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Weekend break: Las Vegas

December 2011

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There's more to Las Vegas than casinos. Tim Lott hits the jackpot on a long weekend with espresso martinis, singing cowboys and jaw-dropping live shows
Las Vegas Strip at dusk
Hisham Ibrahim

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Head downtown to the 'other' Las Vegas, Fremont Street, where the city was born and buildings stretch back to the 1920s

Day One
You'll land just in time to see the lights on the Strip come up. Spend an hour wandering along the hot, bustling boulevard with your eyes popping at the vibrating colours, the insane architecture and the offbeat characters hustling for a tip: out-of-hours showgirls thrusting forth vertiginous chests, down-at-heel actors dressed in worn-out Disney costumes and, of course, Elvis, who is very much alive here. Each hotel is vying for your attention — gigantic ladies of the night, they pout and parade their trade.

Stop off at the vast mock-classical Caesars Palace, Treasure Island's pirate show and the giant spouting volcano at The Mirage. An absolute must-see is the fountain show at the Bellagio, a truly jaw-dropping water ballet syncopated with music. Jet lag permitting, totter over for a little Vegas sauciness at the Crazy Horse saloon glamour show at the MGM Grand, an old fashioned tribute to the heyday of burlesque.

Day Two
Rise early for breakfast at the elegant Mandarin Oriental, the only hotel uptown without a casino and whose breakfast bento box of fruit and smoothies and pastries is possibly one of the only healthy (and tolerably sized) ones you will find in Vegas. Then head downtown to the 'other' Las Vegas, Fremont Street, where the city was born and buildings stretch back to the 1920s. Now being renovated after years of decline, this is where the famous smoking cowboy at the Pioneer Club once stood, and is now being colonised by hipsters of all kinds thanks to property prices taking a dive. Coming soon, in 2012, is the Mob Museum (a tribute to the FBI's battle against the Mafia), and there's also the Neon Museum, dedicated to the neon sign.

Have a late lunch at the Triple George Grill (a George is a big tipper). I recommend the crab-stuffed shrimp and the espresso martini — and then maybe a coffee at the alternative Beat Coffee House, round the corner from the classic El Cortez hotel. Avoid stepping on the wedding train of any new brides (4,400 couples recently got married in Vegas in one 24-hour period) and watch the lights rise over Fremont, canopied with the three-block 'biggest TV screen in the world'. There's free live music and, far from free, a machine that dispenses pure gold at the Golden Nugget. Just insert your credit card. To end the evening, it has to be Cirque du Soleil's water-themed show, O, at the Bellagio. It makes Singin' in the Rain look like a wet weekend in Blackpool.

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British Airways flies to Las Vegas from London Heathrow. Visit ba.com

Posted by Tim Lott

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Destinations, Las-Vegas, USA

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