When most people think of the city of Las Vegas, they’re actually thinking of the 4.2-mile-long stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that runs north to south, from the Stratosphere (now called “The STRAT”) to the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. It runs parallel to Interstate 15, the main highway between California and Utah, and is a designated “All-American Road”—a National Scenic Byway recognized by the United States Department of Transportation.
For such a short stretch of road, it is one of the most famous on earth, attracting around $43 million visitors each year to the mega-resorts that pack both sides of the boulevard. Incidentally, though most of the iconic hotels and tourist attractions here can be found on Las Vegas Boulevard, The Strip is actually located in an unincorporated area of town called “Paradise.”
On it, of course, you’ll find mash-up replicas of the world’s iconic places (Egypt, Venice, Paris, the gang’s all here), dancing fountains, erupting volcanoes, singing gondoliers, roller coasters, and the world’s tallest observation wheel. Plus, with two new mega-stadiums opened in just a few years— Allegiant Stadium, home to the Las Vegas Raiders NHL team, and T-Mobile Stadium, where the Vegas Golden Knights compete in the NHL—this little stretch of avenue has evolved in the relatively short time it’s been a fixture.
What to See
When the weather’s good, The Strip is one of the most bizarrely fun and walkable stretches of road in the world. You’ll want to hit the highlights. If you’re starting at The STRAT on the north end, thrill-seekers might want to take in its rides, such as Big Shot—the world’s highest (112 stories) thrill ride or the X Scream, a teeter totter over the tower’s vertiginous edge. Most will be happy just to take in the view from the observation deck – so high you can see helicopters at eye level. As you walk south, you’ll find Circus Circus, home to the largest indoor theme park in America. It packs in families for rides like the Sling Shot, which shoots up like a rocket launch at a 4G force; and Chaos, which spins you every which way. And for those for whom motion sickness is not a problem, there’s El Loco, in which riders experience a negative 1.5 “vertical-G” when they clime 70 feet before dropping over and under backward.
It’s not all rides, obviously. You won’t want to miss the choreographed Fountains of the Bellagio, which start their dance every half hour at 3pm. Every year, beginning with Chinese New Year in January and through all four seasons, the team of 125 Bellagio horticulturalists assemble tens of thousands of flowers in the nearly 14,000 square foot Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, a stunning free show on its own. Catch the erupting volcano outside the tropical-themed Mirage, which lights up every night on the half hour from 6pm. Even walking the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, with its “Streetmosphere” (opera singers, dancers and living statues) is a free thrill. You’ll want to pull out your wallet for gondola rides along the Venetian’s canals, serenaded by singing gondoliers. Duck into the Flamingo and you’ll find the dawn-to-dusk free parade of pink flamingoes, Chinese pheasants and even Koi ponds full of exotic fish in the peaceful and otherworldly Wildlife Habitat. In our water-obsessed desert, one of the most exciting features is Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef, teeming with 1200 species of marine life – notably sharks of all kinds (look for the 9-foot nurse shark). Somewhat more accessible marine animals can be found at the Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage. Programs like Trainer for a Day let you get up close and personal, and an underground viewing area lets you see the incredible mammals at play. Nearby, Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden houses endangered white tigers and lions, as well as leopards and other wildlife – some of the rarest you’ll see in the world. While technically free of charge, you won’t escape M&M’s World without at least a little hit to your wallet (in candy and other paraphernalia). While you’re there, don’t miss the free 3-D movie and pose next to the M&M’s -sponsored Camry race car. There’s more chocolate across the street: Hershey’s Chocolate World in New York-New York Hotel & Casino is its two-story flagship, featuring a monumental chocolate Statue of Liberty.
In recent years, Las Vegas has finally embraced the idea that people don’t want to be cooped up inside a casino resort all the time, and fantastic outdoor areas have opened, such as The Linq, a walkable district that heads east off the strip to The High Roller (at 550 feet high, it’s the world’s tallest observation wheel). Farther south, you can wander right into The Park Vegas, an immersive outdoor dining and entertainment district, which leads right to T-Mobile Arena. Of course, there are tons of other attractions on The Strip, and you can actually devote several days to simply wandering and taking in all the sights.
One of the worst-kept secrets in Las Vegas: A one-day car rental usually costs less than a 10-minute taxi ride from McCarran Airport to the Strip. But Uber and Lyft work well for hopping around: Taxi fare from the airport to the Strip's north end costs around $26, where Lyft and Uber start at $13. Keep in mind that while self- and valet-parking at Strip casinos has historically been free, nearly all the resorts now charge for parking (with a few exceptions).
When to Go
Las Vegas is all about extremes. High temperatures in the summer soar to well above 100 F, which means that all the ideas we just gave you for walking The Strip become completely unbearable. Surprisingly, Vegas gets very cold in the winter, which also makes it impractical for walking between December and February. Some of the hotels are connected by indoor walkways (which, of course, defeats the purpose of your walking tour of the Strip). Consider coming in March, April, September, October, or November for the most pleasant conditions. Of course, you can always drive The Strip, but nothing beats walking its length. You’ll discover surprises, wacky people, and magical interludes you’d never see from the car.