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Las Vegas Spotlight

Las Vegas remains the world's favorite playground for good reason

By Jordan Simon

June 20th, 2005

Las Vegas celebrated its centennial in 2005 – not that it needed an excuse to party. Sin City, Lost Wages, The City That Never Sleeps – call it what you will – is an electric city of entertainment that can’t help but awe and impress from the minute you fly over its glittering expanse in the Nevada desert to the day you leave, spent (financially and psychologically) from the constant stimuli.

Historian Michael Ventura called Las Vegas, “The last great mythic city that Western civilization will ever create.” Better make that “cities.” What other skyline includes an Egyptian pyramid, Arthurian castle, Arabian Casbah, the Statue of Liberty, St. Mark’s Square, the Eiffel Tower . . . and more? You might say that the city’s true business isn’t merely gaming or entertainment, but fantasy itself. Vegas is arguably more dream factory than Hollywood, and more theme park than any Disney creation. It’s a city that lives for the present, continually reinventing itself – constantly upping the ante with new mega-hotels and themed attractions.

Ironically, Mormons founded the original settlement in 1855 – what a difference 150 years makes! The Mormons have gone, and Las Vegas today is unabashedly about excess, from lap of luxury to lap dance, and sometimes both at once! This wonderfully surreal desert city appropriates everything from architecture’s Top 40 to FNTV’s star chefs, famed museum collections to nightlife icons, wittily combining the high, low, and arched brow. In its current “yup-scaling” mania, Vegas attracts everyone from gastronauts to fashion fascists, while allowing visitors to splurge like high-rollers at megawatt shows, casinos, and restaurants, or pinch pennies at bargain buffets and fabulous free attractions. Indeed, few cities of its ilk manage to appeal so successfully to high-rollers, budget-travelers, singles, honeymooners, and families.

It’s Vegas, baby. Don’t try to define or critique it – just come prepared to expect the unexpected. Three days is sufficient to indulge without being overwhelmed (assuming you don’t hit the ATMs more often than blackjack at the tables!). You can easily enjoy several top Strip hotel attractions, shops, restaurants, shows, and clubs (especially if you forgo sleep). If you want to get off the beaten path and/or explore outside the city, allot at least five days; it’s worth it to discover the stupendous natural canyon landscapes, glittering Lake Mead, and the thundering Hoover Dam that lie on the city outskirts.

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