Glitz and Gigawatts: 5 Days in Las Vegas

Nightclubs, casinos, theatre, dancing girls, exploding volcanoes, million-dollar paintings -- you could easily spend a lifetime in Vegas and still not exhaust the city's bottomless gift for glitz and razmatazz. But if time is limited, you'll need a list of the best things to see and do in a short time. The following itinerary will help you structure a trip that takes in a wide swath of Las Vegas culture.

Day 1. The Strip is huge, so it's best to divide it into two chunks. On Day 1, explore the southern end of the Strip, as far north as Flamingo Road. Take the monorail that runs the length of the Strip or hop on a Strip shuttle or CAT bus. Start with a look around Mandalay and the medieval kitsch of the Excalibur, then cross the Strip on an elevated pedestrian walk and take a peek at Old Vegas at the Tropicana. Another elevated pedestrian walk and a few shorts steps and you'll find yourself inside the MGM Grand; be sure to check out the lion habitat. Then it's back across the Strip to New York--New York.

Hop the tram at the Monte Carlo and cruise on up to the Bellagio. Just outside the tram stop you'll find the Bellagio conservatory with its amazing botanical gardens. Be sure to view the dancing waters from the sidewalk on the Strip. Then it's back up onto the pedestrian bridge to cross the Strip and explore Bally's, Paris, and the Aladdin. And don't miss the Aladdin's Desert Passage shopping area.

Day 2. Pick up where you left off, and devote Day 2 to exploring the Strip north of the Flamingo Road intersection. Caesars Palace, the showpiece of this part of the Strip, is a good place to start. Then cross the Strip and take in the Flamingo, the Imperial Palace, and the Venetian, maybe taking a quick break for a gondola ride. Cross the Strip at Spring Mountain Road to do a little shopping at Fashion Show Mall and, heading south now, tour the Treasure Island and the Mirage. If you time it right and it's after dark, you might see the volcano blow.

Then a good plan would be to hop some motorized transportation and head up to the Stratosphere to see the city from a whole different perspective -- and maybe get a few thrills on the Big Shot. Later that night, head downtown for the Fremont Street Experience sound-and-light show and a drink in Main Street Station's brewpub.

Day 3. Take a quick morning break from casino madness in the awesome scenery of Red Rock Canyon, then fling yourself back into the fray in the afternoon by experiencing an "only in Vegas" attraction. In the afternoon, take your pick of Las Vegas attractions -- ride the Manhattan Express roller coaster at New York--New York, visit Adventuredome at Circus Circus. If museums are more to your taste, take in the Liberace Museum, Elvis-A-Rama Museum, the Guggenheim-Hermitage Museum, or the Imperial Palace Auto Collection.

Day 4.Today you can marvel at the civil engineering masterpiece that makes Las Vegas possible, and then gamble like a local. Begin by heading out to Boulder City and Hoover Dam. Tour the visitor center and dam, and maybe drive over to Lake Mead Marina. Then head to either of the "other" casino strips to mingle with the locals. You can see the parklike atrium as well as the laser and dancing water show at Sam's Town on the Boulder Strip or sample the sumptuous buffet at Texas Station.

Day 5. On your fifth day, you can head up to Mt. Charleston for a mountain (skiing or hiking) experience, hop a flight-seeing tour to the Grand Canyon, or drive down to Laughlin for a taste of gambling that is qualitatively different from Las Vegas.

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