Las Vegas, Nevada. The city is synonymous with flashy casinos, indulgent hotels, and wedding chapels, and while New York boasts the self-proclaimed title of the ‘city that never sleeps’, Vegas comes a close second. And whilst these connotations are certainly true of the city’s brash exterior, Vegas is full of surprises. Famed for its hedonistic lifestyle, this neon oasis has become a metaphor in popular culture as an escape from the mundane; it is the location for many films, purely for the conveyance of escape, excitement and the exotic.
Las Vegas was first established in 1905 as a railroad town exporting mined goods across the state. It became less important as a mining town as the industry changed, however the opening of the Hoover Dam in 1935 brought new interest to the city as scientists and tourists alike began to stay in the area. The legalisation of gambling in 1931 encouraged the growth of casinos, and major development occurred during the 1940’s establishing the template for the city it is today. Interestingly the Las Vegas Strip, a 4.2 mile stretch of decadence and arguably what the city is famous for, is located outside the city limits.
The Strip is home to many iconic hotels, some long established, others relatively new. Each hotel strives for its own identity; themed hotels were big business in the late twentieth century, but now the trend is heading towards luxury interiors and fine dining. There is still a place for themed hotels however; many have built their reputations on unique ideas and people still come from around the world to experience the famous New York New York with its rooftop rollercoaster, or the oriental styling of the Mandalay Bay. Vegas definitely has no shortage of hotels. Caesar’s Palace is decorated in the style of ancient Rome, while the Bellagio tempts with traditional Italian decor. If themes are not your taste, there are several other top end hotels offering indulgent stays if you are prepared to pay the prices. But it doesn’t always have to be expensive; there is an abundance of cheaper motels which offer excellent value for money, and with the delights of sin city on offer it’s unlikely you’ll be spending much time in your room.
Billed as the ‘entertainment capital of the world’, Vegas offers something to suit all tastes. In the day the streets are packed with people visiting the many shopping centres and sampling the various cuisines under the bright desert sun. Casinos are also a popular way to spend the day; most purposely don’t have windows so customers can’t tell how long they’ve spent there. Even if you don’t want to gamble, it is interesting just watching others, whether it’s for their blackjack skills or overt personalities. Be aware that casinos operate under strict policies; no one under the age of 21 is allowed in the pits, and hundreds of cameras monitor the floor. But it is at night that Vegas really comes alive; the Strip is alight with neon colour enticing customers to visit their casinos and drink at their bars.
Start the evening by visiting Fremont Street, located in the downtown area of the city. The street is famous as the original casino corridor; one of the first gambling licences in the state of Nevada was issued to a casino on Fremont Street in 1931. The area is slightly less brash than the Vegas Strip, with smaller casinos and fewer hotels, in keeping with its traditional roots. It still boasts the kind of attractions you’d expect from Vegas though; time your visit to coincide with the spectacular sound and light show that occurs on the LED canopy of the Fremont Street Experience.
Las Vegas is renowned for its nightly shows, which usually take place within the hotels. Singers such as Cher have performed here and the Cirque du Soleil has a long running show. Planet Hollywood offers ‘V’, a variety show with several different acts, including magicians, circus performers and dancers. Another sight worth seeing is the Bellagio fountains; every fifteen minutes the fountains move in sync to popular music- this can be anything from rock to opera, creating a very impressive spectacle.
When it comes to clubs, you are spoilt for choice. Most major hotels house multiple clubs within their establishments, often with famous DJ’s in residence. XS at the Wynne is the epitome of decadence; it is built around the Encore swimming pool and its interior consists of dark wood, chandeliers and state of the art lighting. The Playboy Club within the Palms hotel seems to be the essence of Vegas. Dealers dressed as playboy bunnies operate the blackjack tables, whilst floor to ceiling windows give an amazing panorama of the city from its high vantage point. The top floor is home to the Moon nightclub, featuring VIP booths and a light up dance floor. The highlight of this club is the balcony; an open air space that allows you to capture some fantastic photos of the Strip and an ideal place to celeb spot.
Las Vegas is a city that has to be seen to be believed and you can’t fail to be impressed. Even if Vegas culture isn’t your thing, it’s worth visiting merely to experience the excess. Obviously it doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re looking for a once in a lifetime experience, Vegas is the place to go. And if you spontaneously decide to get married….where else would you find Elvis conducting the ceremony?!