From A-list entertainers and big-budget stage shows to celebrity chef fine dining experiences and luxury hotels, pools and casinos to breathtaking canyons, plains, forests and mountains, Las Vegas offers an experience like no other city. Here are some of the best things to do on your next visit.
1. Cruise The Strip
Rolling into Las Vegas (Spanish for "the meadows") behind the wheel as a Sin City first-timer is a classic experience – arrive after dark and approach from the south for maximum "wows" and the iconic Welcome to Las Vegas Sign, then cruise the 4.2-mile section of Las Vegas Blvd between Russell Rd and Sahara Ave, known the world over as "The Strip."
2. See a show
Vegas is synonymous with world-class entertainment. Queen Celine aka Celine Dion, who previously retired, is making a comeback beginning in November 2021, and a host of big-name artists take up residencies here.
The hottest ticket in town, though, remains Cirque du Soleil. Whimsical costumes, aerial acrobatics and synchronized swimming create an electrifying atmosphere. Splash out on the original aquatic spectacular – "O", Chinese martial-arts-inspired "Kà", musical tributes to the Beatles (LOVE), circus spectacular "Mystère".
3. Eat at a celebrity chef's restaurant
In Las Vegas, celebrity chefs share star status with top entertainers, but few casino resorts feature as revered a culinary line-up as Palazzo and Venetian, whose lauded dining rooms include Napa Valley wunderkind Thomas Keller's bistro Bouchon, LA trendsetter Wolfgang Puck's steakhouse Cut, and original Food Network personality Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse (with a Cajun twist).
A selection of more casual offerings, including B&B Burger & Beer and Sushisamba, are accessible even to those who haven’t won big at the tables.
4. Hit the club
In 2011, when Vegas hosted the Electric Daisy Carnival (giant of the EDM world), attendance exceeded 230,000.
Casino operators soon seized a long-sought opportunity to reverse the visitor slump Vegas had endured since the 2008 economic meltdown: the everyday punter didn't have cash to burn on blackjack or risk on slot machines anymore, but wanted to escape the stresses of life more than ever.
5. Hang out at a luxury pool
In the race for the best resort swimming pool in Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay's impressive "beach," featuring 2700 tons of imported southern Californian sand, artificial 6ft-high waves, a "beachfront" casino and a lazy river you can float down before catching a summertime concert under the stars, wins hands down.
But don't let that stop you from attempting to sample every one of Vegas' ubiquitous pool-bars, from MGM Grand's Wet Republic to Encore's ultra-chic Beach Club and Caesars Palace's time-tested Garden of the Gods.
6. Ascend The STRAT
Anchoring The Strip's northern extent, The STRATs glitzy, three-legged tower is the tallest of its kind in the USA. There's no better place to get a bird's-eye perspective on Las Vegas than from this vertical metropolis resembling a flying saucer on a pole.
Ride the country's fastest elevators up to the observation deck (869ft) at sunset or have a cocktail in the slowly revolving 107 SkyLounge. Nighttime is best for the biggest scares on the tower's thrill rides, or be a daredevil in the daylight and do a SkyJump free-fall.
7. See vintage Vegas
This is a town where they tear down perfectly good buildings for no reason. The wrecking balls of The Strip swing ceaselessly, which is precisely why a trip to retro downtown is so satisfying.
Antique neon signs are given pride of place along Fremont St, and old-school casinos like the Golden Nugget and the El Cortez harken back to the Rat Pack era. Don't miss the Neon Museum, where even more Vegas history is lovingly preserved.
8. Bar hop downtown
After cocktails on The Strip have stripped you of some serious cash, head to downtown's buzzing Fremont East Entertainment District. Start at Container Park to browse the stalls with an open container of IPA, chat with tatted-up locals and get your bearings amid trippy industrial art.
From here, happily spill out into the messy late-night bars along Fremont St. First Fridays 'round these parts are local legend: community-arts-festival-turned-street-parties, which give the nearby Arts District a mini-Carnival makeover on…you guessed it…the first Friday of the month.
9. Learn about history at the Springs Preserve
Tired of smoky casinos? Detour from The Strip for a breath of fresh air and a fix of eco-conscious design at this educational museum complex.
The Springs Preserve is situated on the site where now-dry natural springs once fed Las Vegas and where southern Paiutes and Old Spanish Trail traders set up camp.
Family-oriented attractions include the Origen Museum, the Nevada State Museum and the Desert Living Center, plus hiking trails, wildlife viewing, botanic gardens, a healthy-living cafe and a weekly farmers market.
10. Visit the National Atomic Testing Museum
Recalling an era when the word "atomic" conjured modernity and mystery, the Smithsonian-affiliated National Atomic Testing Museum is a testament to the period in US history when the fantastical – and destructive – power of nuclear energy was tested just outside Las Vegas.
After visiting the museum, it's almost possible to imagine 1950s gamblers and tourists picnicking on Downtown casino rooftops while mushroom clouds rose on the horizon. Step down into the deafening Ground Zero Theater, which mimics a concrete test bunker.
11. Catch the views at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
Changing with the seasons, Bellagio’s conservatory displays ostentatious floral arrangements, installed by crane through a soaring 50ft-high ceiling.
12. Enjoy the lights at the Fremont Street Experience
Streaking down the center of Vegas' Glitter Gulch historical district Downtown, this five-block pedestrian mall is lined with old-school casinos and topped by an arched steel canopy.
Hourly from dusk until midnight, the 1400ft-long canopy turns on a six-minute light-and-sound show. The shows are ridiculously cheesy but mesmerizing if you're drunk.
It's even more exhilarating if you happen to be zooming by on the zip-line cables attached to the 12-story Slotzilla, a slot-machine-themed platform at the mall's eastern end.
13. See the exotic Flamingo Wildlife Habitat
Slip away from the madness inside the Flamingo’s wildlife habitat, out back behind the casino. Over a dozen acres of pools, gardens, waterfalls and waterways are filled with swans, exotic birds and ornamental koi (carp).
Here, Chilean flamingos and African penguins wander around, and palm trees and jungle plants flourish in the middle of the desert. Glimpse pink feathers at the Tropicana (attached to birds, not an exotic dancer).
14. Explore nature at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Just a short drive (13 miles) from The Strip, Red Rock's dramatic vistas are revered by Las Vegas locals and adored by visitors from around the world.
Formed by extreme tectonic forces, it's thought the canyon, whose 3000ft red rock escarpment rises sharply from the valley floor, was formed around 65 million years ago.
A 13-mile, one-way scenic loop drive offers mesmerizing vistas of the canyon's most striking features. Hiking trails and rock-climbing routes radiate from roadside parking areas.
15. Visit the Mob Museum
It's hard to say what's more impressive: the museum's physical location in a historic federal courthouse where mobsters sat for federal hearings in 1950–51, the fact that the board of directors is headed up by a former FBI special agent, or the thoughtfully curated exhibits telling the story of organized crime in America.
The museum features hands-on FBI equipment and mob-related artifacts, as well as interviews with real-life Tony Sopranos.
16. See a ballgame at the Las Vegas Ballpark
The boys from Las Vegas' very own minor league team – the Aviators – hit fastballs here during the summer months, aiming for the Spring Mountains visible beyond the stadium.
17. Take a Vegas Balloon Ride
Soar above West Las Vegas, with The Strip on one hand and Red Rock Canyon on the other with a one-of-a-kind balloon ride.