“Las Vegas looks the way you’d imagine heaven must look at night” – Chuck Palahniuk
Lost Wages, Sin City, Entertainment Capital of the World, City of Lights, Glitter Gulch, The Strip. Call it what you will, Las Vegas is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and we can see why. Here is the low-down on the desert city.
There’s a good reason why Las Vegas is called the “Entertainment Capital of the World.” Since its Rat Pack days, Las Vegas has been inextricably associated with legendary shows and entertainers. Say “Las Vegas” and it’s likely that showgirls in elaborate headdresses and Elvis impersonators will come to mind.
Today, the Las Vegas entertainment scene still has plenty of its classic glamour, but it has evolved to include so much more. In addition to the iconic Las Vegas entertainment staples, the destination offers a line-up of award-winning magicians, Broadway standard productions, world renowned concert headliners and unique-to- Las Vegas production shows.
Viva ELVIS by Cirque du Soleil has opened at ARIA Hotel & casino at CityCenter. This harmonious fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music is a tribute to the life and music of Elvis Presley. Created in the image of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, the show highlights an American icon who transformed popular music and features significant moments in his life and selections of his timeless music.
In 2006, The Venetian debuted “Phantom ‐ The Las Vegas Spectacular.” The show is permanently housed in a $40 million theatre. The 95 minute production includes never-before-seen special effects, a jaw‐dropping reproduction of the Parisian opera house where the story takes place, and all the beloved songs from the original Andrew Lloyd Webber production.
Disney Theatrical Productions and Mandalay Bay have opened the award‐winning Broadway phenomenon The Lion King at the Mandalay Bay Theatre. Mandalay Bay’s production of The Lion King is virtually identical to the other companies seen around the globe, and staged with all of the same spectacular music, sets, and costumes that have made it a worldwide phenomenon.
Cirque du Soleil and its ethereal combination of acrobats and special effects dazzle audiences all along the Strip. The group produces shows for a variety of properties, including “Mystere” at Treasure Island, which recently celebrated 15 years on the Las Vegas Strip. Bellagio’s “O” is the troupe’s first foray into aquatic theatre, featuring a cast of 81 artists performing in and above a pool containing 1.5 million gallons of water.
Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” opened September 2003 at New York New York Hotel & Casino. In 2005, the fourth Cirque du Soleil show, “KA,” debuted at MGM Grand. In June 2006 “LOVE” opened at The Mirage. Based on the music of The Beatles, the project was begun by the late George Harrison and Guy Laliberté, Cirque’s founder. “LOVE” is presented in a custom-built theatre featuring 360‐degree seating, high definition projections with 100 foot high digital, moving images in addition to a panoramic sound system.
“Criss Angel: BELIEVE,” a partnership between the master illusionist and Cirque du Soleil, debuted their much‐anticipated production show last year at Luxor. Fusing together revolutionary illusions and mystical artistry with acrobatics, dance, puppetry, music and poetry, Angel reinvents the traditional magic show.
Las Vegas is known as much for its weddings as it is for its casinos. With an average of more than 100,000 marriage licenses issued annually, Las Vegas is recognised as the world’s wedding capital. Whether it’s eloping on a secret rendezvous, or planning an elaborate ceremony for hundreds of your family and friends, there is no place quite like Vegas to make it official.
Part of the allure of getting married in Las Vegas is that it offers the ultimate freedom of choice, ranging from Elvis presiding over a 24‐hour, drive‐through chapel to a lavish soiree at one of the world’s premier resorts. In addition, Las Vegas has minimal requirements and no waiting period, making “quickie” weddings an attractive possibility.
Since its early history, Las Vegas has been the wedding destination for a multitude of celebrity couples including Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu, Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, Jane Fonda and Roger Vadim, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere, Britney Spears and Jason Alexander, and Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie. Others who have tied the knot in Las Vegas include Brigitte Bardot, Billy Martin, Joan Collins, Judy Garland, Vic Damone, Jon Bon Jovi, Charisma Carpenter, Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney (several times), Mary Tyler Moore, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford, Michael Jordan, and Dennis Rodman.
If you want it, Vegas has it. From designer splurges to bargain deals, Las Vegas has become a one‐stop shopping Mecca. Everything from colourful souvenir shops to haute couture boutiques can be found in retail centres along the Las Vegas Strip and surrounding areas.
Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino is the 1.2‐mile retail/entertainment complex at the heart of Las Vegas Boulevard. Miracle Mile Shops features 15 restaurants, live entertainment and 170 specialty stores including retail brands such as H&M, Urban Outfitters, Ben Sherman, Quiksilver, bebe, Sephora, French Connection, Betsey Johnson, Frederick’s of Hollywood and True Religion Brand Jeans. Recently, Miracle Mile Shops welcomed Las Vegas’ only Club Tattoo, founded by Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington and long-time friend Sean Dowdell. Rock & Roll Religion is the Los Angeles‐based company’s only Las Vegas outpost featuring brands such as English Laundry, Fender: The Clothing Collection; Jimi Hendrix: The Experience, and Da Vinci. DC Shoes, the California‐based retailer, features men’s, women’s and children’s footwear inspired by an extreme sports lifestyle. American Apparel showcases a wide range of clothing items for men and women.
Anchored by a flagship, 85,000‐square‐foot Barneys New York, The Shoppes at The Palazzo offers more than 60 luxury boutiques. In addition to Barneys New York, 20 remarkable stores and luxury brands have made their Las Vegas debuts at The Palazzo. They include Chloe, Tory Burch, Christian Louboutin, Diane Von Furstenberg, Van Cleef & Arpels, Catherine Malandrino, Anya Hindmarch, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Jimmy Choo, Piaget, Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo, Fendi, Bottega Veneta and Montblanc to present one of the most upscale retail destinations under one roof in the United States. Las Vegas‐based Elton’s men’s store has recently received some important accolades. The store was named 2008 Retailer of the Year by designer Mark Nason and is now the boutique of Choice for Scott Kay jewelry in Las Vegas. Elton’s was named 2008 Best Retailer of the Year for Best Contemporary Store in the United States by MR Magazine, the industry’s leading publication for men’s retail.
Once known for its all you can eat buffets and bargain shrimp cocktails, Las Vegas has transformed itself into a top culinary destination. Within a decade, Las Vegas has redefined the culinary and wine experience by offering the most comprehensive collection of celebrity chefs and world‐class restaurants, more Master Sommeliers than any other city in the world, and more wine sold per capita than in any other destination.
Bon Appétit magazine, a leading authority in the culinary world, cemented Las Vegas’ place among U.S. dining capitals by declaring the destination as one of the nation’s top five restaurant cities. In fact, the publication has partnered with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and Las Vegas resorts, to host an annual epicurean event called Vegas Uncork’d. This four‐day event in May provides an intimate connection with legendary chefs, along with grand tastings of their delectable creations.
In the early 40s, the first buffet opened at the original El Rancho Vegas Hotel, the Las Vegas Strip’s first hotel. Beldon Katleman, El Rancho’s owner, initiated the all‐you‐can eat‐ for‐a‐dollar “Midnight Chuck Wagon Buffet” in an effort to keep patrons on the property during late‐night hours. His idea of treating guests to an elaborate array of food for a small price was copied again and again. As a result, the Las Vegas buffet has earned its place in the city’s history.
Buffets are still popular in Las Vegas. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the average buffet features about 45 food selections per meal including salads, fruits, roast beef, baked ham, roast turkey, vegetables and a variety of desserts.
Several properties are taking their buffet experiences to the next level. The Rio All‐Suites Hotel & Casino renovated its Rio Carnival World Buffet and Village Seafood Buffet by increasing its dish selections. The Carnival World Buffet has more than 300 offerings and 70 dessert dishes from around the world ‐ from pizza to omelettes and from teppanyaki to fresh pasta. The Buffet at TI (Treasure Island) and Cravings at The Mirage both showcase an international line‐up as well with American barbeque, a sushi bar, and specialty pastas all in addition to the traditional buffet items.
Meanwhile, Flavors, Harrah’s Las Vegas ‘newest buffet, features live cooking stations, freshly prepared seafood, Prime Rib and a varied menu that also includes Churrasco (Brazilian BBQ), hand‐rolled sushi and Italian casseroles prepared in a wood‐burning oven.
The Grand Canyon in western Arizona lies approximately 300 miles (480 kilometres) or a one‐hour flight from Las Vegas. Over millions of years, the Colorado River carved this natural wonder that is one mile deep and 277 miles long. Sightseeing air tours and ground tours of the Grand Canyon depart Las Vegas daily for half‐day, full‐day and overnight excursions.
Red Rock Canyon is just 15 miles (24 kilometres) west of Las Vegas. It is a scenic area of rock formations and desert with a 3,000‐foot (910‐meter) escarpment produced by a thrust fault. Open to the public year‐round and a popular destination for hikers, bikers, joggers and rock climbers, Red Rock Canyon offers a Bureau of Land Management visitors centre, and is home to feral horses, wild burros, bighorn sheep, coyotes and a variety of desert plant life.
Valley of Fire State Park is only 55 miles (88 kilometres) northwest of Las Vegas and comprises scenic landscapes, hidden canyons and unique red rock formations. Petroglyphs and remains of ancient Native American civilizations can be viewed here and a Nevada Park Service visitors centre provides tourist information. The park is open to the public year‐round and tours are available.
Mojave National Preserve is only 60 miles (97 kilometres) southwest of Las Vegas. This 1.6‐million‐acre preserve, which protects one of the most diverse environments in the world, abounds with sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, Joshua tree forests and mile high mountains. The preserve’s visitor centres, located in Baker and Needles, Calif., welcome visitors year‐round.
Hoover Dam is an engineering wonder of the world just 35 miles (56 kilometres) southeast of Las Vegas. Formerly named Boulder Dam, this historic man‐made creation tamed the mighty Colorado River and created North America’s largest man‐made lake, Lake Mead. The 726‐foot‐high, arch‐gravity dam is 660 feet thick and forever changed the face of the western United States. On‐site tours of the dam are available to the public throughout the year.
Las Vegas attracts up to forty million tourists a year. If you want to be part of the frenzied peak season plan your trip between March and May (spring) or October (autumn). If you want to score a bargain on the low season summer is the time for you. Between June and August the temperature frequently sits above 35 degrees Celsius but everywhere has air conditioning. In winter temperatures can get below zero so pack accordingly.
There are a number of airlines which fly direct from the east coast to Los Angeles daily. It’s a 40 minute flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and a range of domestic carriers can take you there.
Population: 558,383 (2008 estimate)
Languages: English (official)
Local Time: GMT – 8. Pacific Time Zone.
Currency: United States Dollar
Exchange Rate: $AUD1: 0.89 USD
Electricity: 120 Volts at 60 Hz
Start planning your trip to Las Vegas today – speak to your personal travel manager.