Welcome to Las Vegas
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Welcome to Las Vegas
Las Vegas means a lot of things to a lot of people, but not to even one of these people does it mean responsibility, chastity, or moderation. It's a capital of glitz, glamour and greed, and it doesn't assume any airs of culture or sophistication. Be that as it may, the city has improved its seedy image with constant facelifts and ambitious marketing. Really, it has come a long way since its founding in 1905.
What 100 years ago was a railroad town and dam-worker backwater has become one of America's 30 largest cities, and what is still an adult entertainment mecca is rapidly becoming an all-inclusive family destination. It's seen four major floods, Nevada's most disastrous fire, and long economic slumps. Still, it keeps getting back up, only to be stronger than ever before. This is the city where giant buildings are routinely imploded only to make room for something newer, bigger and better. Where people of all stripes, all shapes and all sizes go to strike it rich or go broke trying. Where everything is for sale. Where Elvis never died--and still performs every night. It's a symbol of life, death and rebirth on a neon oasis.
The Las Vegas skyline is a mongrel hybrid of the world's most legendary cityscapes, but Vegas doesn't want to be anything but itself; it's assembling its own mythology. Names like Benny Binion, Howard Hugues and Steve Wynn have scrawled their indelible signatures across the boundaries of generations and geography. Visitors come to try their luck where countless others have failed, but where a mythic few have blazed their way to a place among the stars. Is it any wonder that they keep coming back?
Dining in Las Vegas
For many people, cheap eats are the finishing touch in the recipe that makes Las Vegas so devilishly delicious, but those people may barely recognize the new Vegas dining scene. In a few short years, Las Vegas became one of America's biggest restaurant markets. Sparked by a realization that food is yet another human vice to be tapped and fueled by a desire to keep high-rollers at their tables, the megaresort hotels courted the world's celebrity chefs and quickly created a new gastronomic capital to rival even Paris and New York, whose names they had already pilfered.
With the likes of Wolfgang Puck bringing a bit of California to the casinos and Emeril Lagasse kicking them up a notch, lots of the little guys were relegated to the sidelines. There are still bargains, but they're harder to find. Buffets are still enormous and extravagant, but they're often expensive to boot. Some are better than others, and some notably cheaper, but you usually get what you pay for. These days, the best deals are outside of the Strip or on its outskirts, where most guests will find it's hard to go without a car or a cab ride. Luckily, the Strip has some late-night specials, too, and Vegas nights can be very late.
Since the restaurant boom, the very best dining has been in those run by the outsourced superstars. Of course, these are also the most expensive, so diners need either deep pockets or a truly profound appreciation for good food in order to pay their prices. Barring that, deep discounts are the way to go. For a sample of world-class dining on a tighter budget, it's a good idea to save it for lunch, when prices are more affordable.
Nightlife in Las Vegas
People may want for quite a few things in Vegas--money, fame, power and sex come to mind--but not something to do at night. Then again, desire is the nature of the place--more, always more. Las Vegas does its best to fulfill that desire, too.
True to its reputation, Las Vegas seems to grow ever hotter. In a constant battle over guests and their cash, the Titans of resort-casinos fight fire with fire by raising the stakes ever higher and letting the chips fall where they may. The resulting cacophony is the sound of coins cascading from slot machines, cheering crowds around craps tables, thumping nightclub speakers and the shuffle of dancing feet, and it's all music to their ears. The battle rages on, and the rich get richer while the rest, at least, are entertained.
This, more or less, is how it goes: With at least one lounge in every hotel, there's always a place to get cold drink nearby. But what's a cold drink without dancing to warm up first? (Build another nightclub!) And who can dance without a good dinner? (More restaurants!) Better make that a dinner and a show. (A stage! No, an arena!) But what will it be tonight, a magic show, a revue orâ€¦what about a burlesque show? (Coming right up!) But why?
Why not? That's the real question, the real money maker. That's because it's not really a question, but an answer, and one that's tough to argue with. It's the idea driving Sin City's newest campaign: "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." It keeps the visitors wondering, "Why not more?" And the resorts have their answer ready. Why not? This is Vegas, baby.
Shopping in Las Vegas
Are first-timers in Vegas still surprised by the size of its shopping plazas? Maybe they're just surprised by the jaw-dropping variety offered therein. That would make more sense, because there's such a wide selection, from T-shirts to designer fashions, chintzy souvenirs to platinum jewelry, and so on. But to be surprised by their megalithic proportions? What could be more fitting than such a fine tribute to the power of money? They provide an outlet for non-gamblers and a place for big winners to put that money back into the casino's eager hands. In the consumerist fabric of the city, they perform a decorative but perfectly executed stitch.
Sure, it's all about money, but that doesn't mean it's not fun. In Las Vegas, people who spend too much money usually do it while having the time of their lives. That goes for the shoppers as much as for the gamblers, if not more so. The trip from one shop to the next could be a gondola ride or a stroll down cobblestone street under a ceiling painted to look like the sky. The sound of "street musicians" may convince you that you're actually there. The thrill of wearing that $10,000 dress may be more than you can stand.
In Las Vegas, experiences like these aren't the exception, but the rule. This city does everything with aplomb. Sure, it's all a plot to see you and your money parted, it may be shallow, and you could call it contrived, but it's done so darn well that you'll just want to sit back, enjoy the ride and ask, "How much?"