A Bible-toting Elvis kisses a giddy couple who’ve just pledged eternity in the Chapel of Love. A blue-haired granny feeds nickels into a slot machine while chain-smoking and slugging gin-and-tonics. A porn star saunters by a nightclub’s velvet rope. Welcome to Las Vegas – blink and you’ll miss it. Sleep? Forget about it.
Vegas is the ultimate escape. A few frenzied sleepless nights here can be more intoxicating than a week-long bender somewhere else. Let the everyday rules of behaviour slide a little, like a burlesque dancer’s feather boa. Be as bad as you wanna be, and make your most devilish fantasies come true. Sin City stands ready to give you an alibi: what happens here, stays here. Who can resist such seductive temptation?
Here are the top 10 ways you can have the most frenzied, fast-paced and fantastical time of your life in Vegas.
1. Dive into the free-for-all on the Strip
The sensory overload of blindingly bright neon lights signifies that yes, you’ve finally arrived on Las Vegas Blvd (aka the Strip). The infamous Strip has the lion’s share of hulking casino hotels and megaresorts, all flashily competing to lure you inside.
The opposite side of the Strip holds just as many distractions. Lean over the graceful bridges and balustrades of the Venetian and watch the singing gondoliers oar their boats through the mock canals of this Italianate casino.
2. Party with the locals on 'First Friday' nights
On the tattered fringes of downtown, hidden among the antique shops and vintage-clothing stores, is the city’s emerging 18b Arts District. Drive by it on any given weekday and you might not even notice pivotal landmarks like the Arts Factory. But on the first Friday night of each month, these rundown streets take on a carnival atmosphere as 10,000 art lovers, hipsters, indie musicians and hangers-on turn it into one giant block party.
3. Examine the legacy of the Cold War at the Atomic Testing Museum
During the atomic heyday of the 1950s, visitors downtown stared, mesmerised, as mushroom clouds rose from the desert behind Las Vegas. Over the next four decades, over 900 nuclear explosions were initiated at the Nevada Test Site, just 65 miles northwest of the city.
Multimedia exhibits at the Atomic Testing Museum focus on science, technology and the social history of the Atomic Age. There’s also a cool scientific- and retro-minded museum shop, where you can buy your very own A-bomb fallout shelter sign or biohazard T-shirt.
4. Shop for one-of-a-kind gambling souvenirs
The kitschy age of old-school casinos and the heyday of outrageous theme hotels may be drawing to a close as the Strip’s casino hotels trade their gaudy Egyptian gods and faux European landmarks for more chic – but ultimately boring – high-class luxury.
Fans of Old Vegas can still pick up pieces of these old-school hotels at fun, funky shops such as Gamblers General Store that collect vintage casino souvenirs, from authentic gaming chips to your very own slot machine.
5. Marvel at the avant-garde circus exploits of Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil’s circus shows rule the roost with the Strip’s longest-running spectacular (since 1993). Though founded in Québec, Cirque du Soleil seems tailor-made for Las Vegas, where spectacle is craved above all else. Whimsical multicoloured costumes, high-flying aerial acrobatics and giant-sized taiko drums add up to an electrifying atmosphere, and you can easily get caught up in the heart-pounding shows.
6. Refuel late-night at a retro hideaway Fireside Lounge
When it’s 4am and your feet hurt after shakin’ your booty all night long, where are you gonna go? Escape the other tourists at the Peppermill Casino’s 24hr Fireside Lounge. Hidden away on the North Strip, this pint-sized coffee shop with its candy-bright neon lights and faux flickering fireplaces is a beacon. The psychedelic decor and special-effects water fountains are as distracting as the cocktail waitress’s slinky dress.
7. Let it all hang out in downtown’s historic Glitter Gulch
When you’ve tired of the glitz of the Strip, ride the double-decker Deuce Bus downtown to Fremont St. There you’ll discover the city’s original hurly-burly casino row, nicknamed Glitter Gulch. This old-school gambling ghetto sprang up beside the railroad tracks back in 1905.
Although the downtown gambling halls aren’t glamorous like Vegas’ megaresorts, their proximity to one another is a real plus; you can easily stumble between half a dozen gaming joints here.
8. Make a pilgrimage to Liberace's shrine of kitsch
Known as 'Mr Showmanship', the late, great entertainer Liberace has been honored by the creation of this outrageous museum, located off the Strip. While audiences enjoyed listening to Liberace’s exuberant keyboard artistry, they were also amazed and secretly amused by his outlandish style.
Time your visit to coincide with one of the free guided tours, during which no mention will be made of Liberace’s homosexuality or the more creepily bizarre rumors that he had his lover undergo plastic surgery in order to make him look more like Liberace himself.
9. Laze by the pool all day
Las Vegas’ pop culture of excess also applies to swimming pools. Bikini-clad goddesses proffer frozen grapes at Caesars Palace while the Golden Nugget’s waterslide shoots swimmers through a glass-enclosed shark tank.
The city’s most impressive (guests-only) pool complex at Mandalay Bay even has an artificial beach. Here, surfers can ride on 6ft-high artificial waves, rent a beachfront cabana or private villa to be treated like royalty for a day, or while away the hours gambling at the beachside casino.
10. Indulge in bodily bliss at a modern oasis
Seeking Hawaiian lomilomi, Japanese shiatsu or a Thai massage? Or perhaps a volcanic-mud or banana-leaf body wrap and a coconut-crème exfoliation? Or how about a lotus-flower bath and a soak in signature apothecary elixirs? Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace has everything you desire, and then some. Sweat out your hangover inside the aromatic cedar sauna. Take a dip in the Roman baths. Chill in the arctic room, where dry-ice snowflakes fall. Recline in the exotic tea lounge. In the 'Men’s Zone', bad-boy poker players can get a royal shave or have their sore muscles kneaded like they were victorious gladiators.
Hit the ground running with our latest Las Vegas Encounter guide