TO LAS VEGAS AND BEYOND
Nevada's famous Mojave Desert oasis is much more than its neon-lighted reputation
Glitzy Las Vegas just keeps getting better. Accordingly, a trip to the famed gambling mecca, as well as many nearby manmade and natural attractions, is an entertainment sure bet.
Vegas is constantly reinventing itself, and tanks to another series of varied new projects, the city will see an injection of more than $5 billion in the next few years.
And a Vegas trip often includes visits to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam.
Of course, the epicenter is the renowned Las Vegas Strip, but Fremont Street Experience has also grown into a stand-alone destination. The five-block downtown entertainment district, which attracts more than 17 million annual visitors, is a one-of-a-kind venue that includes direct pedestrian access to 10 casinos, more than 60 restaurants, specialty retail kiosks, free nightly concerts and entertainment on three stages.
Freemont Street's Viva Vision is the world's largest video screen - it's 1,500 feet long, 90 feet wide, and is suspended 90 feet above the urban pedestrian mall. It features a nightly light and sound show, with 12.5 million LED
In a city known for its neon, it's only fitting that Las Vegas now has the Neon Museum. The museum opened in 2012, and it is home to a collection of more than 150 neon signs dating from the 1930s. It's the largest collection of neon signage in the world, providing a unique record of the city's colorful history.
The museum also has a space called Neon Boneyard, which features iconic signs from many of the city's celebrated properties, including the Moulin Rouge, the Desert Inn, the Stardust, and the Flamingo. They're displayed alongside signs from various bygone restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. The museum's new on-site visitors center is located in the recently rehabilitated La Concha Motel lobby.
The Neon Museum also partnered with the City of Las Vegas to create the Las Vegas Signs Project, in which resorted signs from the museum's collection have been installed on Las Vegas Boulevard between Sahara and Washington Avenues. This stretch of historic roadway is a National Scenic Byway and now features seven restored signs from the 1950s.
Other movers include Caesars Entertainment, which is continuing work on the $500 million-plus The LINQ, a dining, shopping, and entertainment district. It will feature the world's largest observation wheel - the 550-foot-high Las Vegas High Roller.
Caesars is also pursuing major projects at other properties, including the opening the new Nobu Hotel at Caesars Palace, renovations at The Quad (formerly the Imperial Palace), and the early-2014 opening of Gansevoort Las Vegas, a new boutique resort and casino that also will include an indoor/outdoor club and nightclub.
Then, there's MGM Resorts International and AEG, which are building a 20,000-seat arena west of the Las Vegas Strip between New York-New York and Monte Carlo. MGM is also rebranding THEhotel at Mandalay Bay into Delano Las Vegas (opening early 2014) and renovating several of its properties, including Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, The Mirage, and Bellagio.
Other resort, dining, and entertainment projects making Las Vegas better than ever include major renovations at The New Tropicana Las Vegas (now a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel), The Venetian, Gold Coast Hotel and Casino, Golden Gate, Palms, The D Las Vegas, Riviera, Four Seasons, Lady Luck (now the Downtown Grand) and the Sahara (to be SLS in 2014).
The Grand Canyon
One of the world's natural wonders sits about 300 miles southeast of Las Vegas. Grand Canyon National Park attracts about five million tourists a year. There's plenty of room for them, as the park is almost 2,000 square miles in size, and the canyon itself is more than 275 miles long, about one mile deep in spots, and up to 18 miles wide.
The busy South Rim, with lots of facilities and activities and open all year, is by far the most popular destination for visitors. Varied visitors centers, accommodations, activities, hiking, ranger programs, guided tours, mule trips and more are all available at the South Rim. A wide range of organized tours from Las Vegas, including popular helicopter trips, are also available.
Conversely, the North Rim is only accessible seasonally, including its lodging and food services. The North Rim is harder to reach by vehicle, but worth the effort, thanks to far fewer people and equally dramatic landscapes.
Heading to the Hoover Dam
Outside town and a world away, the Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel. Construction began in 1930 and was completed in less than five years - two years ahead of schedule and well under budget. It's named for the 31st president, Herbert Hoover, who played a key role in getting nearby states to agree on water allocations.
At more than 725 feet above the Colorado River and with 17 generators producing four billion kilowatts of electricity a year, this National Historic Landmark is the highest concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere and one of the country's largest hydroelectric facilities. Tours through the dam have been conducted since 1937 and about a million people visit annually.
The dam created Lake Mead, where many day and half-day excursions await in the surrounding national recreation area. Visitors can cruise the Colorado River on a guided raft tour, rent boats at one of the nearby marinas, or hike or bike one of the park's many trails. There is an array of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead tours offered from Las Vegas, making a visit even easier.
More natural outdoor pursuits are nearby. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is just 15 miles west of Las Vegas, with a one-way 13-mile loop road highlighting the pretty area's huge beautiful rock formations. Valley of Fire State Park, just 50 away, is another great option, with stunning sandstone and sand dune formations.
Las Vegas also provides easy access to the natural wonders of southern Utah. The state line is around 120 away, with Zion National Park just another 60 miles distant.
It's hard to resist driving another 90 miles to Bryce Canyon National Park, where amazing rock formations astound. Plus, Moab, Monument Valley, and Arches National Park are all relatively near.
Did You Know
Seventeen of the 20 largest American hotels are located in Las Vegas.
Did You Know
Las Vegas was founded in 1905 with the opening of the Salt Lake, San Pedro & Los Angeles Railroad.