Not so long ago, Las Vegas was little more than a dusty town in the middle of the Nevada desert. But with the introduction of the first gaming licence in 1931, Las Vegas began its rapid transformation into the gambling mecca of bright lights and endless possibilities that it is today. From its beginnings as a post-war gangsters’ paradise to its status as Rat-Pack favourite in the 1960s to its current incarnation as a grown-up playground for the rich, famous and everything in between, Las Vegas has always raised eyebrows.
The Las Vegas Strip is lined with over-the-top themed hotels which offer all the wonders of the world under their roofs. You can see erupting volcanoes at the Mirage, cruise on a gondola at the Venetian, wander through ancient Rome at Caesar’s Palace, sip a cocktail at the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel and soak up the famous skyline of the Big Apple at New York New York.
Although Vegas’ nickname of “Sin City” may conjure up images of risqué entertainment and all-night gambling, this glittering city is so much more than that and offers something for all the family. Many of the top attractions are completely free, including the nightly fountain show at the Bellagio hotel, the nightly parade at the Fremont Street Experience or simply soaking up the atmosphere along the Las Vegas Strip or the Forum Shops.
Delve into the city’s seedy history at the Mob Museum or learn about some of the world’s most exotic marine creatures at the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. Adrenaline junkies will love the record-breaking freefall ride at the Stratosphere Tower, while nature lovers can experience the awesome natural beauty of the mighty Grand Canyon which is just a few hours drive away.
In recent years, Las Vegas has made a move away from the infamous hamburger bars and all-you-can-eat buffets (although you can still find plenty of these) and towards offering a more refined and international dining experience. The shopping here is among the best in the United States, with everything from bargain vintage goods to international brands and designer boutiques.