Those who’ve never been to Las Vegas might think it’s all about those super-swanky hotel-casinos, where the action never stops and whose kaleidoscopic lights drizzle down on the electrifying Strip. And yes, that is an important part of the whole Vegas experience. And yet, this is also a city that’s a magnet for serious foodies, fashionistas and history lovers – a true urban oasis in the sun-scorched state of Nevada.
Of course, the Strip itself is about far more than Blackjack and roulette. This is a major hub of fine dining and up-scale shopping, and there are so many places to check out. Top of the list for fashion lovers has to be the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Hotel. The design wizards at the Venetian really have managed to recreate the look and feel of Venice in Las Vegas, with cute lanes and pretty bridges linking the countless boutiques which are tucked within suitably ornate facades. It’s a genuinely unique experience to dip in and out of the shops and art galleries here, and then of course there are the rippling canals. Fancy a gondola ride in between browsing? It would almost be rude not to. You can also stop off for some Italian food along the way.
Speaking of dinner, you can really push the boat out on the Strip. The hotels are studded with deluxe dining destinations overseen by some of the world’s A-list chefs, including Joel Robuchon and Thomas Keller. At the immense and opulent MGM Grand, you can also discover the unique cuisine of Masaharu Morimoto. Known to US audiences thanks to his stints on the TV show Iron Chef, he’s a formidable talent who first got into cooking by accident, after an injury stopped him from becoming a baseball player. Training as a sushi chef, he eventually moved from Japan to the United States and is now a culinary superstar.
At the MGM Grand, you can see what the fuss is about for yourself at his eponymous eatery, Morimoto, which exemplifies his motto: “Cooking doesn’t have to have rules. I don’t like it that way.” Hence, you can tuck into unlikely dishes like tuna pizza and duck meatball soup, along with his take on classic ingredients like black cod. And, this being one of the ritziest venues in Vegas, you can also bask in the sleek decor, adorned with striking black and white photographs.
Of course, Las Vegas isn’t just about haute cuisine. This is also a realm of hearty, traditional Italian restaurants, buzzing steakhouses and also the occasional hip hangout. Take Carson Kitchen, for example. With its fashionably eclectic mix of bare wood beams, exposed brickwork and glossy tabletops, it could be somewhere you’d stumble across in Brooklyn. In fact, it’s set within an old-school Vegas hotel, which has been transformed into a cluster of cool, independent businesses. At Carson Kitchen you can grab a classic cocktail and sit back in what used to be the hotel courtyard, before digging into their take on proper comfort food. Think gooey mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken thighs drizzled with sherry jus, and sinfully decadent bourbon fudge brownie.
Back to the subject of shopping, and the great news is you can bag serious bargains in this town. Just head over to Las Vegas North Premium Outlets, close to the downtown area. Sprawling across 40 acres, this is a mall in the style of a village – think open-air walkways and plenty of places to sit and chill out. It’s home to numerous designer outlet stores, and it’s where savvy shoppers can get their hands on stylish wares for massively discounted prices. It’s a fine way to spend a sunny afternoon in Vegas, if you fancy a break from the hustle and bustle elsewhere.
Want a trip back in time? Make a beeline for the Neon Museum, which is a time capsule of a bygone Las Vegas. If you’re enchanted by tales of the Rat Pack and their swinging era, you’ll love walking among the classic neon signs which have been preserved in the museum and its Neon Boneyard. Want to see the original signs from Caesars Palace and the Golden Nugget? They’re here. Turn up for a guided tour and you’ll be taken on this nostalgic exploration of Vegas icons. It’s even better at night, when some of the signs are lit up.
A very different look at the past awaits at the Mob Museum. Fittingly set within an old Vegas courthouse, it features one of the original courtrooms where special hearings looked into organized crime during the 1950s. Wandering this museum, you’ll come face to face with wise guys, made men and dirty rats, and even get to see the original, bullet-riddled wall from the site of the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, reconstructed right here in Vegas.
No discussion of this city’s attractions would be complete without covering the Fremont Street Experience. This is the hub of old Vegas, lit up by a galaxy of LED lights and always loud with the sound of crowds, live musicians, cabaret acts and a swirling, rampant lightshow broadcast on a video screen canopy hanging overhead. It’s an exhilarating place to enter, and you can always take things up a notch by riding the SlotZilla zip line, which will let you take to the skies, superhero-style, and fly under the canopy. It’s here that you can also check out classic Vegas hotel-casinos like the Fremont Hotel, with its red neon exterior, and the Golden Gate, which has been wowing visitors for generations.
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