Sin City’s hulking megaresorts and casino hotels flashily compete to lure travellers and their wallets inside with a dizzying array of larger-than-life shows, celebrity-filled clubs, cabarets, jukebox bars and cocktail lounges. Here are some of Vegas’s most astounding spectacles and venues.

Cirque du Soleil is made for Vegas, where spectacle is the name of the game, and the aquatic O at Bellagio is the hottest ticket in town. Aerial acrobatics, high dives and synchronised swimming create an electrifying atmosphere. If you can’t get tickets, try Mystère, KÀ or the Beatles-themed LOVE (Bellagio, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd S; 7.30pm & 10pm Wed–Sun; from £70).

Streaking down the centre of Vegas’s historical Glitter Gulch gambling district, the Freemont Street Experience is a pedestrian mall lined with casinos and topped by a 450m-long canopy, which displays a six-minute light and sound show hourly. The shows are kitsch but mesmerising – and particularly exhilarating if you happen to be zooming by on the new Flightlinez zipline (from £10).

See the feather and rhinestone headdresses of old-school Vegas showgirls at Bally’s Backstage Tour, then score tickets to Jubilee! to see the women in action. One of Vegas’s long-running shows, more than 1,000 costumes are worn during the extravaganza (surprising for a topless revue). If you can forgive the cheesiness, you’ll have a riot (3645 Las Vegas Blvd S; 7.30pm & 10.30pm, not Fri; £38; tour £8 with a show ticket).

When it’s 4am, your feet hurt and you’re in no mood for another glitzy bar, head to the Strip’s most spellbinding hideaway. In Peppermill’s Fireside Lounge, the swinging ’70s never ended. Couples chill out in couches and sip mai tais and martinis beside the glow of neon lights and faux flickering fireplaces (2985 Las Vegas Blvd S; open 24 hours; cocktails from £5).

Once you’ve dropped some serious cash on cocktails at the megaresorts, head down to Fremont East to throw back a few beers at some local downtown watering holes. This buzzing enclave is dominated by the Beauty Bar, a ’50s beauty salon that’s been turned into a live music venue. DJs and bands (think anything from punk to metal and glam rock) rotate nightly and the bar also hosts karaoke nights (517 Fremont St; 9pm–2am; beers from £2).

Dangling like a glimmering jewel in the centre of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is The Chandelier, a three-tiered cocktail bar that’s draped with glass beads. Perched on a velvet loveseat, you’ll feel like you’re sipping champagne inside a jewellery box. The first level hosts DJs, the second specialises in cocktails (try the Fire Breathing Drago with Thai chilli) and the third serves floral and fruit infusions (3708 Las Vegas Blvd S; open 24 hours; cocktails from £6.50).

Steve Wynn’s signature hotel is home to Tryst: a decadent club. Situated on a faux lagoon under a waterfall, the cascade doesn’t just make the place look cool – the mist literally cools you off after you’ve worked up a sweat. Expect over-the-top cocktails such as the 24k gold-sprinkled Ménage a Trois (Wynn, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd S; 10pm–4am Thu–Sat; cover charge from £13).

There’s an unusual glow over the dance floors at the Palms’ twin nightclubs. At futuristic Moon, the roof retracts, so you can dance to hip-hop, rock and pop while desert stars shine above. At Rain, high-end pyrotechnics mean you’ll be dancing to beats by big-name DJs beneath blazing fireballs (Palms Casino Resort, 4321 W Flamingo Rd; Moon Tue, Thu–Sat from 10.30pm, cover £8; Rain Sat from 10pm, cover £12).

XS at Encore is the hottest club in Vegas – for now. Centred around a gorgeous pool, the indoor-outdoor layout gives the club an open feel that’s welcome at 3am after too many shots of tequila. The world’s best DJs are often on the turntables and the scene is upscale. Monday is the best night as the cover is cheap and the lines are much shorter (Encore, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd S; Fri– Mon 10pm–4am; cover from £13).

BA flies to Las Vegas from London Gatwick and Heathrow, and Virgin Atlantic flies from Gatwick and Manchester (from £620 from Gatwick). The easiest and cheapest way to get to your hotel is by airport shuttle (£5 to the Strip). Las Vegas is a great road trip destination, so you may want to fly to other US cities then hire a car: LA is a 4½-hour drive, San Diego 5 hours. To get around Sin City, it’s worth remembering that the Strip is more than four miles long. You’ll be best off combining walking (the Strip has movable walkways and elevated crosswalks) with monorail, bus rides and the occasional taxi.

Where to stay
Relive the fabulous heyday of Vegas in the ’50s at the Golden Nugget, a casino hotel that set the downtown benchmark for extravagance. Outside, a three-storey water slide plunges through a huge shark tank (129 E Fremont St; from £40).

Unlike most Vegas hotels, the 4,000-room Aria in CityCenter has no particular theme. It attracts a sophisticated guest who comes for the contemporary design, Fine Art collection and fantastic spa (3730 Las Vegas Blvd S; from £100).

Sin City’s most luxurious address is the Encore. It has beautiful indoor flower gardens and standard rooms (suites) come with floor-to-ceiling windows and flat-screen TVs in the bathrooms (3131 Las Vegas Blvd S; from £160).

The article 'Mini guide to nightlife in Las Vegas' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.