Travel: Electric visual feast

By Mike Yardley

The final approach into Las Vegas Airport at night is one of the world's most electrifying visual treats. There it is, in all its neon-drenched splendour, rising like a spangled phoenix from the desert ashes. Yes, Las Vegas knows how to thrill the most jaded of travellers, from start to finish.

This was my first visit to Sin City and although the tourist mecca can be a polariser, I can't wait to go back for more. Las Vegas is a wild ride, an exhilarating fantasy that whips you into a frenzy.

It is the ultimate expression of full-tilt sensory overload. Las Vegas is indeed the Disneyland for adults and, despite the strains of global recession, it remains a throbbing stomping-ground for whimsical, hangover-inducing getaways.

Ever since mobster Bugsy Siegel rolled into the Mojave Desert and decided to build a glittering casino under the scorching sun, Vegas hasn't looked back. Over the years the city has sometimes exuded a greater sense of sleaze than glitz, yet a concerted programme to re-gentrify the Strip is readily apparent.

CityCenter, an awe-inspiring mega-development that cost more than $10 billion, has recently opened and features cutting edge hotels, stage productions (including Cirque du Soleil) and eco-friendly luxury apartments. In fact, much of the Strip has been rebuilt this decade with a parade of deluxe mega-resorts and shopping malls flanking both sides of the famous street.

You can transport yourself from Paris to Venice and on to New York within a few minutes via the thematic brilliance of the architecture.

One of the biggest eye-catchers is the Bellagio resort, where you can admire the most extraordinary Venetian glass sculpture in the ceiling of the lobby. The sublime artwork is composed of 2000 hand-blown flowers in vivid colours. The massive artificial lake in front of the Bellagio plays host to regular, free-to-view, dancing-fountain performances.

More than 1000 spritzing fountains dance to a hit parade of classics, from Singing in the Rain to Luck Be a Lady. Two other not-to-be-missed roadside extravaganzas are the Mirage Hotel's erupting volcano and Treasure Island's nightly show.

The glitzy and gluttonous casinos need no introduction, although if you do want to chance your luck, be sure to check out Planet Hollywood, which has a welcoming, playful atmosphere, not to mention, fascinating memorabilia.

Fashionistas should beat a path to Fashion Show Mall, home to every imaginable designer label. Ten million visitors flock to this mall every year for the luxe boutiques and the daily catwalk shows.

And be sure to survey Sin City's horizons atop the new Stratosphere Tower, the tallest American structure west of the Mississippi.

- Hamilton News

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