A dazzling oasis where forty million people a year let their hair down, Las Vegas has made a fine art of indulging its visitors’ every appetite. From its ever-changing architecture to cascading chocolate fountains, adrenaline-pumping zip lines and jaw-dropping stage shows, everything is built to thrill.
The Strip is where the real action is, a visual feast where each mega-casino vies to outdo the next with some outlandish theme, be it an Egyptian pyramid (Luxor), a Roman extravaganza (Caesars Palace), a fairytale castle (Excalibur) or a European city (Paris and the Venetian).
From the new Pocket Rough Guide to Las Vegas by Greg Ward, we’ve picked 15 unmissable things to do on The Strip – get the full guide to start planning your trip.
1. Marvel at the Bellagio
This is Las Vegas at its most luxurious, an Italianate marble extravaganza with its own eight-acre lake. Head to Jean Philippe Patisserie to enjoy morning pastries while admiring the world’s largest chocolate fountain, check out the Conservatory (part greenhouse, part camp and colourful fantasyland), and be sure to watch the mesmerising jets of the fountains after sundown.
2. Go all out on a Las Vegas buffet
The all-you-can-eat buffet is one tradition Las Vegas will never let go. For the ultimate in indulgence, head for Caesars Palace and buy a “Buffet of Buffets” pass, valid for 24 hours at all Caesars’ properties. Start with the Bacchanal Buffet, which epitomizes decadent Las Vegas excess.
3. See the Flamingo’s classic kitsch
Okay, so the Flamingo these days is more Donny Osmond than Bugsy Siegel, but the original Strip resort still holds plenty of kitsch. From its superb neon sign and the Strip-facing patio of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, to its trademark real-life flamingoes in the free Wildlife Habitat, there’s a lot to like about the Flamingo.
4. Hit the shops
Shopping now ranks among the principal reasons that people visit Las Vegas, and most people do almost all of their shopping on the Strip itself. Their prime destination is the amazing Forum at Caesars Palace, where a false sky cycles hourly between day and night, followed by the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, complete with operatic gondoliers plying the waters of the Grand Canal, and Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood.
5. Explore the Luxor pyramid
Inside the sloping, monolithic walls of the Luxor lie two interesting exhibits. Enter the Egyptian pyramid through the paws of the Sphinx to see Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, the world’s only permanent exhibition of items salvaged from the Titanic, and the gruesome but uplifting Bodies…the Exhibition.
6. Solve a murder
At CSI The Experience at the MGM Grand you can put your razor-sharp forensic skills to the test investigating, and almost certainly solving, fictional murder mysteries. A hugely enjoyable interactive adventure, this is perhaps the most enjoyable family attraction in Las Vegas.
7. Ride the Big Apple Coaster
Shake things up with a loop around the Manhattan skyline on New York–New York’s Big Apple Coaster. The little yellow cabs that loop and race around its skyscraper towers speed at 67mph, plunge over 200ft and roll like a jet fighter – this is a serious thrill ride no theme-park fan should miss.
8. Get the Eiffel Tower Experience
Ride into the skies atop Las Vegas’s own miniature version of Paris and look down on the rest of the Strip. The observation platform is perfectly poised to look north and south along the busiest stretch, as well as west, and down, to the fountains of Bellagio.
9. Catch a show
The old-style feathers-and-sequins revues have been supplanted by a never-ending stream of jaw-droppingly lavish shows by the Cirque du Soleil, plus the likes of the postmodern Blue Man Group and more.
10. Take a spin on the High Roller
At 550ft high the Las Vegas High Roller is the world’s largest observation wheel, and commands tremendous views over the city. The long-range panoramas are particularly spectacular, though intervening buildings mean it doesn’t offer ground-level views of the Strip.
11. Dine out
You could eat a great meal in a different restaurant on The Strip every night. Two of our favourites include Thomas Keller’s French bistro Bouchon at the Venetian, where the menu at is every bit as special as the setting, and Scarpetta at the Cosmopolitan, where you watch the Bellagio fountains as you savour Scott Conant’s wonderful contemporary take on Italian cuisine.
12. Watch a volcano erupt
Once the sun’s gone down, take your place outside the Mirage. The artificial volcano at Steve Wynn’s first Strip venture erupts at hourly intervals, on the hour, after dark.
13. Cross the drawbridge into Excalibur
If things haven’t been kitsch enough yet, stroll through this bizarre Arthurian castle-casino. Built in 1990, it remains the most visible reminder of the era when Las Vegas briefly re-invented itself as a vast children’s playground – although with its jam-packed, multi-coloured turrets it doesn’t so much look like a castle, as like a child’s drawing of a castle.
14. See Big Elvis
Head for the no-cover Piano Bar in Harrah’s, where the hunka-hunka love that is Pete Vallee, Las Vegas’s biggest and best-loved Elvis impersonator. His King-like voice, mastery of Elvis’s repertoire and easy audience rapport make this the best free show in town.
15. Spot crocodiles and sharks at Mandalay Bay
In keeping with Las Vegas’s emphasis on immediate thrills, the Shark Reef aquarium focuses almost exclusively on dangerous marine predators, prowling through tanks designed to resemble a decaying ancient Mayan temple that’s sinking into the sea.