Las Vegas, Nevada, can be a place for both unbridled self-indulgence and family fun. This glowing desert city isn’t just a venue for blackjack, drive-through weddings and all-you-can-eat buffets. With over 37.5 million people visiting Las Vegas each year, the city offers everything from family-themed entertainment and trade shows, to world class golf courses and a gang of skydiving Elvis impersonators.
The unofficial districts of metropolitan Las Vegas include the Las Vegas Strip, Downtown Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and the Howard Hughes incorporated area of Summerlin. Most of the tourist attractions are on the Strip, or Las Vegas Boulevard, and consist of massive hotels and casinos, restaurants and upscale shopping venues. Downtown Las Vegas is home to the famous Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, as well as First Friday celebrations (held on the first Friday of each month), which showcase the talents of local artists and musicians.
Many attractions within Vegas revolve around the lavish hotels, resorts and casinos that pepper the town. Aside from the hoards of people testing their luck at the slots, poker, blackjack, craps and roulette tables, there are countless sites and shows suitable for people of all ages. Adrenaline junkies shouldn’t pass up a chance to ride the Big Shot at the Stratosphere Hotel. You’ll be launched 160 feet straight up in just 2.5 seconds while traveling 45 mph (4Gs of force) and attached to a single bungee chord. For some truly mad adults-only fun, head over to Beacher’s Madhouse -- an interactive, sinfully hilarious comedy/magic/variety show that will bring you to the brink of insanity and dare you to get on stage and join in on the debauchery.
When it comes to kid-friendly attractions, bring the family to the Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix, where both kids and adults can zip around the track in Go Karts, Kiddie Cars and Super Stock Racers. Satisfy your family’s sweet tooth at M&M’s World. This four-story chocolate wonderland has everything from M&M’s-inspired souvenirs, games, guitars and of course, candy. For a wacky night out, check out Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre at Planet Hollywood. This family show packs a unique blend of comedy, juggling acts and extraordinary performing pets. A great respite from the raucous vitality of the city is a day trip to Red Rock Canyon. Hike, climb and bike year round through this geological park in the Mojave Desert.
Las Vegas’ dining scene is becoming just as notorious and impressive as those of New York and Paris. The infamous buffets of the past are being overshadowed by the many award-winning restaurants, bistros and burger joints that are popping up all over the city. For fine dining at its peak, the French cuisine of L’Atelier Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand may be as good as it gets with artfully prepared tapas dishes and unique counter service where your meal is born right in front of you. Whether you prefer Kobe beef or ground lamb sliders, the best burgers in Sin City can be found at Mandalay Bay’s Burger Bar. For an authentic taste of Northern Italy, travel a couple of miles outside of the Strip to Ago, for melt-in-your-mouth osso buco or their many crowd-pleasing handmade pasta dishes.
McCarran International Airport (LAS), the largest and most widely used in Clark County, is served by several major airline carriers. Airport shuttles are the cheapest and most common way to get to your hotel. Taxis ($10 to 20) are available at all terminals to take visitors wherever they need to go, including hotels that are outside of the main Las Vegas Strip. For navigating around the Strip, walking is the best mode of transportation, as many hotels, casinos and restaurants are close by, if not connected underground. Excalibur, Mandalay Bay and Luxor offer a complimentary rail shuttle to commute between them. Public transit includes the Las Vegas Monorail ($5 one way or $15 per day), which runs along the eastern side of the Strip, and the city bus line, Citizens Area Transit. Most routes operate from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., but some lines run 24 hours a day. Taxis run all day and night, and because they can’t stop in the middle of traffic, the best way to hail one is at a cab stand.
With an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, Las Vegas has an arid, desert climate. The summer months are extremely hot, and most July and August days can exceed 100°F. Winters are quite short and generally mild, with average highs near 60°F. When it comes to visiting Las Vegas, the higher temperatures rise, the cheaper the prices. Another less expensive time to go is just after the winter holidays when business tends to slow down. With a plethora of attractions to see, money to squander, gourmet food to eat, trouble to find, and a seemingly endless supply of central air conditioning, there is truly no bad time to come to Las Vegas.