Las Vegas may be known as a destination for gamblers, but there's more to the city than just gambling (which, of course, is still plentiful). Modern Las Vegas is also one of the world's top dining destinations, home to America's most successful nightclubs, and a retail paradise for both high-end and bargain shoppers.
Must see in Las Vegas
Frequently cited as one of the top tourist attractions in the world, the Bellagio fountains are a gorgeous water fixture featuring intricate choreographed water shows multiple times a night, with constantly rotating designs set to a range of music. There are eight Cirque du Soleil shows at various hotel-casinos in town, ranging from celebrations of the music of The Beatles and Michael Jackson to a collaboration with magician Criss Angel to a risqué cabaret-style revue, and you can't go wrong with any of them. Heading downtown, the Fremont East entertainment district is a hotbed of up-and-coming bars, restaurants, music venues and boutique shops, catering to a younger, hipper crowd.
Where to stay in Las Vegas
If you're bringing the family (including young children) to Vegas, you may want to stay off the Strip (the central hotel-casino district) in a more locals-oriented hotel-casino in Summerlin or Green Valley, both of which are family-friendly, suburban neighborhoods. For young adults and those looking to party, the Strip is the hub of most of Vegas' nightlife, including the most high-profile nightclubs, the most upscale restaurants and the most lavish production shows. If you're on a budget, check out downtown, where hotels are cheaper but there's still plenty to see and do, with bars and music venues within easy walking distance.
Best and worst times to go to Las Vegas
The best time to visit Las Vegas is in the spring, from late March to mid-May, when temperatures are warmer than most of the country but have yet to become unbearably hot. The worst time to visit Las Vegas is at the height of summer, from mid-June to late August, when temperatures regularly top 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and even ubiquitous air conditioning can't always save you from sweltering.
Where to get lost in Las Vegas
Downtown, with its cluster of hotel-casinos under the Fremont Street Experience, its bars, restaurants and boutiques (including the retail hub of the Container Park) in the Fremont East district, and its art galleries, coffee shops and antique stores in the 18b Arts District, is the ideal area of town for wandering and discovering something new and unexpected.
The best deal in Las Vegas
Some of the most dazzling sights on the Strip are totally free, including the Bellagio fountain show, the Mirage volcano, the animatronic statues at Caesars Palace and the millions of dollars of fine art on display throughout CityCenter.
Transportation in Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a pretty car-dependent town, but if you stay on the Strip and don't intend to venture away from there, you can get by with cabs, the bus system and relatively short walks (or use the fairly inefficient monorail if necessary). For longer distances or to head away from the center of town, renting a car is key.
Getting in from McCarran International Airport
Cabs are plentiful and eager to take you to your hotel, but check first to see if there's a complimentary shuttle to where you're staying. You can also take the bus, but make sure to check the schedule and the nearest stops, or you may be in for long waits.
Local tip for visitors to Las Vegas
Don't try to hail a cab on the street, since it's actually illegal for drivers to pick up passengers roadside. Instead, head to a taxi stand at a hotel-casino, or call a dispatch to pick you up at a specific location.
Author's bio: Josh Bell is a Las Vegas-based writer (and 20-year resident) and the film and TV critic for Las Vegas Weekly. Find him on Twitter and Facebook.