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Introducing Las Vegas

It's three in the morning in a smoky casino when you spot an Elvis lookalike sauntering by arm-in-arm with a glittering showgirl just as a bride in a long white dress shrieks 'Blackjack!'

Vegas, baby: it's the only place in the world where you can spend the night partying in Ancient Rome, wake up in Paris and brunch under the Eiffel Tower, bump into Superman on the way to dinner in New York, watch an erupting volcano at sunset and get married in a Pink Cadillac at midnight. Take a free craps lesson or 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. Vegas' landscape is a constantly shifting paradox, a volatile cocktail of dueling forces: sophistication and smut, risk and reward, boom and bust. Sound schizophrenic? 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. Explore east and west of the Strip to find intriguing museums celebrating Vegas' neon, atomic-fueled past, and discover local restaurants that give celebrity chefs a run for their money.

Despite the city's recent economic downturn, this spirited city never stops. If you can imagine the kind of vacation – or life – you want, it's already a reality here. Welcome to the dream factory: just don't expect to get much sleep.

To get your bearings: the Strip, aka Las Vegas Blvd, is the center of gravity in Sin City. Roughly four miles long, Circus Circus Las Vegas caps the north end of the Strip and Mandalay Bay is on the south end near the airport. Whether walking or driving, distances on the Strip are deceiving.

Downtown, the original town center at the north end of Las Vegas Blvd, is incredibly compact and can be explored with a minimum of fuss. Its main drag is fun-loving Fremont St.

McCarran International Airport is southeast of the Strip, off I-215.