Money makes the world go around, or at least helped build Las Vegas.
How else do you transform a piece of desert into a high-rolling hive of activity, surrounded by lush green golf courses, sprawling pools and dancing fountains?
On face value the immense scale of Vegas suggests nothing but glitz, glamour and good times. However, beneath the surface, as gambling revenues fall, you’ll find a beating heart searching for new blood as the city looks to cement its future as a tourist mecca and business hub.
Here’s a city guide to the top things to do in Las Vegas.
Established with the coming of the railroad to the wild west, Las Vegas’ fortunes have risen and fallen over the years. From humble beginnings on Fremont Street, the city was built largely with the loot of gangsters and mobsters. Downtown Las Vegas (DTLV), home to the Golden Nugget and other iconic landmarks, now hosts the Fremont Street Experience, where the world’s largest LED screen puts on a dazzling light show. Get your adrenaline fix as the SlotZilla Zip Line flies you through the lights at over 60 kilometres per hour.
The Strip, a section of Las Vegas Boulevard, houses most of the world’s largest hotels, all competing to fill their share of 62,000 rooms. The lighting here is mind-blowing and you can step back in time at The Neon Museum, a boneyard for retired signs. It’s by appointment only and spots fill quickly.
Another option is The Mob Museum, which will guide you through the bad old days.
Whilst the cultural aspects of Vegas may not jump out and grab you, the huge billboards certainly will. The diversity of entertainment on offer is staggering.
Cirque du Soleil’s seven different shows will transport you to a magical world of spectacular acrobatics, stunning sets and beautiful music. ‘O’ at the Bellagio, where performers breathe air from divers submerged under a stage made of water, will take your breath away.
Everyone who is anyone has performed in this city. Some pop in for ‘one night only’ while others take up residence. Britney Spears, Elton John, and Donny & Marie have all called Las Vegas home. Check the Las Vegas Entertainment Guide for current listings.
The club scene in Vegas is also huge — huge spaces, huge crowds and huge prices. Iconic DJ’s Calvin Harris and Tiesto will set the scene as you kick off the evening around midnight and party into the early hours. XS and Hakkasan are definitely the places to be seen, while Omnia is nipping at their heels. Book a table with friends, pop your bottle of Grey Goose in the middle and enjoy.
The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art partners with museums and foundations around the world and as they say, is where great art goes on vacation.
Las Vegas is renowned as the USA’s ‘all you can eat buffet’ capital, however the choice of incredible restaurants headed by renowned chefs will certainly entice you away from the food halls.
Breakfast may not be on the list for many, but brunch is another thing. The Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan serves one of the best on the strip with free flowing Bloody Marys and champagne to kick-start the day.
Mon Ami Gabi on the terrace at Paris offers alfresco dining as the fountains at the Bellagio entertain and you enjoy steak frites under the cooling mist.
Michelin-starred eateries are well represented and tasting menus are an ideal opportunity to splurge. Five courses plus little extra bites at Picasso at the Bellagio is exceptional value as you dine surrounded by $20million worth of art.
Cocktails and other alcoholic beverages are a staple of the Las Vegas diet for many, 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 slots. Drink and gamble responsibly. Have a winning target or a losing limit and be prepared to walk away (famous last words!).
Held each year in April, Vegas Uncork’d is a food and wine festival showcasing delicious cuisine paired with perfect wines and innovative cocktails. It’s well worth visiting the city during the event.
If you’re lucky enough to win big, you’ll need something to spend it on. The Fashion Show Mall has over 250 stores, while the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace guide you along Romanesque streets under painted skies. Luxury reigns supreme at The Shops at Crystals, which offers shopping, dining and nightlife. Louis Vuitton and Gucci lead the pack in stunning showrooms.
If you’re after a bargain, then head out to the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets. Be prepared to hunt for the best bargains. Note: The food hall is average, so just shop and get out.
If souvenir t-shirts, fridge magnets and other assorted kitsch are on your holiday shopping list, you’ll trip over shops as you wander the Strip.
There’s no shortage of relaxing things to do in Las Vegas, and with so many hotels vying for attention huge money has been invested into recreation spaces within hotel grounds.
Pool parties attract crowds partying to resident DJs. Encore Beach Club hosts the likes of David Guetta whilst Marquee at the Cosmopolitan pumps out the tunes day and night. One of the coolest spaces on the Strip is Drai’s Beach Club, the rooftop pool at the Cromwell. This is Vegas, so the more ladies in your group the better. Don’t even think of turning up with a group of ten blokes expecting to get in.
There are of course pools where more conventional relaxing is the order of the day. Some hotels welcome non-guests and the Tropicana will allow you to swim and chill on lounges and grassy banks for $10 (at time of printing) — a bargain by Las Vegas standards.
Golf courses are lush and green — if you hit the fairways. Miss them and you’ll be searching for your ball amongst the cacti. Badlands will challenge without destroying you. Drinks delivered by passing carts, and clubs cleaned afterwards, add to the allure.
Do you have any tips for top things to do in Las Vegas? We would love to hear from you. Please leave us a comment.
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 cover his adventures. He is privileged to have lived in Australia, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore and London. Currently living in Bangkok, Neil splits his time between Thailand and London. He would be in heaven joining the Bizarre Foods team, having tried horse meat tartare in Tokyo, lobster sashimi in Manila and the perfect ceviche in Havana. More a traveller than a tourist, he prefers to mix it with the locals, learn their history and culture and walk the back streets to uncover hidden gems worthy of praise on the global stage or quiet moments of private reflection.