The Nevada boom town, otherwise known as Las Vegas, still lives and breathes gambling. It’s a neon-lit, mini-me world of downscaled New York and Paris skylines, a dazzling testament to poor taste and excess, tacky and tawdry – and entirely fantastic.
The best way to get there is to drive from Los Angeles, with a stop in Death Valley en route, so the famous Strip appears like a mirage in the desert haze as you pass through Red Rock Canyon. There’s something to be said, too, for flying in – or over – at night, with the city lights ablaze.
It might be a bit much in the heat, but a walk along the Strip is an invaluable way to explore Vegas’ attractions. There is little of note beyond the main drag, so you won’t miss anything by restricting yourself to this 6.8km highway lined with fanciful hotels and resorts. Among the most spectacular are Paris Las Vegas with its own Eiffel Tower, New York-New York and its Manhattan skyline, Egyptian pyramid-styled Luxor, and the Venetian and Bellagio, with its signature dancing fountains. Pop in and out – you don’t need to gamble – and enjoy inexpensive meals and drinks along the way.
Vegas is the place to go if you want to see major stars in cabaret, which might be a euphemism for major acts cashing in with their final payday. No matter, you can spend big on the likes of Celine Dion and Elton John, or shell out a moderate amount for a show like Cirque du Soleil’s The Beatles LOVE, the Blue Man Group or Le Rêve – The Dream. It’s also just as much fun is to take a punt on an act of which you’ve never heard. You might catch a young comedian or illusionist on the way up – you’ll have fun in any case.
In the middle of the desert, Vegas is a long way from just about anywhere, but it is a great place from which to access the mighty Grand Canyon, one of the United States main natural attractions. Jump on a deluxe heli-tour, which will take you up and over the Strip and Hoover Dam on the way to the Grand Canyon – ideally at sunset when the Strip is lighting up and the extraordinary sight of the canyon is bathed in soft evening hues. Many tours land below the canyon rim close to the Colorado River.