With its combination of old-school pizazz and hipster cool, today’s Las Vegas has more to offer than ever before, finds Farida Zeynalova
America’s most unorthodox city is a splotch of neon among the red rock and Joshua trees of Nevada’s greater Mojave Desert. Ever since mobster Bugsy Siegel built one of the first casino hotels on the Strip, the city has been a bastion of decadence; its Hollywood-powered reputation for 24-hour casinos and mega clubs luring millions of visitors a year, with the tagline ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ hinting at the illicit fun that awaits. These days, though, there’s more to the city than slot machines and showgirls: Downtown, has swapped its shady reputation for artsy attractions and cool cafes, while the vast Fremont Street Experience mall has zip-lines and light shows. Las Vegas is an enigma, and it likes it that way.
MORNING: Book a Wind Dancer Air and Landing Tour with Maverick Helicopters (maverickhelicopter.com). Cross into Arizona, passing Lake Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, and land 3,500ft below the West Rim of the Grand Canyon in Hualapai Indian Territory. While here, enjoy a continental breakfast with champagne, while soaking up views of one of the world’s great natural wonders.
AFTERNOON: Head to Topgolf at the MGM Grand, just off the Strip. Spread across four levels, it includes 108 hitting bays, two pools and giant TV screens. Take a break from all the swinging to sample the Memphis Burger, with peanut butter, raspberry jalapeno jelly, pork and cheddar cheese.
EVENING: Marvel at the dancing and acrobatics at Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Then moonwalk to Libertine Social, a gastro pub offering New American cuisine and swell cocktails, before hitting the Strip for a taste of quintessential Vegas, possibly hitting the slots and tables at the world-famous Bellagio.
MORNING: For brunch and 1990s nostalgia, stroll to Glutton in Downtown Vegas, admiring the neighbourhood’s vivid wall art along the way. The urban eatery is just across the street from the Downtown Container Park (a shopping centre built from shipping containers), the perfect spot for a bit of post-food dawdling.
AFTERNOON: Discover the darker side of Sin City at the The Mob Museum. Then head up to North Las Vegas Boulevard to The Neon Museum, whose Neon Boneyard of vintage signs from defunct casinos and businesses pays homage to the city’s retro charm.
EVENING: Make a beeline for Fremont Street Experience, a 24-hour entertainment centre with nightly shows, rib joints and the exhilarating SlotZilla Zip Line. If the canopy of 12.5 million LED lights gets too much, drop by locals’ haunt Velveteen Rabbit in the Arts District and mingle with Las Vegans over a cocktail or two.
How to get there: Norwegian operates two weekly direct flights to Las Vegas. Prices from £179 one way. norwegian.com
Attractions: Wind Dancer Grand Canyon tour maverickhelicopter.com
Cirque Du Soleil: Michael Jackson One at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino cirquedusoleil.com/michael-jackson-one
The Mob Museum themobmuseum.org
The Neon Museum neonmuseum.org