Nestled deep in the Nevada Desert lays an adult’s version of Disneyland, a place offering entertainment and wonder, with the opportunity to experience many different parts of the globe within the space of a 6.8 km strip.Las Vegas is easy to get to from this side of the world, with flights from Málaga to New York only eight and a half hours, and the option to stop over and visit the Big Apple before jetting off again on a connecting flight of just over five and a half hours to the City of Lights. Some may pass Las Vegas off as simply a gambler’s Mecca, but this short strip does in fact have a lot more to offer. Granted it does have forty casinos for those who hope to win big and change their life, but there are also alternative ways to do that here, as well as endless other amusements.

How Vegas Was Born Although many consider the adult’s playground a pretty recent creation, Las Vegas stems back from the early 20th century when it was integrated as part of Clark County. Created essentially by rail workers who established links from Southern California, these enabled the region to flourish, encouraging farmers to sow their crops and bring fresh produce to the area, necessitating the development of a water supply. Male labourers flocked in to work on the Boulder Dam in the early 1930s, which is today known as the Hoover Dam: an energy saving plant which produces a phenomenal source of hydroelectric energy.

The creation of electricity in the area and the increase of people passing through gave rise to a need to build hotels and create entertainment for the many male workers, whose requirements were happily seen to by business owners and members of the Mafia who constructed casinos and showgirl theatres.

Residents and Acrobats Today, there is plenty of fun available for all the family on the strip itself, including music concerts and shows. Several artists and DJs known as ‘Residents’ live in Las Vegas and perform over certain months of the year, including Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and Calvin Harris to name a few. Cirque du Soleil is also a popular show in the area, with amazing aerobatic performances executed in both air and water, depending on the show you select.

The strip is an attraction in its own right, with many outstanding themed luxury hotels to visit, several even have their own performances. To see the strip at its best, go after dark to get the most out of the entertainment available and to experience the great ambience it has to offer. Stand outside the Bellagio hotel for a wonderful water show, beautifully choreographed with colour and music. The Fountains of Bellagio is a daily show which starts every 30 minutes from 3pm to 8pm Monday through Friday and every 15 minutes from 8pm to midnight. A full schedule of the show is available on the Bellagio website for more information. Further down the strip is the Volcano Show at the Treasure Island Hotel which takes place nightly at 7pm, 8:30pm, 10pm and 11:30pm. These free shows are a delight for children and adults alike!

Most hotels have a casino so if you fancy a flutter you won’t have to look far. If you’re not a high roller then the hotels themselves are entertaining enough as you can ‘travel’ to all corners of the globe. Never been to Venice? Visit the Venetian where you will be able to enjoy a gondola ride indoors. Caesar’s Palace will also take you to Italy with a fantastic indoor shopping experience, making you feel like you are actually in Rome. If you want more of an Egyptian episode, then head to the Luxor Hotel where you will be greeted by a replica of the Sphinx itself. A smaller version of France’s Eiffel Tower also stands tall on the famous Strip.

In keeping with the adult’s playground theme, the New York New York hotel has a rollercoaster surrounding the hotel, with drops of a nail-biting 43 metres and a speed of up to 107 miles per hour. The highest rollercoaster in the world is also located in Las Vegas, appropriately named ‘High Roller’, which is situated at the top of the Stratosphere Tower, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the USA. As well as being a fantastic place to take in the views of Vegas, the Stratosphere is also a hotel with its own casino.

Nevada Nuptials

Vegas is also a popular destination for those wishing to avoid the stresses of wedding planning and to elope with a loved one for minimal costs. This easy wedding culture has been another winning attraction for the city, and stems back to 1942, when The Little Church of the West, Vegas’ earliest wedding chapel opened its doors for the first time. It has since joined some famous names in matrimony, including Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere and Bob Geldof and Paula Yates. Neither couple managed to stand the test of time, igniting the flame of doubt for many people when considering marriage in Vegas. Due to its wild reputation, it may not be the most ideal place to exchange vows for some, but for others it provides an easy solution to having to resort to slashing their wedding guest lists due to excessive costs.

It’s not all doom and gloom, as there are also many unions that have resulted in success, including that of Jon Bon Jovi and his childhood sweetheart, Dorothea, and Michael Caine and his wife Shakira.

In order to get hitched in Sin City, all that is required is a marriage licence, which can be purchased from a Marriage Bureau. The licence is valid for a year until a wedding ceremony is performed between the couple. For those not willing to commit completely, it is possible to have the Vegas wedding experience without the marriage licence. Some like to get married by Elvis at the Little Vegas Chapel.

The wedding industry in Vegas has grown in a short time, with there being approximately 115,000 weddings a year, and many opportunities to tie the knot in one of Vegas’ various chapels.

Grand Activities

One of the most amazing things to see while in Vegas is the Grand Canyon. Stretching over 270 miles long and 18 miles wide, it can be accessed in a number of ways. The most impressive experience is a tour by helicopter, flying over to get a bird’s eye view of the brick red landscape where you will even get to stop off for a Champagne picnic and take in the sheer magnificence of the place. Your friendly pilot will point out various landmarks during your tour of the canyon, which will consist of an extinct volcano field which has lain dormant for thousands of years, and many wild animals in their natural habitat, including mustangs, mountain lions and donkeys just to name a few. You will also fly over the Hoover Dam, where you will be reminded of how it all started. Renewable energy sources, such as this water turbine, are common in the area. The power of sun is also harnessed, with solar panel farms dotted around to create another renewable source of energy that keeps the Las Vegas Strip lit at night.

The Grand Canyon has been home to indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The canyon is believed to be a holy site, which attracted many Native Americans who created settlements and lived within its caves. Even today many still live within the site, depending heavily on the tourist industry. The Havasupai Indian Reservation which is made up mainly of waterfalls and streams is maintained by the Havasupai Tribe, who have lived within the canyon for the past 800 years. This reservation is a popular attraction for those wishing to hike through the Grand Canyon, and boasts some of the cleanest air in America; it really is a great choice of location to get the blood pumping. The Hualapai Tribe also opened a 4,000 foot glass-bottomed Skywalk on their property to the public (see essential‘s June issue, page 174). Another way to see the Grand Canyon is by boat down the Colorado River, or even by skydiving for those braver travellers, which became available in 2016.

For those wanting to blow off some steam, there is the opportunity to fire a gun at a shooting range. With an instructor at your side to guide you, enjoy another thrill-seeking activity that Vegas provides. There are many different types of ranges to choose from, such as those with a military theme, where you will be able to launch grenades and ride around in real-life military vehicles to get the total combat experience.

Those not into thrill-seeking adventures and who would rather keep their feet on the ground can take advantage of the many shopping outlets that are around the strip, comprising all your favourite brands at discounted prices. The North Premium Outlets is one such location, where you can have a wander around and buy from top brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Nike, and even the Disney Store for the child in you. Bear in mind that this outlet mall will definitely have you in a sweat, given that it’s located outside in the blazing heat. Make sure you take plenty of water and sunscreen as the desert temperatures can be quite dizzying, ensuring you limit being outside and spend more time in the air-conditioned shops bargain hunting.

The Forum Shops inside Caesars Palace give you a cooler option should you wish to shop for high-street staples and browse boutiques. This great little place also provides the added bonus of the appearance of cobblestone streets, Roman statues and a false ‘sky’ ceiling.

For something on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, those looking to splurge on high-end designer gear should head to The Shops at Crystals, which is located next to the Aria hotel. Thankfully, this luxurious mall is indoors with plenty of air-conditioning, so is a welcome retreat from the unbearable heat outside. There are also several restaurants should you need to refuel.

International Dining

In keeping with its international vibe, Vegas boasts many delicious restaurants for all palates. Mr. Chow is an exclusive Chinese diner located within Caesar’s Palace hotel. They believe that their restaurant should be like the theatre, full of life and entertainment, which is why you may sometimes be greeted by the chefs venturing out of the kitchen and making presentations, such as demonstrating how their noodles are made. Overlooking the Gardens of the Gods Pool Oasis, you will enjoy mouth-watering dishes in a chic, modern setting. Don’t forget to try the duck pancakes!

Fancy spending the evening in Paris? Then head to Bardot Brasserie at the Aria hotel, where you will find Parisian cuisine with a twist. Their specialty is the classic French onion soup, with the option to add braised short rib, black truffle and a soft poached egg for those who like to try something new.

Eatt Gourmet Bistro is a relaxed setting with a Michelin-starred chef for the vegans travelling to Vegas, with some refreshing chilled soups to cool you down from the Vegas sun. Deliciously light salads and fresh appetisers such as the goats cheese tartine are beautifully prepared, and all for a reasonable price.

For the carnivores among us, SW Steakhouse at the Wynn hotel is the place to head. Their chilli-rubbed double rib eye starter appeared on The Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate, and is one of only three places in Vegas that serves Kobe beef. While you chow down on some delicious cuts of meat, you can take in the picturesque evening shows that take place on the Lake of Dreams, which feature music, puppetry and lights, and marvel at the 40-foot waterfall alongside.

The Night is Young

After eating a tasty meal, most people venture out to the Strip to enjoy the ambience that it has to offer. Those wishing to stay up late should head to one of Vegas’ many clubs. Light in Mandalay Bay is one of the newer clubs to join the Vegas Strip, but like many places in town, it sure does bring a show. Having united with the Cirque du Soleil, expect to see plenty of acrobats flying overhead.

XS at the Wynn is known for being one of the most expensive clubs ever built, with its very own swimming pool on the premises. Lots of famous DJs play at this venue, so it is definitely the place to frequent for a great night out full of interesting photo opportunities.

If you prefer a more relaxed ambiance, look no further than Velveteen Rabbit. With an adventurous menu of cocktails, which change seasonally, there will be something to excite everyone’s taste buds. The bar itself is named after a children’s book, about a stuffed rabbit and his wish to become real. One thing is for sure, you will experience some REAL drinks here, with interesting ingredients you would not find elsewhere, such as lemon curd, jalapeno infused tequila, apricot jam bourbon, and even celery mist!

For more traditional, classic cocktails, stick with the Oak & Ivy bar, where the friendly bartenders will even suggest combinations for you to try depending on your tastes. Scotch lovers will enjoy the extensive selection that is available, as well as their whiskey cocktails. Their Moscow Mule is a must try, but which one? They offer nine different versions. For a city that never sleeps, be sure you get plenty of rest before you arrive. You won’t want jetlag to hold you back. With so much to cram in, there’s no time to waste!