Lonely Planet's top 10 acts of escapism in Vegas
Guests are treated like royalty by the artificial beach in Mandalay Bay Resort. (Jerry Alexander/LPI)
A Bible-toting Elvis kisses a giddy couple who have just pledged eternity in the Chapel of Love. A blue-haired granny feeds nickels into a slot machine while chain-smoking and slugging gin and tonics. A porn star saunters by a nightclub’s velvet rope. Welcome to Las Vegas – blink and you’ll miss it. Sleep? Forget about it.
Vegas is the ultimate escape. A few frenzied sleepless nights here can be more intoxicating than a week-long bender somewhere else. Let the everyday rules of behaviour slide a little, like a burlesque dancer's feather boa. Be as bad as you want to be, and make your most devilish fantasies come true. Sin City stands ready to give you an alibi: what happens here, stays here. Who can resist such seductive temptation?
Here are the top 10 ways you can have the most frenzied, fast-paced and fantastical time of your life in Vegas.
Dive into the free-for-all on the Strip
The sensory overload of blindingly bright neon lights signifies that yes, you have finally arrived on Las Vegas Blvd (aka the Strip). The infamous Strip has the lion's share of hulking casino hotels and megaresorts, all flashily competing to lure you inside. The opposite side of the Strip holds just as many distractions. Lean over the graceful bridges and balustrades of the Venetian and watch the singing gondoliers oar their boats through the mock canals of this Italianate casino.
Party with the locals on "First Friday" nights
On the tattered fringes of downtown, hidden among the antique shops and vintage clothing stores, is the city's emerging 18b Arts District. Drive by it on any given weekday and you might not even notice pivotal landmarks like the Arts Factory. But on the first Friday night of each month, these rundown streets take on a carnival atmosphere as 10,000 art lovers, hipsters, indie musicians and hangers-on turn it into one giant block party.
Examine the legacy of the Cold War at the Atomic Testing Museum
During the atomic heyday of the 1950s, visitors downtown stared, mesmerized, as mushroom clouds rose from the desert behind Las Vegas. Over the next four decades, more than 900 nuclear explosions were initiated at the Nevada Test Site, just 65 miles northwest of the city. Multimedia exhibits at the Atomic Testing Museum focus on science, technology and the social history of the Atomic Age. There is also a cool scientific- and retro-minded museum shop, where you can buy your very own A-bomb fallout shelter sign or biohazard T-shirt.
Shop for one-of-a-kind gambling souvenirs
The kitschy age of old-school casinos and the heyday of outrageous theme hotels may be drawing to a close as the Strip's casino hotels trade their gaudy Egyptian gods and faux European landmarks for more chic - but ultimately boring - high-class luxury. Fans of Old Vegas can still pick up pieces of these old-school hotels at fun, funky shops such as Gamblers General Store that collect vintage casino souvenirs, from authentic gaming chips to your very own slot machine.
Wow at the avant-garde circus exploits of Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil's circus shows rule the roost with the Strip's longest-running spectacular (since 1993). Though founded in Québec, Cirque du Soleil seems tailor-made for Las Vegas, where spectacle is craved above all else. Whimsical multicoloured costumes, high-flying aerial acrobatics and giant-sized taiko drums add up to an electrifying atmosphere, and you can easily get caught up in the heart-pounding shows.
Refuel late-night at retro hideaway Fireside Lounge
When it is 4am and your feet hurt after shakin' your booty all night long, where are you gonna go? Escape the other tourists at the Peppermill Casino's 24-hour Fireside Lounge. Hidden away on the North Strip, this pint-sized coffee shop with its candy-bright neon lights and faux flickering fireplaces is a beacon. The psychedelic decor and special-effects water fountains are as distracting as the cocktail waitress's slinky dress.
Let it all hang out in downtown's historic Glitter Gulch
When you've tired of the glitz of the Strip, ride the double-decker Deuce Bus downtown to Fremont St. There you will discover the city's original hurly-burly casino row, nicknamed Glitter Gulch. This old-school gambling ghetto sprang up beside the railroad tracks back in 1905. Although the downtown gambling halls are not glamorous like Vegas' megaresorts, their proximity to one another is a real plus. You can easily stumble between half a dozen gaming joints here.