Las Vegas Travel Guide
Tupak Shakur bought the farm there, Hunter S Thompson blew his mind there and Tom Jones built up a sizable collection of ladies’ panties there. It rocks, it rolls it can set your soul on fire and you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll be back for more. Get a taste of that golden bait and you’re hooked. This is Sin City. A psychedelic oasis set in one of the most unforgiving landscapes on the planet. Beyond the Glitz and the Go Go lie a thousand square miles of burning rock; a graveyard for the lost, the stranded and the ‘over ambitious’! But that’s another story. Las Vegas is the King of Cities, a 24 seven cornucopia of adrenalin soaked fantasies; a neon abomination that sucks you up and spits you out burned up and itching for more. You better believe it. This is a one-way ticket to hell and you’re gonna love it!
It wasn’t always like this. A little under 100 years ago Las Vegas was a snoozy Mormon railroad town with a population of a round 800. Sure it had gaming houses, they were tolerated but hardly encouraged. By 1930 the population had swelled to over 5,000 and something had to be done about the illicit gambling dens that were springing up around the city centre. In February 1931 gambling in the Las Vegas was outlawed. On March 19 the same year it was legalised in the state of Nevada and one month later the City issued six licenses. Things ticked along nicely for the next fifteen years. Then in 1946 mafia high-flier Ben ‘don’t call me Bugsy’ Siegel opened the sensationally lavish Flamingo Hilton at number 3555 Highway 91. Las Vegas Boulevard was born and the City would never be the same.
Today it’s impossible to tell the difference between corporate and criminal interest in ‘The Strip’. Consequently Vegas is considered, by many, to be one of the safest big cities in the USA. Where else can you walk the streets at night with a grand in your pocket without fear of being mugged? The nineties saw a move towards a more family friendly environment and now mommy and daddy can lose all their holiday money whilst Donny and Jody ride the ‘coasters’ or ‘shoot-em-up’ in the arcades. But what the hell! If the foods not actually free its still bloody cheap. Where else can you get a shrimp and T-Bone buffet for $5.99 or less?
The advent of the themed hotel / casino has led to a somewhat surreal competition between investors in Nevada’s prime real estate. Each new tabernacle to the dollar has to be bigger and more lavish than it’s nearest rival. This is great for visitors as it means that not only are the incentives to gamble better but there are more and more free shows springing up all the time. These are often played out at half hour or hour intervals out on the vast forecourts. Treasure Island has a full on sea battle between a Pirate ship and British Galleon; Merlin battles a Dragon amongst a dazzling laser show at Excalibur; a live Volcano erupts in front of the Mirage and huge water fountains dances to the rhythm of the music playing outside the Bellagio.
As if that were not enough, the architecture of the newer buildings is nothing short of bizarre. New York New York’s hotel buildings are 48 storey replicas of various Manhattan landmarks the Empire State, Chrysler, Century and AT & T buildings are all featured, not to mention a 150ft reproduction of the Statue of Liberty and a 300ft ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ walkway to the entrance. Oh, yes and for the not so faint of heart there’s an extremely hairy rollercoaster ride that twists recklessly around the buildings. Paris Las Vegas is, well Paris, complete with it’s own half size Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. The Luxor is basically a 30-storey pyramid (which houses the worlds largest atrium) complimented perfectly by the huge sphinx crouched out front! Oops wrong desert!
If there is one name wholly synonymous with Las Vegas it is Liberace. He’s everywhere from Madame Tussauds to ‘Legends in Concert’ (a sort of mega budget ‘Stars in Their Eyes’). But the best place to get a glimpse of the late great ‘Mr Showmanship’ flamboyant lifestyle is to visit the Liberace Museum. It contains a priceless collection of his spectacular costumes including the his diamond buttoned tuxedo, his white llama fur coat with 16ft train and one of his notorious hot pants outfits. There are also 18 of his 39 pianos including Chopin’s Pleyel, Gershwin’s Chickering Baby Grand and two mirrored Baldwin Grands. Pride of the collection is one of the many cars on display his much treasured mirrored Rolls Royce.
If cars are your bag, then the Imperial Palace Auto Museum is the place to head for. It contains literally dozens of cars owned by the rich and infamous Czar Nicholl II’s 1914 ‘Roller’, Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s 1935 Packard, Adolph Hitler’s 1930’s Mercedes and Howard Hughes’ famous Chrysler with the air purifier that cost more than the actual vehicle.
If you tire of all the razzamatazz the surrounding area is full of truly awesome scenery. From the Martian like landscape of the aptly named Valley of Fire State Park, to the refreshing splendour of Toiyabe National Forest. There are two of the US’s most iconic national landmarks within driving/flying distance the Majestic Art Deco Hoover Dam and the Awesome Grand Canyon. But be warned this is a savage land, go prepared with plenty of water; the heat is a killer (literally). There are plenty of organised tours of the surrounding district including cowboy trails that range from hourly treks to seven days camp outs. It’s an entertaining and healthy way to learn about Nevada’s past.
Las Vegas may not be the most refined places to visit and it’s certainly not for the faint hearted. But Both the City and the surrounding Nevada desert are unquestionably amongst the most spectacular places in the world. So if you’ve got money to burn, you like your entertainment BIG, you food good and cheap and your booze freely available and often free, then hit the fast lane and head for Highway 91. All together now ‘Viva Las Vegas!’
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