Often referred to as “America’s playground,” or even “Sin City,” Las Vegas has been known for decades as a must-visit hub of entertainment and indulgence. From Elvis Presley to Lady Gaga, the city has always hosted the biggest performers in the world, and its bright lights and gaudy constructions lend it one of the most recognisable cityscapes on the planet.
That said, there also seems to be a growing perception that Las Vegas is somewhat old fashioned. It may be fair to say that its glory days have passed, and the style and appearance of the city play to a different era. Meanwhile, the growth of the gambling industry online and in other vacation destinations around the world has robbed Las Vegas of some of its unique appeal; activities that once belonged in Vegas are now available elsewhere. Even if all this is true, however, I found the city to still be every bit the playground it’s always been billed as!
For starters, the top resorts are still world class, even if many of them remain somewhat gaudy and known primarily as casinos. The Bellagio, the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, and Caesar’s Palace are some of the best known resorts on “the Strip” (the main drag in central Las Vegas), but it’s hard to find a better place to stay than the Aria, particularly if you’re worried about Vegas seeming slightly old fashioned.
Opened in 2009 and constructed as a gorgeous monument of luxury, it just has a nicer, newer feel than a lot of the famous resorts. It’s got all the usual perks of a Vegas hotel—its own casino, top-notch shopping, a club, and its own Cirque du Soleil performance—but it’s also an extremely comfortable place where it’s easy to relax in the midst of a busy Vegas vacation. It’s also home to one of the best pool parties in the city, at its LIQUID Pool Lounge. Trust me, it is a perk well worth exploring if you like to have fun outside (not always the easiest part of a trip to Vegas).
For actual gambling—aka the reason people used to go to Vegas—I was in search of a casino area that felt like it offered more than you can find online. These days, some say the main attractions in Vegas have shifted, with concert shows and nightclubs appealing more to younger generations than endless banks of slot machines. Furthermore, even those young people who do want to gamble can sometimes find better options at Internet gaming platforms. Vegas is famous for employing various psychological tricks to get players to keep on gambling. On the web, however, you can find welcome bonus options at Betfair, one of the most popular online casinos operating in the UK, and this actually supplements deposits with free digital chips to gamble with. Naturally, the latter is still an incentive to play games, but it caters more to the players than a Vegas landscape that encourages visitors to spend blindly.
Fortunately for those who still want to play the games in Vegas, however, there are casinos that retain a certain charm it’s difficult to find online. Before travelling to Vegas, I found a surprisingly helpful top-10 list at USA Today detailing the differences and specific attractions of various casinos. After reading the list and experiencing a few gaming floors, I’d point tourists toward the MGM Grand. There are certainly more intimate gaming environments to be found, but for a proper mix of casino games as well as card tables that don’t intimidate you, it’s a great spot to see and enjoy.
As for additional attractions like those I mentioned before—the clubs, shows, and other entertainment options—there’s almost too much to choose from. And that’s why it’s still fair to call Las Vegas a “playground!” Here are some of my highlights.
As far as shows go, I found Le Reve- The Dream to be a particularly unique experience. There are a lot of shows in Vegas that are either Cirque du Soleil or very similar spin-offs, and they’re essentially the same. They employ different themes and atmospheres, but they’re all filled with glamorous acrobatics and vague but intriguing narrative structures. I suppose Le Reve falls into this same category. However, because its show is based largely in water (with performers diving in and out like living mermaids), and takes place in a surprisingly intimate environment at the Wynn, it’s pretty unique. Performers swim, dive, climb artificial trees, and even dance through fire! I actually think it’s hard to go wrong choosing a show to see in Vegas, but this is the one I’d recommend.
For clubbing, it really depends on what you’re looking for. Vegas has a lot of high energy clubs where people dance and go crazy, and there are also a lot of smaller and calmer bars for those who prefer a simpler scene. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but the minus5 Ice Bar at Mandalay Bay was one of my favourite attractions. If you haven’t heard of these bars (it’s actually a chain), here’s the deal: basically, they’re made entirely of ice (from the countertops down to the glasses you drink from) and guests are outfitted in fur coats and gloves upon entry. You obviously won’t spend hours at a spot like this, but it’s fun to see. Personally, I’d rather spend nights on shows, meals, and bars like this. And for a clubbing atmosphere, I’d refer you back to the LIQUID lounge at the Aria!
And that’s about it for specific attractions! There are five-star restaurants and incredible shopping areas all over the city, and for those it’s best to walk around until you see something that interests you. But for some of the highlights that make Vegas well worth a visit even in 2015, the attractions listed above are a good start!