As a frequent visitor to Las Vegas,
I am amazed when friends and acquaintances return from a first
trip to this interesting city having missed seeing much of the
"good stuff". My goal in writing this article is to provide you
with my views on what Las Vegas Strip highlights to see first.
If you are in town only a few days and take in most of these
attractions (most are free), you will have made a decent
sight-seeing trip to tell your friends and family about. Last update
This article is limited to mostly free attractions on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas. You can use this article as a guide and add other attractions you want to see as your time permits. Click on small pictures for a larger view. I recommend you bookmark this site and stop back from time to time to see what may have been added.
What I recommend as a Las Vegas first-trip strategy:
The Las Vegas Strip is about four miles long from the Stratosphere on the north end to Mandalay Bay on the south. Driving and parking can be a hassle. So your best bet is to limit these to a few locations and do most of your site-seeing on foot. With some free trams along the way plus above-street walkways (with escalators or elevators), this is not as bad as it sounds. Other travel options include the Las Vegas Monorail, Deuce and Strip Trolley. To make it easier, I have divided the Las Vegas Strip into an upper section and a lower section.
If you had taken this picture, you would be standing on an overhead walkway overlooking one of the busiest intersections on the Strip, due in no small part to nearby McCarran International Airport. It is the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue. On your left (not pictured) is the Excalibur and the free tram to the two southern-most casinos on the Strip, the Luxor and Mandalay Bay. On your right (not pictured) are the Tropicana and, beyond that, Hooters (the old San Remo casinos.
Across Tropicana Avenue from the Excalibur is New York-New York which is on the left. Beyond that you may be able to spot the Monte Carlo marquee and part of City Center including the City Center Aria sign. The tall building with the "C" on top is the Cosmopolitan. The gold-colored building in the distance is the Trump Tower (which is about two thirds of the way down the Strip) and in front of that is Treasure Island (TI ) with the Mirage marquee to the left of TI .
It should be easy to spot the Eiffel Tower in front of Paris Las Vegas which is across Las Vegas Boulevard from Bellagio. Planet Hollywood (previously the Aladdin ) appears just to the right of the Eiffel Tower and MGM Grand dominates the picture's right side. The Strip is not a straight line from south to north but takes a slight "dog leg" to the right by The Mirage and The Quad. So the buildings north of these casinos as well as the High Roller are not visible from this location.
With this brief introduction out of the way, my suggested tour of the Upper Strip takes you down the west side of the street to the Bellagio. You can then cross the street and go back up the other side until you reach MGM or the Tropicana (depending on where you are parked).
This 30-story pyramid has been one of the best themed hotel/casinos (Egyptian of course) and one of my favorite. Upgrades to the Luxor's atrium (or lobby if you prefer) have replaced some of Egyptian decor with non-themed "glitz" However, there is enough left throughout the casino to enjoy. Take time to stroll if you enjoy classic Egyptian statues and monuments. If the weather is nice, you can do a quick tour of the Luxor's outside grounds with 10 story sphinx. If you are in the area at night, you will see a powerful light beam atop the Luxor that can reportedly be seen by aircraft 250 miles away. >>>>>Next - tram or walk (inside or outside) to:
The CityCenter complex has been open for business on the Las Vegas Strip for a few years. You can't miss this 67 acre, 18 million square foot "complex" which is located between the Bellagio on the north and Monte Carlo on the south. The picture on the far left is the entrance to CityCenter's Aria Resort and Casino with the Veer Towers pictured on the right. If you like lots of aluminum and glass, you will like CityCenter. If you like lots of high-end shops and restaurants, you will like CityCenter. There is much to see. Just don't spend all of your time here. Other attractions await you. >>>>> Next - walk back out to the strip and next door to:
The Cosmopolitan opened on 12/15/2010 and is nestled (more like sandwiched) between CityCenter and Bellagio. Over 5 years in the making, the Cosmopolitan is worth stopping in to see. Unlike the long walks to get to the entrances of its two neighbors, the entrance to this hotel/casino is close to Las Vegas Blvd. Inside the lobby you may still find the Cosmopolitan's Giant Red Shoe which has proven to be a very popular photo opportunity for young and old (update: on my most recent trip to Las Vegas, the red shoe was gone and replaced with a glitzy car once owned by Liberace. It's possible the shoe is just out for repairs as it gets lots of wear and tear from people climbing in and out.). I recommend you take an inside look of this rather elegant and popular casino.>>>>>> Next - walk back out to the strip and next door to:
The "crown jewel" of the strip. With its Italian theme, eight-acre lake and water show, this is one of my top picks of places to see in Las Vegas. When you enter this hotel casino (built on the site of the Dunes Hotel (1955-1993)), check out the unique ceiling decoration in the lobby. Walk straight in from the lobby and you will see The Conservatory, a seasonal flower garden. Take the time to see this. It is an absolute treat even if you aren't into flowers and greenery.
The Fountains at Bellagio water show takes place in the Lake Bellagio out front and is truely a "gift" to the Las Vegas visitor. There are a total of 1,214 fountains in the "show" and, as of this writing, there are 28 different shows. So you may want to take in more than one. The Bellagio is classy and elegant and I am not, but I have never felt out-of-place spending time here. >>>>> Next - take the overhead (outside) walkway across the street to:
The MGM Grand has closed the Lion Habitat effective 01/31/2012. This was the must-see attraction I had been recommending for the last several years. With its closing, you may want to skip this stop unless you have some extra time. MGM Grand still is an interesting place to visit but, in my humble opinion, there are no must-see sites here.
The MGM Grand has changed significantly since it first opened. Gone are the lion's paws which you could walk thru from the street to enter the casino. The Wizard of OZ themed display by the entrance has disappeared also. There is a Rainforest Cafe (near the front) which has a gift shop that you might enjoy browsing in. If you have more than a day in town, you can always stop back to see the MGM Grand's lobby (and shopping areas).
By now you have seen some
great must-see attractions and maybe got some great photos
too. It's time to travel down The Strip for more must-see
Your next recommended must-see attractions are in the mid to lower(north) end of The Strip. If you are not staying in one of these hotel/casinos and have a car, you can park in a nice, free ramp behind TI (Treasure Island). Most of the attractions mentioned below are within walking distance.
If you are staying at a hotel/casino in this area, start your morning tour in this area first and move to the upper strip attractions after you have finished. I am assuming you are not staying in this area and are either parking in TI's ramp or having the taxi drop you off at the Mirage front door.
The Mirage opened in late 1989 and is considered the first of the "grand" hotel/casinos on the strip. As you enter this Polynesian-themed hotel/casino through the front door, you may want to go to the right and see what's in back of the registration desk. It is worth seeing and one many people seem to miss on their trip. There is also a nearby tropical rain forest which you may find of interest.
The Mirage is host to the combined White Tiger and Dolphin Habitat. Gone are the days when you could see the White Tigers for free. To see the Dolphins and White Tigers will now cost you $19.95 (adult admission). Follow the signs inside if you decide to see them.
Since opening, the Mirage has been known for its famous 54 foot volcano that erupted every 15 minutes from dusk until midnight. The volcano underwent a renovation and was reopened in December of 2008. The original is pictured above and is/was the better one. >>>>>Next - walk outside (street level) to:
The glory that was Rome (well maybe not quite) is on display in this casino/hotel which has been around since 1966. Caesars takes up a large amount of real estate on The Strip - it is HUGE. You will not have time to see all there is to see on this first-day trip.
My recommendation to have you enter Caesars from the Mirage side (as opposed to the Bellagio side) takes you to my must-see attraction for you - The Forum Shops. You can stroll through this ancient Roman marketplace setting and enjoy the sights of nearly 100 interesting shops. There are also two shows in this area - the "Rise and Fall of Atlantis" and moving Roman "statues" at Festival Fountain. If you can catch one of these shows without waiting, take it in. Otherwise take it in another time.
As you leave this shopping area and walk through the casino, look for the replica of Michelangelo's David (rated R). This casino can be a little confusing to get through so you may miss it and have to come back another time.>>>>>Next - cross the street (outside) to:
The beautiful Venetian is home to a number of attractions - the Grand Canal with its gondolas, Madame Tussauds, the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, The Grand Canal Shoppes. I hope you are staying more than one day as you will want to come back and tour the quarter-mile Grand Canal (inside) with its shops, street performers and Venetian Living Statues.
For your first pass I recommend you take in the outside Grand Canal (and the gondolas and singing gondeliers) from the arched bridge. Then step inside the Venetian, look up and feast your eyes on the beautiful ceiling paintings. The Venetian has added the beautiful Palazzo next door which is just as elegant as the Venetian but this may have to wait for another time. >>>>> Next Stop is the Wynn/Encore.
Your last must-see stop on The Strip, Wynn, was opened in spring of 2005 at a cost of $2.7billion. Built on the site of the old Desert Inn (1950-2000) no expense was spared in the construction of the 50 story Wynn and it shows. From the Esplanade with its high-end shops (Dior, Cartier, Chanel, etc.) to the lobby to the on-site Ferrari/Maserati dealership. It can be a little over-whelming.
Highlights for me are the
bright colors, flowers and plants, waterfalls and the
Parasol Down Lounge. The latest Wynn property in Las
opened for business in late December of 2008. With 2,034
rooms and a $2.3 billion price tag, it is just as
impressive as Wynn
. It is a real treat to just stroll through these two Wynn
properties but keep track of the time as there is more to
Next stop - downtown Las Vegas. From Wynn to downtown Las Vegas is approximately four miles. You can either take The Deuce, Las Vegas Trolley, a taxi or drive. Don't even think of walking any part of the area between the end of The Strip (Stratosphere) and downtown. If you have a car there is a nice, handy parking ramp across the street from the Nugget (on South 1st Street).
You may hear some people say "don't bother going downtown Las Vegas - there is nothing down there to see". That is NOT true. There are some must-see attractions and more nice-to-see ones. And you can still get your picture taken with $1,000,000 at Binions free of charge - a nice souvenir of Vegas.
My favorite place downtown is the Golden Nugget but I've been to most all of them - Binions, Fremont, Fitzgeralds (now The D), Las Vegas Club, Plaza, Main Street Station (a great micro-brewery on-site ), Four Queens, California, Golden Gate (the first Las Vegas casino), etc. You will notice the downtown casinos have a much different personality (and some say looser slots) than those on The Strip.
This well known downtown hotel/casino has a must-see attraction that a surprising number of people know nothing about. The largest gold nugget on public display in the world, 875 troy ounces (approx. 61 lbs., 11 ozs.), is in a glass case just off from the lobby (click on image for a larger view). The Hand of Faith nugget was found in 1980 in Australia and sold to the Golden Nugget in 1982. It can be a little tricky to find and if you have trouble, ask an employee. I think it is well worth seeing (a replica of this famous gold nugget is on display a the Golden Nugget in Laughlin). Speaking of gold, there is a GOLD to Go (gold dispensing) ATM nearby if you have done well at gaming and are ready to invest in the shiny metal.
The Golden Nugget renovated their pool area ($30 million) some time back which includes "the Tank". This attraction is a 200,000-gallon shark tank set up so you can be swimming close to the sharks. How close? This unretouched photo shows Kevin, Jessica and my grandson Charlie Jack just inches away from one. He loved it! You can also take the plunge thru the shark tank via the three-story waterslide. Worth a look if you are downtown seeing other sites.
The sound-and-light show on
Fremont Street is one you won't want to miss. The Fremont
Street Experience is a four-block, pedestrian-only section
of downtown that opened in 1995. In addition to its famous
sound-and-light shows there may be other forms of
live entertainment for you to enjoy. The sound-and-light
shows, usually about four of them a night, start at dusk
and go until midnight. They do not last too long but are
pretty awesome. If you take in one, you'll want to see the
others as there different ones. If you walk out any of the
north doors you are on Fremont Street and the show is
Nine other casinos front Fremont Street in the four-block stretch and they all turn out their outside lights as the show starts. One of the best free attractions Las Vegas has to offer.
Please NOTE you will see some real characters on Fremont Street. On my last visit , I ran into a Gold Prospector (at right, click on picture for a larger view) in front of Binions. Not a statue but a friendly fellow who let me take his picture for this site. Like any place where large crowds gather, not all are there to watch the show. Use a little caution and you will be all right.
Well there you have it. My list of recommended must-see Las Vegas Strip Attractions for you to see in your first few days. No matter where in the world you come from, I hope you find this information useful. And be sure to visit Source1 Las Vegas again. I will be adding/updating articles about Las Vegas in the future that you may find of interest.
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