McCarran International Airport (LAS) is located within the Las Vegas city limits, a short drive from the Strip. From the airport, the hotels are accessible via taxi, bus, limo, shuttle bus or rental car.
The closest Amtrak stations to Las Vegas are in Needles, California, and Bakersfield, California, but both require a long bus or car ride after train travel. Bus service is readily available between Las Vegas and Los Angeles and San Diego, California; Phoenix and Kingman, Arizona; and Salt Lake City, Utah. There are also regular tour bus departures to the Grand Canyon.
Interstate 15 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is the major thoroughfare into and out of the city; it is often congested during weekends, when Californians make their way for overnight visits. Interstate 15 also continues north, connecting to Interstate 80 in Salt Lake City. Interstate 40 and U.S. Route 93 connect Las Vegas with Arizona and may also become congested during peak traffic times of the day and week.
Getting around Las Vegas necessitates negotiating with traffic, distances and the weather. Temperatures in the summer often reach 110 degrees Fahrenheit, discouraging walking except for short distances between destinations on the Strip. Many of the major attractions in Las Vegas are on or near the Strip, making it the major source of traffic.
Because most of the casinos, restaurants and other activities are open 24 hours a day, the traffic can be just as heavy at night. Taxis are readily available from dispatchers at any hotel and are not permitted to pick up or drop off passengers on the street. Generally a relatively inexpensive way to travel, taxis are, however, subject to the prevailing traffic conditions.
Buses are cheap, with 24-hour or seven-day passes available for purchase. Some routes travel up and down the Strip, but it can be more efficient to walk one block east or west of the Strip to travel more quickly. The Strip also sports its own monorail system, with stops at some of the major hotels and the Las Vegas Convention Center. It is important to note that monorail stations are at the back entrances of hotels, which can add significantly to travel time.
In addition to fireworks, art galleries, zoos, aquariums, roller coasters, gondola rides, art galleries and shopping within the confines of the resorts, many of the hotels on the Strip retain performers “in residence,” ranging from pop stars to theater groups to well-known magicians. Cirque du Soleil alone offers seven different shows in Las Vegas, running the gamut from family-friendly to adult-only. Other productions include hypnotist entertainers, male or female dance revues, comedians, tribute shows and caberets.
Visitors who can tear themselves away from the center of town may enjoy the outdoor offerings of the greater Las Vegas area, including the Spring Mountains, which offer mountain biking, climbing and skiing. Red Rock Canyon, with multi-use trails and a scenic drive, is within the city limits of Las Vegas. Lake Mead, created by the damming of the Colorado River, offers boating, swimming, hiking and hot springs as part of a National Recreation Area. The Hoover dam is a destination itself, an engineering feat that provides hydroelectric power and irrigation to the region. Within a four-hour journey of Las Vegas are Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon.
Founded in the early 20th century, Las Vegas doesn’t have deep roots with any particular ethnic group, immigrant or otherwise. Food offerings cover nearly every cuisine and range in price from cheap to outrageous.
An essential aspect of the Strip resort-hotel experience is the food. Many hotels offer both deluxe buffets (some are known for breakfast, rather than lunch or dinner) and fine dining restaurants in many styles. These are often the Vegas outposts of some of America’s best known chefs: Todd English, Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio, Joel Rubuchon and others. Like the casino-resorts themselves, restaurants may offer novelty gimmicks, such as revolving views of the city, special themes, or 24-hour diner fare — or they may offer moderately priced food in a particular genre, such as Mexican, Italian, Japanese or burgers.
Outside of the hotels, both on and off the Strip, visitors can find almost any cuisine at almost any price point: steaks, seafood, French, American, Asian and others. Visitors who are staying in the more upscale hotels of the Strip have access to extensive room service menus, offering all kinds of food at any time of day.
Las Vegas has a reputation as a party town, but drinking laws are strictly enforced. DUI is a common problem, and authorities do make efforts to enforce these laws. Visitors to the area should note that alcohol laws in cities and towns near Las Vegas may differ significantly from those in Las Vegas itself.
Casinos offer free drinks to gamblers, but waitresses must be tipped. Different bars offer varying experiences — some classy and muted, some rollicking. Las Vegas offers bars with many themes, including Irish pubs, Mexican cantinas and piano lounges.
Almost every hotel on the Strip offers its own club or lounge — sometimes multiple clubs in the under the same roof — with drinks, music and dancing until 4 a.m. or later. Different clubs, or sometimes alternate floors within the same club, feature different kinds of music and may cater to different crowds. The MGM Grand's Wet Republic complex, for example, includes swimming pools and floating bars in addition to DJs. Some lounges offer exclusive VIP rooms or suites, which are expensive and often frequented by celebrity visitors to the city.
The price range of hotel rooms in Las Vegas is wide, from $15-a-night hostels to penthouse suites on the Strip for thousands per night. Even on the Strip, there are rooms to be found from under $50 per night. Less flashy hotels, closer to the Las Vegas Convention Center and catering more to business travelers, or off the Strip, still usually offer some sort of gaming.
Only a few hotels (both on and off the Strip) offer no gambling. These may be more family-oriented, as children and teenagers who are not of age are not even allowed to pass through the casinos. Some hotels offer suites in addition to standard rooms, which are better for families or travelers spending more time in the city. While visitors with any budget can find a place to stay in Las Vegas, visitors under 21 years of age may have more difficulty booking rooms because of the plethora of casinos.
Rooms are often cheaper during the week, as visitor volume spikes during weekends. Hotel services that are often included with room fees in other cities (internet access, local calls, health club use and the like) may come at additional charge in Las Vegas.