Las Vegas may be known as “Sin City” because of its mob history and gambling, but it’s so much more than slot machines, poker tables and wedding chapels with Elvis impersonators officiating. The fabulous Strip is filled with over-the-top casinos that allow tourists to visit different countries and see world landmarks without setting foot off The Strip, officially a.k.a Las Vegas Boulevard. Casinos feature attractions from pirate ships to great Egyptian monuments to circus acts and gorgeous botanical gardens. Hey! Who has time for slot machines anyway? Here’s a look at some of the top tourist attractions in Las Vegas:
The Big Apple roller coaster at the New York New York Hotel & Casino definitely isn’t a ride for the faint of heart. It’s a heavenly ride for thrill seekers, however, drawing 1.4 million riders annually. It’s the world’s first roller coaster with a 180-degree to twist and dive, meaning riders will be upside down part of the time, with the coaster zipping along at 67 mph. The outdoor track is less than a mile long, with the coaster taking riders up to 180 feet in the air and then drops as much as 140 feet.
Great views of Las Vegas await travelers who partake of the Eiffel Tower Experience at Paris Las Vegas. This half-scale replica of the real thing reaches 46 stories into the sky, ensuring it is a Vegas landmark. Once at the observation deck, visitors are treated to 360-degree views of Las Vegas. On a clear day, one can clearly see forever. Don’t recognize any of the landmarks? Not to worry, staff will name them. The views are particularly stunning at night when the city that never sleeps is lit up like a Christmas tree.
Want to relive the days when the mob ruled not only Las Vegas, but the rest of the United States? The Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas offers the opportunity to learn more about the mob and organized crime in this country. This non-profit museum explores organized crime from its beginnings to today through exhibits and interactive activities. Learn about mobsters and G-men, molls and speakeasies, bootleggers and casino skimmers, and present-day mob activities. Oh, this $42 million museum was financed by government funds, not the mob.
Venice, Italy, is famous for its canals and singing gondoliers, but travelers won’t need a passport to ride the Grand Canal at the Venetian Casino Resort in Nevada’s largest city. The Venetian named their premier shopping mall the Grand Canal, then built a canal through it. Gondolas, complete with costumed singing gondoliers, guide their craft under bridges and balconies, and past shops with exterior décor that mimics the real thing. Couples can share a kiss under the Rialto Bridge or any of the other bridges, for that matter. Here’s to smooth sailing!
The Fremont Street Experience is an attraction no visitor to Las Vegas should miss. Located on a five-block section of Fremont Street, known as Glitter Gulch in the city’s early years, the Fremont Street Experience is a top-notch sound and light show that will wow the senses. Colorful displays of lights and loud music take place several times a night under a 90-foot high canopy. Casinos and other businesses turn off their lights, a signal that a light show is about to begin. More than 12 million LED lights streak through the pedestrian mall located in the historic section of Las Vegas. The show can only be described as “totally awesome.”
Located on the Strip, the Mirage is a Polynesian-themed casino and hotel with 3,044 rooms. The “volcano” at the Mirage Casino may be the world’s only volcano that doesn’t stink when it erupts. This volcano, which erupts nightly from 8 p.m. to midnight, spews out a pina colada scent. This faux volcano also erupts to a soundtrack of actual volcanoes erupting. The Mirage is full of other attractions, including a huge aquarium located behind the hotel’s front desk. The aquarium is home to 450 fish that swim around an artificial coral reef. Suited-up divers clean the tank several times weekly in the early morning, providing another unique sight to see.
A larger-than-life resort, Caesars Palace was dreamed up and built Jay Sarno, who worked hard building motels in the 1950’s. His love for gambling led him to Las Vegas, where he envisioned a casino much more glamorous than what the Strip had been offering. And so Caesars Palace opened in 1966 at a cost of $24 million, and was unlike anything Las Vegas had seen. With fountains and pools and employees in Roman-themed uniforms, it was an immediate hit, and set the standard for the themed-hotels that are so common in Sin City today. The casino has made an appearance in several Hollywood movies since it opened its doors including the Academy Award-winning film Rain Main and the 2009 hit comedy The Hangover.
Major Vegas hotels center around themes or special gimmicks to draw visitors. The Stratosphere Hotel is no exception. It is home to the Stratosphere Tower, which, at 1,149 feet (350 meters) high, is the tallest freestanding tower in the United States. The observation deck is THE place to go for spectacular 360-degree views of the city and surrounding terrain. Since the tower is open until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, it’s a good place to see Las Vegas at its glittering best. One of the most visited attractions in Las Vegas, the tower will appeal to daredevils and thrill seekers too who, for a fee, can sky jump off the tower at 855 feet (261 meters).
Travelers can hit a daily double when visiting the Bellagio Casino, famous for its dancing fountains, and conservatory and botanical gardens. The garden has so many plants, it takes 140 horticulturists to maintain it as well as plan holiday-themed displays. Experts also answer visitors’ gardening questions daily in the conservatory. As impressive as the gardens are, the fountains are even more awesome. They explode in a fusion of light and music, ranging from opera to Broadway tunes, frequently throughout the day and night. It’s hard to argue with Bellagio when it refers to this show as “the most ambitious, choreographically complex water feature ever conceived.”
Casinos can be found throughout Las Vegas, but the strip, a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South, contains the most of them. It features giant mega-casino hotels, decorated with lavish care and attention to detail to create a fantasy-like atmosphere. The casinos often have names and themes that evoke romance, mystery, and far-away destination. Walking along the strip is a fun and reasonable option as the casinos are close to each other. In most cases, hotels are connected to each other either by bridge or underground or in the case of the Excalibur, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay, by a complimentary rail shuttle. Be aware that during the summer, the oppressive heat during the daylight hours may make walking a very uncomfortable activity.