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Explore Las Vegas

Shimmering from the desert haze of Nevada, Las Vegas is the most dynamic, spectacular city on earth. At the start of the twentieth century, it didn't even exist.

At the start of the twenty-first, it's home to over one million people, with enough newcomers arriving to need a new school every month.

Explore Las Vegas
A city built for Tourism.

Las Vegas is not like other cities. No city in history has so explicitly valued the needs of visitors above those of its own population. All its growth has been fueled by tourism, but the tourists haven't spoiled the "real" city; there is no real city.

Las Vegas doesn't have fascinating little-known neighborhoods, and it's not a place where visitors can go off the beaten track to have more authentic experiences. Instead, the whole thing is completely self-referential; the reason Las Vegas boasts the vast majority of the world's largest hotels is that around thirty-seven million tourists each year come to see the hotels themselves.

A hyperactive craving for thrills and glamour.

These days, after six decades of capitalism run riot, the Strip is locked into a hyperactive craving for thrills and glamour. First-time visitors tend to expect Las Vegas to be a repository of kitsch, but the casino owners are far too canny to be sentimental about the old days.

Yes, there are a few Elvis impersonators around, but what characterizes the city far more is its endless quest for novelty. Long before they lose their sparkle, yesterday's showpieces are blasted into rubble, to make way for ever more extravagant replacements.

The Disney model has now been discarded in favor of more adult themes, and Las Vegas demands nothing less than entire cities. Replicas of New York, Paris, Monte Carlo and Venice now jostle for space on the Strip.

What the visitor wants, the city provides.

The customer is king in Las Vegas. What the visitor wants, the city provides. If you come in search of the cheapest destination in America, you'll enjoy paying rock-bottom rates for accommodation and hunting out the best buffet bargains. If it's style and opulence you're after, by contrast, you can dine in the finest restaurants, shop in the most chic stores, and watch world-class entertainment; it'll cost you, but not as much as it would anywhere else.

The same guidelines apply to gambling. The Strip giants cater to those who want sophisticated high-roller heavens, where tuxedoed James Bond lookalikes toss insouciant bankrolls onto the roulette tables. Others prefer their casinos to be sinful and seedy, inhabited by hard-bitten heavy-smoking low-lifes; there is no shortage of that type of joint either, especially downtown.

The Strip.

Text to go here. For its razor-edge finesse in harnessing sheer, magnificent excess to the deadly serious business of making money, there's no place like the Strip. Little more than fifty years ago, as Hwy-51, Las Vegas Boulevard was just a dusty desert thoroughfare, scattered with the occasional edge-of-town motel as it set off south toward California. Now, as a four-mile showcase of the most extravagant architecture on earth, it's a tourist destination in its own right, surpassed only by Orlando as the most popular in the US.

While the essential spur for every innovation on the Strip remains the desire of each casino to attract gamblers, seduction strategies have changed over the years. When most Las Vegas visitors drove up from California, the Strip was entirely geared toward motorists. Until the 1980s, roadside signs advertising lodging, dining and entertainment bargains were taller and more prominent than the casinos themselves. These days, the tourists fly in, with their accommodation prebooked, and the Strip itself is too clogged with traffic for aimless cruising to be a pleasure.

The twin aims of the latest generation of giant casinos have become to keep their own guests on the premises for as much time as possible, and to lure in the pedestrian sightseers who throng the sidewalks outside. Pure spectacle is the name of the game, be it the volcano at the Mirage or the Sphinx at Luxor . Time was when each casino was a standalone oasis; now they're crammed so tightly together that they feed off each other - the Eiffel Tower at Paris , for example, sells itself as the ideal place to watch the fountain ballet at Bellagio across the street.

Out of the City.

Spend more than a day or two in Las Vegas and you'll soon find yourself gasping for a blast of sunlight and fresh air away from the casinos. A glance at the horizon makes it clear that you'll have to cross an expanse of empty desert before you reach anywhere interesting, but exhilarating day-trip destinations do exist.

Perhaps the most obvious targets lie in the eye-catching Spring Mountains to the west. At their base, monumental walls cradle the desert fastness of Red Rock Canyon , while further north wooded slopes rise toward the summit of Mount Charleston . If Red Rock Canyon whets your appetite for otherworldly desolation, you'll also enjoy the longer excursion to the incandescent moonscape of the Valley of Fire , northeast of the city. Finally, neither Hoover Dam nor Lake Mead counts as a natural wonder, but each is in its own way every bit as breathtaking.

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