No city in the world has the power (or the will) to transform itself like Las Vegas, a sales-savvy amusement park that unapologetically changes themes whenever it likes. When entertainment revenue began to eclipse gambling proceeds in the 1990’s, the city’s marketing gurus declared it the ultimate family destination. When celebrity chefs moved in, it became the world’s culinary hot spot. Its brash and brassy clubs and discos, many of them originally copped from Los Angeles and New York, now serve as the nightlife templates for the rest of the country. And then there’s the ever-new (but ever-iconic) skyline, a four-mile stretch of neon and borrowed architecture. Beyond the Strip, it may surprise the visitor to learn, an entire, seemingly self-contained city exists. This is where to uncover some of Vegas’s most transformative experiences: the mammoth new Las Vegas Springs Preserve; legendary local restaurants like Lotus of Siam; and cool events like First Friday, when gritty downtown turns into a giant art party.
A free look at the city’s secret masterpiece: walk into the Tower Suite VIP check-in room at the Wynn Las Vegas to see one of only four Rembrandt self-portraits in a private collection in the world. Self Portrait with Shaded Eyes was painted in 1634, when the artist was 28.
Getting a treatment at Qua, the new spa at Caesars Palace. Its 50,000 square feet of Roman baths—including a caldarium, tepidarium, and frigidarium—are designed for those who take their luxuriating seriously. Be sure to visit the Arctic Ice Room: push a button and it snows.
Sure, the Bellagio fountains have been hyped to death. But experiencing the dancing displays of water, choreographed to “Luck Be a Lady” and “Hey, Big Spender,” are actually worth a few jostling elbows.