United States

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is based in the Mojave Desert of Nevada and was founded in 1905. It’s a fantastic city and has a great variety of things to offer.

You have to take Las Vegas for what it is. It’s a great city for fun, entertainment, going out on the town and having a great time. But furthermore it also has great architecture especially down the Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard.

There are some great options for things to do out of the city as well. You can do day tours to either the Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, Death Valley or the Grand Canyon. The latter is such an amazing area that it would be recommended staying here for at least 2-3 days.

When choosing where to stay in Las Vegas it is highly recommended to find accommodation on the Strip or in that area. The hotel rates are actually not too bad in comparison with other major US cities but be careful when booking. In some cases you have to pay attention to the conditions as it may state that you’ll have to pay a resort fee at the hotel itself on top of the rate when booking online.

Mind you, when staying in Las Vegas you are in the desert and it is very dry. Depending on your type of skin, you will most likely be struggling with dryness. Therefore make sure you bring or buy some good moisturiser.

There are two major areas of interest in the city. The Strip and Downtown, the former being by far the most spectacular part of town, especially the mid and southern part. The most happening part of the Strip is between Spring Mountain Road and Sands Avenue in the north and Harmon Avenue in the South where hotels such as Paris, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, the Venetian and the Mirage are located. Downtown is a bit more low-key and doesn’t have any interesting architecture around Fremont Street where the casinos and hotels are located.

The Strip
The Strip

Mind you even though the hotel rates are not too high, the Strip area is expensive. Just a couple of examples, if you want a decent pint of craft beer the damage could be in the area of 13 USD. A cup of tall coffee at Starbucks is in the range of 3.25 to 3.75 USD before tax. The same cup of coffee will cost you 2.15 USD in Miami Airport or 1.75 USD in Downtown El Paso in comparison.

A way to get around town is by bus. There are several bus lines going down the Strip to Downtown. It’s called the Deuce and the cost is 6 USD for two hours, but only 8 USD for a period of 24 hours. The last option is good value for money. You can also go on the Las Vegas Monorail. The latter is not the most effective way of transportation, but it’s definitely an experience, you will get great views of town and it will transfer you between different hotels. It goes from the MGM Grand in the south up to the SLS Las Vegas in the North. Totally 7 stops.

At the Strip there are plenty of opportunities for entertainment. There will always be some great shows in town. It could be concerts by major artists, musicals, impersonators or comedy shows. Some of the great venues are Paris, the Venetian, the Colosseum at Caesars Palace and the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay. Some artists like Rod Stewart play at the Colosseum for a certain period of time. Also Santana is a resident at the House of Blues.

If you are into shopping there a lot of opportunities too. At Caesars Palace they have the Forum which has a lots of different types of shops, everything from accessories stores to designer boutiques. There are plenty of eateries as well. Furthermore just opposite the entrance to the Colosseum, Gordon Ramsay’s Bar & Grill is located, where you can get some good traditional food. The English are not exactly famous for their cousine but the Bangers & Mash here is really good and combining it with a Stone IPA is the icing on the cake.

The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian is another mall with a huge selection of shops from souvenir stores to high end boutiques. This is interconnected with the Palazzo. Crystals at the CityCenter and the Shoppes at Mandalay Bay have a similar range of shops at well.

The Venetian Resort
The Venetian Resort

The Miracle Mall at Planet Hollywood is a third example of a great mall which has a lot of interesting stores. As with the Forum, the Shoppes at Grand Canal is linked with the respective hotels. At other hotels shopping and restaurant areas are interlinked with the hotel such as at the Paris, the Mirage, Treasure Island, New York New York, Monte Carlo and so on.

Getting around at the hotels is really easy. It will be clearly sign posted where all the different areas are, such as restaurants, concert venues, casinos, shops, toilets etc. Some hotels have hallways to each other such as Bally’s and Paris. In other cases like the Bellagio, there will be signs directing you to other hotels such as Bally’s or Caesars Palace.

Most hotels are split up into a casino area, areas for shopping combined with restaurants, a food court, an entertainment venue, bars, nightclubs and accommodation. At the casinos you can play craps, black jack, roulette, slot machines/pokies etc. A hotel like the Bellagio and most likely other hotels make by far the majority of their money on the slot machines. The money made on craps, card games and roulette is nothing in comparison.

Some hotels have really cool restaurants and bars which are worth pointing out. Some are a part of the hotels themselves and others are franchises. A great example of a killer bar is the Pub at the Monte Carlo. They have a huge selection of micro and craft brew, both domestic, local and from overseas. Here you can also experience entertainment by duelling pianists and a bit of karaoke.

A very cool franchise is the Cabo Wabo Cantina at Planet Hollywood. Here you can get some great Mexican food such as fajitas which are amazing or the tequila shrimp. They also have their own beer called the Red Head Amber which is ok but pricy and will set up back 13 USD for a pint. The Cabo Wabo is owned by the legendary Red Rocker himself Sammy Hagar. The concept of the Cabo Wabo Cantina commenced in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur in Mexico where the original facility is still located which opened back in 1988. They also have a cantina at Harrahs at Lake Tahoe which is also awesome. The Cabo Wabo at Planet Hollywood is based at the entrance to the Miracle Mile Shops facing the Strip. You can either sit inside or outside where you will have a view of the Bellagio and the CityCenter.

The Cabo Wabo is a part of Sammy Hagar’s lifestyle concept which is absolutely awesome. It’s all about having a good time, chilling and rock’n’roll. Hagar is known for being the former successful front man of Van Halen, for having a great solo career and fronting the band Chickenfoot. He started out in 1973 with the band Montrose whose debut album is a cult classic among rock fans.

Another cool franchise is country singer Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar & Grill” which is located at Harrahs. Toby Keith is actually a mate of Sammy Hagar, and Hagar recorded Keith’s song “I Love This Bar”, after which the bar is named, for his album “Livin’ It Up”. Furthermore they did a duet of Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville” on Sammy’s album “Sammy Hagar & Friends” which is brilliant. With regard to Buffet and lifestyle concepts, he also has his restaurant which is called Margaritaville on the Strip at 3555 South Las Vegas Boulevard, also a fabulous place. Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar & Grill” is a cool bar which also has great live music in the vein of country rock.

A lot of time can be spent on studying the architecture of the Strip. There truly are some amazing masterpieces in this area. Some legendary hotels have been demolished to make way for new buildings which is a bit sad but that is just how Las Vegas works – places like the Sands and Dunes, Frontier and Stardust to name a few. Also more recently the Sahara has been levelled and is now replaced with the more conservative SLS Hotel building, at least based on the exterior. The Sahara was a stylish piece of architecture.

The most interesting and picturesque buildings are located on the southern and central part of the Strip, pretty much from the Mandalay Bay Hotel in the South to the Fashion Mall and The Encore further north.

Just south of the Mandalay Bay Hotel the iconic “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign can be found, installed in 1955. Having your photo taken here is an absolute must.

The "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada" Sign
The “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” Sign

The House of Blues is located at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, situated at 3950 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Major artists playing here on a regular basis. They have a restaurant area and a large concert venue. If you are into their merchandising they have a gift shop as well. The Mandalay Bay is a 43-storey luxury resort, has a very beautiful gold façade and is the Southernmost hotel-casino on the Strip. One of the property’s towers is called the Delano and the Four Seasons Hotel is also a part of the complex but both operate independently.

Just north from here on the western part of the Strip the Luxor Hotel is situated at 3900 Las Vegas Boulevard South. It’s shaped like a pyramid and the concept is based on the ancient Egypt. In the front of the resort facing the Strip a big Luxor obelisk has been erected and also a huge model of the Sphinx. The tip of the pyramid has a fixed-positioned spotlight which is said to be the brightest beam in the world. The theme of the resort is consistent all the way through and it definitely stands out on the Strip.

The Great Sphinx of Giza at the Luxor Las Vegas
The Great Sphinx of Giza at the Luxor Las Vegas

Continuing north on the same side of the street one of the most spectacular hotel appears at 3850 Las Vegas Boulevard South. The Excalibur is based on the theme of Camelot and is named after King Arthur’s mythical sword. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of architecture and is actually a bit reminiscent of a Disney cartoon castle which is unreal. It’s also recommended to check out this hotel at night when it’s lit up. The centrepiece of the resort is the Castle which is flanked by fortress-like hotel towers. The whole medieval theme is really consistent all the way through the resort with exterior and interior designs being something out of the renaissance period.

Excalibur Hotel & Casino
Excalibur Hotel & Casino

Further north on the Strip, New York New York is located which is also really spectacular. As the name suggests it’s based on a New York concept. The hotel itself is based on different classic buildings from the Manhattan skyline and surrounding structures in one massive building. Some of the most prominent pieces are the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the Ellis Island Terminal. Furthermore small copies of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty are situated outside facing the Strip.

A Tower from the Excalibur and New York New York in the background
A Tower from the Excalibur and New York New York in the background

Just opposite the New York New York at 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South is the MGM Grand. This is the second largest hotel in the world by number of rooms, second to the Venetian & the Palazzo. The hotel has got 6,852 rooms and the theme is entertainment. Facing the Strip is a statue of Leo the MGM Lion. The hotel really stands out at night like an electrified giant emerald being lit up with its green and black horizontal stripes.

Continuing north on the opposite side of the Strip the Monte Carlo Resort & Casino appears at 3770 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Here you will find the aforementioned pub which is known as the Pub at Monte Carlo. Furthermore you’ll find plenty of opportunities for shopping and gambling. The shopping area is called the Street of Dreams. They also have a great buffet restaurant which very appropriately is called the Buffet at Monte Carlo. It’s top quality including soft drinks at a very reasonable price. This is highly recommended.

Going further north you’ll find the CityCenter complex which is pretty impressive and opened in 2009. Located between Monte Carlo and Bellagio, the project was initiated by MGM Resorts International and later Dubai World joined as a partner which made it the largest privately funded construction in US history. The whole complex has the common purpose of energy conservation and environmental design. It’s connected with the Monte Carlo and the Bellagio via a so-called people mover mass transit system.

The Aria Resort & Casino at 3730 Las Vegas Boulevard is stunning class structure which consists of two curvilinear towers standing 61 storeys tall at the base of connected high-rise buildings. It was named Aria as it is the centrepiece of the complex with reference to operas where the arias are the focal points.

The complex is also comprised of other noticeable structures such as Crystals which is the retails and entertainment district, the Harmon Hotel which was initially supposed to be 49 storeys tall but due to construction defects was cut short to 25 and it has since been decided that it should be demolished completely, but a final date has not been set yet.

Furthermore there’s the Mandarin Hotel, a luxury hotel with the interesting aspect of having the lobby located on the 23rd floor. It’s a 47 storey tower, a combined hotel and luxury residences with the guest rooms located above the 23rd floor.  It is considered one of the finest hotels in the world and is a non-gaming resort.

The Vdara Hotel & Spa is located across from the Aria and is a condo-hotel and spa with a floor count of 57. It’s a glass tower with a staggered arc design which looks pretty impressive.

The Veers Towers are probably the most stunning part of the CityCenter Complex. They are two residential twin towers of 37 storeys consisting of luxury condos. The towers have a leaning design in opposition to each other giving it a really cool look also with the use of coloured glass and horizontal louvres.

Bellagio
Bellagio

One of the most classy resorts is the Bellagio which is located just north of the CityCenter at 3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South. It opened in 1998 and is located where the Dunes used to be. The concept is inspired by the Italian town of Bellagio at Lake Como in Lombardy. The resort is really elegant and is fronted by a lake with the “Fountain of Bellagio”. This fountain is actually comprised of recycled shower water which is a cool little detail. At the lobby of the resort you will be met by the “Fiori di Como”, a ceiling decoration of more than 2,000 hand blown glass flowers which is really beautiful and elegant. This is was constructed by American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. They also have a fantastic buffet at the restaurant, appropriately called “The Buffet”. It’s cheaper for lunch as opposed to dinner and it will also be much easier to get a table for lunch which is at a pretty fair rate.

Fiori di Como at Ceiling of the Bellagio Lobby
Fiori di Como at Ceiling of the Bellagio Lobby

Opposite the Bellagio at 3655 Las Vegas Boulevard South the Paris Las Vegas is located. This is also a really classy hotel based on a Paris theme and the architecture of France. There are several restaurants at the resort, a highly recommended one being the “Mon Ambi Gabi” which serves great quality food in elegant and yet relaxed surroundings. The steak here is amazing. You can have your meal inside or outside on the patio facing the Strip with a view of the Bellagio, the CityCenter and other structures. Inside the Paris you will also find Le Boulevard which is designed to look like the streets of Paris with the architecture, squares, restaurants, bars, shops and lampposts to create the right atmosphere. It’s really consistent all the way through with the ceiling painted as blue sky. Some may find it a bit fake, but again, you have to take Las Vegas for what it is and it’s actually pretty cool to have a stroll around Le Boulevard because it does have a touch of class. In the casino area they also have female croupiers dressed up in corsets which make them look like something out of Moulin Rouge with go-go girls dancing in similar outfits on stands at the bar behind them. Very classy! Furthermore they have a great entertainment venue at Paris where you can catch a showdepending upon the time. This is a neat little venue.

Paris Las Vegas & Bally's Las Vegas
Paris Las Vegas & Bally’s Las Vegas

Just north of the Bellagio the legendary resort Caesars Palace is located at 3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South which opened in 1966. Several additions to the complex have been made over the years such as the Colosseum in 2003 which replaced the old Circus Maximus Showroom. This venue is absolutely amazing and as per Rod Stewart, who has performed here on numerous occasions, the sound and acoustics are perfect. It has a seating capacity of 4,296. Caesars Palace is based on the architecture of ancient Rome and it is really consistent which makes it so brilliant. There are several stunning towers such as the Roman Plaza. As mentioned earlier you will find the casino, restaurants, bars, small convenience stores and boutiques and the big shopping mall called the Forum. All the way through Caesars Palace both on the exterior and on the interior there are all sorts of architectural details, sculptures and statues reminiscent of ancient Rome. Absolute class. The Forum has a concept similar to the one at Le Boulevard at Paris, with a ceiling decorated like blue skies with architectural facades of the shops true to the concepts of ancient Rome. Brilliant.

Bellagio & Caesars Palace
Bellagio & Caesars Palace

Just opposite Caesars Palace at 3555 Las Vegas Boulevard is the Flamingo. This is one of the first casino-hotels to be built on the Strip whose theme is Art Deco and Miami. Contrary to popular belief Bugsy Siegel did not “found” Las Vegas, but he did open the Flamingo on 26 January 1946 which was the beginning of modern areas of flashing luxury casino-hotels in the city and in the day big acts like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. would perform here. Films such as “Viva Las Vegas” with Elvis Presley and “Ocean’s 11” with Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin were filmed at the Flamingo. Siegel named the hotel after a nickname he had given his girlfriend Virginia Hill because of her long legs. The grand opening was a flop due to bad weather which kept many Hollywood guest away even though Jimmy Durrante and Xavier Cugat, who were big names at the time, were headlining performers. The gamblers had no rooms to stay at, as the hotel wasn’t finished yet, so they would stay elsewhere. The casino lost USD 300,000 in the first week of operation. It was therefore later closed down until the hotel was finished and reopened in January 1947. Siegel was shot later that year on 20 June 1947 at his Beverly Hills home.

North of Caesars Palace yet another beautiful resort is located at 3400 Las Vegas Boulevard South which is called the Mirage. It was opened in 1989 and is based on a Polynesian concept. The marquee sign in front of the resort is the largest free standing sign of its kind in the world. The show “LOVE” which is a Cirque du Soleil show based on the music of The Beatles is one of the major attractions of the Mirage. There is a very cool display of it on the top of the resort building. Right next to where the show is performed there is a very cool official “The Beatles Shop” which is an absolute must to visit especially for Beatles fans. Here you can find all sorts of items from t-shirts, CDs, bags, cups, fridge magnets and different accessories. The resort is fronted by a fountain, a lake and palm trees. When planning for the construction, the concept was to build a hotel more classy than the rest of the resorts in the city. It turned out to be the most expensive casino-hotel ever constructed in the US at a cost of USD 630 million.

At The Beatles Shop at the Mirage
At The Beatles Shop at the Mirage

Right next to the Mirage at 3300 Las Vegas Boulevard South the resort Treasure Island is located which is based on a Caribbean theme. It was opened in 1993. It is fronted by the man-made lake called Sirens’ Cove with a wooden battleship where the nightly show “The Sirens of TI” is performed. The front of Treasure Island resembles a castle with a wooden plank bridge crossing the lake.

Opposite the Mirage and Treasure Island at 3355 Las Vegas Boulevard the aforementioned the Venetian is located. The architecture is absolutely amazing and is based on Venice, Italy with canals and gondolas and sometimes Italian style singers appearing in certain areas. Mind you if you’ve ever been to Venice, this does seem a bit fake, way too clean and unspoiled in comparison to the real thing, but again you have to take Las Vegas for what it is. The Venetian is actually the spot where the legendary Sands Hotel used to be from 1952 to 1996. This is where the Rat Pack used to hang out and perform.

Next to the Venetian is yet another resort based on an Italian theme as the name suggests. It’s called the Palazzo and is located at 3325 Las Vegas Boulevard and is the tallest building in Nevada. The hotel is operating as an independent hotel but is part of a larger complex with the Venetian and the Sands Convention Center. This is an all-suite hotel and the Palazzo and the Venetian combined is the largest hotel in the world with 7,017 rooms. The Venetian has 36 floors and the Palazzo has 53 floors.

Encore
Encore at Wynn Las Vegas

The Wynn is a resort located at 3131 Las Vegas Boulevard South and is named after the owner Steve Wynn. The building has a really neat arc design is 187 metres tall (614 ft), includes a casino, a convention centre and is adjacent with the Encore which has a similar design. Both the Wynn and the Encore have beautiful floor designs and floral decorations. At the Encore they have 10 staff working only on the vegetation at the resort and they are doing a great job. At the Encore which is located at 3121 Las Vegas Boulevard South there is an Italian restaurant called Sinatra. At the entrance there are several pictures of Frank Sinatra. There’s a picture of him with Steve Wynn from 1983 and one with Dean Martin at the Sahara from 1976 from the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. A really cool aspect of the restaurant is at the entrance where three of Frank Sinatra’s awards are on display. His Grammy for “Strangers in the Night” from 1967, his Emmy for his tv-special “A Man And His Music” from 1965 and the coolest item which is his Oscar for “From Here To Eternity” from 1953 which was Sinatra’s big comeback after being out in the cold for a long period.

Floral decoration at the Encore
Floral decoration at the Encore

Opposite the Wynn at 3200 Las Vegas Boulevard the Fashion Show Mall is located which is a really great shopping mall. It is the largest enclosed mall in the world with 250 stores, 7 anchor stores, an elevated stage, a fashion runway and the so-called “Cloud” which is the huge surfboard looking structure at the entrance to the mall which provides shade for the visitors.

Continuing north you will be approached by yet another impressive piece of architecture at 2880 Las Vegas Boulevard South which is the hotel and casino Circus Circus. The hotel itself is fronted by a circus “tent” and on the back of the hotel the Adventuredome Theme Park is based which is an amusement park, also shaped a bit like a Circus tent. Facing the Strip you will find the the Circus Circus clown sign which has become a landmark.

Opposite the Circus Circus at 2901 Las Vegas Boulevard the Riviera Hotel & Casino is based. This is one of the oldest on the Strip which opened back in 1955. It’s not the most impressive hotel on the Strip and it is a bit worn down. But due to the age of the place unlike some of the other modern more spectacular resorts, the Riviera has a lot of intriguing history. The hotel has gone through several ownerships over the years including a period with control by the Mafia by the likes of Meyer Lansky and Gus Greenbaum, which was the case for many hotels and casinos in the 1960s and 1970s. Harpo and Gummo Marx owned a bit under 10% of the hotel when it opened. Dean Martin was also a minority owner when he was a headliner at the showroom. Engelbert Humperdinck actually jokes about this on this live recording “Live at the Riviera” from 1972, which was recorded during the crooner’s long-running stint in Las Vegas. Many other classic entertainers performed here such as Frank Sinatra whose final performance at the Riviera was in 1991. His favourite suite at the hotel is now named in his honour. Dean Martin also held some of his Celebrity Roasts at the Riviera and he was a very popular artist when he appeared at the hotel. He played several times in 1970 and 1971. A little known fact about Dean Martin is that he didn’t like to ride lifts so a couple of rooms on the 2nd floor were converted into a suite for him. The suite no longer exists. Comedians such as Milton Berle and Steve Martin also performed at the hotel and so did The Beach Boys back in 1995. Portions of “Ocean’s 11” from 1960 with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson and others were also filmed at the Riviera.

North of the Riviera the SLS Hotel & Casino is located at 2535 Las Vegas Boulevard which opened in 2014. Design-wise this is a pretty conservative building based on the exterior and nothing like the Sahara which was previously based at the spot and was in operation for 59 years from 1952 to 2011. Big names like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland, Tony Bennett, The Mills Brothers and even The Beatles performed at the Sahara back in 1964. It is actually a bit sad to see that the Sahara is no longer present on the Strip as it was a great piece of architecture and had a long interesting history. “Ocean’s 11” was filmed at the Sahara as well.

The Strip Skyline taken from the Observation Deck at the Stratosphere
The Strip Skyline taken from the Observation Deck at the Stratosphere

At 2000 Las Vegas Boulevard the Stratosphere is located which is an observation tower, hotel and casino and is the northernmost casino on the Strip. The architecture of the property is really interesting as the hotel portion has a kind of a zig zag shape. The tower is 350 metres tall (1,149 ft) including the spire and the observation deck is based at 266 metres (873 ft). A visit to the observation deck is highly recommended as you will get some great views of the Strip, Downtown and the surrounding areas. There are two levels, an indoor level where you can get all around the tower and get perfect views through the glass windows. On the top level, which is outside, there will be some obstruction when taking pictures as there is a fence in the way and you can’t get all the way around the tower as the thrill rides occupy a part of the area. You actually get the best picture from the lower level but visiting both levels are absolute musts. There are several thrill rides, the Big Shot which is the highest thrill ride in the world at 329 metres (1,081 ft), the Insanity which is the second highest at 270 metres (900 ft) which dangles the riders over the edge of the tower and the X-Scream which is the world’s third highest thrill ride at 264 metres (866 ft). Furthermore there is bungee jump-like ride called the SkyJump Las Vegas where you can plummet 261 metres (855 ft) on a high-speed controlled descent. Initially it was the plan to construct a tower exceeding the CN Tower in Toronto making it the tallest free standing structure in the world at the time, but the plans were dropped due to the concerns of interference with the nearby McCarran International Airport.

Visiting Las Vegas Downtown is a completely different experience to the Strip. This is where all the original casino-hotels were built and some of them still exist around Fremont Street. It is not even close to being as spectacular as the Strip, but Downtown is definitely worth a visit for many reasons. The easiest way of going from the Strip is by bus as mentioned earlier.

Paying the legendary casino-hotel the Golden Nugget is recommended. It’s got a beautiful interior with some interesting ceiling decorations as well. Thereafter you can have a walk down Fremont Street and have a look at the different casinos.

Ceiling Decoration at the Golden Nugget
Ceiling Decoration at the Golden Nugget

In Downtown they have two great museums which are both absolute musts to visit if you are in the area. The Neon Museum and the Mob Museum. If you do a combo of visiting both you can get the admission fee at a reduced rate.

The Neon Museum is an absolutely brilliant concept for a museum, located at 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North. Only in America will they come up with such an awesome idea which is perfect for Las Vegas. The museum consists of neon signs from demolished hotels, casinos and resorts and old signs from some still existing resorts at what is known as the Neon Boneyard. It’s all outdoors and is displayed in a very interesting and tasteful manner. The exhibition features more than 150 signs which include items from the Stardust, the recently demolished Sahara and the casino sign from the Sands among others. To have a look around the museum you have to join the one hour guided tour which is a part of the admission fee. It is only possible to enter the museum by doing this tour, and when joining the tour you will actually realise why it’s done this way, as it only makes any real sense when it’s all explained. Each sign has a unique story about how and by whom it was created and how it fits into the history of Las Vegas. The items range from the 1930s to the present, are based on ground level and can be viewed up close. They also have an interesting little gift shop with some cool items at the visitors’ centre of the museum. This is actually the old lobby of the La Concha Motel which was designed by Paul Revere Williams and is a great example of mid-century modern architecture. This is apparent with the curvilinear shape. It was originally constructed in 1961 and the La Concha was situated next to the Riviera Hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard South. The lobby was saved from demolition in 2005.

A part of the old sign from the Stardust at the Neon Museum
A part of the old sign from the Stardust Resort & Casino at the Neon Museum

The Museum also includes nine restored items which can be enjoyed 24/7 on a self-guided tour. These are mainly displayed on Las Vegas Boulevard North from Washington Street to Fremont Street and on Casino Center Drive and on Paradise Road. One is located just outside the Neon Museum, the big high-heeled shoe from the Silver Slipper Casino.

Walking down Las Vegas Boulevard North, just north of Fremont Street you will see a neon sign from the Normandie Motel saying “Elvis Slept Here”. Absolute class and kitsch. The original motel was located at the east end of Fremont Street but was demolished during the 00’s. This is also a part of the Neon Museum’s restored signs from the Boneyard collection. This sign was made by Betty Willis who also created the “Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

The old Normandie Motel sign from the Urban Gallery of the Neon Museum
The old Normandie Motel sign from the Urban Gallery of the Neon Museum

The Mob Museum is located at 300 Stewart. This is an awesome museum which will give you the history of the American Mafia. You can easily spend about 2-3 hours in this museum which has three levels, different displays, historic photos, artefacts and movie rooms showing short documentary films. It has descriptions explaining how organised crime worked, how the Mob operated and how it was fought by the authorities. One really cool artefact is the original wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to which seven men from the Bugs Moran gang were placed up against when killed by Al Capone’s gang. With respect to Las Vegas, gambling brought tourism to the city which was a big deal for local entrepreneurs and the Mob. Starting in the 50’s, most tourists stayed and played at Mob connected casino-hotels. As tourism exploded mobsters would be associated with show-business celebrities. By popular belief the Mob would maintain order and keep business running smoothly in spite of being corrupt. Many of the residents in the 50’s would expect the revenue of gambling to service the city but most of it went to improve the casinos. Fraud, tax evasion and corruption siphoned off profits helping the Mob get richer as opposed to making Las Vegas grow. After the opening of the Tropicana in 1957, the skim of 150,000 USD would go to the part owner Frank Costello, Sam Giancana in Chicago and Carlos Marcello in New Orleans. When Costello was shot in 1957, a paper in his pocket detailed the Tropicana’s first three weeks of gross receipts, slot revenue and outstanding IOUs from an unnamed casino. Mobster John Gotti said “Don’t ever say anything you don’t want played back to you someday” and the Mob would often speak in code, which was slang, euphemisms, Italian phrases or nicknames to confuse and frustrate the police if they were listening in. There are several examples of this kind of Mob Speak as well at the museum which is really interesting. An example if to “go on a one way ride”, meaning to get killed. There is also a gallery of mobsters at the end of the museum giving a brief history of the different main characters which is really interesting, but also a gallery of fictional Mobsters which is cool too. The gift shop is pretty cool as well. Here you can get all sorts of accessories and even fridge magnets with examples of the Mob Speak.

The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Building
The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Building

An absolute must when you’re Downtown is checking out the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health which is a spectacular building by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. This piece of architecture is classic Gehry with the wavy and curvy lines in the style of deconstructivism. Walking around the structure is a delight. If you are into taking photos you can take all sorts of cool shots from many different angles as the building changes its look depending on where you are standing. The building’s got 199 windows of which none are alike and 18,000 stainless steel shingles which have been cut to unique measurements. In Frank Gehry’s own words he wanted to create a building which people want to visit, will remember, talk about and enjoy and hopefully that will happen.

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