Las Vegas Guide, Nevada, USA

Las Vegas Strip at night, Nevada, USA

Las Vegas Strip. Photo by Chensiyuan.

Vacations in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is without question the gambling mecca of the world, with the biggest, wackiest casinos and brightest lights you’ve ever seen, the epitome of glitz. It’s a city of illusion where you can see the world without the risk of actually going there, courtesy of multi-million dollar replicas, see some free shows, and it’s the quickest place to get married if you’re American.

Vegas offers great cuisine, excellent assorted nightlife and varied shows from world class performers, though prices are no longer low. And, unlike the old reputation modern Las Vegas is safe and sanitized, even if it is commercial and tacky.

Lastly, the area surrounding Vegas offers some wonderful natural sights and recreation areas, including Lake Mead, the Grand Canyon and Red Rock Canyon.


• If you dislike gambling, glitz or sidewalks full of slow-moving gawpers, then you’ll hate it – outdoor lovers should stay away.
• The Strip is overloaded with gambling oriented places and very short of useful little cool drink or coffee establishments as you stagger from sight to sight, dying of thirst. Now, I wonder where the drinks are. . .

Las Vegas Weather

The best season is March to May.
Las Vegas has no shortage of sunshine with an average of 300 sunny days a year, so temperature is the deciding factor for visitors.
Anytime is fine, of course, if you plan to stay indoors and gamble, but spring (March-May) is the best season to see the desert in bloom and experience cooler more comfortable temperatures for walking the strip, especially if you’re planning to visit some of the dramatic attractions outside Vegas. October is another month with pleasant temperatures ranging from highs of 81F (27) to lows of 55F (13C).

Worst: June-September gets very crowded and is too hot to walk much between the interesting sights, with average highs of over 100F (38C). December-February can get chilly in the evening/night with average lows of 36F (2C), though daytime temperatures are up around 57F (14C).

Length of stay not including flights

Minimum worthwhile: a couple of days to absorb the spectacular exteriors, see some shows – free or not, or throw your savings down the pan.
Recommended: 5 days for sights, gambling and shows at a relaxed pace, with at least 2 days exploring the desert surroundings including Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon and much more.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

All passengers traveling under the Visa Waiver Program are required to have approved travel authorization prior to traveling to the United States: British, Europeans, all of you fanatical foreigners! Homeland Security demands this, even for non-ticketed infants. An application may be submitted by a third party on behalf of a Visa Waiver Program traveler. Get help with ESTA for USA

The famous Luxor hotel/casino pyramid and Sphinx, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States of America

The famous Luxor hotel/casino pyramid. Photo by Miguel Hermoso Cuesta.

Main Free Attractions in Vegas

Walk around the amazing casino exteriors by day, such as Luxor’s pyramid and sphinx, New York New York (with added roller coaster), the Venetian’s beautifully crafted Venice and so on, though most have disappointingly mundane slot machine interiors.

Casinos look even better at night as free shows, bright lights, lasers, parks and water features combine with architectural themes to dazzle the potential punters.
Free night shows: the dancing Bellagio fountains, Treasure Island’s pirate spectacular, erupting volcanoes and more. Crowded of course, but fun and free.

Some of the best casino themes along The Strip: The Paris (French sights); Bellagio (Tuscan village and lake with dancing fountains after sunset); Caesar’s Palace (Roman splendour); The Venetian (Venice sights including the Doge’s Palace, the Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco dining and actual gondolas poling around); Circus Circus (performances in the big top)

The Fremont Street Experience: Part futuristic mall, part urban theater, after dark the canopy of the 5 block street becomes a vast, overhead audio-visual feast powered by a 540, 000 watt sound system and 12. 5 million LEDs, showing different, specially made events – and all for free.

How to win in casinos

• Don’t drink alcohol. Casinos don’t hand out free drinks because they’re generous. They want you rash, careless and not thinking straight, so if you’re serious about wanting to win stay away from the booze.

• Play the odds. Roulette has by far the worst odds of the table games at 5% house edge on a double-zero roulette wheel; craps is 1. 4 %; blackjack 0. 28%; live poker is 0% so it’s the only game that does not favour the house. If you really want to work the slots go for the max bet option which will maximise winnings.

• Don’t get lost, dazed or confused! Casino layouts are deliberately confusing with no clear exits so as you wander you get sucked into the games or slots. And of course there are no clocks or windows to the outside world so you will never be reminded of how much time you have spent there.

• First time control. If you’re a simple tourist and want to have a look around and perhaps experience a little flutter consider going in with a modest fixed sum in a separate pocket budgeted for gaming. When it’s gone, you leave.

• Win and walk. Professionals say the only way to leave Vegas with cash in your pocket is to stop while you are ahead. Winning doesn’t happen often. If it does to you, draw the line at a sensible point and leave or you’ll soon be giving it back, an more.

The Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

The Fremont Street Experience. Photo by Jean Christophe Benoist

Things to do apart from gambling

The Stratosphere Tower, along with the world’s highest roller coaster and the world’s largest public wine collection of 65, 000 bottles at the Rio.

Shows: pay shows and spectaculars, there’s a stunning collection to satisfy all tastes, rock to schlock, magic to tragic, 3D to kiddy. Only the best are seen here and they’re quite easy to access, but charge premium prices these days since many tourists go to Vegas these days for the entertainment alone.

Marriage: getting hitched here is fast and could be entertaining. There are many chapels and ceremonies to choose from, many Elvis themed.

Golf: there are 33 golf courses within 10 miles of The Strip.

Zion Canyon cowgirls, Utah, United States of America

Zion Canyon, a couple of easy hours out of Las Vegas.

Red Rock Canyon**a popular hiking and biking area just 20 miles from Vegas, with 30 miles of hiking trails, a 13 mile scenic drive and lots of excellent rock climbing opportunities ranging from kiddie climbs to super-pro faces. Note that it will usually be hot so start early and prepare for heat.

Hoover Dam** a vast dam was needed to water and power Las Vegas; the 1935 build date gave this structure a great Art Deco style. The dam is 30 miles from Vegas and welcomes visitors.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area**a monster lake (550 miles of shore) for kayaking, boating, fishing, cycling, horse back riding and swimming (tho’ no life guards are on duty and it’s deep! ). Many campgrounds, lodges, marinas, restaurants and so on are available to help you spend your dollars. It’s 35 miles from Las Vegas. The Valley of Fire State Park north of the lake offers strangely eroded fiery rocks as the sun goes down and is also great for hikes or scenic drives.

Zion Canyon*** adjacent to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim but more varied, Zion Canyon is cool and a lot easier to hike horizontally in splendour. It’s 163 miles from Vegas.

Grand Canyon*** the earth’s greatest crack is an awe-inspiring must-see 250 miles away (a scenic 4. 5 hour drive away via the Hoover Dam). The best hikes head steeply down the Bright Angel Trail (3 miles each way; 5-8 hours depending on fitness and gear carried) so a full hike is not an option on a day trip, but there are some shorter hikes available. The views are incredible.
Bus tours go to the South Rim and usually take about 12 hours, with three hours at the canyon. Helicopter tours fly from the less popular West Rim and last from 1-3 hours. The Canyon Glass Skywalk is on the West Rim.

Arts and Culture

Museums and Galleries: Vegas is itself an outdoor museum of American Popular Culture but if you need something more official try the Imperial Palace Auto Museum (famous vehicles); the dazzling Liberace Museum and Elvis-A-Rama (bigtime memorabilia). Sadly several major art galleries (such as a Guggenheim) have closed due to the recession.
And don’t forget to appreciate the original and extraordinary neon art of the city, where kitsch is cool!
If your winnings are huge you could head for the extravagant Picasso Restaurant in the Bellaggio to eat mediocre cuisine under a mass of genuine Picassos.


There’s a great, varied choice of international foodstuffs throughout the city, from Thai to French to Fusion to classic Southwestern American.
Casino food varies from reasonable get stuffed buffets (e. g. the Rio’s Carnival World Buffet offers Thai, Mexican and sushi) to full on mega expensive swank for the high rollers e. g. the Picasso, above.

Mirage Casino

Mirage Casino’s nightly Volcano. Photo by Nandaro.


Gambling: everywhere! You need to be 18 to get into a casino and 21 to actually bet (as with drinking alcohol).

Live Music: lounge lizards will love the extensive choice of big name performers, but not the prices. Vegas is no longer a cheap place to eat fine food or see a great show for peanuts. Prices are similar to any big city.
Magic: as well as making your money disappear the world’s best acts put on spectacular magic shows of all kinds here.

Circus: colourful, incredible stunts from Cirque du Soleil (who have at least 6 shows running simulataneously) etc etc.

Trivia: 70% of cars stolen every weekend in states around Las Vegas are found in self-proclaimed Sin City on Monday morning.

Las Vegas Map

Final advice

Take comfortable shoes, you’ll be doing a lot of walking. The frontage of the Bellagio alone takes five minutes to walk.

Learn the gambling ropes beforehand. e. g. Blackjack dealers don’t respond to verbal commands, only hand signals.

Get a hotel in the centre of the Strip (aka Las Vegas Boulevard) if possible, it’s a long and fascinating street so it’s good to be based on or very near it for 24-7 access.