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Las Vegas - Disneyland for Grown-Ups

The Mob has left the city, so they say but their legacy lives on in full sparkly technicolor.

Las Vegas is a thrilling place to visit and experience. You'll either fall in love with the dazzling lights, countless shows, overindulgent luxury themed hotels and drive-through wedding chapels or you'll think it's all very tacky but glad you came and seen it all anyway.

And who wouldn't want to indulge themselves at this modern oasis in the middle of a desert?

Whether your plan is to wander around the hotel resorts for the shopping and spa facilities, take in a few shows, wear out the kids at the amusement parks or gamble some chips away at the Blackjack table, you can make of Las Vegas whatever you want to and enjoy your visit.

And if you're looking for something different to do then there's nearby Lake Tahoe, The Hoover Dam, The Grand Canyon, The Sierra Mountains and even the nonexistent super secret Area-51 base only a hop and a skip away from your Las Vegas hotel.

www.lasvegasnevada.gov

Top 10 things to do in Las Vegas

Caesars Palace

Definitely not built in one day, this Roman themed luxury hotel was built in 1966 and still manages to keep up with the ever growing additions to the strip.

WIth one of the highest betting limits in city, the casino here is a favourite with high-rollers, celebs and lotto winners as is the Race and Sports Book that is host to 12 huge screens broadcasting the cream of top sporting events for you to bet on.

The hotel itself is like walking around a huge art gallery with Vintage LeRoy Neiman paintings and iconic images by sports photographer Neil Leifer, including his famous shot of boxer Muhammad Ali's 1965 victory over Sonny Liston.

Spread over the hotel's five towers, the rooms are spacious and luxurious with marbled bathrooms more amenities than you could ever hope to use.

Located just off the lobby, the Augustus Tower features French Chef Guy Savoy's restaurant, two VIP lounges with private check-in for high-end players, three indoor wedding chapels, the relaxing Qua Baths & Spa and boisterous Color salon by celebrity stylist Michael Boychuck, can all be found here.

For the night owls, flair bartenders and shadow dancers keep the energy going at Shadow Bar while guests can let it all shake out at Cleopatra's Barge Nightclub by dancing on top of a water-soaked barge.

www.caesarspalace.com

Bellagio

The outside of this hotel is world famous for it's daily musical fountain show.

The eight acre lake that sits in front of the hotel, blasts water high into the sky from 1,200 nozzles, coordinated with over 4,500 lights and synchronised to various pieces of music including those from the original Rat Pack.

Shows start from 3pm until midnight and can last for up to 10 minutes.

The 30 storey luxury hotel and casino is built on the site of the legendary Dunes hotel and is estimated to have cost around US$1.6 billion. The theme is Inspired by the Lake Como resort of Bellagio in Italy and it is famed for it's elegant interiors.

Art is a common theme at the Bellagio with museum-calibre exhibitions chosen from prestigious collections.

The shops at Via Bellagio are high-end and exclusive, while nightlife turns classy at The Bank nightclub.

Couples wishing to marry will find an ambience of beauty and romance at the Bellagio's wedding chapel and can even tie the knot upon the Terrazza di Sogno (Terrace of Dreams), an Italian balcony overlooking the fountains.

www.bellagio.com

Venetian

Sitting on the old site of The Sands, The Venetian is a part of the largest five-star hotel and resort complex in the world featuring 8,108 hotel rooms and suites.

Inspired by the spirit of Venice, this resort (and it is so much more than just a hotel) comes complete with frescos, canals, gondolas, strolling performers and of course gourmet food.

Whilst wandering around taking in the sights it's not unusual for one of the many strolling performers to suddenly jump atop a canal bridge and burst into a traditional Italian song.

Of course, you can take a gondola ride around the hotel in the canals that are not only limited to outside but take you to many stop-off points inside.

There is a wealth of shopping opportunities inside with the 500,000-square-foot Grand Canal Shoppes, boasting some of the top Italian design houses. The ceiling is decorated with an exquisite fresco with lights and projections that almost make you believe you're outside.

The resort's latest addition is the Venezia Tower and the luxury rooms here are 700-square-foot suites that boast 9-foot ceilings, 130-square-foot bathrooms, three telephones and two 27-inch flat-screen TVs, among other luxuries.

www.venetian.com

Luxor

Located at the southern end of Las Vegas Strip, the Luxor's massive jet black glass pyramid shape predominantly stands out along the skyline both during the day and at night, along with a massive sculpture recreation of the Great Sphinx of Gaza at the entrance.

When the sun goes down, the hotel's Starlight Lighting System powers up with thousands of lights chasing up and down the four corner edges of the pyramid and the worlds brightest beam sitting atop, thrusting a 42 billion candle power beam straight up into the heavens.

No prizes for guessing the theme of this hotel and it doesn't disappoint inside either. The hotel has shed much of it's interior Egyptian image over recent years, catering more for the modern adult audience with ultra-chic lounges, restaurants and clubs.

The two-storey LAX Nightclub attracts a host of top celebrities, including Britney Spears, Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney, heiress Nicky Hilton and hip-hop/rap artist P. Diddy. This is not a venue to visit if you're on a budget!

At more that 100,000 square feet, the casino is one of Las Vegas' biggest, with almost 2,000 buzzing and blinking slot and video poker machines, an array of table games, a race and sports book and a poker room.

Indoor walkways make it easy to visit the Luxor's surrounding hotels, leading south through the Mandalay Place shops to the Mandalay Bay hotel and north to the Excalibur hotel. A monorail also connects the three properties.

www.luxor.com

MGM Grand

Second only to The Venetian in size and scale, the MGM Grand was the largest hotel/resort in the world when it opened in 1993.

Living up to it's grand name the entrance greets you with a 100,000-pound, 45-foot-tall bronze lion statue perched atop a 25-foot pedestal.

It includes five outdoor pools, rivers, and waterfalls that cover 6.6 acres, a 335,000m² convention centre, the MGM Grand Garden Arena, CBS Television City, and the Grand Spa.

And that's not counting the 16 restaurants and numerous shops and clubs.

One of the signature attractions of the hotel is a glass-sided lion habitat inside the casino area, in which up to six lions are shown every day. A see-through tunnel runs through the habitat for close-up viewing.

If it's entertainment you're after the MGM Grand's Crazy Horse Paris is performed in a theatre designed as an exact replica of the famed Parisian cabaret and the Cirque du Soleil show takes place on a stage that floats, rotates, twists and turns.

You can also catch some brilliant performances at the Hollywood Theater, or take in some good old rock 'n' roll at The MGM Grand Garden Arena which has hosted bands such as U2 and the Rolling Stones.

www.mgmgrand.com

Mirage

This tropical themed hotel has an artificial volcano outside that erupts nightly on the hour between 5pm and 7pm.

The 90-foot-high glass atrium at the hotel entrance features a large number of palm trees, water features, and other "rainforest" flora and is a joy to walk through to get away from the jostle of the busy Las Vegas Strip.

Behind the hotels reception is an impressive 53-foot long, 8-foot tall 20,000-gallon saltwater aquarium which is home to nearly 1000 specimens including sharks, stingrays, porcupine fish, eels, sea bass and puffer fish.

One of the top attractions of the hotel from 1990 to 2003 was the famous Siegfried & Roy show that combined magic and wild animals, most notably white tigers. The show was cancelled in 2003 after Roy Horn was injured by one of the white tigers.

Inside the custom-built theatre is now showing Cirque du Soleil's magical The Beatles LOVE - a fusion of acrobatics, dance and visual effects, accompanied by a classic rock 'n' roll soundtrack.

The hotel gets it's distinctive golden glow from actual gold that was added to the tinting process of all the windows.

www.themirage.com

Circus Circus

Owned and operated by the MGM Mirage, Circus Circus is the largest permanent big top in the world and features circus acts inside the hotel on a regular basis throughout the day.

Located on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, it has the only RV (motor-home) park on the Strip providing accommodation for 399 vehicles.

Inside the hotel the main attraction is the Adventuredome (formerly called Grand Slam Canyon). This 5 acre indoor amusement park offers 25 rides and attractions and is connected to the hotel via The Promenade.

The theme park includes the Canyon Blaster roller coaster, rock climbing wall, 18-hole miniature golf course, an arcade, clown shows, Xtreme Zone, Pikes Pass, Virtual Reality Zone, Midway Games, and carnival-type games making it fun for all the family.

Catering predominantly for the family market, Circus Circus is certainly not the biggest hotel on the Strip, however, it's reasonable prices match with the amenities making it a good all-round choice for first time family on holiday to Vegas with smaller children.

Adults can have their fun too in the traditional casino floor while overhead, live circus acts – acrobats, trapeze artists, clowns, jugglers – perform around the clock.

As the casino operates a very strict over 21's only policy, towards the later hours of the evening you will tend to find a small horde of semi-bored and sometimes slightly narky kids surrounding the floor waiting for their parents to finish that "one last go" on the slot machine before heading up to bed.

The hotel was also used for scenes from the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever and as a backdrop to the more recent Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Yeah baby!

www.circuscircus.com

Stratosphere

Located on the northern end of the Strip and standing at 1,149 feet tall, the Stratosphere Tower is the tallest observation tower in the USA. The viewing platform on the 109th-floor affords stunning 360° views of Vegas and the surrounding desert and hills.

...and the rides at the top of the tower are just insanely scary!

If you never made it down as far as the Stratosphere then you can't really claim to have been gambling in Vegas as it's the northernmost of the major Strip casinos and the only one actually in the City of Las Vegas, as the rest of the Strip south of Sahara Avenue is in the unincorporated townships of Paradise and Winchester

Dining options include the Top of the World revolving restaurant, Roxy’s - a 50’s-themed diner with singing servers and Lucky’s Cafe, a coffee shop and full menu restaurant reminiscent of Vegas in its "Rat pack" heyday.

For the adrenalin junkies out there, or for those who are willing to give anything a go once (and probably never ever ever again), the Stratosphere offers you three thrill rides.

Firstly to get you warmed up, try the Insanity - a massive mechanical arm extends out 64 feet over the edge at a height of over 900 feet and spins you at 40 mph (around 3Gs) and at a 70° downwards angle.

Then if you're still in for more, jump on X-Scream- a giant teeter-totter (a single car sea saw) that pivots back and forward vertically propelling you 27 feet over the edge of the Tower, 866 feet above the ground.

Finally climb aboard the Big Shot at the 113th floor to get ferociously blasted another 160 feet vertically skywards at 45 mph (and over 4Gs) taking you 1,081 feet above the Strip. Of course you still have to come back down!

www.stratospherehotel.com

Wynn Las Vegas

Found at Las Vegas Boulevard South this US$2.7 billion resort is named after casino developer Steve Wynn and is the flagship property of Wynn Resorts Limited.

The resort has earned AAA five diamond, Mobil five-star, and Michelin five-star ratings and is considered to be one of the finest hotels in the United States.

The major difference between the Wynn and many other Las Vegas hotels is that it was designed from the "inside out." In contrast to his previous hotels Bellagio, The Mirage, and Treasure Island, there is no Las Vegas Strip attraction to draw in passers-by. Instead, visitors must venture inside to see what the hotel is all about.

The main attraction is a large, curtain waterfall behind a mountain that faces the strip. The waterfall falls into a 3 acres lake. Both the waterfall and lake have images displayed on them to produce 11 different shows every 15 minutes between 8:30pm and 1:30 am.

Lagoons, waterfalls, terraced landscapes, floor-to-ceiling windows, and skylights throughout the 217-acre resort create a tranquil environment and the 18-hole pro golf course at the rear will be the main highlight for some visitors.

There are a plethora of top restaurants, bars, night clubs and shows throughout the resort with something for everyone from Monty Python's Spamalot comedic musical to Garth Brooks live.

Relaxation is a top priority here with 5 large pools and spa facilities. Of course relaxation doesn't come cheap.

www.wynnlasvegas.com

Grand Canyon

If you're going to do one excursion trip when you visit Vegas then it has to be a Grand Canyon day trip.

Either on your own or as part of a tour, you will head East on the US 93 out of Nevada, crossing over into Arizona at the Hoover Dam & Lake Mead and into a different time zone (Pacific/Mountain).

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, ranges in width from 4 to 18 miles and attains a depth of over a mile (6000 feet).

Recent evidence suggests the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to the point we see it as today.

If you're at the Grand Canyon West side then try out the Skywalk - a horseshoe-shaped glass walkway standing 3,600 feet above the floor of the canyon. Although the Skywalk is not directly above the main canyon it extends over the side just enough for you to really get the feeling of height and scale in this breathtaking natural environment.

If you have the funds and the opportunity then do take one of the helicopter rides. Ascending from a nearby helipad, your pilot will take you slowly across the terrain towards the rim just a few metres above the desert floor before rapidly banking and plunging deep into the main canyon.

Make sure you fight, kick, scream and bite your way to front seat of the helicopter next to the pilot for some one-in-a-lifetime scenes racing in front of and below you.

Most helicopter rides also combine with a boat trip, where you descend to the canyon floor, disembark for a relaxing 30 min boat trip along the Colorado River before ascending in the helicopter back up to the rim.

It's a long day but well well worth it.

www.nps.gov/grca/

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