Las Vegas Nevada Travel Guide | AAA.com
 
 
 
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Las Vegas
With its neon flashin' and one-armed bandits crashin', this bright light city is bound to set your soul on fire. Gambling. Glitter. Sexy entertainment. Outstanding restaurants. Swanky shops. Nightclubs galore. It's all here in a 24/7 desert bacchanalia that on occasion makes Dionysus and his pals come...
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Introduction
With its neon flashin' and one-armed bandits crashin', this bright light city is bound to set your soul on fire. Gambling. Glitter. Sexy entertainment. Gourmet restaurants. Swanky shops. Nightclubs galore. It's all here in a 24/7 desert bacchanalia that on occasion makes Dionysus and his pals come off like amateurs. And when the tumblin' dice reward you with stacks of chips that are oh so nice, you'll sing “Viva Las Vegas!”

Vegas is constantly reinventing itself, discarding the old and donning the new. The King swivel-hipped his way out of the building long ago, of course. Liberace is gone. So are Siegfried & Roy. And the storied casinos of Sin City's '60s and '70s heyday have been dropping like flies lately. The latest casualty is the Riviera hotel, a favorite haunt of the Rat Pack and a filming location for movies ranging from the original "Ocean's 11" to Martin Scorsese's "Casino." After a 60-year run the hotel closed its doors for good in 2015 to make way for a future expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.


Prior to "The Riv" biting the dust a different approach was taken with the legendary Sahara hotel, shuttered in 2011. Instead of a date with dynamite, the old girl's bones were dolled-up and reanimated as the glitzy SLS Las Vegas resort. Unlike the 1990s when old casinos were being demolished left and right, remodeling and repurposing make financial sense in today's tough economy.

Witness the gentrification of downtown's Fremont East District. Less than 10 years ago the sketchy corner of Fremont and 6th streets was no man's land, frequented only by the most dedicated of budget gamblers playing at the vintage El Cortez casino. Nowadays the intersection is crammed with old buildings-turned-nightspots. Steps away, hipster-geared shops and eateries inhabit the metal, cargo-shipping bins of the Downtown Container Park. UNLV college students and adventurous tourists have largely replaced the shady-looking street urchins who once plagued the area.

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Though increasingly hard to find, the gloriously gaudy legacy of Vegas' golden years lives on. Stroll down the famed Strip and behold the finely aged Vegas cheese that is Caesars Palace. Hungry for more? Sit down to an old-school Italian dinner at a restaurant like Piero's or Battista's Hole in The Wall. On the flip side, the Cosmopolitan hotel, which opened in 2010 and eschews the vintage, tacky-fabulous aesthetic in favor of contemporary swank, is the place to see packs of celebutante wannabes strutting through the casino in bejeweled Manolo Blahniks.


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What else is new? For starters, there's the High Roller observation wheel. The world's tallest Ferris wheel, it soars 550 feet into the Vegas sky and anchors the rear of the Strip's LINQ shopping/entertainment promenade. Next door, the ghastly old Imperial Palace property has been gussied up and turned into The LINQ resort. The Westgate Las Vegas resort (for decades known as the Hilton), in the midst of a top-to-bottom makeover, opened an impressive new Elvis Presley museum in 2015.


On the not-so-distant horizon? Continuing to take shape between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts, the Park is an outdoor shopping/dining/entertainment plaza that's slated to open in April 2016. Its centerpiece will be a new 20,000-seat indoor concert and sports venue.

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It's fantastically over the top, this town. Imagine seeing the Statue of Liberty, a lava-spewing volcano, a sphinx, drive-through wedding chapels, Canadian acrobats, gaggles of wild-eyed gamblers and mountains of all-you-can-eat shrimp—on one street. That's Vegas, baby. But don't stop at the Strip. Make a date with Lady Luck and meet her downtown on Fremont Street for a taste of the original 24-Hour Town.


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As for the finer things in life, there's no shortage of AAA Four and Five Diamond hotels and restaurants. If you can manage to tear yourself away from the video poker machine, there are outstanding museums, thrill rides and natural wonders to experience as well. Pace yourself. And remember that whatever happens here, stays here.


In Depth
“Buy the ticket. Take the ride.” These words of wisdom are courtesy of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who came to Las Vegas in search of the American Dream. Welcome to a place where sensory stimulation trumps a meaningful travel experience—and a royal flush beats all. Like the four dudes in the raunchy comedy “The Hangover,” you're here to have fun, plain and simple. And don't try to analyze it because there simply is no rational explanation for a faux pyramid visible from outer space.

Over-the-top eye candy is Vegas' stock in trade. The world-famous Strip, a mere 4-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, is a glittery make-believe mini universe replete with a replica Brooklyn Bridge, dancing Italian fountains, a lava-spewing volcano and an Arthurian castle.


Colorful enough by day, the Strip becomes a phantasmagoria of blazing neon and LED signage once the sun goes down. A constant cross-section of humanity shuffles up and down the sidewalks, wandering (and often stumbling) in and out of casinos where dice tumble and wheels 'n reels spin to a soundtrack of joyous victory shouts, gone-bust groans and a background cacophony of slot machine beeps, blips and pings.

Although children and non-gamblers will find plenty of fun, it is the over-21 visitor—preferably with money to burn at the blackjack table—Vegas seeks to attract. The “City Without Clocks” tends to throw the body's natural rhythms for a loop; you may find yourself doubling down at 4 a.m., crashing hard at noon and eating pancakes for dinner. That's OK. Vegas doesn't judge. For a few days it allows you to escape the boss and the bills and be whomever you want to be.

Was it always this way? Hardly. “The Strip” was born with the opening of the El Rancho Vegas hotel in 1941. Things really took off when Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel's Pink Flamingo Hotel & Casino opened its doors 5 years later. Strip resorts—in contrast to downtown casinos like Binion's Horseshoe and the Four Queens—were more like stylish Hollywood clubs than rough-and-tumble gambling halls. Tourists arrived in droves to pull the slots and see the Chairman of the Board at the Sands.


Of course the swinging '60s Rat Pack era is long gone as are the days when the Mafia pulled strings. It was developer extraordinaire Steve Wynn who paved the way for the corporations that control the city to this day. In 1989 The Mirage set a new standard for lavishness and swept away the '80s doldrums while ushering in an age of contemporary megaresorts. Along with sleek towers, cartoonish architecture began springing up along the Strip. Exit Liberace. Enter Cirque du Soleil.

In 2015, another vestige of Vegas' past bit the dust when the circa 1955 Riviera Hotel closed to make way for a major expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center. City boosters hope it will help reenergize the struggling North Strip area, which recently saw the opening of the swank SLS Las Vegas (formerly the Sahara hotel), the City of Rock outdoor concert venue and the groundbreaking on Asian-themed Resorts World Las Vegas, a $4-billion hotel/casino slated to open in 2018.

In 2016 a new South Strip entertainment/dining promenade between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo resorts will be completed—its centerpiece a 20,000-seat indoor arena for concerts, sports and other events. Only time will tell if these projects become long-term success stories.


 
About the City


City Population
583,756

Elevation
2,181 ft.

Money


Sales Tax
Clark County's sales tax is 8.1 percent. The county also imposes a 12 percent tax on lodgings, with an additional 1 percent tax for properties within the city of Las Vegas boundaries.

Whom To Call


Emergency
911

Police (non-emergency)
311, or (702) 828-3111 (also valid for TTY)

Fire (non-emergency)
(702) 383-2888

Temperature
(702) 736-4800

Time
(775) 782-3456

Hospitals
Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center, (702) 733-8800; Mountainview Hospital, (702) 255-5000; Spring Valley Hospital Medical Center, (702) 853-3000; Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, (702) 731-8000; University Medical Center, (702) 383-2000; Valley Hospital Medical Center, (702) 388-4000.

Where To Look and Listen


Newspapers
Las Vegas has two daily newspapers, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Sun, which have independent staffs but are distributed together. Check the daily events section for current entertainment offerings.

Radio
Las Vegas radio station KDWN (720 AM) is an all-news/weather station; KNPR (88.9 FM) is a member of National Public Radio.

Visitor Information

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

3150 Paradise Rd. LAS VEGAS, NV 89109. Phone:(702)892-0711 or (877)847-4858


Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce

575 Symphony Park Ave. Suite 100 LAS VEGAS, NV 89106. Phone:(702)641-5822


Transportation


Air Travel
McCarran International Airport (LAS) is about 5 miles south of downtown Las Vegas via Las Vegas Boulevard and 3.5 miles south of the Las Vegas Convention Center via Paradise Road, just a few minutes' drive from the Strip's southern end. One of the nation's busiest airports, it serves most major airlines.

Rental Cars
Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (702) 262-7700 for the airport, (800) 654-3131 for the Strip.

Buses
Greyhound Lines Inc., 200 S. Main St., is the major bus company serving Las Vegas; phone (702) 384-9561.

Taxis
Major cab companies include Ace, (702) 888-4888; Checker/Yellow Cab/Star, (702) 873-8012; and Whittlesea Blue Cab, (702) 384-6111. Base fare is $3.45 for the first mile and $2.68 for each additional mile, plus 54 cents for every minute the cab is traveling under 8 to 12 mph. Trips to the airport incur a $2 surcharge. Payment by credit card incurs a fee of $3.

Limousine service averages $40-$125 per hour; other fees may include an airport pick-up charge and/or a fuel surcharge. Licensed limousine services include AWG Ambassador, (702) 740-3450; Bell Trans, (702) 739-7990; and Presidential Limousine, (702) 438-5466.

Public Transportation
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) provides bus service to most parts of the city. The most useful to visitors are the Deuce double-decker buses serving the Strip. The buses operate 24 hours daily, run every 7-10 minutes and stop at nearly every Strip hotel property.

The Las Vegas Monorail operates Mon. 7 a.m.-12 a.m., Tues.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-2 a.m., Fri.-Sun. 7 a.m.-3 a.m., serving a 4-mile stretch of the Strip as well as the convention center.

 
Visitor Information

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

3150 Paradise Rd. LAS VEGAS, NV 89109. Phone:(702)892-0711 or (877)847-4858


 
Getting There


By Car
The major route into Las Vegas is I-15, which passes through the city from southern California to Arizona and Utah. On Fridays and Sundays, traffic on I-15 between southern California and Vegas can be downright maddening; it's best to hit the road early. Other routes are US 95 from the northwest, which becomes the Las Vegas Expressway in the downtown area, and US 93/95 from the southeast.

Travelers from California should be prepared for desert driving, regardless of their departure point. Basic precautions include making certain that the car's engine and cooling system are working well, tires are inflated properly and the gas tank is filled adequately. It always is prudent to carry extra coolant or water in case of overheating.

Air Travel
McCarran International Airport (LAS) is about 5 miles south of downtown Las Vegas via Las Vegas Boulevard and 3.5 miles south of the Las Vegas Convention Center via Paradise Road, just a few minutes' drive from the Strip's southern end.

Vegas can't wait to make you rich, evidenced by the host of slots and poker machines scattered throughout two terminals. On the west side of the airport is the older of the two terminals, T1. On McCarran's eastern side is the spacious, new T3, added in 2012 at a cost of $2.4 billion.

T1 handles most domestic flights, while T3 hosts all international carriers and a handful of domestic airlines, notably JetBlue, United and Virgin.

Exiting either T1 or T3, you'll see the taxi stands. During prime arrival times (Thursday evenings and all day Friday) the wait for a cab can be painfully long, especially at the busier T1. If you're the impatient type, it's best to book private transportation in advance. And if you're carrying a serious wad of cash there are town cars and limos for hire ready to whisk you away without delay.

Lucky for you, McCarran has a separate, dedicated Rent-a-Car Center. Not so much fun: the off-site center is 3 miles from the airport. Upon exiting the baggage claim doors, any of the blue-and-white Rent-a-Car Center shuttles, which run every 5 minutes, will take you there (check airport signs for exact boarding locations).

Entering the rental center, to your immediate right is the Hertz desk. Most of the other companies are along the back wall. Driving out of the center, you'll find easy access to I-215, I-15 and Las Vegas Boulevard.

Upon departure, return your wheels to the Rent-a-Car Center, 7135 Gilespie St., where you'll hop a shuttle back to the airport. Don't forget to factor in the extra time when deciding what time to leave your hotel.

Cab fare to the Strip hotels varies depending on traffic, route taken and which terminal you're departing from (T3 departures cost a few dollars more than T1), but in general, plan on $20-$25 to Tropicana Avenue (Mandalay Bay, Luxor Hotel and Casino, MGM Grand, Excalibur, the Tropicana and New York-New York); $22-$30 between Flamingo Road and Sahara Avenue (Bellagio, The Cosmopolitan, CityCenter, Caesars Palace, The Mirage, The Palazzo, Encore Las Vegas, the Venetian, the Stratosphere); and $35 and up to the downtown area. Signs posted at all airport taxi stands provide estimated fares and trip times to individual hotels.

The airport's primary, ground transportation contractor is Airline Shuttle Corp., which has booths outside both T1 and T3. One-way, shared shuttle transportation to Strip hotels is $9 per person; $10 to reach downtown properties. The company also offers private transportation via town cars, SUVs and limos for $63-$69 per hour. Reservations for shuttles are not necessary. But if you're interested in a private luxury ride, it's wise to book in advance; phone (702) 444-1234.

Offering similar service and rates is Bell Trans, located just outside T3's Door 9; phone (702) 739-7990 or (800) 274-7433.

Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (702) 736-7700 for the airport, (800) 654-3131 for the Strip.

 
Getting Around


Street System
Las Vegas is fairly compact, and even first-time visitors will have no trouble finding their way around. The two main areas of interest for visitors are the Strip and downtown (also known as Glitter Gulch and Casino Center).

Las Vegas Boulevard parallels I-15 and is the main north-south thoroughfare. Fremont Street downtown is the dividing line for Las Vegas Boulevard North and Las Vegas Boulevard South addresses. The part of the boulevard constituting the Strip extends from Sahara Avenue south to Hacienda Avenue. All of the big resort hotels are along this 4-mile stretch.

Downtown, anchored by Fremont Street, is the original hotel/casino area. Almost everything tourist oriented is located along Fremont between Main Street and Las Vegas Boulevard, or a few blocks to the north or south.

Paradise Road and Maryland Parkway are major north-south arteries east of the Strip. The area around the Las Vegas Convention Center, at Paradise and Desert Inn roads, is the location of the Las Vegas Country Club and several big hotels, notably The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton). The University of Nevada Las Vegas campus sits between Paradise Road and Maryland Parkway, a short distance north of the airport.

The main east-west thoroughfares south of Fremont Street (in geographic order from north to south) are Charleston Boulevard, Sahara Avenue, Desert Inn Road, Spring Mountain Road/Sands Avenue, Flamingo Road and Tropicana Avenue. Residential subdivisions spread east, west and north of Las Vegas' core commercial area, bounded roughly east and west by Maryland Parkway and the Strip and north and south by SR 93/95/I-515 and the airport.

Although distances are fairly short between any two points in greater Las Vegas, traffic is often heavy on I-15, Flamingo Road, Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. The Strip is frequently bumper to bumper—especially at night—and crawling with pedestrians. Avoid driving on the Strip if possible; Frank Sinatra Drive, Koval Lane and Paradise Road are good alternatives.

Note: Just when locals and tourists thought years of I-15 freeway construction were nearing an end, early 2016 will usher in the first phases of "Project Neon." The initial phase, expected to take at least 5 years, will widen I-15 between Sahara Ave. and downtown's I-15/US 95 "Spaghetti Bowl" interchange, and also add new express lanes and on/off ramps. Construction-related traffic and detours will impact those traveling the freeway between downtown and the north Strip. Unfortunately, the alternate surface street situation won't be much better as a Main Street construction/beautification project will continue through the end of 2016. In the interim, your best bet for travel between the north Strip and downtown is Las Vegas Boulevard.

Parking
Parking is rarely a problem in Las Vegas, as most of the hotels provide free guest, valet and customer parking. Valet parking is a boon in a city where temperatures routinely top 100 F in the summer and the walk from an outer parking lot to the hotel's front door can take 10 minutes. The standard valet tip is $4 or $5; add a buck or two at high-end properties. If you have restaurant or show reservations, keep in mind that valet parking lots sometimes fill up.

Several downtown hotel and commercial garages are open 24 hours; rates average from $2-$4 per hour, usually with a maximum charge of $10-$12 for the entire day. Check hours of operation, as some of the smaller independent lots close at midnight. If you're staying on the Strip and want to visit the downtown area, it's much easier to use public transportation to get there.

Public Transportation
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) provides bus service to most parts of the city. The most useful to visitors are the Deuce double-decker buses serving the Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard). The buses operate 24 hours daily, run every 7-10 minutes and stop at nearly every Strip hotel property. The fare is $6 for a 2-hour pass or $8 for a 24-hour unlimited on/off access pass. Exact change is required when paying your fare aboard the bus. A handful of stops along the Strip offer curbside, self-serve ticket kiosks that accept credit and debit cards as well as cash (no change is provided).

Buses serve many other Las Vegas routes from roughly 5 a.m.-1:30 a.m.; one-way fares are $2-$5. For schedule, route and detailed fare information phone (702) 228-7433 or (800) 228-3911.

The Las Vegas Monorail operates Mon. 7 a.m.-midnight, Tues.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-2 a.m., Fri.-Sun. 7 a.m.-3 a.m., serving a 4-mile stretch of the Strip from the MGM Grand to the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (formerly the Sahara hotel) as well as the convention center.

Be aware that most of the monorail stations are located at the very rear of the hotel properties and riders must often walk long distances to reach the various front-of-house casino floors, restaurants and entertainment venues. If you're running late for dinner or a show, a taxi is usually faster. The monorail fare is $5 per single ride, $12 for a 1-day pass, $22 for a 2-day pass or $28 for a 3-day pass; self-serve ticket kiosks accept cash and credit cards. Phone (702) 699-8200 for general information.

Three trams provide free transportation on the west side of the Strip. An elevated train operates daily 8 a.m.-4 a.m. between the Monte Carlo and Bellagio, with a stop in between at CityCenter. Farther north, The Mirage-Treasure Island tram operates Sun.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Linking Excalibur, Luxor and Mandalay Bay, the third tram operates daily 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Note: Southbound trams do not stop at the Luxor.


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Essentials
• The massive Vegas Strip hotels look positively Lilliputian from the top of the Stratosphere Tower (2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S.), the tallest freestanding tower in the U.S. If your stomach's made of steel, take a spin on the tower-top Insanity—The Ride.

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• Vegas also has the tallest observation wheel in the world. Spend a half-hour riding the High Roller (3545 Las Vegas Blvd. S.).


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• The “Ocean's Eleven” crew celebrated its successful Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) heist in front of the resort's dancing fountains—a signature Strip spectacle choreographed to lights and music. After “Luck Be a Lady” ends with a splash, head inside to smell the flowers at the Bellagio Conservatory, a botanical display that changes its whimsical theme with the seasons and often takes a Lewis Carroll-esque turn down the rabbit hole.


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CityCenter Las Vegas (3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) brings contemporary architecture to the often-cartoonish Strip. Aesthetically speaking, this complex of buildings (three hotels and an exclusive residential tower) couldn't be further from outlandish Arthurian castles and chlorinated Venetian canals. Wander through crazy-expensive The Shops at Crystals mall and sleek ARIA Resort & Casino (3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) and decide for yourself if that's a good thing.


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• The original heart of town beats under a 90-foot-high canopy embedded with 12.5 million LED lights. Fremont Street Experience (425 Fremont St.) shows feature eye-popping animation synchronized to music (tunes range from the Doors to Dean Martin) and run nightly on the hour from dusk to midnight.


• Everything from all-you-can-eat crab legs to Middle Eastern barbecue to cheesecake will threaten that taut belly at a Vegas buffet. At the gourmet high end ($40 and up) are the super spreads at the Wynn Las Vegas (3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.), Caesars Palace and Bellagio.

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• In the 1960s, mile-high marquee letters spelled out names like Sinatra, Liberace and Newton. Nowadays high-tech production shows rule the Strip. If you can't score seats for Cirque du Soleil's “The Beatles LOVE” show at The Mirage (3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S.), try “Zumanity” at New York-New York (3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) or “Mystère” at Treasure Island Hotel & Casino (3300 Las Vegas Blvd. S.).


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• Hit the casinos and roll the bones, lay chips on double-zeros or put big money on a football game. Las Vegas will thank you—or perhaps wish you'd never come to town. The downtown joints offer lower minimum bets and slightly better payout rates. If you want the full Strip casino experience, try the plush gaming floor at Encore Las Vegas (3121 Las Vegas Blvd. S.).


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• Jackpots come in handy at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop (713 Las Vegas Blvd. S.), the once-anonymous establishment that's become a Vegas shopping sensation since “Pawn Stars” premiered on the History Channel. Fans will likely recognize some of the merchandise—from Civil War muskets to Muhammad Ali memorabilia—the “stars” have bought from customers.


• Revisit the days of Vegas wise guys, and the Feds lookin' to “pinch” them, at The Mob Museum, National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement (300 Stewart Ave.).

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• Pull a little black dress or designer dress shirt off the boutique rack and strut your stuff at a Strip nightclub. Tao at The Venetian (3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) and XS at Encore Las Vegas are currently hot. And there's always the chance you'll see a celebutante behaving scandalously.


• Check out the Strip's free entertainment. The 50-foot-high faux volcano in front of The Mirage erupts nightly on the hour from 6 to 11.

• Perhaps the most essential of all Sin City experiences is simply walking down the Las Vegas Strip at night and feasting your eyes on what is arguably the most dazzling display of neon and LED lights on the planet.



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Restaurants
Our favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.

Las Vegas has come a long, long way from the heyday of bargain shrimp cocktails and all-you-can-eat buffets. While those fabled buffets will always be around—and they remain justifiably popular—more than ever the city is a hot spot for global cuisine and the cutting-edge talents of world-renowned chefs. It's heaven for foodies as well as those with money to burn. And not surprisingly, the Strip is the heart of this sophisticated dining scene.


Andre's at the Monte Carlo, in the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino, exudes elegance from its floor-to-ceiling glass entrance doors to the expansive wine bar, three upstairs private dining rooms and a cigar lounge offering an impressive range of Cognacs and after dinner drinks. The main dining room has romantic candlelit tables dressed in white linen and set with sterling silver and Limoges china. Such refinement extends to the dinner menu overseen by chef de cuisine André Rochat. From exquisite appetizers—bison carpaccio or foie gras terrine served with brioche—to entrees like Maine lobster thermidor with broccolini, white mushrooms, tarragon and a brandied cream sauce, Andre's offers a memorable fine dining experience. A wine list offering more than 1,500 selections is drawn from the restaurant's award-winning, 12,000-bottle cellar.

If you happen to get really lucky at the gaming tables, take our advice: Quit while you're ahead, cash out, dress to the nines (you did pack at least one dressy outfit, didn't you?) and repair to Joël Robuchon for a sumptuous celebration. The French restaurant at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino is traditional in every way. Robuchon, anointed France's “chef of the century” by none other than the esteemed Gault Millau restaurant guide, came out of retirement to open his first restaurant in the United States. One taste of specialties like Le Caviar—a trio of couscous and Oscetra caviar, cauliflower cream and a king crab and crustacean gelée—and you know you're not eating in a casino coffee shop. You could order a la carte, but one of the multi-course tasting menus is the best way to savor creations like truffle langoustine ravioli or French hen with roasted foie gras and confit potatoes. Seating is limited, and reservations are strongly recommended.

Long a standard for Big Apple fine dining, Le Cirque also pitches its vibrantly colorful, swooping silk-dome tent at the Bellagio. The Maccioni family's attention to detail is what allows this sophisticated restaurant to push the sensory envelope, and it doesn't hurt that diners also have a prime view of Lago di Bellagio's lovely dancing fountains.

Fine dining with an American accent prevails at Aureole, in the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. The Vegas outpost of critically acclaimed chef Charlie Palmer's New York restaurant upholds the same high standards. The decor has a theatrical flair: swans, gorgeous flower arrangements and “angels” flying through the restaurant's wine tower. Aureole's onion soup is deliciously on point—beef consommé with onions, foie gras and truffles topped with Gruyère cheese puff pastry. Main courses like a simply rare Ahi tuna with diver sea scallops or roasted Jidori chicken are gussied up with exquisite sides. For dessert, you'd be crazy to pass on the orange cream semi-freddo flambé.

Ensconced on the 51st floor of the Fantasy Tower at Palms Casino Resort, Nove Italiano blends classic Italian cuisine with an ultra-contemporary design. The restaurant's sexy lounge has a curtain of hand-strung crystals, while the dining room, illuminated by Swarovski chandeliers, features white plasma TV screens in gilded frames that display electronic art. But the food is comfortingly familiar. Antipasti selections include ribeye beef carpaccio and shrimp Francaise touted as “the best you've ever had.” Veal Nove is simply prepared with prosciutto, arugula and lemon and grilled fish is served whole with salsa verde.

Picasso, named for the artist's original paintings and ceramic pieces that grace this charming restaurant in Bellagio, has the feel of an outdoor market: lakeside location, abundance of fresh flowers and view of the hotel's signature fountain. Executive chef Julian Serrano's cuisine is inspired by the regional dishes of both France and Spain, and it changes daily depending on what's seasonally available. Choose from either a five-course degustation or a four-course prix fixe menu. Serrano's deft hand is evident in such dishes as warm quail salad with artichokes and pine nuts and a tournedo loin of lamb with pisto, tempura zucchini flowers and mint aioli. Even cheesecake is elevated to lofty culinary heights, adorned with blackberry and Earl Grey latte sherbet and bergamot pate de fruit. In a word, yum.

If you can use some exotic booze, slip into the bar at Sinatra, in the Encore Las Vegas , and order the signature Sinatra Smash cocktail-a “koo-koo” concoction of Gentleman Jack, muddled blackberries and vanilla syrup over crushed ice. Sliding over to the classy restaurant, the best is yet to come. Chef Theo Schoenegger flies you to the moon with knock-out appetizers (Frank's clams Posillipo) and mains like osso buco “My Way.” The menu prices wouldn't faze Ol' Blue Eyes, but some of us “bums” will go into cardiac arrest at the sight of $50 entrees. Don't miss the Chairman's genuine “From Here to Eternity” Oscar trophy, on display near the hostess stand.

The Cosmopolitan houses an enviable collection of restaurants. Among the dozen or so establishments you'll find a hip sushi bar, the requisite high-end steakhouse and the gourmet burger restaurant Holsteins . But one eatery you won't see on the casino directory is what's known as the “Secret Pizzeria.” To find it, head up to Cosmo's third level. Directly across from the escalators is what appears to be an employee service hallway. The unsigned passageway, lined with old Italian record album covers, leads to a tiny, brightly lit pizza joint with a half-dozen stools, a pinball machine and blasting rock music. Tasty, thin-crust slices go for $5 to $6. Wash a couple down with a soda or beer and you're out the door for under $15—a relative Strip bargain.

Nowadays it's no secret Vegas has become a magnet for celebrity TV chefs. In the mid-90s, Emeril Lagasse opened his first Sin City restaurant at MGM Grand, paving the way for a host of TV cooks looking to capitalize on their household names. "Iron Chef" Bobby Flay has two restaurants on the Strip. Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill (in Caesars Palace) serves chichi Southwestern cuisine at sky-high prices, while casual Bobby's Burger Palace (next to the CityCenter complex) does excellent gourmet hamburgers that won't bust your budget. Not to be outdone, Gordon Ramsay BurGR finds the foul-mouthed British chef grilling top-notch patties at Planet Hollywood. Ramsay's name also draws fans to his wonderful steakhouse at Paris Las Vegas and English-style pub at Caesars Palace. New to town, Italian cuisine queen Giada De Laurentiis recently opened her first-ever restaurant at The Cromwell (formerly Bill's Gamblin' Hall). A few doors down at The LINQ hotel, Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen & Bar is banking his Food Network fame translates into beaucoup business. As for Lagasse, he's still king of the Strip with a total of four eateries. You can't go wrong with his Delmonico Steakhouse at the Venetian.

Hexx Kitchen + Bar, in front of Paris Las Vegas, is a cafe, chocolate lounge and candy store all rolled into one. Always open, the restaurant serves up comfort food for breakfast, lunch and dinner well enough, but the real stars here are the desserts. Appease your sweet tooth with a visit to the chocolate mousse bar, a red velvet sundae or perhaps a pound of retro candies from the bulk candy bins. This also is the spot to indulge in chocolate, specifically the "bean-to-bar" chocolate made on site.

Vegas hasn't completely forsaken its cheap steak dinner, 24-hour coffee shop roots in pursuit of celebrity chefs and glittering elegance. Schlep on over to the Coffee Pub, which—unlike many of the hotel restaurants that are only open for dinner—serves only breakfast and lunch. This casual, California-style cafe has a basic menu of salads, sandwiches, wraps and breakfast items that are decent enough to draw a regular crowd. Along with that all-important morning jolt of java, the Big Wally omelet—stuffed with cream cheese, sundried tomatoes and scallions—will (depending on the circumstance) help cure a hangover or get your day off to a well-fueled start. Also earning high marks are the smoothies (Peach Pizazz, Strawberry Bear and other refreshing flavors) and the frozen coffee drinks, just the thing to take with you if the weather's sizzling.

Although old Vegas is rapidly disappearing, some outposts remain. Battista's Hole in the Wall is one of them. Celebrity photos plastering the walls tell the story—Betty Grable, Johnny Weissmuller, Clint Eastwood, Ed Sullivan and Robert Redford are just a few of the stars who have broken bread here. This family owned and operated joint is old school all the way, right down to the roving accordion player. And dinner is a deal; it includes minestrone soup or an Italian salad, garlic bread, a side of pasta, a homemade cappuccino and all the red or white house wine you can handle. You can't really go wrong with something like cheese manicotti, sausage cacciatore or steak pizzaiola; pony up a few more bucks and dig into veal piccante or garlic butter shrimp. Is Battista's a fun place? Fahgeddaboutit.

Another longtime watering hole (it's been around since 1958) is the Golden Steer. The wood-paneled walls, red leather booths, waiters in formal wear and fishbowl-size martinis epitomize old-school Vegas, and indeed this was a Rat Pack hangout. It's a steakhouse that also serves Italian mainstays like chicken parmigiana and veal Francaise (dipped in egg batter and then sautéed in butter with artichokes and lemon). The steaks—from a petite filet mignon to the 24-ounce prime rib—aren't the best in Vegas, but they're still darn good. Finish in grand style with bananas Foster, prepared tableside. Some of the servers have been here for decades, and their polish and professionalism shows.

Vegas buffets are the stuff of gluttonous legend. And if you only have the stomach space to try one, get your grub on at Bacchanal Buffet, a Caesars Palace mega spread that's top of the line in both quality and price (dinner runs north of $50). Plate in hand, you'll belly-up to hot food stations dishing up outrageously tender brisket, prime rib, red velvet pancakes, sausage, slabs of bacon, fried chicken and waffles, lasagna, Wagyu beef sliders, pizza, tacos, burritos, chile verde stew, burgers, Japanese curry, dim sum, lobster chowder and even Chicago-style mini hot dogs. On the cold side you'll find a salad bar, chilled king crab legs, oyster shooters, sushi and a bounty of Italian antipasti. The only spot where Bacchanal could stand improvement is the dessert island. Everything—from a rainbow of ice cream flavors to an avalanche of cakes, pies and cookies—looks fantastic. But we've been less than impressed; at these prices, bone-dry carrot cake is unforgivable. Tip: Try to visit at off-peak times. The line for this feast can be insane.

Don't let the location—an industrial park in Summerlin, a West Las Vegas neighborhood—fool you; the Vintner Grill is seriously chic. The focal point of this casually elegant American bistro is a strikingly designed outdoor patio sheltered by two large canopies and furnished with custom-made couches and drapery. It's a setting in which to savor executive chef Matthew Silverman's menu, which features killer appetizers like white bean hummus with a spicy olive relish and a rotating selection of entrees that take full advantage of seasonal ingredients. Chocolatier Vosges Haut-Chocolat provides the divine and decadent desserts, and they are not to be missed. No less an authority than the Food Network's Rachael Ray gives this place a rave.

Thai lovers can thank Lady Luck, because Lotus of Siam has what many consider to be the best Thai food in Las Vegas. It doesn't look like much from the outside—an unassuming strip center storefront along a stretch of Sahara Avenue littered with commercial sprawl—and the interior is an odd combination of upscale wine bar and down-home Asian restaurant. It's the food that takes center stage here. The menu is huge but dishes are numbered, so first-timers can point to what they want. Tom kha kai is a richly flavored soup full of tender chicken, vegetables and herbs in a coconut-laced broth. Papaya salad has a fiery chile kick. Garlic prawns, duck curry and mango sticky rice are all savory examples of Thai cookery. Be forewarned that spice levels (which range from 1 to 10) are incendiary at the upper end, so order accordingly or you might find yourself repeatedly draining your water glass.

In the mood for more familiar Asian food? Judging by all the $25 Kung Pao chicken and $35 Mongolian beef entrées you'll find on the Strip, there must be an unwritten Vegas law requiring every major casino resort have an ultra-chic Chinese restaurant. Fear not, penny-pinching wonton fanatics, here are a few tasty exceptions. Ping Pang Pong, in the off-Strip Gold Coast Hotel & Casino (across the street from the Palms Casino Resort), may have a silly name, but the standards (pot stickers, tiger prawns, gobo beef, etc.) are done well, and the dim sum is some of the city's best. Another good sign this wallet-friendly grub is worthy? For the most part, you'll be dining alongside local Asian families. Over on the Strip at The Venetian Las Vegas, leave the excellent yet pricey Tao-Asian Bistro to the nightclubbing crowd and head for Noodle Asia, a casual spot next to the casino's sports book. Order the scrumptious spring rolls, a steaming bowl of Szechwan beef soup and a frosty Tsingtao beer, and you'll still have coin left over for the blackjack tables.

Year after year, local newspapers polls rank Lindo Michoacán the best sit-down Mexican restaurant in Vegas. Family recipes fill the huge menu, which has everything from burritos and tacos (the al pastor is very good) to south-of-the-border seafood specialties and dishes incorporating lengua (beef tongue). The tortillas are freshly made, the margaritas pack a nice punch and there's a wicked-hot salsa for heat freaks. Prices aren't dirt cheap, but still a welcome relief from the high meal tabs at the resorts. The original Lindo is on Desert Inn Road a few miles east of the Strip (free shuttle service is provided if you make reservations). For a knockout view to go along with your carne asada nachos try the La Loma location, high on a hilltop in the suburb of Henderson.

Downtown on Fremont Street, duck into the historic Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, birthplace of a Vegas classic: the 99-cent shrimp cocktail. Though the price of “The Best Tail in Town” has shot up from 99 cents to $3.99, some things never change. It's still served in a “tulip” sundae glass, swimming in a secret recipe cocktail sauce and garnished with a wedge of lemon. While the casino's original Shrimp Bar & Deli disappeared during a recent renovation, the cheapskate treat is still available at the hotel's Du-Par's Restaurant and Bakery . Light, fluffy hot-off-the-griddle pancakes are the specialty at the Vegas branch of this longtime Los Angeles breakfast favorite. The scene is pure old-school coffee shop: red naugahyde booths, black-and-white checkered floor tiles and waitresses who call you “sugar.”

Across the street at downtown's Plaza Las Vegas hotel, former city mayor and once-upon-a-time Mafia attorney Oscar Goodman won't win any feminist fans with the name of his pricey steakhouse, Oscar's Beef-Booze-Broads. Despite the gimmicky name, Oscar's boasts what is arguably the best dining view in downtown (its only real competition is the Top of Binion's Steakhouse). In a classy, glass-dome dining room fronting the hotel, you'll feast on primo steak (the filet mignon and New York strip are tops) as you gaze at the glittering lights of Fremont Street. As for the "broads," they're dolled-up hostesses who make the table rounds and ask if you're enjoying the evening. Which, of course, you are.

See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.



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Attractions
In a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”

In most cities hotels are where you get some shut-eye after a day of visiting attractions. In Vegas, the hotels are attractions and contain everything from shark aquariums to wax museums. So in addition to gambling (Sin City's primary reason for being) you'll find plenty to keep you busy while away from the slots, and all under one roof. Have fun sightseeing, but do hurry back to the casino. Oh, and management thanks you.


In this town, highbrow culture is about as popular as a blackjack dealer on a hot streak. That didn't deter Steve Wynn from opening the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in 1998. The Vegas mogul took his art collection with him when he sold the hotel in 2000. But the museum marches on, drawing surprisingly big crowds with top-notch rotating exhibits that feature masters from Pierre-Auguste Renoir to Roy Lichtenstein.

If you're not into 19th-century impressionism, head on over to The Venetian and take a gander at the incredibly lifelike wax figures of George Clooney, J.Lo, Rihanna and more than 100 other celebrities at Madame Tussauds Las Vegas. The art of wax sculpture is taken above and beyond the usual “Who is that supposed to be?” mannequins at this highly entertaining museum.

It won't be long before there's a CSI spinoff for every city on the planet (“CSI: Mumbai” has a nice ring to it). The MGM Grand Hotel & Casino brings the mega-popular TV franchise to Vegas and turns you into a homicide detective at the interactive museum CSI: The Experience. Become an amateur sleuth and try to solve one of three murders in a re-created high-tech crime lab. You're practically spoon-fed the important clues, but fans of the show should check it out.

Revisit the city's organized crime days—from whackings and FBI wiretaps to the casino “skim” and all sorts of racketeering fun—at downtown's The Mob Museum, National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement. Capone, Luciano, Giancana, Gotti—all the East Coast heavies are here, too, on three levels of exhibits. See a section of the actual St. Valentine's Day Massacre brick wall, recoil at the sight of gruesome crime scene photos (aka “The Mob's Greatest Hits”), then spend the rest of the day doing your terrible Joe Pesci impression. “Funny, how?”

Those who miss the Vegas of the '60s and '70s (when the Mob pulled the strings and the valet remembered your name) often lament that the town has turned into Disneyland. They're largely right, of course. And if you live for thrill rides and roller coasters, you're in luck. The roller coaster cars at New York-New York are painted to look like Manhattan taxi cabs. The ride isn't as hair-raising as a mad dash through Midtown, but a 144-foot drop at 67 mph comes close.

Circus Circus gets a bad rap for its stuck-in-1982 casino and aging midway games (think Skee-Ball and ring toss). But behind the hotel is Adventuredome, a 5-acre indoor amusement park encased in pink-tinted glass. There are loads of up-to-date rides and games here to keep the kiddies busy. The co-starring attractions are the Canyon Blaster and El Loco roller coasters. The latter, opened in 2014, features a 90-degree "beyond vertical" drop that will make those with weak stomachs want to double back to the casino.

A short-track, teeter totter-style coaster sounds tame, but place it atop the 1,149-foot-high Stratosphere Tower and you've suddenly got a doozy. X-Scream launches riders 27 feet past the edge of the tower's observation deck, headfirst. Dangling that high above the Strip will earn you daredevil points for sure. But why stop there? Strap on a harness and SkyJump off the edge of the hotel for an 855-foot controlled free fall. Those who don't have nerves of steel (that would be most of us) can enjoy panoramic views of the Strip from the comfort of this AAA GEM attraction's indoor observation deck.

Things are decidedly more tranquille at Paris Las Vegas and its half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower Experience whisks you up to a caged observation deck offering a nice bird's-eye view of Caesars Palace, Bellagio, The Cosmopolitan and CityCenter. Nighttime is the right time to take in views of the Strip's neon light show. Be aware that the price for an elevator ticket goes up after 7:15 p.m.

Aiming for an even higher vantage point? Take a spin on the world's tallest observation wheel, the 550-foot tall High Roller. Opened in 2014 at the Strip's LINQ shopping/entertainment promenade, this mega Ferris wheel offers a smooth, 30-minute ride (one complete wheel revolution) aboard glass-walled passenger pods. At the wheel's apex, feast your eyes on a fantastic 360-degree panorama that's best after dark when the city lights are ablaze.

From this new Vegas landmark, head to one that's been burning bright since 1959. At the south end of the Strip, the neon Googie-style “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” Sign has served as a backdrop for countless photos of giddy newlyweds, tipsy conventioneers and generations of tourists.

Downtown, fly like a superhero over the Fremont Street Experience masses on the SlotZilla zipline, which launches you from a mammoth, 12-story-high slot machine.

The Neon Museum displays glowing reminders of the city's neon heyday in an outdoor gallery on Fremont Street. There also are several more vintage signs, fully restored and functional, between 3rd Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. The glittery Hacienda horse and rider sign is especially evocative of old Vegas. Want to see more? The museum's nearby Neon Boneyard offers 1-hour guided tours of its vast collection of non-refurbished signs. The visitor center is housed in the original clam-shaped lobby of the historic La Concha Motel, which Vegas old-timers will recall once sat next door to the Riviera Hotel.

Want more history? AAA GEM attraction The Springs Preserve has you covered with a pair of impressive museums. Geared toward kids, the interactive Origen Museum relates the area's natural history in imaginative ways. Meanwhile, the GEM Rated Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, traces the story of the Silver State—from the prehistoric age to modern Las Vegas—using hands-on exhibits, audio stations, computer touch screens and even holograms. Your head full of knowledge, hit the preserve's 3.65-mile network of desert nature trails.

The cougars prowling swanky Vegas cocktail lounges have nothing on the genuine man-eaters at the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, billed as North America's only predator-based aquarium. From fearsomely toothed piranhas and barracuda to Komodo dragons and 15 species of shark, view more than 2,000 animals in tanks and habitats amid a setting reminiscent of an ancient jungle temple.

Gearheads who never tire of ogling classic cars should burn rubber to The Auto Collections at LINQ Hotel & Casino . From vintage Rolls-Royces and 1960s muscle cars to JFK's presidential limo and Johnny Carson's Chrysler, this expansive showroom makes for a nice pit stop on your trip down the Strip.

Relive the days of mushroom clouds and duck-and-cover drills at the National Atomic Testing Museum. It has fascinating exhibits detailing the history of the Nevada Test Site, a swath of desert north of Las Vegas used to test nuclear bombs from 1951 until 1992.

The Atomic Age inspired the kitschy artwork on several of the vintage 1950s and '60s pinball machines at the Pinball Hall of Fame. The collection includes classic video games and plenty of old favorites as well as many you've probably never seen. All the machines are playable; carry plenty of coin.

Want to hear the song “Rock and Roll All Nite” for the thousandth time while putt-putting an 18-hole round at a glow-in-the-dark, KISS-themed miniature golf course? Of course you do. Par for cheesy good fun is KISS By Monster Mini Golf, fittingly located across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino .

The new ELVIS: The Exhibition museum, an official offshoot of Graceland, Tenn., celebrates the King of Rock 'n' Roll at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. Formerly the International Hotel, this is where Elvis played a record 837 consecutive sold-out concerts in the 1960s and '70s. Check out an impressive assemblage of memorabilia from his early career, Hollywood years and gloriously gaudy Vegas jumpsuit days.

Suffering from Vegas sensory overload? Get away from it all on a peaceful hike at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, only a 30-minute drive from the Strip. The park's trails wind past outstanding red rock formations, a geological result of the Keystone Thrust Fault, and through starkly beautiful desert landscapes. To attain the aforementioned peace, avoid visiting this AAA GEM attraction on busy weekends or during school holiday weeks.

Farther away (about a 1-hour drive) but arguably more impressive is Valley of Fire State Park. At this AAA GEM attraction, the fiery-hued rocks are more abundant, and you'll also encounter other geological wonders—a handful of small arches, beehive formations, some well-preserved petroglyphs and an oft-photographed park icon, Elephant Rock.

It takes an estimated 5,600 megawatts (an enormous amount of electricity) to juice Las Vegas on a typical day. To see where some of that power is generated, drive 45 minutes southeast to Hoover Dam, a AAA GEM attraction. The 726-foot-high engineering marvel was built during the Great Depression. Allow time to take either the 30-minute or 1-hour guided tour of the dam's power plant.

Even non-acrophobes may get stomach butterflies while strolling across the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge , the highest (840 feet) and longest (1,900 feet) arched, concrete-steel composite span in the Western Hemisphere. Located about a quarter-mile downstream from Hoover Dam, and linking Nevada with Arizona, this bypass bridge, which opened in 2010, eliminates the traffic congestion that used to be an often-unavoidable part of a dam visit. From the span's Nevada side, you'll climb a short switchback trail to the bridge walkway, where you're treated to lofty views of rugged Black Canyon, the dam and the turquoise Colorado River far below.

See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.



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Las Vegas in 3 Days
Three days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in Las Vegas.

Day 1: Morning
Fuel up for the day at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas. While the rest of town is reaching for Alka-Seltzer and trying to remember how many drinks they downed at the blackjack table last night, you'll be pulling up a chair at one of the restaurant's highly coveted Strip-front patio tables (tough to get at lunch and dinner). Feast on a croissant breakfast sandwich or perhaps a ham-and-egg crepe as you watch the Strip rise and shine.

While at Paris Las Vegas, hit the slots or play some table games in a casino decked out like “Gay Paree.” After cashing out, head up. The hotel's Eiffel Tower Experience elevator opens at 9:30 a.m., and you'll soon be taking in dizzying views of the Strip from the 541-foot-high replica tower's observation deck. For photography, mid-morning light is topped only by dusk and after dark, when the neon comes out in full force.


Day 1: Afternoon
Go next door to Bally's, do some browsing at the hotel's new Strip-front Grand Bazaar Shops, hike to the back of the property and hop aboard the Las Vegas Monorail. The 4-mile north-south route stretches from the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino to the SLS Las Vegas hotel (formerly the Sahara hotel); there are five stops in between.

Another handy public transportation option is the double-decker Deuce bus, which runs up and down the Strip 24/7.

Take the northbound monorail to the end of the line (SLS Station). To reach the Strip, stroll through the city's newest casino, the hip SLS Las Vegas. Nearby, reaching 1,149 feet above terra firma, is the Stratosphere Tower. Take the elevator to the observation decks, summon up your best James Cagney impression and shout “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” as you take in the panorama of Vegas and the surrounding desert. If you're game for a high-altitude adrenaline rush, try one of the tower-top thrill rides. Skip the pricey swag in the Stratosphere gift shop and head back down Las Vegas Boulevard to Bonanza Gift & Souvenir Shops, the mother of all bargain-priced, gloriously tacky souvenir emporiums.

Day 1: Evening
Gamble, dine, dance, see a show and gamble some more at your choice of two mid-Strip power players: Caesars Palace and Bellagio . Amid Caesars' marvelously cheesy faux Roman statuary and columns you'll find the sleek and chic Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, serving contemporary Southwestern dishes concocted by its famous Food Network celebrity chef/owner. Catch resident headliners Celine Dion, Elton John or Rod Stewart in the 4,296-seat Colosseum; or the ribald acrobatic spectacle "Absinthe," staged in a circus tent fronting the resort. But don't expect to just waltz right in; purchase tickets in advance for all shows.

The classy European milieu brought to life at Bellagio makes for a romantic evening. Watch the Fountains of Bellagio do their dreamlike dance, then have dinner at Le Cirque, one of the resort's many upscale restaurants. Ooh and aah in amazement as the incredibly agile acrobats and contortionists of Cirque du Soleil's “O” perform in, on and above a 1.5 million-gallon tank of water (see our Production Shows article). Don't leave Bellagio without wandering through the whimsically beautiful Conservatory & Botanical Gardens or the main lobby, with its totally cool, ceiling-mounted, blown-glass sculpture by mind-bending artist Dale Chihuly.

Day 2: Morning
After your first night in Vegas, recuperate with a monster breakfast at Hash House A Go Go, in LINQ Hotel & Casino (formerly Imperial Palace). Come hungry. You'll need a ravenous appetite to polish-off the mammoth portions of biscuits and country gravy, Frisbee-size hotcakes and signature, belt-busting chicken and waffles.

Emerged from your food coma, head next door to the rear of The LINQ shopping/entertainment promenade to ride the city's newest attraction, the High Roller. Soaring 550 feet into the Vegas sky, this mega Ferris wheel is the world's tallest. And while the glittering city views are best after dark, you'll save a few bucks riding during the day (the admission price goes up $10 after 7 p.m.).

Next, stroll through the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Las Vegas , the twin ultra-luxury resorts built by Vegas mogul Steve Wynn. The casino floors at both hotels are top-of-the-line classy, but we're partial to the more intimate space at Encore Las Vegas. Unless your gambling budget's super tight (or perhaps already depleted?), don't let the high table minimums deter you from playing a few hands or rolling the dice. This is a nice place to experience that one-of-a-kind Vegas casino ambiance.

Day 2: Afternoon
ZZ Top once sagely observed that “every girl's crazy for a sharp dressed man” (and vice versa, actually). Shop for new threads at the upscale Fashion Show Mall on the Strip. Downtown on S. Main Street, Gambler's General Store stocks practically every item you'd need (roulette wheels, craps tables, slots, chips, cards) to open your very own casino, plus a selection of unique Vegas souvenirs and books.

Or, if you're addicted to History Channel's “Pawn Stars” reality TV show, join the estimated 3,000 visitors per day at what has become the city's number one shopping stop: the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. Shuffling past the pawn counters, fans will recognize rare for-sale items procured by Rick Harrison, “Big Hoss” and the gang. Too rich for your blood? There's a gift shop section selling show-related souvenirs. “I ♥ Chumlee” bumper sticker, anyone?

Have lunch at the outstanding Lotus of Siam, one of the city's top Thai restaurants. Then, if you have time, you can explore Vegas' natural history at The Springs Preserve, a top-notch cultural facility and educational center covering 180 acres. There are two museums here (the kid-geared Origen Museum and the excellent Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas ), plus a lovely desert garden laced with walking trails.

Day 2: Evening
The more of its old-school roots Vegas sheds, the more you'll want to relive those glory days. So order the osso buco at Piero's, a seriously Italian restaurant, and imagine an era when Mafia lieutenants ruled Vegas by night and appeared in Clark County Courthouse the following morning. Martin Scorsese shot scenes for his mob epic “Casino” at classy Piero's; you definitely don't want to come dressed in shorts and a grubby T-shirt.

There's no dress code on downtown's Fremont Street, the original heart of Las Vegas. Welcome to Glitter Gulch, the land of cigarette-puffing neon cowboys (the 1951 “Vegas Vic” sign) and legendary gambling cribs like Binion's Gambling Hall, the Golden Nugget Hotel, the Four Queens and the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino. Crane your neck for the Fremont Street Experience show, an audiovisual blitz that plays out on the LED light-loaded canopy arching over the street. Then duck into one of the casinos for a little gaming, and finish off with a nightcap at the swanky Downtown Cocktail Room.

Day 3: Morning
Grab a quick breakfast at your hotel and then hit the road for an escape from Strip excess. A one-way, 13-mile road with numerous pull-offs leads through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, beloved by hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers and seekers of serenity (at least on weekdays). There are plenty of marked trails to explore; head out on one of the less-traveled ones and marvel at the Mojave Desert scenery, which has an austere beauty, and the backdrop of mountains that present a visual feast of ruddy reds, oranges and pinks banded against softer creams and grays.

If you don't have a car, skip Red Rock Canyon and spend the morning sleeping in. Then laze around your hotel pool—most of the big resorts have luxe pool complexes—or treat yourself to a massage or facial. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub at The Venetian, one of the Strip's top-rated spas, offers everything from Mango Sugar Glo body scrubs to yoga classes.

Day 3: Afternoon
If you opted to spend the morning at Red Rock Canyon, take your hungry hiker appetite to Capriotti's Sandwich Shop and order the famous “Bobbie” sub, a cold turkey sandwich loaded with stuffing and cranberry sauce; it's Thanksgiving leftovers on a roll. Capriotti's has several Vegas locations and is in the process of expanding nationwide, but the original shop on Sahara Avenue is still the best.

Walk off the excess calories at CityCenter Las Vegas, a seriously upscale megaresort, casino and shopping complex. Check out the sleek ARIA Resort & Casino's collection of outdoor sculptures, ranging in style from pop art to Henry Moore abstraction. Take a spin through Aria's elegant casino, then cruise next door to The Cosmopolitan, which is guaranteed to wow you with its swank casino pit and three-story, chandelier-veiled bar.

Day 3: Evening
It's your last chance to hit that elusive progressive slot jackpot. Go mano-a-mano with the one-armed bandits in the Mandalay Bay casino.

Head next door to the soaring black pyramid housing the Luxor Hotel and Casino. Take the enclosed sky bridge, which is home to the shops and restaurants of Mandalay Place, and do a little last-minute shopping along the way. Have dinner at Burger Bar , where you can construct your own gourmet burger.

Finally, raise a glass and make a toast to Sin City at New York-New York casino's Bar at Times Square, a jumpin' nightspot with a dueling pianos show. Too tame? Board the hotel's roller coaster and cap off the evening with a loop-de-loop and views of the glittery nighttime Strip—a knockout finale to your Vegas adventure.



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Las Vegas in 3 Days
Three days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in Las Vegas.

Day 1: Morning
Fuel up for the day at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas. While the rest of town is reaching for Alka-Seltzer and trying to remember how many drinks they downed at the blackjack table last night, you'll be pulling up a chair at one of the restaurant's highly coveted Strip-front patio tables (tough to get at lunch and dinner). Feast on a croissant breakfast sandwich or perhaps a ham-and-egg crepe as you watch the Strip rise and shine.

While at Paris Las Vegas, hit the slots or play some table games in a casino decked out like “Gay Paree.” After cashing out, head up. The hotel's Eiffel Tower Experience elevator opens at 9:30 a.m., and you'll soon be taking in dizzying views of the Strip from the 541-foot-high replica tower's observation deck. For photography, mid-morning light is topped only by dusk and after dark, when the neon comes out in full force.


Day 1: Afternoon
Go next door to Bally's, do some browsing at the hotel's new Strip-front Grand Bazaar Shops, hike to the back of the property and hop aboard the Las Vegas Monorail. The 4-mile north-south route stretches from the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino to the SLS Las Vegas hotel (formerly the Sahara hotel); there are five stops in between.

Another handy public transportation option is the double-decker Deuce bus, which runs up and down the Strip 24/7.

Take the northbound monorail to the end of the line (SLS Station). To reach the Strip, stroll through the city's newest casino, the hip SLS Las Vegas. Nearby, reaching 1,149 feet above terra firma, is the Stratosphere Tower. Take the elevator to the observation decks, summon up your best James Cagney impression and shout “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” as you take in the panorama of Vegas and the surrounding desert. If you're game for a high-altitude adrenaline rush, try one of the tower-top thrill rides. Skip the pricey swag in the Stratosphere gift shop and head back down Las Vegas Boulevard to Bonanza Gift & Souvenir Shops, the mother of all bargain-priced, gloriously tacky souvenir emporiums.

Day 1: Evening
Gamble, dine, dance, see a show and gamble some more at your choice of two mid-Strip power players: Caesars Palace and Bellagio . Amid Caesars' marvelously cheesy faux Roman statuary and columns you'll find the sleek and chic Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, serving contemporary Southwestern dishes concocted by its famous Food Network celebrity chef/owner. Catch resident headliners Celine Dion, Elton John or Rod Stewart in the 4,296-seat Colosseum; or the ribald acrobatic spectacle "Absinthe," staged in a circus tent fronting the resort. But don't expect to just waltz right in; purchase tickets in advance for all shows.

The classy European milieu brought to life at Bellagio makes for a romantic evening. Watch the Fountains of Bellagio do their dreamlike dance, then have dinner at Le Cirque, one of the resort's many upscale restaurants. Ooh and aah in amazement as the incredibly agile acrobats and contortionists of Cirque du Soleil's “O” perform in, on and above a 1.5 million-gallon tank of water (see our Production Shows article). Don't leave Bellagio without wandering through the whimsically beautiful Conservatory & Botanical Gardens or the main lobby, with its totally cool, ceiling-mounted, blown-glass sculpture by mind-bending artist Dale Chihuly.

Day 2: Morning
After your first night in Vegas, recuperate with a monster breakfast at Hash House A Go Go, in LINQ Hotel & Casino (formerly Imperial Palace). Come hungry. You'll need a ravenous appetite to polish-off the mammoth portions of biscuits and country gravy, Frisbee-size hotcakes and signature, belt-busting chicken and waffles.

Emerged from your food coma, head next door to the rear of The LINQ shopping/entertainment promenade to ride the city's newest attraction, the High Roller. Soaring 550 feet into the Vegas sky, this mega Ferris wheel is the world's tallest. And while the glittering city views are best after dark, you'll save a few bucks riding during the day (the admission price goes up $10 after 7 p.m.).

Next, stroll through the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Las Vegas , the twin ultra-luxury resorts built by Vegas mogul Steve Wynn. The casino floors at both hotels are top-of-the-line classy, but we're partial to the more intimate space at Encore Las Vegas. Unless your gambling budget's super tight (or perhaps already depleted?), don't let the high table minimums deter you from playing a few hands or rolling the dice. This is a nice place to experience that one-of-a-kind Vegas casino ambiance.

Day 2: Afternoon
ZZ Top once sagely observed that “every girl's crazy for a sharp dressed man” (and vice versa, actually). Shop for new threads at the upscale Fashion Show Mall on the Strip. Downtown on S. Main Street, Gambler's General Store stocks practically every item you'd need (roulette wheels, craps tables, slots, chips, cards) to open your very own casino, plus a selection of unique Vegas souvenirs and books.

Or, if you're addicted to History Channel's “Pawn Stars” reality TV show, join the estimated 3,000 visitors per day at what has become the city's number one shopping stop: the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. Shuffling past the pawn counters, fans will recognize rare for-sale items procured by Rick Harrison, “Big Hoss” and the gang. Too rich for your blood? There's a gift shop section selling show-related souvenirs. “I ♥ Chumlee” bumper sticker, anyone?

Have lunch at the outstanding Lotus of Siam, one of the city's top Thai restaurants. Then, if you have time, you can explore Vegas' natural history at The Springs Preserve, a top-notch cultural facility and educational center covering 180 acres. There are two museums here (the kid-geared Origen Museum and the excellent Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas ), plus a lovely desert garden laced with walking trails.

Day 2: Evening
The more of its old-school roots Vegas sheds, the more you'll want to relive those glory days. So order the osso buco at Piero's, a seriously Italian restaurant, and imagine an era when Mafia lieutenants ruled Vegas by night and appeared in Clark County Courthouse the following morning. Martin Scorsese shot scenes for his mob epic “Casino” at classy Piero's; you definitely don't want to come dressed in shorts and a grubby T-shirt.

There's no dress code on downtown's Fremont Street, the original heart of Las Vegas. Welcome to Glitter Gulch, the land of cigarette-puffing neon cowboys (the 1951 “Vegas Vic” sign) and legendary gambling cribs like Binion's Gambling Hall, the Golden Nugget Hotel, the Four Queens and the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino. Crane your neck for the Fremont Street Experience show, an audiovisual blitz that plays out on the LED light-loaded canopy arching over the street. Then duck into one of the casinos for a little gaming, and finish off with a nightcap at the swanky Downtown Cocktail Room.

Day 3: Morning
Grab a quick breakfast at your hotel and then hit the road for an escape from Strip excess. A one-way, 13-mile road with numerous pull-offs leads through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, beloved by hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers and seekers of serenity (at least on weekdays). There are plenty of marked trails to explore; head out on one of the less-traveled ones and marvel at the Mojave Desert scenery, which has an austere beauty, and the backdrop of mountains that present a visual feast of ruddy reds, oranges and pinks banded against softer creams and grays.

If you don't have a car, skip Red Rock Canyon and spend the morning sleeping in. Then laze around your hotel pool—most of the big resorts have luxe pool complexes—or treat yourself to a massage or facial. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub at The Venetian, one of the Strip's top-rated spas, offers everything from Mango Sugar Glo body scrubs to yoga classes.

Day 3: Afternoon
If you opted to spend the morning at Red Rock Canyon, take your hungry hiker appetite to Capriotti's Sandwich Shop and order the famous “Bobbie” sub, a cold turkey sandwich loaded with stuffing and cranberry sauce; it's Thanksgiving leftovers on a roll. Capriotti's has several Vegas locations and is in the process of expanding nationwide, but the original shop on Sahara Avenue is still the best.

Walk off the excess calories at CityCenter Las Vegas, a seriously upscale megaresort, casino and shopping complex. Check out the sleek ARIA Resort & Casino's collection of outdoor sculptures, ranging in style from pop art to Henry Moore abstraction. Take a spin through Aria's elegant casino, then cruise next door to The Cosmopolitan, which is guaranteed to wow you with its swank casino pit and three-story, chandelier-veiled bar.

Day 3: Evening
It's your last chance to hit that elusive progressive slot jackpot. Go mano-a-mano with the one-armed bandits in the Mandalay Bay casino.

Head next door to the soaring black pyramid housing the Luxor Hotel and Casino. Take the enclosed sky bridge, which is home to the shops and restaurants of Mandalay Place, and do a little last-minute shopping along the way. Have dinner at Burger Bar , where you can construct your own gourmet burger.

Finally, raise a glass and make a toast to Sin City at New York-New York casino's Bar at Times Square, a jumpin' nightspot with a dueling pianos show. Too tame? Board the hotel's roller coaster and cap off the evening with a loop-de-loop and views of the glittery nighttime Strip—a knockout finale to your Vegas adventure.



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