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ESSENTIALS: Las Vegas

las vegas strip

Neon, one-armed bandits, world-class entertainment, gourmet restaurants, swanky shops and nightclubs galore. This is Vegas and its 24/7.

The massive Vegas Strip hotels look positively Lilliputian from the top of the Stratosphere Tower (2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S.), the tallest freestanding tower in the U.S. If your stomach's made of steel, take a spin on the tower-top Insanity—The Ride.

The “Ocean's Eleven” crew celebrated its successful Bellagio (3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) heist in front of the resort's dancing fountains—a signature Strip spectacle choreographed to lights and music.

Fremont Street, the original heart of Las Vegas, sits under a 90-foot-high canopy embedded with 12.5 million LED lights. Fremont Street Experience (425 Fremont St.) shows feature eye-popping animation synchronized to music (tunes range from the Doors to Dean Martin) and run nightly on the hour from dusk to midnight.

Hop aboard the Las Vegas Monorail. The 4-mile north-south route stretches from the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino to the SLS Las Vegas hotel (formerly the Sahara hotel); there are five stops in between.

In the 1960s, mile-high marquee letters spelled out names like Sinatra, Liberace and Newton. Nowadays high-tech production shows rule the Strip. If you can't score seats for Cirque du Soleil's “The Beatles LOVE” show at The Mirage (3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S.), try “Zumanity” at New York-New York (3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S.) or “Mystère” at Treasure Island Hotel & Casino (3300 Las Vegas Blvd. S.).

Hit the casinos and roll the bones, lay chips on double-zeros or put big money on a football game. Las Vegas will thank you—or perhaps wish you'd never come to town. The downtown joints offer lower minimum bets and slightly better payout rates. If you want the full Strip casino experience, try the plush gaming floor at Encore Las Vegas (3121 Las Vegas Blvd. S.).

Jackpots come in handy at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop (713 Las Vegas Blvd. S.), the once-anonymous establishment that's become a Vegas shopping sensation since “Pawn Stars” premiered on the History Channel. Fans will likely recognize some of the merchandise—from Civil War muskets to Muhammad Ali memorabilia—the “stars” have bought from customers.

Perhaps the most essential of all Sin City experiences is simply walking down the Las Vegas Strip at night and feasting your eyes on what is arguably the most dazzling display of neon and LED lights on the planet.

Check out the Strip's free entertainment. The 50-foot-high faux volcano in front of The Mirage erupts nightly at 8 and 9 (also Fri.-Sat. at 10).

On your last night, hit the New York-New York casino's Bar at Times Square, a jumpin' nightspot with a dueling pianos show. Too tame? Board the hotel's roller coaster and cap off the evening with a loop-de-loop and views of the glittery nighttime Strip—a knockout finale to your Vegas adventure.

Stay in an original Vegas mega-resort, The Mirage, or in a pyramid at the Luxor. Nothing is too over-the-top here. Or, stop by a AAA Travel office or call 800-444-8691 and we’ll help you get the dice rolling!

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