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Introducing Las Vegas

It's three in the morning when you spot an Elvis look-alike sauntering by arm-in-arm with a glittering showgirl. A bride in a long white dress shrieks 'blackjack!' as a stoic blue-haired granny feeds nickels into a slot machine while throwing back a gin and tonic. It's a surreal, Technicolor-tinged fantasy straight out of the movies – there's only one place you could be.

Vegas, baby: it's the ultimate escape. It's the only place you can spend the night partying in ancient Rome, wake up in Paris and brunch under the Eiffel Tower, watch an erupting volcano at sunset and get married in a pink Cadillac at midnight. Double down with the high rollers, browse couture or tacky souvenirs, sip a neon 3ft-high margarita or a frozen vodka martini set on a bar made of ice – it's all here for the taking.

Time is irrelevant in Sin City. There are no clocks inside casinos, just never-ending buffets, ever-flowing drinks and adrenaline-fueled gaming tables. Almost any desire can be gratified instantly, since the USA's fastest-growing metropolis and its luxe mega-resorts stand ready to cater to your every whim 24/7. Emptying your wallet never felt so damn good.

The landscape is a constantly shifting paradox. It's a volatile cocktail of dueling forces: sophistication and smut, risk and reward, boom and bust. That's all part of its charm. Head downtown to explore Vegas' nostalgic beginnings and its cultural renaissance of vintage shops and cocktail bars where local culture thrives, then detour off the Strip to find intriguing museums celebrating Vegas' neon, atomic-fueled past.

America's dirty little secret or dream factory? Vegas is both – and remains a bastion of hangover-inducing weekends for people from all walks of life. You can reinvent yourself a hundred times over or hide out with your lover in a hotel room for days. It doesn't matter if you play the penny slots or drop a bankroll every night – you'll probably leave town convinced you've had the time of your life.