WORDS: WINSOR DOBBIN
Beyond the glitz and gambling, Las Vegas offers an ever changing lineup of things to see and natural landmarks to explore
There is nowhere on the planet quite like the Las Vegas strip: six kilometres of neon excess, 24-hour entertainment, casino after casino, hostess after hostess, bachelor after bachelor. The scent of optimism, balanced by the bitter stench of desperation. Replicas of an Egyptian pyramid, the Venetian Grand Canal and the Eiffel Tower. The whole world in one city. The entertainment capital of the world. The casino capital. The fight capital.
Would-bes come from all over the world to this garish temple of overindulgence and intemperance in the Nevada desert. Most arrivals at the airport dream of making it big – on the roulette wheel, as heavyweight champion, as the next Elvis Presley, or by marrying Mr Right. Just like Hollywood Boulevard, it can be a road to glory or a place of broken dreams.
The greed here dwarfs any other you have experienced. Only one currency matters: how much money you have in your pocket, or perhaps the colour of your American Express card. That’s the thing about Las Vegas – the glitz and the promise of better days can grab you and give you unrealistic ambitions. Within just 24 hours, it is all too easy for a high-roller at ringside to morph into a low-roller with a seat far removed from the action.
You can spend day after day chasing the almighty dollar, not sure whether it’s day or night outside. The winners are celebrated and fêted, while losers trudge through the heat and dust as they head for the bus station.
While it is best known for being a magnet for high-stakes poker players, fight fans and nightlife lovers, Las Vegas can also be an outdoor destination for those willing to briefly step away from the flashing bright lights.
Close to the city are the Red Rock National Conservation area, Lake Mead National Recreation area and Mount Charleston. You can also find Las Vegas helicopter tours, Grand Canyon tours, the Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas strip tours departing every few minutes.
Las Vegas continuously reinvents itself, so even regular visitors will never run out of fun things to do. This is not a city for taking lightly. There is a grit underneath the glitter, but the adventurous will be well rewarded – that is, until their money runs out.
Las Vegas is constantly introducing new venues and experiences for the 43 million visitors who make the city their holiday destination each year. Special appearances from legendary performers, the city’s first professional sports team and an exciting new “place to play” concept are among the latest of the city’s attractions.
# Las Vegas has dozens of eateries featuring big-name chefs and more are on their way.
Renowned Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s Japanese fare has arrived in Las Vegas at Morimoto Las Vegas, inside the MGM Grand. The restaurant offers a Teppan table experience, allowing guests to enjoy the world’s rarest cuts of meat grilled in front of their eyes.
Chef Shawn McClain has introduced his third Las Vegas restaurant, Libertine Social, to Mandalay Bay. The next-generation gastropub features an eclectic menu of share plates, while renowned mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim has designed a cocktail program.
Chef Charlie Palmer’s Aureole at Mandalay Bay, one of the great wine restaurants in the world, has done away with the white tablecloths and has now been re-imagined with a tasting table experience.
# The newest entertainment destination in Las Vegas is the 5,200-seat Park Theatre at Monte Carlo. The upcoming line-up of stars at this boutique-sized venue includes extended engagements from Bruno Mars, Cher and Ricky Martin, allowing guests unprecedented close-up access to the stars. The furthest seat is just 50 metres from the stage.
# Ice hockey joins the sporting attractions in Las Vegas with the autumn arrival of the city’s first-ever professional sports team, when the Las Vegas Golden Knights will make their debut at the 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena. The Oakland Raiders of the National Football League will relocate to Las Vegas by the 2020 NFL season.
# Level Up is MGM Grand’s new “place to play” concept, presenting a new era in interactive, skill-based entertainment on the strip. This tech-savvy, adult playground has pay-to-play offerings in a social atmosphere, including the debut of skill-based games for the next generation of gamers, including Shuffleboard and Air Hockey.
# Art lovers who are also fight fans are catered for by the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, which is currently featuring I Am The Greatest: Muhammad Ali. This exhibition celebrates the life and legacy of the world’s greatest heavyweight boxer.
# The Park is the strip’s first outdoor leisure zone, connecting the Arena, New York-New York and Monte Carlo. It spans three acres and features a diverse selection of cuisine and beverage offerings, including a beer hall and a Japanese dining extravaganza. The Park is an outdoor oasis and sanctuary in the middle of madness, offering visitors and locals alike the opportunity to take a break. Highlights include the iconic Burning Man art installation, Bliss Dance.
# Seven Magic Mountains is a new art installation by internationally renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, located just off the I-15 approaching Las Vegas. Comprised of seven towers of colourful, stacked boulders, Seven Magic Mountains brings the Mojave alive.
Qantas return flights to Las Vegas from Sydney and Melbourne via Los Angeles start from $1200. Visit www.Qantas.com.