Las Vegas: Worth a gamble

There's much more to Las Vegas than slot machines


Off to Vegas and not a big gambler? The city has a great deal more to offer than the ubiquitous slot machines and gaming tables.

So here are five ways to have fun spending your dollars for a guaranteed return - or even keeping your cash in your pocket.

Enjoy the view

Superficial though the Las Vegas Strip may be, the panorama is spectacular, particularly at night. It won't cost you a dime to take in one of the iconic sights, the fountain shows set to music outside Bellagio. It's also worth experiencing the "eruption" of the volcano at The Mirage. Alternatively, much innocent amusement can be derived from wandering the mazy and often garish interiors of hotels, such as Caesars Palace and The Venetian, especially the areas with artificial nocturnal "sky". It's all too easy to lose a sense of time, which suits the casinos fine (you will not see a clock anywhere).

But for high-level viewing, about the best option is the cunningly named High Roller, the Vegas equivalent of the London Eye and, naturally, the world's tallest. A few extra dollars on the admission charge buys you a place in a pod with bar - and as many drinks as you can down in the 30-minute turn of the wheel. For those preferring to enjoy the skyline from a static base, there's an uninterrupted 46th-floor view of the major sights from the Eiffel Tower, a half-scale replica of the Parisian original.

Getting there

Fly: British Airways offer return flights to Las Vegas from £629.

Have a nice meal

Vegas is famed for gargantuan buffets, and virtually every hotel has its own version. Some are filling but not fab; others seemingly effortlessly combine quantity with quality. I'd recommend the weekend brunch at Bacchanal at Caesars, which includes unlimited bubbly until 3pm. It's a decent walk through the assorted food stations, but that will, sadly, burn off just a handful of the calories you are about to consume. The sushi and fish are excellent and if you don't make more than one trip to the dessert area, you really don't like puddings. Top chefs are increasingly well represented along the Strip and among recent openings is Michelin-starred Julian Serrano's Lago at Bellagio. A tapas-size take on Italian cusine, it's a place for sharing inventive and impeccably presented dishes. With an enticing cocktail list, the bill can end up on the pricey side, but as with many establishments, there is a decent value fixed-price option. And those on the outside tables get an enviable view of the Bellagio fountains (lago means lake in Italian).

Indulge in some retail

Many hotels have shopping areas - and the swankier the venue, the more upmarket the stores. There are also the novelty emporiums dedicated to confectionery (M&M's World, Hershey's Chocolate World) and malls such as the centrally located Fashion Show, featuring Macy's and other popular American and international stores.

But for serious shoppers, take a detour beyond the main thoroughfares to Premium Outlets, whose Las Vegas north and south centres are comfortably accessible via the local bus network. With their multitude of shops selling major brands for a fraction of the cost that you would expect to pay in the UK, you can easily spend a day there (we did). You may need to visit the luggage concessions for that extra suitcase needed to take all your purchases home.

Take in a show

The Vegas shows are legendary in lavishness and there is something for all tastes. At the more extravagant end, Cirque du Soleil currently has four productions running in Vegas, including Beatles and Michael Jackson themed extravaganzas. We saw Zarkana - playing at one of the newest (and well worth exploring) hotels, Aria.

Time literally flies during a captivatingly staged showcase of high-energy - and difficulty - acrobatics. And there's some endearing interaction with audience members before and during the performance.

As Vegas show prices can exceed those in the West End or on Broadway, check out the Tix4Tonight booths that are dotted around the tourist areas for reductions on shows and concerts of up to 50 per cent, or more.

Sample some culture

Most hotels have paid-for attractions, often geared towards those visiting with children. For example, Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay offers proximity to a jaw-droppingly diverse array of sea-life. It claims to house 2,000 animals in 1.6 million gallons of water. There are explanations of the various species and educational opportunities for your offspring, but, frankly, they'll be happy just watching the big fish at play. For an appreciation of Vegas history, The Mob Museum, located Downtown, is a must-see, not least for its heavy Jewish content. Arguably the most cultural stopping-off point on the Strip is the gallery of fine art at Bellagio, which is presently home to a Picasso exhibition. And should you be in town on the second Wednesday of the month, the gallery offers the ultimate combination - art and alcohol. You start by tasting wines chosen by the Bellagio sommelier as pairings for exhibits (his reasons are outlined on a card given to patrons, who can add their tasting notes). You then get to view the exhibition in the company of both a gallery expert and the sommelier, who you can quiz on the art and vino, or indeed both. My question was where to buy the amazing Santa Barbara red served up as the pair to a brooding work, Figure (Tête à la Coiffe).

Viva Las Vegas!

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