Viva Las Vegas

No matter how you tackle Sin City, Las Vegas is a wild ride, a neon and LED-illuminated wonder world of never-ending buffets, ever-flowing drinks and melodiously clinking slot machines. A spur-of-the-moment drive-through wedding at 2am with Elvis reading your vows, perhaps? If there’s clear one takeaway about the place, it surely is don’t take Sin City too seriously.

It demands a suspension of disbelief, as you feast, sometimes involuntarily, on the sheer gall of its multi-sensory spectacles. Here’s my hit list of trademark Vegas bites and sights. Heading to Fremont Street? Beyond the infamous and gargantuan-sized hotel buffets, Heart Attack Grill sets the benchmark for unabashed calorific, high-fat gluttony.
The provocative hamburger restaurant is where you’ll find staff dressed as doctors and nurses, at the end of Fremont Street.

Their Quadruple Bypass Burger, which packs a heaving 9900 calories, has been dubbed “one of the world’s worst junk foods” by the American Medical Association. Also in Fremont, the Golden Nugget Hotel is home to the world’s largest existing golden nugget, weighing in at 61 pounds and called the Hand of Faith. It’s free to view. The Flamingo’s free-to-enter Wildlife Habitat is a gorgeous, lush natural escape for the hotel’s feathered friends.

Within the 15 acre tropical paradise, the Chilean flamingos understandably remain the crowd-puller. One of the last old-style hotels on the Strip is Circus Circus, home to Adventuredome, which hosts an indoor theme park and free circus acts. There are actually 25 thrill rides within this complex including the Canyon Blaster and Chaos El Loco rollercoasters.

Further coaster action beckons at New York New York, where your thrill ride zips you through a replicated Manhattan skyline. The hotel is also home to Hershey’s Chocolate World, a two-storey destination of all things Hershey’s – from kiss pillows to custom-made candy bars. The Miracle Mile Shops Fountain is a novel aquatic experience, boasting illuminated water effects, eruptions and colour-changing fog, all choreographed to original music.

Within the Miracle Mile, you might notice that the cavernous ceiling is artfully cast in gigantic projections of blue sky and passing clouds, underscoring the wizardry of illusion that Las Vegas personifies. One of the more recent arrivals to the Strip is The Linq Hotel and Promenade. Enjoy sizzling city views on board the High Roller, a spherical pod on the world’s largest observation wheel. In the Grand Bazaar Shops, don’t miss the Swarovski Starburst, a giant bejewelled confection of more than 9000 custom-cut crystals, that illuminates the skyline with a nightly sound-and-light show, at 9pm and midnight.

Another not-be-missed roadside extravaganza is the Mirage Hotel’s erupting volcano. Set in a lagoon with cascading waterfalls and palm trees, the recently revved-up volcano spews with smoke and fire 100 feet high, nightly at 8pm, 9pm and also 10pm on weekends. The Bellagio Fountains, a romantic masterpiece of water, music and light have become so lionised, they take top slot in the pantheon of vintage Las Vegas experiences.

Fashionistas should beat a path to Fashion Show Mall, home to every imaginable designer label. Ten million visitors flock to this mall every year, and in addition to the luxe boutiques, the mall stages daily catwalk parade shows. And be sure to survey Sin City’s horizons atop the new Stratosphere Tower, which is the tallest American structure, west of the Mississippi.

If you’ve landed in Sin City by plane, you’ll know that McCarran Airport greets you with its staggering bank of 1300 slot machines. Yes, you could play on the pokies until you’re bust, without even leaving the airport. And many do!
The airport rakes in over $30 million a year from the machines.

But there are some serious jackpots at stake on these airport slots. When I swung through Las Vegas recently, a local woman had just won a million dollar jackpot on the terminal pokies. She wasn’t even flying anywhere. Vegas visitors often remark how pounding the pavements of the two-mile long strip can soon take its toll on your feet.

Rest your legs and jump aboard a hop-on, hop-off Big Bus Tour which threads together all of the sought-after locations on the Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas. Plus, you’ll enjoy the elevated views from their open-top double-decker buses. 24 hour and 48 hour ticketing options are available. www.bigbustours.com

By Mike Yardley.

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