A 'Must-See' Guide for Vegas Newcomers

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A 'Must-See' Guide for Vegas Newcomers

Viva Las Vegas or, better yet, Viva Lost Wages.

(Note: Just remember, keep things in perspective while you're in Vegas and all will be okay.)

Like any major city, you won't be able to tackle everything there is to do in one visit, but here are a few suggestions to make you feel like you've tried.

I suggest that you use the amusement park approach. Highlight your to-do list with a few items that you feel you would especially enjoy. Start with these choices and make the most of each, marking things off your list as you go. If you don't get to them all, don't worry, Vegas is not going anywhere and you'll more than likely be back. On your next trip you will probably find something has changed - it always does. (Maybe next time you can even bring your family. Las Vegas is certainly making the transition from a seedy town of vices to that of a family entertainment Mecca).

And, just in case you find yourself sitting on your hotel bed, travel guides in hand, staring at a blank sheet of paper, I have come up with a must-do list for you.

Begin one evening with a walk down the strip, starting at Mandalay Bay, and head toward the Stratosphere. Take time to gawk at the artistry of lights (you won't be the only one, I promise). Once you make it to the Stratosphere, proceed to the top of the tower, and take a minute to gaze at the strip from this angle (but keep in mind that we are on a schedule). I highly recommend the rides at the top of the tower as a gut check and a reminder that you are in fact still kicking.

The Hoover Dam comes in second on our list. It's another must-see, as it is the Eighth Wonder of the World. Go for the tour, which will give you the whole ball of wax. You'll even get a lesson on electricity. Just how much power is needed to light Vegas 24 hours a day?

While gallivanting the streets of Vegas, keep a sharp eye out for detail. Don't miss the manhole covers in New York, New York, the neon lights in McDonalds, and the statues that come to life at the Forum Shops in Caesar's Palace. If that's not enough to dazzle you, two huge pirate ships wage battle with one another in the waters outside Treasure Island every night - one of them even sinks.

You won't blow your cash on food in Vegas. There are a ton of $1.99 breakfast specials along the strip, complete with eggs, bacon, toast, juice and coffee. Lunch and dinner specials also abound. Look for hotels that offer steak and lobster dinners, usually around $7-$9. Fresh greens and a baked potato usually accompany each dinner.

Keep in mind that if you're gambling consistently in one hotel, you may be offered "comps" that include free meals and even free nights' accommodations. However, don't get too carried away playing for these so-called comps. You'll end up losing out in the long run.

Check out the microbrewery in the back of Monte Carlo for great food and great beer. I recommend the "High Roller Red." There are also several theme restaurants to try, including The Hard Rock Cafe and The Harley Davidson Cafe. If these places are too touristy or overplayed for you, just pick up a T-shirt to keep as a Vegas souvenir, if you have any money left. And, instead, eat at one of Vegas's two Ruth's Chris Steakhouses - one serves lunch and dinner, the other serves dinner and a late-night snack.

Third on our list is downtown Vegas. Downtown is old school and "Crime Storyish" (go Dennis Farina)! For high rollers and double diamonds, there's the Golden Nugget, which also serves dark English ale on tap. Binions offers a great breakfast in the basement and a wonderful dinner on the top floor. And for those low on the cash, Binions dangles a million dollars in a display case by the front door. Don't forget to go to the nightly "neckache" light show that is offered downtown each evening. It is worth the hour and the ache!

Tropicana is offering a Vegas museum that is worth a look. The newest hotel, Bellagio, offers a collection of world-class art. Don't be surprised if you run into a few Hollywood celebs. The city is filled with them. Celebrity sightings are most common at The Hard Rock Hotel, Caesar's Palace and the Mirage. Any given week you travel, you can get tickets to various concerts - from Jimmy Buffett to Winona Judd. Other show favorites include illusionists Siegfried and Roy, known for their white tigers, and comedians Penn and Teller, who make fun of the illusionists. Tickets usually run around $40-$100 per person.

Another list-topper is golf - if this is your cup of tea, of course. Vegas has golf covered. I recommend the Badlands, where most locals play, however, there are many other fantastic courses. Look for vacation packages that include rounds of golf in addition to a couple nights' accommodations.

If you enjoy dancing, trying to dance or just watching people who can dance, Vegas offers RA at the Luxor and Studio 54 at New York, New York. The Beach and The Drink are clubs located adjacent to the strip, amongst others.

Vegas truly has something for everyone. Instead of sitting in your room, flanked by those guide books, just take a walk down the strip. Vegas appeals to international travelers and to conventioneers alike. Much like New York, it's always alive and happening.

by Jim Rufus

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