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A slice of desert that has transformed itself into one of the most lavish places on earth, Las Vegas is a neon-clad metropolis where dreams come down to the turn of a card. But look beyond the lights of the Strip for local flair and natural beauty.

Morning
Start the day off in true Vegas fashion at Le Village Buffet (3655 Las Vegas Blvd S) in Paris Las Vegas. French classics such as crepes are served alongside local standards including peel-and-eat jumbo shrimp.

Before leaving "Paris", take the elevator to the top of the mock Eiffel Tower for panoramic views of the Strip. Stay long enough to catch the quarter-hourly performances of the Bellagio fountains, a clichéd but quintessential Vegas experience.

Midday
It is time to walk off the extra calories. Head over to the brand new CityCenter Las Vegas (3730 Las Vegas Blvd S), a collection of modernist hotels, residences, malls and casinos that is the Strip's most luxurious offering to date.

Brushed metal, sparkling glass and polished stone accentuate the dramatic architecture of the Aria Resort & Casino. High limit tables lure in the serious punters, while swish lounges swarm with buzzing socialites.

Afternoon
Slide behind the steering wheel of a rental car and drive 35km west of the Strip to Red Rock Canyon (1000 Scenic Loop Drive). This conservation area protects a rugged escarpment that rises 1000m into the desert sky.

Beyond the intensely photogenic red rock, the conservation area is home to a 22km scenic driving loop that also provides access to a network of hiking trails. Watching a pastel-hued sunset wash over the canyon is the antithesis of the Strip's artificial glare.

Evening
Before heading back to the Strip, mingle with the friendly locals at Stoney's Rockin' Country (9151 Las Vegas Blvd S). Friday and Saturday has $20 all-you-can-drink draft beer and free line dancing lessons from 7:30 to 8:30, not to mention a mechanical bull.

There are hundreds of shows to choose from in Vegas, but Cirque du Soleil gets top billing. Longtime favourites include Bellagio's aquatic show O (3600 Las Vegas Blvd S) and the MGM Grand's pyrotechnic-laden Ka (3799 Las Vegas Blvd S).

Late night
Vegas caters supremely to the nocturnal lot. Start off with cocktails at Ghostbar (4321W Flamingo Rd; Palms Casino Resort), a 55th-floor outdoor patio with industrial chain-mail drapes and an otherworldly glow.

Clubs wax and wane in popularity, but Bellagio's Bank (3600 Las Vegas Blvd S) is a perennial favourite. Personalized service and an upscale vibe are what set this place apart, especially if you spring for VIP treatment.

Dawn
Around-the-clock steakhouses are a time-honoured Vegas tradition. Before calling it a night, tuck into a seasoned cut of prime rib at The Victorian Room (3595 Las Vegas Blvd S, Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon), and wash it down with the obligatory mimosa or two.

Practicalities
South of the Strip, McCarran International Airport (LAS; 5757 Wayne Newton Boulevard) has flights to major cities in the US, Canada and Europe. Major car rental agencies operate booking counters in the arrivals terminal.

Luxury hotels are cheaper here than almost anywhere else, and Internet specials can sometimes knock up to 50% off the price. Steve Wynn's Encore (3121 Las Vegas Blvd S) is classy and playful without being overbearing.

The Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas (3752 Las Vegas Blvd S) offers its signature brand of Asian-inspired minimalism. THEhotel (3950 Las Vegas Blvd S; Mandalay Bay) is an all-suites boutique hotel with a contemporary urban vibe.

© Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘A perfect day in Las Vegas’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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