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Las Vegas City Trip

The brights of the Las Vegas Strip as viewed from above
Colorful Sin City

72-Hours in Las Vegas

By Charlette Krane


This once-sleepy desert watering hole began its slow growth in the 1930s with the building of Hoover Dam. The revolution that propelled Las Vegas to the status of mecca for themed mega-resorts and gamblers' heaven began with the 1966 opening of Caesars Palace, enhanced by the influx of star-chef restaurants in 1992 with the opening of Wolfgang Puck's Spago. Casino resorts throughout the Las Vegas Valley, including several surrounded by world-class golf courses, serve as vacation and special-occasion getaways for almost two million residents, as well as visitors (currently a record 39.7 million a year).

A monorail transports riders (for a fee) to Strip resorts from the MGM Grand to the Las Vegas Convention Center, and free trams connect the Monte Carlo to CityCenter and Bellagio, Excalibur to Luxor and Mandalay Bay, and Treasure Island to Mirage. (Consult GAYOT's Las Vegas Business Travel Guide for information on transportation to and from the airport.) Concierges will help you plan trips to worthy destinations such as the dam, Grand Canyon and the brilliantly colorful Valley of Fire, where nature has crafted sandstone formations from centuries-old rocks.

There is no shortage of accommodations in Las Vegas. Visitors will find some of the world's most luxurious hotels here, as well as bare-necessity lodgings. Don't be daunted by the bigger names: there are usually great, affordable deals year-round. If you really want to be spoiled, Encore Las Vegas and Wynn Las Vegas, both by mega hotelier Steve Wynn, are tony choices. If you want top-of-the-line accommodations with some distance between your hotel and the bustling Strip, we suggest the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort, Spa and Golf. Younger hipsters might be most in their element at the trendy Palms Casino Resort, its sister boutique hotel Palms Place Hotel & Spa, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino or at The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. No matter where you decide to stay, Las Vegas is all about leaving your worries behind and diving right into the city's many diversions. After all, what happens in Vegas...well, you know. Here's your itinerary for three unforgettable days of glitz, glamour, nature and fine dining in the Valley.

LAS VEGAS DAY 1: The Las Vegas Strip

The Shark Reef tunnel at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada
Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef tunnel

Start your day with breakfast at Verandah at the Four Seasons Hotel, or on its stylish outdoor patio overlooking the lush gardens and pool area. You might also want to enjoy eighteen holes at the gorgeous Bali Hai golf course. A couple of blocks farther south on the Strip, visit Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef, relax on the resort's sandy beach complete with a wave pool or shop at The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay between Mandalay Bay and the Luxor.

A complimentary monorail connects Mandalay Bay, the pyramid-shaped Luxor (complete with the Bodies and Titanic exhibits) and King Arthur's Camelot-inspired Excalibur Tournament of Kings dinner show.

Cross Tropicana Avenue to take in New York New York's Big Apple Coaster, the world's first coaster to feature a 180-degree "heartline" twist and dive maneuver. Cross Las Vegas Blvd. to the MGM Grand to test your inner crime-solver at the CSI: The Experience! attraction, where you'll be guided by videos featuring cast members, alongside real-life forensic scientists, and play the role of a crime scene investigator in this hands-on interactive challenge based on the hit TV show.

The iconic fountain show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas
Bellagio's fountain show

A few blocks north of the MGM Grand and Tropicana is Planet Hollywood and its Miracle Mile, which houses an extensive array of shops and restaurants. At the adjacent Paris Las Vegas, take a ride to the observation deck at the top of the Eiffel Tower and enjoy the view. Then dine outdoors on Mon Ami Gabi's sidewalk patio, which includes a dazzling view of Bellagio's lake and iconic fountain show across the Strip, where the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art and botanical conservatory with its seasonal flowers, plants and décor are also popular attractions.

Take the elevated pedestrian skywalk to cross the street for lunch at the plush Bellagio; Olives (with seating in its handsome dining room and on its outdoor patio on the lake) is a superb choice. Or eat across Flamingo Road at Caesars Palace in Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, Wolfgang Puck's Spago, or on the Trevi patio next to the statues complete with waterfalls. Catch the Forum Shop's complimentary show, Fall of Atlantis, presented several times daily.

Just because it's the desert doesn't mean that we don't have an abundance of wildlife. Cross the Strip to Flamingo Las Vegas, where the lush pool area's Chilean flamingos, brown pelicans, swans, turtles, Mandarin ducks and Koi fish live in luxury surrounded by three-story-high waterfalls.

Continue north a short block to The Quad to tour The Auto Collections. Resuming your trip up the Strip, stop in at The Venetian to pose for a photograph with the lifelike wax recreations of famous figures from the past and present at Madame Tussauds. Head onward to visit the beautiful Wynn Las Vegas with its water features, fine art adorning the casino area's walls and array of outstanding restaurants. The matching bookend next door, Encore Las Vegas, features restaurants such as Sinatra, Lakeside and Wazuzu. Cross the Strip and set your sights north once again for Circus Circus and its family-oriented Adventuredome Theme Park.

The hip and stylish Ghostbar at the Palms resort in Las Vegas
Hip and stylish Ghostbar

A spa treatment back at Mandalay Bay or afternoon tea at Verandah might be a welcome respite before dinner at Hubert Keller's Fleur, Charlie Palmer's Aureole, Alain Ducasse's Mix or Rick Moonen's rm seafood, followed by a concert at House of Blues or cocktails in the Mix Lounge or in the Foundation Room.

As to post-dinner diversions, the very hip Palms has a stronghold on the nightclub craze with its Ghostbar and Rain, where resident DJ Mark Stylz performs. The Palms is where big-name stars vie to stay in the full-floor Real World Suite (in which the MTV show was filmed). The Palms' Fantasy Tower features Moon, which is sure to impress partiers with its retractable roof above the dance floor, and the 2,500-seat state-of-the-art Pearl Concert Theater hosts headliner concerts, comedy and sporting events.

Continue to Day 2


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* Top image of the city by Las Vegas News Bureau; Shark Reef photo courtesy of Mandalay Bay; Bellagio fountain photo courtesy of the Bellagio; and Ghostbar photo courtesy of The Palms


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