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Top 10 Things to Do in Las Vegas

by Elaine Sosa Labalme

I visited Las Vegas for the first time only two months ago. Since then, I can't seem to stay away. And I don't even gamble! Well, I gamble just a bit...the occasional slot machine, maybe, certainly not the real games of chance such as baccarat, craps and poker. What really took me aback about Las Vegas is that it's a lot more than casinomania. If you're looking to win trips to Las Vegas then check out the latest competitions and promotions from casino operators. A good resource to find a list is Piramind.com based in Europe. Online casino gaming offers something for every type of player. One can play in the privacy of their homes or come to Las Vegas and try their luck. No longer populated by blue-rinsed ladies from Peoria and gentlemen with pinkie rings who answer to "Vito," Las Vegas has fashioned itself into an all-around tourist destination.

These days, the town buzzes with high-tech conventioneers (Comdex, the world's largest trade show, visits twice a year), weekending couples and families out for a little fun in the desert sun. So what else can you do in Las Vegas other than play blackjack or poker till dawn? Plenty. The following is my top ten list of things to do, in no particular order. Try it out on your next visit. I think you'll agree that this list is a winner.

CityCenter

CityCenter is an urban community filled with fine art and spectacular architecture. It is home to the 4,004 room ARIA Resort & Casino, Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, the astonishing Crystals retail and entertainment district, Vdara Hotel & Spa, The Harmon Hotel, and Veer Towers. All these come together amidst plazas and common spaces alongside pools and beautiful landscaping.  CityCenter is a place of high-tech meeting spaces, brilliant residences, world-class spas, extraordinary dining, sophisticated gaming and modern art, seductive bars and Viva ELVIS™ by Cirque du Soleil®, a harmonious fusion of dance, acrobatics and live music that pays tribute to the life and music of Elvis Presley.

The contemporary architecture of the ARIA tower is complemented by the resort’s lavish accommodations. Guestroom corridors streaming with natural light open to areas of enclosed glass, delivering spectacular city or mountain views. Within ARIA’s 4,004 guestrooms, including 568 suites, panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows offer magnificent views of Las Vegas’ striking skyline. ARIA’s tower is uniquely designed to deliver corner-window views from every guestroom. ARIA Resort and Casino; 3730 Las Vegas Boulevard;
Las Vegas, NV; 89109; (866) 359-7111.

Wynn Las Vegas

At Wynn Las Vegas you will vicariously experience luxury at prices that certainly are not cheap, but on weekdays for most of the year are surprisingly affordable for an experience such as this. High points: Rooms: don’t hesitate to stay in the standard room, which is plenty large at 640 sq. ft., and is appointed with luxury amenities, offers full TV and movies (unlike many hotels that skimp in this area since they want you on the casino floor), a large bathroom, and for our money, the world’s most comfortable bed; Staff: the staff has been well trained to answer your every question; Entertainment: Always an innovator, Mr. Wynn booked La Reve. Though it is not a The Cirque du Soleil production, La Reve was created by Franco Dragone (Cirque’s creator) and is receiving rave reviews; Restaurants: at Wynn the restaurant chef is on premises (with one exception) so you will enjoy Wing Lei, Bartolotta, Alex, Red 8, Okada, SW Steakhouse and Daniel Boulud. 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South Las Vegas, NV 89109; Tel: (702) 770-7000; Toll Free: (877) 321-WYNN. (contributed by Monty & Sara Preiser)

Colosseum at Caesars Palace

Taking over the fabulous Colosseum at Caesars Palace is Celine Dion. Celine has always been a pioneer when it comes to creating groundbreaking concert performances and this next adventure promises to be the best ever! Featuring 31 musicians, consisting of orchestra and band, Celine’s new show will include her biggest hits performed with a stunning visual presentation. In an era when shows in Sin City are constantly upping the ante, Celine elevates the challenge.

The Pool at the Mirage Hotel

When you walk into the lobby of the Mirage Hotel, located in the heart of the Strip, you immediately step into an atrium which is akin to a tropical rainforest. Trees, waterfalls, exotic birds -- they're all here. Continue through the casino and head out back to the gorgeous pool area, the Mirage's outdoor oasis. Trust me, you've never seen so many palm trees in the middle of the desert. The pool itself is huge, a meandering ribbon of blue that zigs and zags through the lush foliage. The sound of a rushing waterfall at one end of the pool is invigorating. A second waterfall further back is more subdued. During busy periods, the pool area has 1,200 chaises available to guests. Service here is tops, from the cabana boys to the cheerful cocktail waitresses wrapped in sexy little sarongs. Water aerobics classes are offered daily and this is no ordinary water ballet for seniors. Pool managers leads intrepid sun worshipers through a non-stop 45-minute workout that will work off every last trace of that breakfast buffet. The more leisurely inclined can take advantage of a nifty bench that runs along the inner perimeter of the pool to read the latest Danielle Steel in cool (and wet) comfort. Kids of all ages can kill a few hours on the rock 'em, sock 'em water slide. Chances are awfully good that you're going to catch a sunny day in Las Vegas, so with some heavy-duty sunblock and a wide-brimmed hat, you're in great shape to take advantage of the prettiest, most enjoyable pool in town. One thing to keep in mind: this pool is available to guests of the Mirage only. That's not a bad thing, because it's a great place to stay.

The Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian Hotel

Although this is Las Vegas, the Spa at the Venetian is considerably better than the spas at many luxury resorts which are in the spa business. Discover this oasis of health and rejuvenation far above the noise and excitement of the Las Vegas Strip. The 69,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch SpaClub® is a leading-edge health spa and fitness oasis. Consider it your haven, where you can relax, refresh and regroup between forays into the world's liveliest nonstop city. Work out, have a massage or a rejuvenating body treatment, beautify yourself or just kick back in this serene, smoke-free retreat. Enjoy delicious, fresh spa cuisine at the delightful Canyon Ranch Café. Everything you want and need – including the only hair and nail salon in The Venetian – is right here.

The Strip

It's officially known as Las Vegas Boulevard, but in reality it's a strip of glitz and glam of unrivaled proportions. To say it's over the top might be an understatement. The Strip is the main drag of gambling U.S.A. and home to most of the top hotels, casinos and nightclubs Las Vegas style! A stroll down the Strip at night is a blaze of blinking lights and a sea of humanity making its way to that winning slot machine. Nighttime is also the most comfortable time of day to be outdoors in the Las Vegas heat zone, so take your stroll under the stars and bask in the glow. A couple of Las Vegas events worth the watch are at the Mirage for its signature volcano, which erupts every fifteen minutes in good weather, and at the Treasure Island for the epic pirate battle. The battle takes place every 90 minutes starting at 4 p.m. and although it's a brief showdown, it's a helluva fight. The best of the Strip is on Las Vegas Boulevard between Sahara and Tropicana Avenues.

Gaming Classes at the Las Vegas Hilton

I notice in Las Vegas they always refer to gambling classes as "gaming classes." Is this to make it all sound...nicer? I'm not sure, but I'm glad these classes are available, because I certainly don't know all the ins and outs of pai gow poker. Even if I only plan on watching, it's still nice to know what's going on. Most of the casinos in town offer gaming classes five days a week, a quick thirty-minute primer on roulette, craps, mini-baccarat, pai gow poker or blackjack, and the classes are usually free. From Indianapolis Hotels to Las Vegas Hotels, Hilton is there to keep you entertained!

Dinner at Emeril's

Las Vegas hasn't often been thought of as a gastronome's delight. I'm betting that it soon will be, thanks to the likes of Emeril's. There isn't a lot of home-grown talent on the local dining scene just yet, but that's okay, because Las Vegas can afford to import. Chef Emeril Lagasse opened his first restaurant, Emeril's, in New Orleans' warehouse district and opened a second, NOLA, in that fabled city's French Quarter. He's now brought his very own "new New Orleans" brand of cookery to Las Vegas, and the news couldn't be better. This restaurant is arguably the best table in Las Vegas, a town which now boasts the likes of Spago and the Coyote Cafe. The sleek and elegant dining room gives way to a meal which is a marriage of traditional cajun and Creole cookery joined with today's lighter hand and kickier flavors. The result is food which is immensely pleasing to both the eye and the palate. A few suggestions to whet the appetite: how about starting with a homemade savory lobster cheesecake, an appetizer which is sliced and served with a Creole-spiced tomato-tarragon coulis? Continue with the warm wilted spinach salad, which comes with a warm andouille sausage dressing, sliced red onions and Louisiana Chicory Farms goat cheese. Emeril's is a fish house, so you might want to try the potato-crusted farm raised bass, which is served with a Louisiana lump crabmeat and wild mushroom relish. If you can handle it, order the banana cream pie for dessert. The service, food and atmosphere at Emeril's make for a memorable evening. Emeril's at the MGM Grand Hotel is open for lunch and dinner seven days.

Flip It

No, this isn't tiddly winks. It's tiddly's slick and mischievous evil twin. And aren't evil twins always irresistible? You'll find Flip It in many Las Vegas casinos. It's a big machine, kind of an oversized slot machine. There's a large piece of glass in front, and behind the glass are trays filled with gold-colored dollar coins. The trays are bursting with coins, and the coins appear as if they're ready to spill over at any moment. So here's the drill: you pop your own dollar coin into the machine, it does a somersault in the air and, with any kind of luck, lands at just the right spot on one of these trays so as to knock a few, hopefully a lot, of coins off and into your piggybank. Sound simple enough? Try it for yourself. If you're like most people, you'll be amazed at how stubborn these coins can be. They just don't want to fall! And like the rest of us, you're going to keep on trying because you are sooo close. Flip It is part carnival game, part gaming game -- in other words, you can win or lose a lot of money here. But more than likely, you'll find the action irresistible. Flip It can be found at most of the larger Las Vegas Hotels.

Stratosphere Tower

Why do the words "only in Las Vegas" come to mind when I think of the Stratosphere Tower? I'll tell you why. This is the tallest free-standing observation tower in the U.S.A. The view from the top is spectacular -- you'll see all the hotels on the Strip, the suburban sprawl which is the new Las Vegas and even Mt. Charleston in the distance, a snow-covered peak which is over 11,000 feet high. But that wasn't enough for the Stratosphere folks. They also added a rollercoaster at the top, the world's highest rollercoaster, and if that doesn't prove to be enough of a thrill ride, you can try the Big Shot, a reverse bungee jump which will shoot you 160 feet into the air at 45 m.p.h. and then send you zooming back down. Don't forget to check out Insanity, the Ride, a massive mechanical arm that extends 64 feet over the edge of the Tower and spins you at a force of 3 Gs for a truly mind-bending experience. If you survive all of this, there's also a bar and restaurant at the top where you can order yourself a stiff drink. Lots of Stratosouvenirs for sale at the top, too. Hey, this isn't just a tower, it's an event.

Okay, I admit it, Las Vegas is too big for a top ten. So here's two more!

Casinos

You didn't think I'd forget, did you? There are a lot of good new reasons to come to Las Vegas, but there's still a pretty good old reason. The opportunity to gamble is at every turn, and what reasonable person could resist? There truly is something for everyone in the casinos of Las Vegas. Slot machines start as low as a nickel, and big hitters can always try their luck at craps or pai gow poker. While it's fun to win (certainly not to lose), it's also fun to watch. The casino crowd these days is a cross-section of America, maybe the world, and everyone seems to be having a good time. My favorite casinos, probably because they're newer, brighter and less intimidating, are at the MGM Grand, Monte Carlo, Treasure Island and the Mirage. Bring your quarters, a sense of humor and get ready to have some fun. Oh, and good luck! Casinos in Las Vegas are open 24 hours a day and too numerous to mention.

Bellagio Hotel

The Bellagio Hotel & Resort, the Italian-flavored resort-casino is at 3600 Las Vegas Blvd South (888-987-6667), is on the infamous Strip. Dining is accelerated to a crescendo at Bellagio's thirteen restaurants, which run the gamut from gourmet dining to easy informal meals. For gourmet dining you can experience haute cuisine at Le Cirque, or at its sister restaurant, Osteria Del Circo. Chef Julian Serrano left his perch at the four-star Masa's restaurant in San Francisco to open Picasso in Bellagio, probably the most beautiful restaurant in Las Vegas. MICHAEL MINA is a clone of one of San Francisco's best restaurants, and is a seafood venue with a distinct blend of California and Mediterranean ingredients. Prime Steakhouse, which is overseen by Manhattan's Jean-George Vongerichten, features the chef's signature dishes such as crab mango salad with cumin crackers; an assembled tomato accented with basil oil; and entrees such as the house prime steaks that come with a variety of sauces from béarnaise to tamarind, or seven different mustards. For Asian meals, seek out either Jasmine, Shintaro or Noodles restaurants. (contributed by GraceAnn Walden)



Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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