There is no place in the world like the Las Vegas Strip, the 3 ½-mile-long stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard packed with more than 20 of the world's largest casino-resorts and nearly 70,000 hotel rooms. Many of the properties here, like the Luxor's 30-story, pyramid-shaped main building, are architectural wonders in their own right. At street level, one-of-a-kind spectacles, like the exploding volcano in front of the Mirage and the dancing fountains in front of the Bellagio, compete to attract the attention of passers-by. Hordes of tourists, ranging from vacationing American families to international tourists to packs of drunken guys intent on bachelor-party hi-jinx, stroll the boulevard, while every manner of flashing light, marketing gimmickry, and advertisement attempts to lure them out of the blazing desert sun for games of chance, fine dining, or an entertainment extravaganza.
But no description of the Strip would be complete without a discussion of sex. It's everywhere. Scantily clad cocktail waitresses are ubiquitous in the casinos. The hotels put on erotic burlesque shows like the MGM Grand's Crazy Horse Paris. Adult-only pools, where women go topless, are features at most of the big resorts. And prostitution, though not legal, is largely tolerated in the form of "escort services," which are advertised by moving billboards up and down the Strip.
The combination of all these elements is a place that strikes many as a unique concentration of excitement, spectacle, food, entertainment, glamour, luxury, and sex -- in short, fun -- and others as a uniquely tasteless and distasteful abomination. But most people who come to the Strip know what they're getting into -- and they tend to have a blast.
Because almost everything in Las Vegas is a loss leader for the casinos, you can get more luxury for your dollar on the Strip than in almost any other place in the world. From the Flamingo in the late 1940s, to the Desert Inn and Caesars Palace in the 1960s, to the Mirage in the late 1980s, to the Bellagio, Venetian and Wynn in the past decade or so, and the Encore and Palazzo most recently, a succession of gambling palaces have successfully outdone all previous contenders in terms of over-the-top luxury. Rooms are bigger, pools and spas are more elaborate, and perks like a flatscreen TV in the bathroom or an automated bedside curtain control have become, largely, the norm. Unfortunately, paying $20-30 to use a fitness center, and even more to use the spa facilities, and at least $15 to access a Wi-Fi connection are also typical of most hotels in Vegas.
In the 1990s, Vegas began more aggressively marketing itself to families with resorts like the Arthurian-themed Excalibur, the Ancient Egyptian Luxor, and the Pirate-themed Treasure Island. A roller coaster went up at New York, New York. Ultimately, though, pure luxury seemed the more successful gambit, and many of these properties began downplaying their themes in favor of general extravagance. Still, many of the most prominent features of these hotels (the pyramid, the pirate ship) are among the Strip's staple attractions. And some of the best family hotels have no discernible theme at all. Hotels like Mandalay Bay or the MGM Grand simply focus on incredible pools.
Like miniature cities, just about any major hotel on the strip will have upwards of 20 restaurants, extravagant entertainment, posh nightclubs, and luxury boutique shopping all on-site. Though you're never stuck dining, drinking, or gaming at any one hotel, it's worth noting that the Strip stretches about 3.5 miles and that while most of the area's attractions are just a short cab, monorail, or double-decker bus ride away, it's not an area well-designed for getting around by foot. Just walking from one giant hotel casino to its next-door neighbor can be a 10-minute hike in the scorching sun. So while staying in the center of the Strip, right around Paris and the Bellagio, is arguably a bit more geographically desirable, choosing the right hotel should be a more important consideration than location. Finding the right hotel, often just depends on stylistic tastes what you'd like to do -- lounge at the best pool, bet at the best casino, dine at the best restaurants, relax in the best spa, party in the best nightclubs. And for many visitors, the hotel with the best rate is really the best option -- be sure to shop around, and don't necessarily dismiss a hotel if it's running for as little as $30/night.
|Airports:||McCarran International Airport|
|Peak:||Oct. 1 - May 31|
|Off-Peak:||June 1 - Sept. 30|
|Electricity:||120 V, 60 Hz|
|Tipping:||15-20% at restaurants|