The Strip and beyond
As the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas is famous for its massive
and lavish casino resorts, its unrestricted availability of alcoholic beverages
and adult entertainment. SARAH WEEKS finds there's more
than meets the eye when it comes to Las Vegas.
y first impression of Las Vegas is hardly area - just in case you need a head start on your winnings, or
surprising. After a 17-hour trip from New should I say losses!
Zealand (including a transfer at Los Angeles), Once officially referred to as Sin City, Las Vegas is a place
I'm greeted at McCarran International Airport to where anything can happen, anytime, anywhere. I arrive at
poker machines conveniently located beside the baggage claim Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, a 39-story luxury hotel
Travel Digest, July 2008 13
casino at the southern end of The Strip, to find amazing
views from my 30th floor room. This hotel has the unique
distinction of having two heated pools, a wave pool, a
European-style pool (complete with private bar as well
as an allowance for female guests to bathe topless) and a
lazy river that features a small waterfall and man-made
beach. In keeping with the resort's tropical theme, it
features a saltwater aquarium, Shark Reef with the third
largest tank in North America and a two tunnel-shaped,
Las Vegas Boulevard, most commonly referred to
as The Strip, is a mega playground for grown-ups.
Magnificent hotels glow green and gold; pink, red,
yellow, blue and white neon pulsates all around; electric
lights flash; music plays; volcanoes erupt; fountains soar;
people in thousands walk up, down and over The Strip;
roller coasters corkscrew high above the ground and a
laser beam visible from space penetrates the night sky,
inviting the whole world to come and play. New York New York Hotel and Casino is a
Walking down The Strip, it seems there is always recreation of New York City's skyline.
something exciting happening no matter what time of
the day or night. The majority of entertainment is located Museum of American Art, Ellis Island and Grand Central
along this boulevard and with plenty to see and do, it can be Terminal, among other well-known structures.
difficult navigating yourself through the maze of casinos, Luxor Hotel, conveniently located next door to Mandalay
bars, nightclubs and attractions. I start from the northern end, Bay, is one of the city's first fully-themed mega resorts and is
weaving my way in and out of various casinos along the way among the most recognisable hotels on The Strip. The main
(exit signs are hard to find here for a reason!), a venture that portion of the hotel is a 110-metre high, 30-story pyramid of
can take as short, or as long, as you want. black glass with a massive recreation of the Great Sphinx of
Some of the highlights along The Strip include a visit to Giza sitting out the front. The tip of the pyramid contains
The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and its sister property the a spotlight that points directly upward and is the brightest
Palazzo. This Venice-themed luxury hotel and casino has an beam in the world, visible from anywhere in the Las Vegas
extensive indoor retail mall, the Grand Canal Shops, a lake in valley at night (very handy in finding your way home at the
front of the casino, canals on the second floor in the shopping end of the night, or morning). Inside you will find various
mall with private gondola rides, an amazing engineering feat Egyptian attractions such as a replica of the tomb of Pharaoh
in itself. You can also view a performance by the famed Blue Tutankhamun.
Man Group, a trio of mute performers painted blue. But there is more to Las Vegas than just glitz and glamour
Treasure Island is another interesting feature of The Strip of The Strip. New Zealanders are active travellers and as a
and not hard to miss either with its free nightly show at Siren's generalisation we will spend less money on accommodation
Cove, featuring a staged pirate battle, complete with pirate and indulgences like expensive spa treatments or golf courses,
ship, bare-chested pirates, singing and dancing. Further down allowing us to spend more on activities and cultural immersion
from here you will find the Bellagio with its notable artificial - and of course more time travelling! Las Vegas is an ideal
lake in front of the building housing the Fountains of Bellagio, base for a wide range of scenic day trips. Hire a car and hit the
a large dancing water fountain synchronised to music. These road or join a tour to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam or hike
spectacular performances take place every 30 minutes in the Mount Charleston, rock climb at Red Rock Canyons or get on
afternoons and every 15 minutes in the evenings. the water on Lake Mead.
Planet Hollywood Las Vegas is another notable casino resort My choice of day trip is Red Rock Canyon National
along The Strip. Formerly known as The Aladdin, the resort Conservation Area, located just 24km west of Las Vegas.
was renovated last year and rebranded as Planet Hollywood. These rock formations can easily be seen from The Strip and
The casino is Hollywood-themed with a modern new retail are visited by over one million people each year. The area
space dubbed Miracle Mile Shops, a great place to stop for a showcases a set of strikingly beautiful red sandstone peaks and
quick fix of shopping. walls called the Keystone Thrust. The walls are up to 1km high,
New York – New York Hotel and Casino is yet another making them a popular hiking and rock-climbing destination.
famous landmark on The Strip's horizon and is a recreation A one-way loop road named Scenic Drive provides vehicle
of New York City's skyline featuring several towers, which access to many of the features in the canyon, including hiking
resemble skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and trails. The loop road is very popular for bicycle touring and
the Chrysler Building. In front of the property is a pool begins with a moderate climb, then is mostly downhill or flat.
representing New York Harbour with a 46-metre tall replica Our tour guide, Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa's outdoor
of the Statue of Liberty, a roller coaster and replicas of the expert David Bert, is a passionate naturalist and gives us a
Brooklyn Bridge, Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the Whitney detailed history on the area's complex geology. Believe it
14 Travel Digest, July 2008
Travel gadget of the year:
Count your steps when you walk the Great Wall of
China, up the Eiffel Tower, around Ayers Rock or
distance around the Promenade Deck on your
next cruise – and then count your weight loss .
Who steps out
the most in your
Clips on to your belt. Counts steps, measures
distance (in kms) and calories.
Why not have
Is also a clock, stopwatch and alarm. an office
For weight loss aim for 10,000 steps per day.
$15.00 incl GST
Email your order, adding on $6 pack and post [within NZ], to: email@example.com
Include credit card details (type of card, name on card, number, expiry date and amount).
Alternatively send your cheque made out to Méthode Media Ltd, PO Box 105-483, Auckland.
Provide full name, address, email and phone number.
Travel Digest, July 2008 15
or not, but this area was actually located under a deep ocean
basin 600 million years ago. Decaying ocean and marine life
formed sediments at the seafloor, which eventually formed FAST FACTS
into limestone. Around 250 million years ago, the earth's
crust started to rise due to tectonic shifts, forcing water out
and leaving behind formations of salt and gypsum. Exposure How to get there : Air New Zealand
to this allowed some of the rocks to oxidise (literally rust), and Qantas with United Airlines
forming the area's characteristic red and orange rock layers. transfers from Los Angeles. Allow
The region is also rich with Native American history, with
for 17 to 22 hours travelling time.
numerous petroglyphs (rock carvings) as well as pottery
fragments remaining today. Several roasting pits used by
early native Americans provide further evidence that this area Currency: USD$1 = NZD$1.33
was a popular meeting place among different tribes.
Along with hiking, rock climbing and bicycling, visitors
can also do horseback riding and camping trips on specific
Best time to go: All year round.
trails and designated areas. Temperatures routinely exceed 41
degrees in the summer, so bringing plenty of water is a must. Time difference: Las Vegas is 19
There is also the threat of poisonous rattlesnakes and flash hours behind New Zealand time.
flooding / lightning from thunderstorms.
Adrenalin junkies will find plenty to get their blood pounding
and heart rate rushing in and around Las Vegas. Kiwis looking Highlights: The Strip, Fremont
for activities to rival the bungy jumping experience might try Street Experience and Red Rock
white water rafting on the Colorado River, driving an all- Canyon.
terrain vehicle around the Nevada desert or for a man made
thrill, the three rides perched 110-stories above ground level
atop the Stratosphere Tower will push anyone's fear limit.
Shoppers, however, should warm up the credit card when
visiting Las Vegas. Those looking for retail therapy can shop-
drive out to Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas is definitely worth
till-they-drop whether it is at outlet malls, souvenir stands
the trip, as you'll pick up unbelievable savings on top-of-the-
or designer boutiques. Shopping is one of the most popular
line designer merchandise.
activities for Kiwis visiting the United States, with the price of
If you want to experience the classic, historical part of Las
clothing, jewellery, cosmetics and electrical goods generally
Vegas, then Fremont Street is where it all started back in 1905,
much cheaper than what we would pay in New Zealand.
when the city was founded. Fremont Street is (or was) the
Las Vegas is home to three factory outlets all selling goods
address for many famous casinos such as Binion's Horseshoe,
discounted at 25 to 65 per cent below retail price. A 45-minute
Eldorado Club, Fremont Hotel and Casino, Golden Gate Hotel
and Casino, Golden Nugget, The Mint and the Pioneer
Club. Prior to the construction of the Fremont Street
Experience (brightly-lit display canopy covering four
blocks) the western end of Fremont Street was the
picture of Las Vegas you would see in virtually every
television show and movie that wanted to display the
lights of Las Vegas.
The abundance of neon signs, like cowboy Vegas
Vic, earned the street the nickname of Glitter Gulch.
The display canopy stretching along the Fremont
Street promenade presents nightly light and sound
shows beginning at dusk where visitors can view this,
standing underneath. Some of the most popular shows
include the Lucky Vegas show, which pays tribute to
some of the most well known Vegas icons and The
Drop which takes visitors on a journey that begins with
one drop of water.
So whether it be gambling, partying or venturing
out into nature, Las Vegas has it all for visitors of
all types. One thing's for sure, this city has been
successfully entertaining visitors from all around the
world for more than 100 years and it's not about to
• Sarah Weeks travelled to Las Vegas courtesy of Air
Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino . . . allows
New Zealand and Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
female guests to bathe topless.
16 Travel Digest, July 2008