Las Vegas is the largest city in the U.S. state of Nevada. Nicknamed the Entertainment Capital of the World, it is situated in the Mojave Desert of Southern Nevada. The city features many mega-hotel/casino complexes decorated with lavish care and attention to detail creating a fantasy-like environment. The casinos often have names and themes that evoke romance, mystery, and exotic destinations.

Tips for a Successful Day in Las Vegas

  • Choose a hotel on the Strip. They're a little more expensive, but you'll waste time driving, parking and/or waiting for buses if you stay somewhere else.
  • You can't do it all. Get used to the idea. Even if you stroll along Las Vegas Boulevard and stop once in a while, "doing" all the casinos takes at least two days. If there's something else you really want to see that isn't in the suggested itinerary, add it to your day's plans, but you'll probably have to skip something else to make time for it.
  • Pace yourself. Las Vegas is fun by day, but it's magic at night. You need to have some energy left after the sun goes down.
  • To save time, use the the Las Vegas Trolley or hail a taxi to cover long distances.
  • To maximize sightseeing time, eat a big breakfast and try a buffet in the afternoon (before 6:00 p.m., when lines start getting long). Hunger pangs usually determine where I eat in Las Vegas. Locations with the best-rated buffets are noted to help you choose.
  • Gamble in any casino that strikes your fancy. Conventional wisdom here holds that the Strip casinos are so much competitive with that all offer about the same odds.

A Day in Las Vegas

This itinerary leads you to a sampling of Las Vegas' best sights, and gets you to them at the best time of day. It doesn't cover everything on the Strip, but concentrates on a sample of the best while keeping walking to a minimum.

Start at the Venetian, on the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip) between Flamingo and Sands Avenues. The round-trip walk outlined below is about three miles, not counting detours through the casinos. Wear comfortable shoes. If your hotel is far from this point, take a taxi or the Las Vegas Trolley to get here.

The Venetian: This casino boasts not one but two Guggenheim museums, a 585,000-gallon canal and reproductions of Venice's most famous buildings. The gold-framed ceiling frescoes inside the casino entrance and marble floors lend an opulent feel and strolling characters in twelfth to seventeenth costumes add a fairy tale touch. Head south from here toward Caesar's, your next stop, then keep going south until you reach New York New York.

Caesar's Palace: Caesar's is my favorite Las Vegas casino, as clean and elegant inside as it is out. Stroll down a Roman street through the Forum Shops, and don't miss FAO Schwarz's version of the Trojan Horse, or the The Fall of Atlantis show, which runs every hour. For a sit-down meal here, try Bertolini's, in the piazza next to the Fountain of the Gods.

Bellagio: Inspired by a village on Italy's Lake Como, the Bellagio boasts Las Vegas' most unusual lobby ceiling, an exuberant, Dale Chihuly-designed, blown-glass creation that tempts many a photographer to plop down on their backs to get the best shot of it. Beyond the lobby lies the Conservatory, filled with seasonal flowers and plants.

Tickets2Nite (in the Showcase Mall, between the MGM Grand and Aladdin) sells same-day show tickets at half price. Stop right after they open at 2 p.m. for the best selection. Choosing an earlier show (8 p.m.) will give you a rest, but a later one will allow more time for free sidewalks shows like the Mirage volcano and Bellagio Fountains, which end around midnight.

New York New York: The faux city skyline soars outside, but the streets of New York inside can get crowded, just like the real thing. The roller coaster here is fun, zipping around both inside and out. Cross Las Vegas Boulevard here and turn back north (the direction you came from).

MGM Grand: The Lion Habitat is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

If Tickets2Nite wasn't open yet as you walked the other direction, you can stop there now, on your way back.

Aladdin: Their Spice Market Buffet is rated one of the best, and the Desert Passage Shops are nice.

Paris Las Vegas/Eiffel Tower Experience: The casino floor here mimicks Paris' famous subway station designs and flows into a Paris street scene, where you'll find another of the city's best buffets. Visit the Eiffel Tower Experience near sunset, and stay up there long enough to get both daylight and night views.

Bellagio Fountains: The waters dance daily from 2 p.m. until midnight, but they're more fun at night when they're fully lighted. The Bellagio buffet is one of the best, and most expensive.

Mirage Volcano/Sirens of TI: While the Mirage and Treasure Island don't have so much "wow" factor inside, their outdoor shows are free and fun. The volcano "erupts" from dusk to midnight, and the sirens fight the pirates from 4 to 10 p.m. The Venetian (where you started) is across the street from Treasure Island.

Note: The Stratosphere is a long way down the Strip from here, the lines for the elevator are long, especially at night, and the Eiffel Tower's views are better. If you want to go anyway, take a taxi.

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