Information & Facts
Located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is hot and dry during summer with mild winters, and plenty of sunshine all year round. In the height of summer, during July and August, the mercury often soars above 100ºF (38ºC). Winters are cooler and bring winds and cold nights, with daytime highs of around 60ºF (16ºC) and chilly nights averaging 40ºF (4ºC). What little rain there is usually falls in winter, between January and March. In summer though there are sometimes late afternoon thunderstorms that move in from Mexico.
There was a time when Las Vegas' restaurants were known more for quantity than cuisine. This was due to the legendary casino buffets which offered mountains of food for modest prices on the well calculated assumption that diners would hit the tables or slots machines to work off their meal. Today however, Las Vegas has a large selection of world-class eateries, with Italian trattoria, classic French fine-dining and luxury steakhouses especially well represented. Some of the country's top chefs are now based here and exciting new restaurants open weekly. In addition, Vegas is home to several world-class sommeliers. All this increasing activity and greater competition means that Vegas offers decent value for money compared to other large cities. The net result is that the former capital of the 99c shrimp cocktail is now a regarded as a global cuisine capital. When it comes to eating at least, the odds are really in your favour.
Most visits to Las Vegas are confined to the Strip and downtown, so it is not necessary to hire a car as both are easily navigable by foot and there are several forms of transport that can be used. Public transport is limited to buses, but private trolley services, taxicabs, monorail links and free shuttle services, courtesy of the casinos, are also available. Local buses run the length of the Strip and into downtown and operate 24 hours a day with a flat fare including transfers. The old-fashioned Las Vegas Strip Trolley also runs the length of the Strip from 9.30am to 2am, and the Downtown Trolley circles between the Stratosphere and downtown from 7am to 11pm. A state-of-the-art monorail runs above the streets, operating from 7am to 2pm daily between the Sahara Hotel and the MGM Grand. Taxis are plentiful and can be found lined up outside every hotel and casino and at taxi stands. Car hire is popular with visitors although it is best to avoid driving along the Strip as traffic is heavy and there is little parking available. Cars are the most practical way to explore outside Las Vegas, although there are bus tours offered to Hoover Dam. Visitors need a valid driver's license and must be 21 years old; under-25s are usually subject to surcharges. To really fit in, why not consider hiring a limousine? Although not entirely practical, it can be a fun way to feel part of the glitz and glamour and there are several limousine agencies in the city.
At first Las Vegas may seem bright and brash, no place to take kids on holiday, but this fun and fantasy filled city is described as the world's largest theme park - what more could a child want? Set in the middle of the vast Mojave Desert, this family holiday destination offers everything from wildlife viewing to theme parks and shopping malls. Kids on holiday in Las Vegas will immediately be impressed by the re-created New York and Paris skylines, seen from 'The Strip', and revel in the adventurous notion of exploring the canals of Venice or the Egyptian pyramids. And all the pretty Las Vegas lights, so many lights everywhere! An 8pm bedtime will be a tough call... In an attempt to lure gamblers to the casinos to squander all their cash, Las Vegas accommodation and restaurants are surprisingly affordable - a real benefit for families on holiday. The pursuit of pleasure by both parents and children alike is possible year-round; the summers in Las Vegas are definitely hotter, but everything is air-conditioned.
English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.
The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.
There's a reason they say 'what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas' and the nightlife and entertainment may well be that reason. With bars, clubs, strip clubs, casinos and world-class international shows running for months on end, it's little wonder why Las Vegas has earned itself a reputation, albeit not always favourable, as one of the world's party capitals.
The world-famous strip is bland and dingy-looking during the day, but the minute the sun sets this desert oasis springs to life with neon illuminating just about every inch of this infamous city. The real problem when heading out for a night on the strip is choosing where to begin.
The current trend regarding shows is towards headline comedy or music acts and Big Broadway productions all of which can be seen at the main hotels throughout town. Many hotel lounges and bars have been replaced with DJs and go-go dancers and those in search of a drink need look no further than the hotel bars.
Hotels worth checking out while in Las Vegas are the Bellagio, the Venetian, Caesars Palace, Palms Palace, Trump Hotel and the MGM Grand. Here you will find endless hours of entertainment, if not in the bars and lounges, then perhaps in the slots and on the tables.
Las Vegas just might be the mall shopping capital of the world: there are over 20 mega malls competing for your dollar, each uniquely themed in its own style, and each offering prices that retailers in other cities struggle to compete with. So if you are burdened with your gambling winnings here are some shopping venues to help lighten your load:
Town Square Las Vegas is a mega mall with a difference: most of the stores are outside so you can enjoy a pedestrian friendly village atmosphere while exploring a comprehensive range of stores. Town Square also offers an eclectic range of restaurants, a newly built day-spa, and a wonderful interactive children's park. Another retail centre is Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. Occupying prime position on the Strip, there are over 170 specialty stores and 15 restaurants to choose from.
Caesars Palace is home to the hugely popular Forum Shops with over 700,000 square feet (220,000 sq/m) of retail space, while the Fashion Show Mall at 3200 Las Vegas Boulevard is still worth a visit for its incredible bargains 30 years after its founding. The largest mall, and indeed the biggest in the whole state of Nevada, is Boulevard Mall offering over 170 stores and 1,2 million feet (370,000 sq/m) of retail space.
If you like your mall shopping with a healthy dose of kitsch then don't miss The Grand Canal Shops at the Venetian. This indoor shopping area is built as authentic reproduction of Venice's Grand Canal (and yes, there are gondolas) with a replica of Piazza San Marco as the extravagant centre piece.
The Strip is known for designer boutiques and haute couture, and all the big names are represented here. Away from the strip and opulent malls you can find more individual stores selling Las Vegas collectibles (old gambling chips are highly prized), esoteric books and kooky clothing. Two markets are really worth a look: Broad Acres Swap Meet has over 600 retailers and the Fantastic Indoor Swap Meet has an astounding variety of new merchandise.
Sales tax of 7.75% is built into the price of goods. Because states set their own sales tax the US government has no system for refunding you as a non-US visitor.
When you visit Las Vegas you quickly realise that the city itself is the biggest attraction. You can simply walk the Strip and bask in the fluorescent lights, soak up the sounds of laughter, traffic hooting, pinging slot machines, and absorb the incredible energy of this improbably fascinating city in the desert. 100 years ago there was nothing here - today it's one of the world's fastest growing cities.
The key sites are naturally the extravagant casinos that line the Strip. Check out the MGM-themed Mirage, the Egyptian fantasy of the Luxor and opulence of the Bellagio. Music fans will head for the Liberace museum and the grand shows, while automobile nuts won't want to miss the world-class Imperial Palace Automobile Collection.
If exploring on foot, do so at night when the lights make their biggest impact and the temperature is cooler. During the day make the most of the city buses which run the length of the strip.