The famous Las Vegas Strip is a mere four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, which runs largely north to south parallel to Interstate 15. In the short run between Tropicana and Sands Avenues, New York, Paris, Rome, Venice and other themed mega hotels and casinos have been packed in. Follow the Strip north past Sahara Avenue to the older establishments in Downtown and the bright lights of Fremont Street. McCarran International Airport is located just west of the southern end of the Strip.
With few exceptions, the entrance to a Las Vegas hotel is through casinos with blinking slot machines, blackjack tables and craps games. First-timers can take complimentary gaming lessons in most casinos to learn the rules of baccarat, roulette, craps, pai gow poker or blackjack. When gambling at a table or slot machine, cocktail servers will bring complimentary drinks as long as you keep tipping.
Previously known for cheap prime ribs and all-you-can-eat buffets, Vegas has grown to be an epicurean paradise. Big-name American chefs like Thomas Keller and Mario Batali have restaurants here. Fill yourself up on crab legs and prime rib at the Wynn or Bellagio buffets. Budget travelers can grab a late-night sandwich at Canter's Deli, or a burger and fries from In-N-Out.
For popular shows, book tickets in advance of your Las Vegas vacation. There are plenty of options for procrastinators at numerous half-priced ticket vendors and directly from box offices. Splurge on Cirque du Soleil's Beatles-inspired show Love or their ever-popular water-themed O. Enjoy the magical comedy of Penn and Teller, the music of the Jersey Boys or the longest running adult show, Jubilee at Bally's.
Shopping in Vegas, like everything else, is a study in contrasts. At one end there are bargain outlets like the Las Vegas Outlet Center. At the other, designer stores line the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace and Via Bellagio. Quintessentially Vegas are the Gambler's General Store, where you can stock up on dice and World Series of Poker cards, and Serge's Showgirl Wigs, where the glittering showgirls get their best coiffures.
There's no shortage of late-night clubs and 24-hour venues to party in Las Vegas. For dancing and a view of the city lights, take the express elevator to the 55th floor of the Palms. Here, you'll find party-goers spilling out of Ghostbar, a trendy club with space-age décor. Getting bottle service – purchasing an entire bottle of liquor -- although a hit on your wallet, is the best way to snag a table at some of the hottest night spots.