of the many hotels and casinos lining both streets.
Fremont Street is located right in the downtown area of the city, and because of its abundance of colorful neon signs, the area was nicknamed the Glitter Gulch. This avenue dates back to the beginning of the 20th century when the actual Sin City was founded. This was the first paved street in Las Vegas and the first hotel – Hotel Nevada, opened in 1906, now Golden Gate Hotel and Casino – was built here.
Throughout the century it was the background for some of the most famous scenes in cinema’s history and popular music videos. In fact the opening credits for the movie “Viva Las Vegas” staring Elvis Priestley were filmed right on Fremont Street.
However the large number of massive hotels and casinos built on the Las Vegas Strip turned Fremont Street into a less popular area. That was until the Fremont Street Experience was opened in 1995. This pedestrian mall and tourist attraction spans over 5 blocks of Freemont Street and it includes several adjacent streets.
The main highlight of this spot is the 90 feet high barrel vault canopy with a LED display that covers most of the area. This is the place where every Las Vegas New Year Party took place since the venue was opened, and the free concerts throughout the year are a magnet for tourists in search for new things to do in Sin City.
Another popular attraction is the light and sound shows that take place every night on the amazing LED display canopy above the street.
Those who want to spend some time shopping, can peruse the Neonopolis, a 250,000 square feet shopping mall on the Freemont Street Experience that features dozens of shops, a museum of fine arts and 3 miles of neon lights, hence the name.
If you want to bay pass the thousands of people roaming the area you can choose to fly right under the canopy on a zip-line named Slotzilla. Adrenaline junkies are launched from a giant slot machine across Freemont Street Experience.
7. Town Square
Las Vegas has no shortage of shopping malls. In fact, the most important casinos and resorts boast their own private shopping malls, all with different themes in accordance with the actual hotel. There are also several shopping malls not affiliated with casinos and hotels and the most interesting one is definitely Town Square. Built as an outdoor mall right on the Las Vegas Boulevard, Town Square’s design was inspired by the small towns on the Mediterranean coast.
Among the dozens of shops and stores, this outdoor mall features an 18 screens movie theatre, a children’s park, a Town Square Park and several eclectic restaurants.
The mall was opened in 2007 on an over 100 acres area and it centers around an actual Town Square with tall trees for shadow, benches, ice cream and coffee stands.
This shopping mecca looks more like a charming Mediterranean resort than an entertainment complex right in the middle of the desert. Every shop has its own building, mostly designed in the specific Mediterranean style architecture and the cobblestone alleys are lined with large trees.
While adults indulge in some retail therapy, children can have their own fun at the 13,000 square feet park which features a tree house, a maze and many sprinklers perfect for those torrid days of summer. Another option for children is the Cactus Coaster, a beautiful electric train which takes its passengers through the entire open air mall.
Those who are not very interested in spending time outdoors can either catch a film at the massive movie theatre or they can spend hours on end at the GamesWorks, a large entertainment center which offers its guests bowling alleys, a 100 seat gaming center and a 105” video wall for sports viewing.
8. The Atomic Testing Museum
Tourists interested in more than games, thrill rides and shopping, should definitely pay a visit to the Atomic Testing Museum. Among the many museums in Las Vegas, this is probably the most fascinating one.
This museum boasts one of the most comprehensive collections of nuclear history and it documents every nuclear testing performed in the desert around Las Vegas.
The Atomic Testing Museum was opened in 2005 in a suburb of Las Vegas, called Paradise, and its displays cover the period from the first test, which took place in 1951 at Nevada Test Site, to the present.
Just 65 miles outside Las Vegas, Nevada Test Site was US’s nuclear testing location from 1951 until 1992, when it was closed. During this time almost 1,000 nuclear tests were performed in this area, and every detail about the operations, their results and the equipment used are recorded by the museum. Visitors will also get the opportunity to find out more about the bombing at Hiroshima, the Cold War, and Albert Einstein’s role in US’s nuclear research.
The museum features many intriguing displays one of which refers to the propaganda surrounding the US’s nuclear research and all the pop culture references. Visitors can see cereal boxes which included a toy atomic ring, Atomic Fireball candy and books about how to survive under an atomic attack.
The exhibits feature shocking photographs and footage of a thermonuclear explosion, as well as an ample display about US’s largest hydrogen bomb test which created a 3.6 miles wide fireball.
Visitors with enough time can watch a short movie inside a theater designed to look like a bunker. The movie features different explosions and the entire experience is completed with bursts of air and vibrations coming from the seats.
Among its over 12,000 unique artifacts, the Atomic Testing Museum also has Geiger counters, actual nuclear bombs, radiation testing devices, several motion sensitive plasma TV presentations and interviews with several workers from the test site.
The newest and most exciting exhibit is the Area 51, dedicated to the famed area near Groom Lake. The exhibit was developed with several people who actually worked at this base and it features all the myths surrounding the most secret location in the United States and the real programs conducted there.
9. Caesars Palace
Caesars Palace is one of the most famous casinos in Sin City thanks to its unique design inspired by the Roman Empire. The second you enter this impressive building you’ll step into the glamorous and opulent lifestyle of the ancient Romans.
This hotel and casino features any entertainment option imagined, from dozens of renowned restaurants to impressive shopping malls, lively nightclubs and even car displays.
The resort was opened in 1966 and it was named after famous Roman general Julius Caesar. Today, it features almost 4,000 rooms, several of which have over 3,000 square feet, and six towers: Augustus, Nobu, Roman, Palace, Octavius and the Forum.
Throughout the years, this casino changed owners several times and went through major changes almost every time.
One of the most important attractions inside the casino is the Colosseum, an over 4,000 seat entertainment venue built for Celine Dion’s famous show “A New Day”. Since then the Colosseum hosted sold-out shows of some of the most famous performers in the world including Elton John, Cher, Mariah Carey, Bette Midler and Gloria Estefan.
Another popular attraction of Caesars Palace is the Fall of Atlantis, a free show which features fire effects, fountains and animatronics.
Shopping enthusiasts have their very own shopping mall at the Forum Shops, a massive complex which features over 160 shops many of which sell “only in Vegas” exclusive items and an impressive exotic fish aquarium.
Just like most hotels in Las Vegas, Caesars Palace boasts several pools, but the star attraction is the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis, a six pools complex completed with cabanas and luxurious sunbathing spots.
Las Vegas is also a mecca for magicians and illusionists, and Caesars Palace is the best place to see a magic show. What is more, some of the most watched stunts were performed on the grounds of this casino. Famous daredevil Evel Knievel tried to jump over the casino’s 141 feet high fountains with a motorcycle, but was unsuccessful. Two decades later, his son Robbie succeeded the jump, and in 2006 Mike Metzger was able to do a back flip over the same fountains.
Fine dining was elevated to an art form at Caesars Palace with three Michelin stars restaurants and dozens of other great venues featuring delicious and creative menus.
The game area is also quite impressive. The over 160,000 square feet space features hundreds of slots machines, a sport and race book, dozens of table games including baccarat and Pai Gow Tiles, and, of course, a 4,500 square feet casino poker room which is opened 24 hours a day.
10. Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat
Animal lovers will be surprised to find right in the heart of Las Vegas an entire oasis filled with exotic animals like tigers and dolphins. The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat is hidden in the Mirage Resort Hotel, on the Las Vegas Strip. The hotel, like most hotels in Sin City, has a broad array of attractions and entertainment options, but the most interesting one is this incredible habitat.
Here visitors can see a wide variety of exotic animals in their natural environment, including white lions, leopards and the popular royal white tigers of Nevada that belonged to famed duo Siegfried & Roy. Here, guests can come face to face with these majestic creatures, in a beautiful lush environment filled with palm trees and foliage, perfect for a little quiet and relaxation.
This entire enclosure was opened in 1990 with the efforts of Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, the members of Siegfried & Roy, who have tirelessly worked to save endangered animals. Their show was a staple at the Mirage Resort Hotel, thanks to the fact that they incorporated several white tigers into their performance. However, the show came to a halting end when one of the white tigers, named Montecore, bit Roy Horn on the neck. He was severely injured, but the animal was spared and died in 2014 of old age. Despite this incident, the duo maintained their efforts to save endangered species including the white tiger, and founded this animal enclosure.
The Secret Garden doesn’t feature animal shows and visitors can only walk among the enclosures and admire these majestic creatures.
The dolphin habitat has many bottlenose dolphins in a massive 2.5-million gallon pool. Visitors can get close to these spectacular animals and even work with specialists and become a dolphin trainer for a day and learn more about what it means to take care of these beautiful creatures.
There are several fun activities including painting with dolphins where visitors can hold a canvas for one of these creative mammals while they express themselves using watercolors and, of course, a brush. At the end, visitors can event take home the masterpiece.
Another great activity involving dolphins is… yoga. Tourists who want to start their day more relaxed and amused can practice stretching, breathing and… dolphin poses alongside these friendly creatures in the underwater viewing area.