Las Vegas Blvd: The Strip
When most people think of Las Vegas, they think of the Las Vegas Strip. Five miles of hotel casinos stand along this famous stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, and tourists from all over the world are drawn to its glittering lights. This city in the Mojave Desert draws over 37 million visitors annually, and the Strip is the major reason why.
The mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel is often credited as the man who gave Las Vegas its start, and while that's not entirely true, he did build the Strip's famous Flamingo Hotel Casino, which still stands today. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford—that group of entertainers and singers known as the Rat Pack—helped bring Las Vegas into the spotlight in the 1960s, back in the days when people dressed up to go to casinos. In more recent years, Steve Wynn re-imagined the Las Vegas Strip when he built the Mirage, ushering in an age of megaresorts, spectacular curb-side shows, and a new level of entertainment in the showrooms. Wynn also introduced the Strip to the age of implosions when he imploded the old Dunes Hotel and Casino, going on to build the luxurious Bellagio on the site. In the years after the Dunes came down, several other Old Vegas Strip casinos were also imploded: the Landmark, the Sands, the Aladdin, the Stardust, the Desert Inn, and the Hacienda. Today, only a few of the older hotel casinos remain on the Strip—for instance, the Tropicana, the Rivera, and the Sahara, although in a spirit of constant reinvention, every Las Vegas Strip hotel has undergone extensive makeovers to keep up with the constant changes in the city.
Part of the changes on the Strip include ever-more luxurious hotels, like Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, the arrival of celebrity chefs (good examples are Alex Strada's Alex at Wynn, Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand, and Hubert Keller's Fleur de Lys at the Mandalay Bay), an increasingly hot nightclub scene, and an incredible array of shows. Nightclubs like Pure, Jet, Tao, rumjungle, Rain, and ghostbar give the hip crowd a place to hang out and dance. Many of the clubs now take the nightclub to the daytime, offering pool parties so you can see and be seen in your bathing suit. Strip showrooms now feature extended runs of shows like Cher at Caesar's Palace and an adaption of The Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian, in addition to impressive rosters of headline acts. Cirque de Soleil has six shows on the Strip: O, Ka, Love, Mystere, Criss Angel's Believe, and the very adult-themed Zumanity.
Even if you're not staying on the Strip, just visiting this fabled stretch of neon and glitz is entertainment all by itself. The Bellagio's Fountains, which had a cameo in the re-make of Ocean's 11 (the original starred the Rat Pack), entertain visitors in the evenings. Pirates and sirens battle it out in front of the Treasure Island, and the volcano erupts regularly in front of the Mirage. A smaller version of the Eiffel Tower stands in front of the Paris, and visitors can take a ride to the top or eat in its restaurant, the aptly named Eiffel Tower Restaurant. Shopping has also become a form of entertainment on the Strip, from the talking statues and ever-changing sky at Caesar's Palace's Forum Shops to the recreated Venetian canals, complete with singing gondoliers, at the Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes. The Strip also has its own stand-alone mall, the Fashion Show, featuring retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.
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