Behind the Glitz“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 things to do in Las Vegas, 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 at one of thousands of local restaurants. 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 Sahara Las Vegas (formerly the SLS Las Vegas), the City of Rock outdoor concert venue and the groundbreaking on Asian-themed Resorts World Las Vegas, a $4-billion hotel/casino.
In 2016 a new South Strip entertainment/dining promenade between the New York-New York and Park MGM resorts opened—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.
Las Vegas, NV
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
Clark County's sales tax is 8.25 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.
311, or (702) 828-3111 (also valid for TTY)
Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center, (702) 733-8800; MountainView Hospital, (702) 962-5000; Spring Valley Hospital Medical Center, (702) 853-3000; Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, (702) 961-5000; University Medical Center, (702) 383-2000; Valley Hospital Medical Center, (702) 388-4000.
3150 Paradise Rd. Las Vegas, NV 89109. Phone:(702)892-0711 or (877)847-4858
McCarran International Airport (LAS) is about 10 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.
Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (702) 262-7700 for the airport, (800) 654-3131 for the Strip.
Greyhound Lines Inc., 200 S. Main St., is the major bus company serving Las Vegas; phone (702) 384-9561.
Major cab companies include Desert Cab, (702) 386-9102; Yellow Checker Star Transportation, (702) 873-2000; and Whittlesea Blue Cab, (702) 551-5151. Base activation fee is $3.50 and $2.76 for each mile, plus 54 cents for every minute the cab is waiting or traveling under 8 to 12 mph. Trips to the airport incur a $2.40 surcharge. Payment by credit card incurs a fee of $3.
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.