Sin City, The Entertainment Capital of the World, America’s Playground – whatever you choose to call it, Las Vegas is big news. Home to a number of landmark buildings, hotels, casinos, and establishments, for first-time visitors, walking through Las Vegas will be like walking through a film set – especially along the iconic Strip. This city – the largest in Nevada – has been in so many movies over the years that it’s basically a household name, a brand in itself.
But we’re just talking about the cliched surface of Las Vegas, the result of the things you see in films. Las Vegas had to start somewhere, and it’s in the past relics of this city that you find more intrigue – even charm – as you discover 1950s casinos, bars, and restaurants of the historic Downtown district.
There’s also a darker side to Las Vegas; just 65 miles northwest of the city was the Nevada Test Site, known for its nuclear weapons testing. Las Vegas citizens could see the mushroom clouds of these explosions until 1963 when they moved underground.
Map of Las Vegas
1. The Strip · 2. Downtown Las Vegas · 3. West of the Strip · 4. East of the Strip · 5. Henderson · 6. North Las Vegas
Las Vegas is definitely an exciting place to stay. Thanks to its astounding popularity around the world, there is an avalanche of accommodation options. If you’ve got the budget for it, you could choose an iconic mega casino and hotel like the MGM Grand. If not, there are a host of hotels and motels that will undoubtedly fit the bill.
The Strip is the beating heart of Las Vegas. This road bisects the city and is lined with all the neon lights and giant, landmark features that make this city in the desert recognizable the world over. One of the most famous is the fountain outside the casino hotel, The Bellagio – these choreographed water fountains mesmerize crowds with their timed shows, complete with lights.
To get a better view of all the action, head to the High Roller observation wheel, best done at night, of course. Accommodation in this part of Las Vegas actually means being able to stay in an iconic hotel like The Bellagio, the MGM Grand, or Caesar’s Palace, or luxury hotels like the Delano – but these come with a price tag to match.
Thankfully, there are plentiful options in this area, many of which come in the form of affordable choices like budget motels. Most are also near McCarran International Airport, too. Getting around along the strip is also easy thanks to the Las Vegas Monorail.
As opposed to the newer, more famous Strip, Downtown Las Vegas is the city’s historic center. Positioned roughly in the middle of the Las Vegas Valley, the Downtown area still boasts a good portion of accommodation in the city, ranging from motels, affordable hotels, casino, and hotel combinations, as well as towering hotels for more a more luxe stay.
Many of these are centered around Fremont Street, a casino district whose casinos existed long before Las Vegas Strip was even a thing. The retro casinos of this area, with their neon lights, and nearby eclectic restaurants and bars, give a sense of charm to Las Vegas that is otherwise difficult to see in the large scale, exclusive glitz of the Strip.
History is the thing here; head to the Neon Museum for a cool collection of vintage neon signs, or the imposing Mob Museum for a history of organized crime in America – connected to the Strip via the monorail, too.
West of the Strip in Las Vegas – or west of Interstate 15, to be more technical – is an area that is relatively calmer than anywhere near the Strip itself – even the Downtown area is northeast of the famous Strip.
West of the Strip is where to be if you want to sample a different side to Las Vegas – exploring its Chinatown, for one thing, which not only features Chinese food, but Vietnamese and even Japanese.
A couple of miles west of the Strip itself, there is a massive selection on offer here; it’s definitely an unexpected side to what is the norm for Las Vegas. Being in this part of town makes it easier to get out into nature as well, with the large Spring Mountain Ranch State Park in striking distance of West of I-15.
Hotels aren’t as concentrated in this area, being dotted around the place, with much the same on offer in terms of budget-friendly to decidedly more expensive options as well.
East of the Strip in Las Vegas isn’t exactly where you are going to find the most lively, interesting or touristy areas of town. But if you are looking for something a little bit off the beaten track – relatively, for Las Vegas – then the East side of the infamous Strip should be a good option for you. With less prestigious sights and attractions than its western and northern district neighbors, the area east of Las Vegas Strip is not exactly awash with accommodation options; the further east you go, the fewer hotels you will find.
Nevertheless, there are a handful of mostly mid-range options to choose from. As well as being very close to McCarran International Airport, this area also has a few quaint and kooky things to do. These include the Pinball Hall of Fame – a collection of vintage pinball machines, of course – and the National Atomic Testing Museum.
A separate town in its own right, but still part of the urban sprawl that makes up the Las Vegas Metropolitan Area, Henderson lies to the southeast of all the main action in town.
Staying in Henderson is an excellent idea if you aren’t interested in being in the center of all the action – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to be saving money as a result. Henderson is known for its affluent communities, like the MacDonald Highlands which overlook Henderson and Las Vegas.
There are also many, many malls, movie theatres, and – of course – a few casinos too. In terms of famous sights and other things to do, the world-famous Hoover Dam is in easy reach of Henderson, as are natural escapes like Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area and Clark County Wetlands Park. Buses make getting to the Strip pretty easy, but you could always rent a car.
Bordering the Downtown area, North Las Vegas is a good alternative if you want to be a little bit removed from the exciting lights and shiny hotels that Las Vegas boasts. A separate city in its own right, North Las Vegas has a few hotels to choose from, with a few hotel and casino options itself – as well as choices from budget to mid-range.
The Interstate 15 runs through the southern and western areas of North Las Vegas, easily connecting it to the rest of town. The RTC bus network serves this area, as it does all of Las Vegas Metropolitan Area. It’s also home to North Las Vegas Airport. Shadow Creek Golf Course, a famous, exclusive course that’s available to MGM Grand guests, is located in North Las Vegas.