Attractions in Las Vegas begin at–where else?–the casinos, where the gaming business has adopted the “entertainment store” concept. The larger hotel-casinos are designed as destination resorts for tourists and even locals. Growing legions of megaresorts are adding movie theaters, tot lots and other amusements for their nongambling clientele.
The busiest corner on The Strip may be at Tropicana Avenue, whose tenants include the MGM Grand, New York-New York, Excalibur and Tropicana hotel-casinos. By taking the escalators and the elevated sidewalks, visitors can tour all four properties without using a car or having to cross a busy street.
Similar elevated sidewalks now connect hotel-casinos at the corner of The Strip and Flamingo Road. The hottest new property located at that intersection is the opulent Bellagio, opened in late 1998. Its neighboring hotel-casinos are Bally’s Las Vegas, Caesars Palace and Barbary Coast–all of which recently have undergone renovations and/or expansions.
Other attractions tend to be more spread out, although many are clustered along the 5-mile Strip. Addresses for attractions in this chapter are in Las Vegas unless designated otherwise.
If you want to get out of town for a morning or afternoon, many splendid things lie within an hour’s drive. One don’t-miss attraction is Hoover Dam, just beyond the clean, green community of Boulder City. The 726-foot-high concrete edifice was dedicated in 1935. Its 17 generators produce enough electricity to serve a half-million homes a year, most of them in Southern California. The dam is also a great tourist spot. In fact, more than 32 million visitors have ventured inside so far. The National Park Service conducts informative and entertaining tours. As the guides say: “You can ask any dam question you want,” and children 12 and younger get in free.
Behind the dam is Lake Mead, which offers boating, water-skiing, fishing, boat touring and camping. There are six docking marinas with another half-dozen developed campgrounds along the 550 miles of shoreline.
To the north is Valley of Fire State Park. Eerie landscapes of hidden canyons and unique rock formations dot the landscape. The other-worldly feel of the place attracted the eyes of Star Trek movie producers, who filmed segments here. History buffs will appreciate the petroglyphs and other signs of Indian civilizations.
Mt. Charleston is a great destination for winter skiing and summer refreshment. Just 40 miles north of town off U.S. Highway 95, this high point in the Toiyabe National Forest has ski lifts, hiking trails, campgrounds, miniature golf, and even a year-round outdoor ice-skating rink.
And on the western edge of the Las Vegas Valley is Red Rock Canyon. You can see the stunning cliffs from the city, and you can get a closer look without even leaving your car by driving a 10-mile scenic loop.