Las Vegas, NV Destination Guide
A flashy monument to giddy excess, Las Vegas is the place to escape from all sense of convention and restraint. A long way from its origins as a middle-of-nowhere railway stopover, Nevada's legalization of gambling in 1931 catapulted Las Vegas into its fate as the nucleus of the gaming world. Known by all as "The Gambling and Entertainment Capital of the World," in recent years the attractions have expanded to include theme parks, family activities, excellent shopping, and world-class spas. What's more, Las Vegas has been named by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators as 2005's top emerging golf destination in the world!
Nonetheless, it's still the lure of bright lights and easy money that keeps 'em coming. The whole world comes to Vegas to let loose and, in turn, to become happily lost in a surreal replica of skylines from all the great cities of the earth. From Manhattan, to Venice, to the Pyramids, every corner transports you someplace else. If you didn't know better, you might think it was just some strange desert mirage -- and Elvis might still be in the building! Las Vegas isn't just for gamblers and big spenders, there are so many free things to do in Las Vegas too!
Not sure where to start? Ask our travel agents specializing in Las Vegas Vacations!
Advice from Our Las Vegas Experts
If you are flexible with your travel dates, avoiding peak times such as the weekends could save you hundreds. Consider starting your vacation on a Sunday or Monday, versus a Thursday or Friday.
No two hotels in Las Vegas are alike, but there are some key differences. As far as dining, you might find affordable food courts and buffets in some hotels, while others are feature 5-star, gourmet dining. You'll want to consider what type of vacation and activities you're interested before choosing a hotel just for the room.
Plan on wearing comfortable shoes if you're headed out on the strip. Everything in Las Vegas looks like it's just "right there", but you'll quickly find that something you thought was a block away might actually be much farther!
There's so much that Las Vegas has to offer, that you'll need to take 10+ trips there before you even scratch the surface. I recommend finding at least one new activity each trip, whether it's a new show, helicopter ride over the Hoover Dam, trip to the desert or trying a new night club.
Non stop flights are convenient, especially if you're taking a quick weekend getaway. You'll want all the time you can get in this city!
If you're interested in seeing "Traditional Las Vegas" take the Deuce down to Fremont Street from the Strip, you'll even pass all of the Little White Chapels... or better yet stay on Fremont Street!
You’re preferred transportation to the hotel could depend on the number of travelers you have. A taxi ride to/from Las Vegas Airport is typically around $25-$35 each way, depending on where you’re staying. Shuttles generally range from $12-$16 per person roundtrip.
While you are there try not to miss: The Bellagio Fountains - they are awesome and free. You could then head over to the Venetian resort and take a Gondola ride in “Venice” and while you are near check out Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. There is a lot of free entertainment going on downtown while you walk around and enjoy the "Fremont Experience". If you're adventurous head to the top of the Stratosphere resort and go on the rollercoaster! Yikes! Remember, you don’t even have to gamble to have a good time in Las Vegas!
Highlights in Las Vegas
The Strip: Las Vegas Boulevard: View Map
The fabled three-mile area holds more hotel rooms than any other city in the world. You will find the most famous and remarkable resorts such as Bellagio with its Italian Renaissance aura and Caesars Palace, the glory of Rome, Vegas-style. Old standbys include the Flamingo Hilton and the Mirage, with its white tigers and erupting volcanoes. See the Paris Las Vegas with outstanding replicas of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and magnifique Parisian atmosphere and charm. Treasure Island offers daily live pirate battles, free of charge. The new Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is also an impressive hotel with a nice casino. At the "bottom" or south end of the strip, risen from the ashes of the Hacienda Hotel, now stands the magnificent Mandalay Bay with its tropical atmosphere and a pool with waves you can actually surf. At the top of the Strip, you will find the Stratosphere Tower visible from miles away. It is the highest free-standing building in the western half of the United States, with views from the top that are indescribable.
Downtown: Fremont Street: View Map
The original Las Vegas, where people hung out in the '30s and early '40s, is still thriving, but with a new face known as the Fremont Street Experience. Some tourists actually prefer this area to the Strip because room prices are generally lower, it's an easy walk from one casino to the next and it's reminiscent of the early, nostalgic days of Las Vegas. In addition, there are famous hotels such as The Plaza (formerly known as Union Plaza), overlooking Fremont Street, and the classic Golden Nugget. For nostalgia buffs, there is also the Golden Gate Hotel Casino, renovated to its earlier classic glory and appearance and still famous for the 99-cent shrimp cocktail.
In recent years, hotels have sprouted up near the Strip, which are conveniently accessible by shuttle bus, taxi or car. Some of the better known of these are The Orleans, the Rio Suites and the Gold Coast on Flamingo. Further north on Sahara, is the Palace Station, the granddaddy of the Station Casinos with its original approach to fine buffet dining known as The Feast. To the east, there's the Las Vegas Hilton with the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center. Further south, between Flamingo and Tropicana, east of the Strip, you will find the "must see" Hard Rock Hotel and Casino next to the original Hard Rock Cafe, each with its own fantastic giant neon guitar at the entrance.
This has become something of a phenomenon in itself. The Boulder Highway was once a sprawl of small motels and businesses, leading from Fremont Street eventually out to the city of Henderson and beyond that to Boulder City and Boulder Dam, also known as Hoover Dam. But in recent years it's become the "Second Strip" with its proliferation of large, popular hotels and casinos including the Boulder Station Hotel and Casino, one of the first properties to offer child-care at a nominal fee for children of both guests and non-guests, and Sam's Town Hotel and Casino, which has become the high standard of western-theme resorts with its Mystic Falls Indoor Park.
North Las Vegas
The city of North Las Vegas has the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a major tourist attraction in itself, as well as Nellis Air Force Base, one of the strongest military bases in the United States and home to the flying Thunderbirds. As far as accommodations are concerned, there are several popular spots including The Fiesta and Texas Station Hotel and Casino. There is also the Santa Fe in northwest Las Vegas, which is unique for its Olympic-style Santa Fe Ice Arena.
Located in the far northwest section of the Las Vegas valley, Summerlin is a planned community with homes, shops, recreational activities, festivals and concerts. A wonderful accommodation in this area is the Suncoast Hotel and Casino.
Beyond Las Vegas
For day trips that are well worth your time, check out nearby Boulder City, Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam to the east and southeast. To the west, there is Red Rock Canyon and beyond that is Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.
What To Do & See
Gamble!: High-stakes or pocket-change, whatever you've got to try your luck with, Vegas gives you a way to play the odds, from blackjack to roulette to slots, and so on, including sports books. And there's plenty more to do in the casinos, like watching the spectacular shows, feasting on gourmet meals, calling out requests to a lounge singer, and doing some people-watching, obviously!
Hoover Dam: The monolithic dam, built during the Depression, is a National Historic Landmark and rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America's Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. Cruise the dam and its offspring, Lake Mead, with lunch, movie, and a visit to movie stars' homes.
Excursion to the Grand Canyon: Hop a bus to the Canyon for one of the most spectacular vistas on Earth. Averaging 10 miles across, the canyon walls are one mile deep and meet up at the base with the Colorado River that carved it eons ago and still rushes through for some 277 miles. There are over 400 miles of trails, including the popular Bright Angel Trail that descends into the canyon and can be taken on foot or by mule. Rafting through the canyon on the Colorado River is a peak experience!
Get Married: At the Candlelight Wedding Chapel, music, witness, bouquet, and boutonniere are ready if you are. It's a pretty little place to exchange vows, should you be struck by a spontaneous fit of romance. You provide the spouse, they'll provide the rest.
Adventuredome: America's largest indoor theme park features a double loop, double corkscrew roller coaster called Canyon Blaster. There are also numerous attractions for all ages, midway games, an arcade, clown shows, and more. Circus Circus
Gondola Rides: Just like in Venice, with your gondolier singing love ballads in English and Italian as he rows you through a replica of the Grand Canal. After your ride, enjoy the street jugglers, as well as Italian Renaissance singers and musicians. The Venetian
Racing: Live life in the fast lane by learning to race cars and motorcycles at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one of America's fastest motorsports parks. Drive an actual NASCAR stock car at Richard Petty Driving Experience or an Indy-style open-wheel racer at Mario Andretti Racing School. Grand Prix-type Formula 2000 cars provide the challenge at world-famous Derek Daly Performance Driving Academy. And at Freddie Spencer High Performance Riding School, the legendary 3-time World GP Champ shows you how to take a superbike around the road course at maximum lean.
Star Trek - The Experience: Beam aboard the USS Enterprise, blast through galaxies at warp speed, and battle Klingons. It isn't a ride – it's a mission! Las Vegas Hilton
Get Pampered at a Spa: Let's face it, there's just nothing like non-stop play to exhaust a person! So when you've pushed yourself to the limit, treat yourself to a massage and sauna. Or maybe a facial is just what you need. Whatever soothing kindness your body craves, you'll find it at more than 12 luxurious, fully-equipped spas at the Strip hotels.
Boutique, Mall, & Outlet Shopping: These have exploded onto the Vegas scene, and many hotels have complete upscale shopping centers right on the premises. Every name in fashion is represented, from Ralph Lauren to Prada. Department stores include Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. The Fashion Show, an enormous mall located on the Strip across from Wynn, boasts 7 flagship department stores plus over 200 specialty shops and restaurants, making it a must-see for serious shoppers. When you're looking for a bargain, the outlet stores in nearby Primm have great deals on designer clothes!
Visit the Hotel Attractions: The goal of each new hotel is, simply, "More." Of everything. More eye-popping spectacles, more exotic displays, more glitz, more! Some favorites:
* At Wynn you can experience an entirely new concept in theatrics: Le Reve (The Dream). Designed by Franco Dragone (formerly of Cirque du Soleil), and based on the work of famed psychoanalyst Ernst Jung, the show takes place in a circular theater where water plays a vital role in the dreamscapes that appear above, below, and on all sides of the audience. You will be reminded of dreams you have actually had, represented by flying, falling, and explosions. Nightly
* At The Mirage, a 54-foot volcano erupts in the center of a lagoon with waterfalls and palm trees every night.
* At The Bellagio, more than a thousand fountains dance in front of the hotel, enhanced by lights and music from giants like Pavarotti and Sinatra. The daily display spans more than 1,000 feet, and water shoots 240 feet in the air! Inside, the hotel boasts an impressive fine arts gallery, which regularly hosts exhibitions that stay for a few months at a time.
* At Treasure Island, the Sirens of TI® begins with a 17th century clash between a group sirens and a band of renegade pirates. The Sirens lure the pirates to their cove, stir up a tempest strong enough to sink a ship, and transform Sirens’ Cove into a 21st century party every night.
* The Rio Suites celebrate the spirit of "Carnivale!" with their daily Masquerade Show in the Sky. Above the casino floor is a spectacular floating parade of dancers in exotic costumes and masks.
* At Excalibur, witness the popular Las Vegas dinner show, Tournament of Kings with invading armies, dancing maidens, jousting, fireworks, and eating with your fingers every night.
* At The Venetian, Italian artists were brought in to create enormous murals that cover the great walls and ceilings of the public areas. The hotel recreates the famous canals and grand architecture of Venice, and you can see impressive reproductions of the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. The Guggenheim Hermitage Museum located inside displays authentic masterpeices drawn from the collections of the Guggenheim in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and the Kunschistorisches Museum in Vienna.
Fremont Street Experience: A 175,700-square-foot, 90-foot-high canopied light and sound extravaganza in a landscaped, car-free pedestrian oasis. Dancing, music, and moving images created by over 2 million lights dazzle you from a stage on high that ensures an excellent view for everyone. When the lights and music wrap up, festivals, street performers, and 10 adjacent casinos keep you entertained.
Atomic Testing Museum: Between 1945 and 1992, the US conducted 1,050 nuclear bomb tests -- about 90 percent of which were detonated in Nevada. A real blast from the past, this downtown museum commemorates the dawn of the nuclear era, when mushroom clouds regularly rose high above the desert just 65 miles from the Strip. Browse through the archive's collection of some 300,000 testing-related documents, check out the interactive exhibits and eerie pop culture artifacts (such as the "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" salt-and-pepper shakers, named for the bombs dropped on Japan in World War II), and duck into a replica '60s backyard bomb shelter. In addition, the Department of Energy provides a monthly public tour of the Nevada Test Site that departs via bus from the museum.
Liberace Museum: Founded by the bejewelled one himself, this museum is a showcase of his glittery collection of pianos, costumes, limousines and, of course, rhinestones. Located on East Tropicana Avenue, it draws a mixed crowd, including those who grew up with his television presence, and those who have discovered the man's legacy through the Liberace Foundation. Most befitting to Las Vegas, here you can see the world's largest rhinestone!
Neon Museum: This "museum" officially opened in 1996 with the turning on of the refurbished Hacienda Horse & Rider, and today its salvaged signs from bygone casinos, hotels, and restaurants can be seen 24 hours a day at the downtown outdoor galleries (best viewed at night, of course).
Golfing: Las Vegas has been named 2005's "Top Emerging Golf Destination in the World" by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators, and it's no surprise why! The city is home to some of the best courses in the Southwest, designed by masters like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Rees Jones. There are both public and private courses located right on the Strip and in the surrounding countryside, backed by the rugged scenery of the southern Nevada landscape. Here's a selection of the many tempting courses in Las Vegas:
* Bear's Best: Jack Nicklaus brings 18 of his favorite hole designs to this spectacular desert setting. From the first tee to the last, challenges mirror courses such as PGA West and Old Works. Rating/Slope: 74/147. Yardage (back tees): 7,229.
* Arroyo Golf Club: This 18-hole, Arnold Palmer-designed course at the Red Rock Country Club cuts through rugged terrain, with its lush greens providing a stark visual contrast to the brown hills and blue skies. Be careful when judging the water features and bunkers! Rating/Slope: 71.9/124. Yardage (back tees): 6,857.
* Lake Las Vegas Resort: This scenic resort benefits from 2 top courses, Reflection Bay (designed by Jack Nicklaus) and The Falls (designed by Tom Weiskopf), with a total of 36 holes.The courses stretch along the shores of the lake, accented by palm trees and waterfalls. Rating/Slope: 74.3/138 (Reflection Bay), 74.1/136 (The Falls). Yardage (back tees): 7,261 (Reflection Bay), 7,250 (The Falls).
* Wynn Las Vegas: The Wynn Las Vegas is the newest, most upscale resort in the city, and its golf course is equally dramatic. Designed by Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn, its 18 holes wind through water features, marshes, and lush landscaping, creating a golfing experience never before seen on the Las Vegas Strip. Yardage: 7,042.
* Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort: Not one, not two, but THREE 18-hole courses designed by none other than Pete Dye! Whether you're out on Snow Mountain, Sun Mountain, or The Wolf, you're sure to appreciate the greatness of this resort's dedication to golf. Rating/Slope: 73.9/125 (Snow Mountain), 73.3/130 (Sun Mountain), 76.3/149 (The Wolf). Yardage (back tees): 7,158 (Snow Mountain), 7,112 (Sun Mountian), 7,604 (The Wolf).
* Royal Links Golf Club: The weather will give away the fact that you're not in Scotland, but a distinctly British feel can be attributed to the inspiration of 11 different British Open Rotation Courses. Castle-like monuments add to the ambience of this 18-hole course, designed by Dye Designs International. Rating/Slope: 73.7/135. Yardage (back tees): 7,029.
* Tournament Players Club at The Canyons: Known as TPC, this golf retreat provides the only public PGA Tour facility in Las Vegas. Golfers have a chance to match skills against the pros on this stunning 18-hole Bobby Weed design that is challenging, yet playable. Rating/Slope: 73/131. Yardage (back tees): 7,063.
* Las Vegas Country Club: This private 18-hole course is located next to the Hilton Hotel, just off the northern end of the Strip. The course, where Senior PGA Tour player Larry Laorretti once served as a golf pro, is marked by long and tough par-fours and well-bunkered holes. Rating/Slope: 72.8/128. Yardage: 7,164.
* Las Vegas National Golf Club: Conveniently located just off the Strip, near the convention center, this 18-hole course challenges golfers of all levels with some tough par-threes and dog-legged holes. Rating/Slope: 72.1/130. Yardage: 6,815.
* Bali Hai Golf Course: This 18-hole course is recognized by Golf Week as one of the "Top 40 Resort Courses in America". Follow the course across 7 acres of water hazzards, palm trees, rocky outcrops, and white sand traps. Rating/Slope: 73/130. Yardage: 7,002.
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* Callaway Golf Center: At the lower end of the Strip, Callaway is home to the "Divine Nine" lighted 9-hole course, 110-stall driving range, St. Andrews pro shop, and Bistro 10 restaurant. Yardage: 1,230.
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Weather in Las Vegas, NV
Thanks to a welcoming climate, this is a year-round destination, but the most comfortable temperatures come during spring and autumn. Weekdays have slightly smaller crowds, and holidays bring a tidal wave of people. June, July, the week before Christmas, and the week after New Year's are your best chances for the smallest crowds.
With virtually no rain (averaging just 4 inches annually) and blissfully free of humidity (averaging 29%), Las Vegas offers mostly fresh sunny days of 66°F, though this varies from season to season. The city basks in bright, clear skies an average of 211 days each year. Be prepared, nonetheless, for extremes of heat in high summer and downright chilliness in winter.
Tipping in Las Vegas, NV
Tipping is a custom based on the generosity of an appreciative customer and is subject to no concrete rules. For those who are unsure, here are a few suggestions for some tipping situations you may encounter in Las Vegas.
Bartenders: 1 per round for parties of 2 to four; more for larger groups.
Bellmen: $5-$8, depending on whether you will need services or advice during your stay.
Bingo & Keno Runners: If you are playing for an extended period of time, $2 or $3 occasionally, even if you aren't winning, will be appreciated.
Change Clerks: If a machine fills up your paper cup, remember who gave you the lucky coins, please.
Concierge: $5 - 10 for help with dinner reservations or show tickets. End of the trip just be fair.
Cocktail Waitresses: $1 a round for parties of 2; more for larger groups. Drinks are generally free when you gamble which of course make you more susceptible to spend more.
Dealers: If you are losing - $0 Tip
Tips, or "tokes" as they are called in Las Vegas, either can be given directly to the dealer between hands, throws of dice or spins of wheel, or small "side bets" are permitted. These can range from $1 to, generally, half of your bet.
Craps or blackjack dealer: $5 per session.
Slots: 5% on a a jackpot, not exceed $25.
Slot Machine Mechanic: $1 or $2 when a repair is made.
Guest RoomAttendants: About $5 per day, usually left at the end of your stay.
Maid Service: $1 - $5 per day is typical, up to $10 per day depending upon the mess you left. Tip daily because there might be a different maid each day. On the side of being generous the last day - also.
Restaurant Waiters: The standard 15-20 percent rule applies.
Room Service Waiters: The standard 15-20 percent rule applies unless gratuity is included.
Swimming Pool Attendant: $2 - $3 per chair at the beginning of the first day or nothing, unless you require services such as extra seating to pool toys. Most of the hotels have chairs readily available and in this case would be nothing.
Skycaps: $2 per bag, depending on size and weight. An extra $5 - $20 if they help you get to your flight on time.
Taxi Cab Drivers: Approximately 15 percent of the total fare, but not less than $3.
Valet Parking: Handle this a few ways.
Nice car and want it left out in front of the hotel where everyone can see it like a big shot? Ask the attendant where a $20 spot will get you. Don't like the answer say thank you and leave into the building.
Normally $5 because most parking at hotels will be free and sometimes for hotel guest only on weekends. Once again, money talks if you want in the garage, they'll make room for your car for a $20.
Service was ok, had to wait? $3, fold the money in half it will look like a larger wad.
Free parking? $3 to the parking attendant.
Wedding Requirements for Las Vegas, NV
Couples 18 and older may marry with proof of age. No blood tests are required and there is no waiting period. Couples under the age of 18 may mary with consent of a legal guardian. License fee is $55 and payable prior to service. Divorced couples must have a legal, final marriage divorce in the state where granted. The date of the final decree and city and state where granted are required.
Airport Information for Las Vegas, NV
You'll fly into and out of McCarren International Airport (LAS).
Rental Cars in Las Vegas, NV
Rentals are available at the airport. Parking and driving near the Strip is not advisable. If you rent a car, have the valet park it for you.