Rising out of the Nevada desert, Las Vegas is a shimmering tribute to excess. Those who embrace it find a mirage made real, an oasis of vice and greed, and one heck of a good time. Those not immediately enthralled by its frenetic pace may still find sleeping (and decision-making) nearly impossible, with sparkling casinos, cheap gourmet food, free drinks, and spectacular attractions at every turn. Nowhere else do so many shed inhibitions and indulge with such abandon.
Las Vegas has two major casino areas. The downtown area, around 2nd and Fremont Street, has been converted into a pedestrian promenade; here, casinos cluster together beneath a shimmering space-frame structure covering over five city blocks. The other main area is the Strip, a collection of mammoth hotel-casinos along Las Vegas Boulevard. Parallel to the east side of the Strip and in its shadow is Paradise Road, also lined with casinos. Valet parking your car at a major casino and sticking to Fremont St. are safe bets. The neighborhoods just north of Stewart St. and west of Main St. in the downtown vicinity are especially dangerous.
Despite, or perhaps as a result of, its reputation for debauchery, Las Vegas has a curfew. Those under 18 are not allowed in most public places at night, unless accompanied by an adult. Laws are even harsher on the Strip, where no one under 18 is allowed unaccompanied 9pm-5am—ever. The drinking and gambling age is a strictly enforced 21.
Vegas is known for doing everything in excess and for good reason. Full to the brim with lavish casinos, gourmet food, delicious drinks, and spectacular attractions, Las Vegas allows you to indulge at every turn. So embrace this desert dreamland and you are sure to have a unforgettable time.
Las Vegas has so much to see and do it is impossible to hit them all. We’ve narrowed it all down for you so you can make sure to hit the best Las Vegas has to offer. Click the links to explore and book tours or local guides.
From swanky eateries run by celebrity chefs to gourmet buffets, culinary surprises are everywhere in Las Vegas. Everyone comes to gorge at Vegas’ gigantic buffets. The trick to buffet bliss is to find places that are more than glorified cafeterias, which can be difficult. Beyond buffets, Vegas has some of the world’s best restaurants, though few have prices palatable to the budget traveler.
Big bucks will buy you a seat at a made-in-the-USA phenomenon: the Vegas spectacular. These stunning, casino-sponsored productions feature waterfalls, explosions, fireworks, and casts of hundreds. You can also see Broadway plays and musicals, ice revues, and individual entertainers in concert. All hotels have city-wide ticket booths in their lobbies. Check out some of the free show guides—Showbiz, Today in Las Vegas, What’s On—for listings. For a more opinionated perspective, check out one of the independents—Las Vegas Mercury, City Life, Las Vegas Weekly—or the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s weekly entertainment supplement, Neon. Some “production shows” are tasteless, but there are a few exceptions: the Cirque de Soleil’s creative shows—O, Mystere, and the racy Zumanity, to name just a couple—are awe-inspiring displays of human agility and physical strength channeled as artistic expression at the Bellagio, Treasure Island, New York, New YorkMGM, Mirage and Luxor. “Limited view” tickets are discounted, and the view isn’t that limited. Blue Man Group at the Venetian is a production that pushes the limits of stage entertainment with percussion sets and audience participation.
For a show by one of the musical stars who haunt the city, e.g. Gladys Knight (Flamingo), or Wayne Newton (MGM), you’ll have to fork over a minimum of $60. Incredible impersonator/singer/dancer Danny Gans entertains at the Mirage. The tricks of Lance Burton’s (a mainstay at the Monte Carlo) are good, old magic, while Penn and Teller at the Río are far darker. With a bit of everything, former street performer The Amazing Jonathan stages one of Vegas’s edgiest productions. Chicago’s classic comedic institution The Second City also graces the stage at the Flamingo for a reasonable price.
In the US, good table manners means quiet eating. Loud chewing, talking with food in your mouth, or slurping are seen as rude, and burping or flatulence is not seen as complementary to the chef. Servers at sitdown restaurants usually expect to be tipped 15-20%.
Dress in the US tends to be more modest than in Europe. Toplessness, particularly in women, should be avoided. Many establishments will require a customer to wear a shirt and shoes. The most acceptable forms of public affection are hugging and holding hands; kissing in public will usually draw some glances. Although most cities are tolerant of homosexuality, gay or lesbian couples should be aware that they may receive unwanted attention for public displays of affection, especially in rural areas. Also, note that many American will say “see you later” without really intending to make future plans.
One of the most offensive gestures in the US is extending your middle finger at someone. Known as “giving someone the finger,” this gesture is considered not only rude, but obscene. On the other hand, a “thumbs up” gesture is a sign of approval and a widely recognized signal for hitchhiking, which Let’s Go does not recommend.