Nevada Scenic Drives: The Las Vegas Strip

An image of downtown Las Vegas at night.
Las Vegas is known as the entertainment vacation capital of the U.S. B. Tanaka / Getty Images

The Las Vegas Strip is often referred to as the Jewel of the Desert because of its reputation as the entertainment vacation capital of the country. The Las Vegas Strip -- at the heart of this playland -- sparkles like no other place on Earth.

More than 35 million visitors from around the world are drawn to the lights of the strip each year to experience its unique blend of exciting entertainment, scenic beauty, and lavishly landscaped resorts. An array of theme resorts can transport you to various exotic realms, from a medieval castle to a Parisian sidewalk cafe, a lakeside Italian village, or a pyramid in ancient Egypt.


The Las Vegas Strip hosts thousands of motorists a week; after you arrive on the strip, however, you may be surprised to find that it's also a very enjoyable walking environment.

The strip is the only byway that is more scenic at night than during the day. In fact, 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day, the Neon Trail offers a fascinating foray past spectacular resorts featuring a variety of visual delights. Whether it's pirates plundering, fiery volcanoes spouting, or tropical gardens luring the weary, the Las Vegas Strip offers a variety of fascinating visual experiences that enchant and mesmerize visitors of all ages. The many facets of this corridor make it truly a one-of-a-kind destination.

Cultural Qualities of The Las Vegas Strip

Old retro style neon signs promoting Fremont street gambling, seen at dusk/ evening.
Grant Faint / Getty Images

While Las Vegas is perhaps best known for its gaming culture -- the popularity and influence of which have spread to cities all over the world -- the Las Vegas Strip possesses many other outstanding cultural amenities. The diversity and magnificence of the architecture of the hotels and resorts along the strip are certainly worth noting. Some of the world's most talented architects have created complex fantasylands all along the strip. Just a few of the more recent projects include reproductions of the streets of New York, a bayside Tuscan village, the canals of Venice, and a replica of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.

Many of the resorts on the Las Vegas Strip also feature world-class art galleries full of paintings by world-renowned artists, such as Renoir, Monet, and van Gogh. Other resorts hold galleries of unique items, such as antique automobiles or wax figures. The Guinness World of Records Museum offers an interesting array of the unusual, and the World of Coca-Cola Las Vegas features an interactive storytelling theater.

Various hotels on the Las Vegas Strip feature a variety of top-caliber theatrical and dance shows. Several hotels and casinos host world-class sporting events and concerts featuring top-name entertainers. And no matter where you go on the strip, you are bound to run into the dazzling light displays that permeate the area. The magical re-creations found along the byway are the symbols of our society's most fantastic dreams of luxury.

Qualities of The Las Vegas Strip

las vegas neon
Neon Signs on Las Vegas Boulevard
Todd Gipstein / Getty Images

The Las Vegas Strip, world-renowned for its neon glitter, possesses an equally colorful historical past. The unique history of Las Vegas is undeniably entwined with the culture of gaming.

Gambling was legalized in Nevada in 1931, and the first casino opened downtown that same year. Competition was intense, and casino builders soon were looking at land outside the city limits just south of downtown along Highway 91 (the Old Los Angeles Highway), which is now known as the Las Vegas Strip.

Most of the Las Vegas Strip is not really located within the Las Vegas city limits, but along a corridor of South Las Vegas Boulevard located in unincorporated Clark County. The area was sparsely developed until 1938, when the first resort property was built four miles south of downtown Las Vegas at the corner of San Francisco Avenue (now Sahara) and Highway 91 (South Las Vegas Boulevard). Reportedly, city officials had denied licenses to certain businesspeople with questionable connections who had applied to build a casino downtown. Undaunted, they decided to build outside the city limits, just south of the downtown district.

In 1940, construction began on El Rancho Vegas resort at the corner of San Francisco Avenue and Highway 91. The original El Rancho Vegas introduced a new style of recreation and entertainment to the Nevada desert by combining lodging, gambling, restaurants, entertainment, shops, a travel agency, horseback riding, and swimming in one resort.

El Rancho Vegas was followed a year later by the Last Frontier Resort Hotel and Casino. The well-known Little Church of the West was originally constructed in the resort's Frontier Village. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the small chapel has survived four moves on the strip.

One of the strip's more colorful (and infamous) characters, Ben "Bugsy" Siegel (reputed hit man for New York mobster Lucky Luciano) oversaw the construction of the fabulous Flamingo Hotel, the third major (and most extravagant) resort to be built on the strip.

Although Siegel met his unfortunate demise soon after the resort's 1946 opening, his prophecies for the future of Las Vegas came true. This new popular playground of Hollywood stars prospered, with the Flamingo setting the stage for the many luxurious resorts yet to be imagined.

As the 1950s began, only four major resorts stood along the strip, but three more major players were about to hit the scene. The Desert Inn, the Sahara, and the Sands all arrived on the strip in the early 1950s, further enhancing the strip's image as a self-contained playground by featuring elaborate tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, larger casinos, and fabulous showrooms with Broadway's and Hollywood's brightest stars.

Las Vegas has continued to build on this legacy, developing newer and more elaborate resorts often to make certain that Las Vegas retains the image of the most fabulous playground on Earth.

This map details the Las Vegas Strip.

Qualities of The Las Vegas Strip

The simplest and easiest recreation on the strip is strolling and sightseeing along the boulevard. Intriguing arrays of fantasylands in lush surroundings welcome you to the strip. But the excitement only begins with sightseeing. From comfortable and plush hotels to exciting displays of lights and fountains, Las Vegas creates a dreamlike environment with color, sound, and light all combined to make the experience on the strip memorable.

For the more adventuresome, roller coasters featured at several hotels provide rides that twist, loop, and turn for your delight. Other resorts provide 3-D ride films appealing to the senses of sight, sound, and motion. Many of these rides feature the latest technologies for extra thrills. Most of the resorts along the strip offer displays of grandeur for every visitor to enjoy. Anyone driving the byway can stop to see erupting volcanoes, dueling ships, dancing fountains, circus acts, and lush tropical gardens.

In addition to a variety of theatrical and dance shows, the resorts have varied spectator sports, such as boxing matches. There isn't a resort on the strip that doesn't offer visitors every amenity imaginable. World-class spas, pools, and exercise rooms are as enticing as the casinos. When you aren't searching for slot machines, you may choose to browse through the many stores and boutiques each resort has to offer. You will find everything from designer fashion to specialty candies to Las Vegas souvenirs. Whatever you choose to do, you can find it in Las Vegas.

Find more useful information related to Nevada's Las Vegas Strip:

  • Nevada Scenic Drives: The Las Vegas Strip is just one of the scenic byways in Nevada. Check out the others.
  • Las Vegas: Find out about all of the entertainment options in this destination city.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Nevada? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.


Highlights of The Las Vegas Strip

mgm grand vegas
Street view of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Barry Winiker / Getty Images

The Las Vegas Strip is one of the most geographically isolated major cities in the continental United States, providing visitors with an extraordinary visual experience. The matchless Las Vegas Strip serves as the gateway to a host of memorable experiences that are distinctly Las Vegas. The strip's incredible array of resorts are constructed around themes that transport visitors to different exotic realms, including a medieval castle, the Parisian Eiffel Tower, a lakeside Italian village, and a pyramid in ancient Egypt. Day or night, the Neon Trail provides a fascinating foray past spectacular resorts that offer a variety of visual delights to pedestrians and motorists alike.

The Southern Las Vegas Strip Walking Tour begins at Las Vegas Boulevard and Russell Road, although you can go the opposite way by reading this list from the bottom up.


Little Church of the West: The famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign announces that you're on the right track. On the east side of the strip, you see the Little Church of the West, the site of many celebrity weddings and a favorite place today to have a memorable wedding.

Mandalay Bay: Park the car at the free parking garage at Mandalay Bay (most of the large hotels offer plenty of covered free parking). Explore the tropical-themed hotel, including a fun sand and surf beach. Mandalay Bay is one of the newest hotels on the strip (built in 1999), and that makes it a popular attraction.

Luxor: From Mandalay Bay, you can walk north to Luxor, the great black glass pyramid. (If you prefer, hop on the free tram that takes you right to the front doors of Luxor -- you may want to save your energy for later in the trip.) While at Luxor, don't miss the King Tut Tomb exhibit, an exact replica of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh's tomb. A rotating IMAX film experience is also a popular attraction here. This unique hotel is amazing and has one of the largest atriums in the world.

Excalibur: After spending time at Luxor, hop on the tram that takes you over to Excalibur. This is the place for an exciting dinner and show. The majestic castle offers adventure at its Fantasy Faire Midway, an arena of games appropriate for everyone in the family.

New York: After spending time at the medieval castle, cross the over street walkway into 1930s- and '40s-inspired New York-New York. Billed as "the Greatest City in Las Vegas," New York-New York has attractions that are all themed to the New York life. Park Avenue shopping, a fast-paced Manhattan roller coaster, and Greenwich Village eateries help keep the theme intact.

Monte Carlo: It's not time to stop yet. The Monte Carlo, just north of New York-New York, is just as classy, but with a purely European twist.

Bellagio: After a jaunt to Monte Carlo, walk farther north, getting close to the halfway point. The big lake and fantastic fountains are part of Bellagio, a hotel that strives for utter perfection. Check out the art gallery here; it houses some fantastic pieces. The gallery has original paintings by van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, and other masters.

Paris: Now, at Flamingo Road, cross the street to the east -- over to Paris. This is the midpoint of the tour, and this area is full of places to sit and rest or to grab a bite to eat. While at Paris, tour the Eiffel Tower. This is an exact replica, in half scale, of the original in France. The plans for the original were lent to the developers of the hotel so they could be as accurate as possible. There's also a two-thirds-scale replica of the Arc de Triomphe near the hotel entrance -- complete with Napoleon's victories inscribed on it.

MGM Grand: Head south to the next stop on this tour, the MGM Grand. This very large hotel strives to make visitors feel like stars. Elegance abounds at this hotel. Don't miss the Lion Habitat here: a walk-through tour that showcases beautiful lions, some of which are descendants of Metro, the MGM marquee lion. The only thing separating you and the lions is a glass wall on both sides.

Tropicana: Just south of the MGM Grand is the famous Tropicana, home to the longest-running show on the strip: Folies Bergere.

Glass Pool Inn: After the Tropicana, cross the street again and take the tram from Excalibur to Mandalay Bay. At Mandalay Bay, get back in your car and cross the street to see the Glass Pool Inn. This motel was originally called Mirage Motel but sold the rights to its name to the much larger entity many years ago. The motel features an unusual above-ground pool with portal windows that has been featured in many movies.

Strip: Finish off the tour of the Southern Las Vegas Strip by driving north back past the Tropicana and MGM Grand and beyond. The drive provides amazing views that you may have missed on the walk.

As you can see, you don't have to be a gambler to enjoy the Las Vegas Strip.

Find more useful information related to Nevada's Las Vegas Strip:

  • Nevada Scenic Drives: The Las Vegas Strip is just one of the scenic byways in Nevada. Check out the others.
  • Las Vegas: Find out about all of the entertainment options in this destination city.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Nevada? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.