This Travel Guide was last updated 5/08. There may be places that changed since then. Call ahead, and please let us know about any corrections or new places of interest.
During the day, a great place to sink your teeth into all this glitz is at the handsomely renovated Liberace Museum (1775 E. Tropicana Ave.; 702-798-5595; $15), housing the late performer's splendiferous costumes, several pianos, and some of his many cars, including a mirror-covered Rolls-Royce. The 125,000-square-foot Auto Collection (Imperial Palace Hotel; 3535 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-794-3174; $6.95) is also worth the time. See Howard Hughes' 1954 Chrysler and Al Capone's armored car, among some 250 vintage vehicles. Keep in mind that most of these vehicles are for sale, in case you're looking to really impress your date.
At Mandalay Bay, you can see killer sharks up close at the Shark Reef (702-632-7777; $15.95) exhibit. You walk through a glass tunnel that cuts right through a massive aquarium tank containing sharks, rays, and hundreds of other exotic fish.
Las Vegas has long been criticized for lacking much in the way of culture, but art lovers have been treated to some great new experiences lately. At the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art (702-693-7871 or 877-957-9777; $17), major rotating exhibits are staged. Check the website for an exhibition schedule. The nearby Venetian has its branch of the famed Guggenheim Hermitage Museum (3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 702-414-2440).
Las Vegas also has a slew of thrill rides and interactive experiences, from The Roller Coaster at New York-New York (3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 800-689-1797; $14), which simulates a jet fighter's barrel roll, lifting you 203 feet up and then dropping you 144 feet down at 67 mph; to the astoundingly scary Thrill Rides at the Stratosphere (2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 800-998-6937; www.stratospherehotel.com/thrills; unlimited rides and tower day pass, $33.95), which involves several terrifying, gravity-defying experiences atop the city's tallest building like a whirling 30 mph ride out over the 100-story edge.
A BIT FARTHER AWAY
If you can pull yourself away from the roulette wheel for half a day, rent a car and tour Hoover Dam (702-494-2517) and Lake Mead (27 miles southeast on U.S. 93). Together, the two attractions pack a wallop: Lake Mead is one of the world's largest manmade lakes, at 116 miles long; and the Hoover Dam (1939) is considered one of the architectural marvels of the world. Avoid the bus tours -- they can be an expensive waste of time.
There is a cruisey, nude gay beach at Lake Mead, which is popular on summertime weekends. Take I-15 north to Lake Mead Boulevard East. Just past Hollywood Boulevard, head through the Sunrise Mountain pass to the stop sign at North Shore Drive. Turn left and proceed 4.8 miles to just past mile marker 8; take a right. Veer left at every fork for a few miles to the parking lot. Look for the path heading down into a ravine and over a small hill. A 5- to 10-minute walk brings you to the beach. There are no facilities or concessions -- bring water and sunscreen!
Valley of Fire State Park (58 miles northeast on I-15; 702-397-2088) is a stunning desert overlooking Lake Mead. Several petroglyphs (cave drawings by the area's early Native Americans) from thousands of years ago can be seen here, as well as the endless hues of red, orange, and violet of the desert landscape at sundown.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three
Las Vegas: Intro
Las Vegas: Where to Stay
Las Vegas: What to Eat
Las Vegas: Where to Play/Meet
Las Vegas: Resources