Las Vegas has always been known as the city built by mobsters and beset with gambling, sex, drugs and alcohol. Vegas is the ultimate City of Sin. Vegas is the kind of city that God would like to smite. Countless movies have been made about the rampant hedonism of Vegas, and Hunter Thompson’s novel “”Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”” almost glamorized the use of drugs in Vegas. One cannot compare the beautiful neon lights of Vegas to any other city in the world.
Over the last decade Las Vegas has slowly been shedding its image of complete decadence. Although it is probably still quite easy to be sinful in this city, Vegas has started to create this image of being more accessible to a wide range of people of all ages.
Vegas has bloomed into a city of entrancing lights, wonderful sights, and it shows off capitalist might. The strip, or Las Vegas Boulevard, is lined with beautiful new hotel-casinos with shopping malls located right inside along with art exhibits, quaint coffee shops and many different performances.
Here are some of the hotel-casinos that line the strip and some things to do besides gamble away your savings.
DESCRIPTION: The 3,025-room Bellagio is the most beautiful and praised resort on the strip. Costing $1.6 billion, the Bellagio offers a 116,000-square-foot casino, 12 specialty restaurants and a luxurious shopping arcade. The Bellagio opened in October of 1998 and is located right in the middle of the strip, just south of Caesars Palace. Room rates range from $159 to $499, varying with the season and on the day of the week without notice.
WHAT TO DO: The Fountains at Bellagio is one of the most visually appealing shows on the strip. It is also free. Dozens of high-powered fountains are gorgeously choreographed with lights to the music of Frank Sinatra, Lionel Richie and Andrea Bocelli.
If you have about $90 to burn, you can watch “”O”” by Cirque Du Soleil, which uses 1.5 million gallons of water as its stage. The Bellagio Conservatory is an amazing collection of fresh flowers and trees that changes with the holidays and seasons. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art rotates exhibits on a quarterly basis. The current visiting exhibit displays paintings from Picasso, Monet, Degas, Cezanne and Van Gogh.
If you just won the lottery or have a great financial aid package, you can window shop at Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Chanel and Giorgio Armani.
PARIS LAS VEGAS
DESCRIPTION: Across the strip from Bellagio lies the $785 million Paris Las Vegas, complete with an Arc de Triomphe and a 50-story Eiffel Tower. The hotel features an 85,000-square foot casino adjacent to “”Le Boulevard,”” an indoor cobblestone street lined with 31,500 square feet of shops and eight French-inspired restaurants. The spacious guest rooms include master baths with imported stone floors and counters. The price of the rooms can range from $129 to $369. Suites can be as large as 6,670 square feet and they cost a small fortune.
WHAT TO DO: Aside from the exquisite cuisine, the quaint cafes and the European specialty shops, you can also ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower for under $10. The elevator flies up at 340 feet per minute. From the observation deck you can enjoy a picturesque view of Las Vegas that will be breathtaking any time during the day or night.
DESCRIPTION: The Venetian is another Italian-themed resort. Each of the 3,036 rooms at The Venetian is a suite providing 700 square feet of living space. A canal winds through 500,000 square feet of real estate in the Grand Canal Shoppes. The casino is among the largest, taking up 120,000 square feet of land. The Venetian is located right across the street from Treasure Island.
WHAT TO DO: Take your pick from five-star restaurants created by culinary masters like Emeril Lagasse, after which you can go to The Venetian’s 63,000-square foot health club.
In the evening you can head to the C2K dance club and listen to ’70s and ’80s dance music along with some ’90s pop and some house music. The club is 21 and up. You can also check out Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and for $10 you can take a half-mile ride through The Venetian on one of the six gondolas.
DESCRIPTION: A landmark on the strip since its opening in August 1966, Caesars Palace features over 2,400 rooms, a 45,000-square foot casino and over 100 restaurants and shops. Rooms, many of which feature Roman tubs or whirlpool baths, range from $79 to $500.
WHAT TO DO: The main attractions at Caesars are the Forum and Appian Way shops. The Forum Shops include Banana Republic, The Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch, which are relatively affordable compared to the Appian Way specialty shops such as Bernini Couture and Cottura.
Visitors to Caesars will also find an IMAX ride, two talking statue shows and an aquarium.
DESCRIPTION: Located on the south end of the strip, the 3,309-room hotel includes a 135,000-square foot casino featuring over 2,400 slot and video poker machines and 122 table games. Rooms at Mandalay Bay range from $97 to $140.
WHAT TO DO: Rumjungle, one of Vegas most popular clubs, features techno, Top 40 and Latin house music. The hotel also has 11 specialty restaurants, a 12,000-seat events center, a 1,700-seat showroom, and the 1,500-person House of Blues live music venue. Mandalay Bay is also home to The Shark Reef, a $40-million aquarium that contains 1.5 million gallons of seawater and 2,000 animals.
NEW YORK-NEW YORK
DESCRIPTION: The facade of this hotel is an approximation of the New York skyline, complete with the Manhattan Express, a 2-minute, 45-second roller coaster that winds its way around the outside of the hotel. The interior of the casino at New York-New York is modeled on Times Square and Central Park. Rooms at the hotel range from $60 to $309.
WHAT TO DO: New York-New York features 10 specialty restaurants, 11 stores and a Coney Island-style area with games and a video arcade. The Manhattan Express plummets riders down a 160-foot drop and through a 540-degree spiral at speeds up to 67 mph.
DESCRIPTION: The giant pyramid on the strip whose beam can be seen for miles is home to 4,476 rooms and a 120,000-square-foot casino. Rooms in the pyramid, which range from $69 to $139, are custom-designed with unique views. Inclinators take guests up to 30 stories high at a 39-degree angle.
WHAT TO DO: The Luxor is home to Ra, a club that was part of the hotel’s $400 million renovation. A host of local DJs spin deep house, techno, top 40 and trance mixes nightly. Luxor also features a two-story video arcade and an IMAX theater.
DESCRIPTION: The Monte Carlo is an elegant blend of European and American tastes. It has a 90,000-square foot casino along with 3,014 rooms with prices that range from $59 to $399. The Monte Carlo is located toward the south end of the strip and is located between New York-New York and Bellagio.
WHAT TO DO: World-famous magician Lance Burton performs two shows nightly between Tuesday and Saturday in a 1,200-seat theatre. A massive 21,000-square foot pool includes waterfalls and a wave pool. Monte Carlo also offers a wide range of shops.
DESCRIPTION: Ballys is the hotel-casino that was host to the “”Flying Elvises”” in the movie “”Honeymoon In Vegas.”” There are 2,814 rooms in Ballys and they can start as low as $59 in the middle of the week. The casino floor is 67,000 square feet. There is also a monorail that links Ballys to the MGM Grand.
WHAT TO DO: There are various gourmet and casual restaurants, such as The Big Kitchen Buffet, to satisfy your appetite. The 1,040-seat Jubilee Theatre is host to various performers and is home to “”Jubilee!””
DESCRIPTION: Treasure Island is right next to The Mirage and offers 2,891 rooms at prices from $60 to $360. The casino is 75,000 square feet, and there is a variety of stores like the Calvin Klein Store and the Treasure Island Store.
WHAT TO DO: Treasure Island can fulfill your dreams of being a pirate, with live pirate battles complete with stunts and explosions. The Hispaniola and the HMS Pinafore battle it out every night. There is also a massive 18,000-square foot game center.