Las Vegas Vacation Guide0
Hedonism on sale: An overabundance of luxuryhotels, star-chef restaurants, and glitzy spas means you can find great deals
Wander out to a desert paradise of incredible and accessible beauty
One lucky spin can change your life. If not, free drinks!
WHAT TO SKIP
Losing your shirt, getting drunk, and winding up in a wedding chapel
Get more Las Vegas travel tips from the Yahoo! Las Vegas Guide
Most casino resorts are located along the two and a half miles of Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip. The Strip spans from Mandalay Bay to the Stratosphere; keep heading north to reach downtown. The Las Vegas Convention Center is a couple of blocks east of the Strip, and the throngs of conventioneers make the roads around it a traffic nightmare. If you somehow get disoriented, use Luxor’s beam of light as your navigational beacon to get back to the Strip. Downtown can still be a bit dodgy, so be aware of your surroundings.
WHEN TO GO
Vegas has become a year-round destination: Prices are consistent pretty much all year, though they’re always higher on weekends and holidays, especially New Year’s. And while summer days reach over 100 degrees, you’ll likely be inside the air-conditioned tombs of the casinos anyway. Winter can bring nighttime temperatures below freezing, so pack a coat. Book way ahead, though, as conventions often fill up Strip hotels.
HOW TO GET THERE
There are direct flights to McCarran International Airport, two miles southeast of the Strip, from most major U.S. cities as well as from England, Mexico, and Germany. Driving is a reasonable option from Southern California or Arizona, and most hotels on the Strip offer free parking (the customary tip for a valet is $2).
Use taxis if you’re staying on the Strip and plan on jumping between the major hotels. Otherwise, rent a car: cab fares can get pricey when you’re stuck in traffic or heading off the Strip itself. (If you want to go out to Red Rock Park or Hoover Dam, ask your hotel to arrange a daily rental.) The Las Vegas Monorail runs parallel to the east Strip from the Sahara to the MGM Grand, with five other stops, including the convention center. Your concierge can usually have a limo waiting for you in minutes—it’ll cost you about $35 to $45 an hour.
Las Vegas Conventions & Visitors Authority (www.visitlasvegas.com) is the local government agency responsible for tourism. Its web site includes a searchable database for hotels, restaurants, and shows. Although it does not offer best-rate comparisons, it links to thousands of websites and provides informative descriptions. Also, be sure to check out our sister site VegasChatter.com for the latest news, deals, and gossip.
Las Vegas Visitor Information Center
3150 Paradise Road
Overview of Las Vegas, Nevada
Shimmering from the desert haze of Nevada like a latter-day El Dorado, Las Vegas is the most dynamic, spectacular city on earth. At the start of the twentieth century, it didn’t even exist; now it’s home to two million people, and boasts nineteen of the world’s twenty-five largest hotels, whose flamboyant, no-expense-spared casinos lure in thirty-seven million tourists each year.
Las Vegas has been stockpiling superlatives since the 1950s, but never rests on its laurels for a moment. Many first-time visitors expect the city to be kitsch, but the casino owners are far too canny to be sentimental. Yes, there are a few Elvis impersonators around, but what characterizes the city far more is its endless quest for novelty. Long before they lose their sparkle, yesterday’s showpieces are blasted into rubble, to make way for ever more extravagant replacements. A few years ago, when the fashion was for fantasy, Arthurian castles and Egyptian pyramids mushroomed along the legendary Strip; next came a craze for constructing entire replica cities, like New York, Paris, Monte Carlo, and Venice; and the current trend is for high-end properties that attempt to straddle the line between screaming ostentation and “elegant” sophistication.
While the city has cleaned up its act since the early days of Mob domination, it certainly hasn’t become a family destination. Neither is Vegas as cheap as it used to be. It’s still possible to find good, inexpensive rooms, and the all-you-care-to-eat buffets offer great value, but the casino owners have finally discovered that high-rollers happy to lose hundreds of dollars per night don’t mind paying premium prices to eat at top-quality restaurants, while the latest developments are charging room rates of more like $300 than $30 per night.
Although Las Vegas is an unmissable destination, it’s one that palls for most visitors after a couple of (hectic) days. If you’ve come solely to gamble, there’s not much to say beyond the fact that all the casinos are free, and open 24 hours per day, with acres of floor space packed with ways to lose money: million-dollar slots, video poker, blackjack, craps, roulette wheels, and much, much more.