City slicker: Las Vegas

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With $8bn spent on designer hotels, restaurants and shops, the gambling capital of the world is re-inventing itself – again. Kate Simon reports


Why visit?


You don't need to be a gambler to go to Las Vegas. At least that's what the tourist bosses in this desert city would have us believe.

No, Vegas is for eating at Michelin-starred restaurants, shopping for luxury brands, and indulging in the latest treatments at cutting-edge spas. This is Vegas doing what it does best – reinventing itself. The demolition teams aren't yet knocking down the fantasy-style hotels that characterise the Strip, but the arrival of City Center, America's latest and most audacious multi-billion-dollar urban resort must signify that the clock is ticking.

Don't miss

A tour of the Strip to see its amazing hotels, such as The Luxor (luxor.com), shaped like a pyramid and guarded by a sphinx, Paris Las Vegas (parislasvegas .com), with its own Eiffel Tower, New York New York (nynyhotelcasino.com), complete with Statue of Liberty.

Trying your luck. The roulette, blackjack, and poker tables, plus the slots, are ready for your dollars.

The city's eclectic museums. No subject is too niche – from neon (neonmuseum.org) to atomic testing (atomictestingmuseum.org).

A free sidewalk show. The Fountains of Bellagio (bellagio.com), which dance on the lake in front of the eponymous hotel throughout the day to world-famous melodies, is the most famous. But Treasure Island's (treasureisland.com) new pyrotechnic pirate ship battle, Sirens of TI, is gaining fans.

Getting married. It might be true love, or just a love of kitsch, but this is the place to get hitched.

Getting out of town. Fly in a helicopter over the Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon (heliusa.com).

What's new

City Center

For a vision of Vegas's future, look no further than the hottest stop on the Strip, City Center (citycenter.com). A once down-at-heel space has been transformed by eight of the world's leading architects, including Foster+Partners and Daniel Libeskind, in an $8bn (£5.3bn) project that is the largest of its kind in United States history. This new urban resort offers sophisticated accommodation in the shape of five-star hotels Mandarin Oriental, Aria, the Vdara, and the Harmon Hotel, and a shopping mall featuring luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and an outpost of Eva Longoria-Parker's Hollywood restaurant, Beso.

Cloud Nine

Take to the skies in the world's largest helium-filled, land-tethered balloon, Cloud Nine. This new attraction rises almost 500 feet (152 metres) off the ground, offering visitors with a head for heights panoramic views on a "ride" lasting 10 to 12 minutes.

Details: cloud9vegas.com

Pink Jeep

Check out Vegas's truly wild side on a new off-road trail with Pink Jeep Tours to the Springs Preserve, site of the spring that sustained the first pioneers, just outside the city. Meanwhile, Day Dreamin' Exotic Tours has a new experience where punters can drive five sports cars on a 90-mile trail through the Red Rock Canyon and Spring Mountain Peak.

Details: pinkjeep.com; daydreaminexotics.com

Swim-up gaming

You don't have to stop gambling in this town even if you fancy a dip in the pool – Caesar's Palace now offers swim-up blackjack.

Details: caesarspalace.com

Viva Elvis

Cirque de Soleil gives the king of rock'n'roll its unique treatment in its latest Vegas show, Viva Elvis, at the new Aria hotel. It's a typically spectacular display of dance, acrobatics and music.

Details: cirquedusoleil.com

Bellagio Gallery

The Bellagio hotel is offering new docent (guided) tours of its fine art collection. But enthusiasts must make sure they get there sharpish – the new 45-minute tour, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday at 3.30pm, is limited to the first 20 attendees.

Details: bellagio.com

Insider’s secret: John Power, Executive Vice President, Heli USA Airways

"Follow the locals to Mount Charleston, just 40 minutes' drive from the Strip, which has hiking trails and skiing. And take a picnic to the Valley of Fire State Park, 50 miles north-east, in the Mojave Desert, with its red sandstone formations and petroglyphs [ancient rock art]."

Compact Facts

How to get there

British Airways (0844 493 0758; ba.com/lasvegas) offers four nights at the Bellagio in Las Vegas from £995 per person and from £1,069 staying at the Mandarin Oriental. Both prices are based on two sharing and include return BA flights from Heathrow and accommodation only.

Further information

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (visitlasvegas.co.uk).

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