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las vegas in 3 days

AAA/Tim Johnson

Las Vegas in 3 DaysThree 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. Now you have a starting point while you’re exploring airline flights, things to do this weekend and additions to your trip itinerary.

Day 1: Morning Fuel up for the day at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas restaurants. 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 and make plans for things to do today.

AAA/Tim Johnson
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 Viewing Deck 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: AfternoonAAA/Diana Beyer
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 Sahara hotel (formerly the SLS Las Vegas 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 (Sahara Station). To reach the Strip, stroll through the city's newest casino, the hip Sahara 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: EveningAAA/Diana Beyer
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 Mesa Grill , serving contemporary Southwestern dishes concocted by its famous Food Network celebrity chef/owner. Catch resident headliner Celine Dion 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.

AAA/Inspector 511
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. 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: MorningAfter your first night in Vegas, recuperate with a monster breakfast at Hash House A Go Go , in LINQ Hotel + Experience (formerly Imperial Palace). Come hungry and ready to check out one of the best local restaurants. 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 5 p.m.).

AAA/Diana Beyer
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: AfternoonZZ 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.

AAA/Diana Beyer
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: EveningAAA/Diana Beyer
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: MorningAAA/Diana Beyer
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.

AAA/Diana Beyer
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 Las Vegas , one of the Strip's top-rated spas, offers everything from Mango Sugar Glo body scrubs to yoga classes.

Day 3: AfternoonIf 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.

AAA/Diana Beyer
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 of Las Vegas , which is guaranteed to wow you with its swank casino pit and three-story, chandelier-veiled bar.

Day 3: EveningIt'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.

iStockphoto.com/Kesu01
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.

AAA/Diana Beyer
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, ideal for travelers and locals wanting fun places to go. 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, NV

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Travel Information

City Population

583,756

Elevation

2,181 ft.

Sales Tax

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.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

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

Fire (non-emergency)

(702) 383-2888

Hospitals

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.

Visitor Information

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

Air Travel

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.

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 activation fee is $3.50 and $2.88 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 surcharge. Payment by credit card incurs a fee of $3.

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.

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