Photos: Welcome to Vegas

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  1. Welcome to Las Vegas

    The Bellagio's fountain show entertains visitors nightly. In the background is Bally's Las Vegas, left, and Paris Las Vegas, which has a 50-story Eiffel Tower replica in front. Over 37.5 million people visit Las Vegas each year. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Fremont Street Experience

    Located in downtown Las Vegas, this exciting pedestrian promenade is home to approximately 16 million lights, making it one of the largest LED screens in the world. (Brian Jones / Las Vegas News Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Looking for Lady Luck

    Casion visitors play slot machines at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Dunking Elvis

    An Elvis impersonator performs a slam dunk during the 2007 NBA All-Star Game on February 18, 2007, at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. (Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAEGetty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Grand casinos

    Lights from passing vehicles are seen in front of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Poker face

    Jamie Gold, right, of California and Paul Wasicka of Colorado go head-to-head on the final table of the World Series of Poker no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event at the Rio Hotel & Casino on Aug. 11, 2006, in Las Vegas. Gold outlasted more than 8,700 other poker players to win the top prize of $12 million. Wasicka won just over $6.1 million for finishing second. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Glitz and glamour

    A Canon display is seen inside the Las Vegas Convention Center at the Consumer Electronics Show. Las Vegas is the nation's top business travel destination, with easy airline access, numerous hotel rooms, low rates, plentiful convention facilities and a wide range of dining and entertainment options. (Karl Polverino / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Over-the-top entertainment

    Performers ride a Volkswagen Beetle across the stage during a preview of "The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil" at the Mirage Hotel & Casino on June 27, 2006, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A New York minute

    The New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas recreates the Manhattan skyline, complete with replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge. (Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Entertainment mecca

    Kenny Chesney performs "Out Last Night" at the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on April 5, 2009. (Mark J. Terrill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Tying the knot

    From left, Elvis Presley impersonator Norm Jones plays guitar as Bruce Barnett of Virginia Beach, Va., escorts his daughter Gayle to her wedding ceremony at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Graceland is the oldest wedding chapel in Las Vegas and offers ceremonies with or without Elvis impersonators. (David Mcnew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    The $25 million, newly redesigned volcano display in front of the Mirage Hotel & Casino features 150 choreographed FireShooters sending fireballs more than 12 feet in the air and a custom soundtrack created by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for MGM Mirage) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A night on the Strip

    Hotels and casinos line the Las Vegas Strip. From thrilling roller coasters to erupting volcanos to art museums, Las Vegas' many attractions appeal to people of all ages and interests. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Fight night

    David Diaz and Manny Pacquiao fight during the fourth round of the WBC Lightweight Championship at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 28, 2008, in Las Vegas. Pacquiao won in a ninth-round knockout. (Harry How / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Day at the races

    Rookie driver Shawn Langdon earned his first No. 1 qualifying position of his career at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Richard Wong / NHRA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Fabulous shopping

    The Juicy Couture retail store at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is seen before the grand opening February 5, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for Juicy Couture) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Stunning shows

    Buyi Zama as “Rafiki” in the opening number “The Circle of Life” from THE LION KING Las Vegas. (Joan Marcus / Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A slice of Italy

    Visitors take a gondola ride at The Venetian in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Get into the groove

    Dina Buell, left, and Carla Giordano, both from California, dance at the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino during Rehab, the resort's weekly pool party, in 2005 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Let’s get this party started

    Party goers gather for the grand opening of LAX Nightclub Las Vegas in 2007. (Chris Weeks / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Big laughs

    Comedian Ellen DeGeneres performs at a taping of ''Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show'' during The Comedy Festival at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in 2008 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A kingly stay

    The Excalibur Hotel and Casino features a castle motif with newly refurbished hotel rooms. (Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A dancing fountain

    Visitors are silhouetted against the backdrop of The Bellagio's fountain show on the Las Vegas Strip. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 9/12/2006 1:16:56 PM ET 2006-09-12T17:16:56

Best for Conventioneers/Business Travelers: The Las Vegas Hilton, 3000 Paradise Rd. (tel. 888/732-7117), adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center and the setting for many on-premises conventions, offers extensive facilities that include a full business center. And now it's a stop on the nifty new monorail, making access to the Strip easier than ever. Be warned: New owners could make changes by the time you read this.

Best Luxury Resort: There really is only one, and that's the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas, 1610 Lake Las Vegas Pkwy. (tel. 800/241-3333), perched on the edge (and over part of) Lake Las Vegas in Henderson. It's the combination of setting (gorgeous, peaceful) and experience (such service!) that wins them the prize. But you might want something that's actually in town, and for that, you must go straight to the Four Seasons, 3960 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/632-5000), because experience running luxury resorts around the world makes them the only true claimant to the throne within the Vegas city limits.

Best Resort for the Indecisive: Green Valley Ranch Resort, 2300 Paseo Verde Pkwy. (at I-215), Henderson (tel. 866/782-9487), somehow manages to combine the comfort of a Ritz-Carlton with the style of boutique chains such as the W, and makes it all work. Have your cake and eat it too, either in the most comfortable beds in town or by one of our favorite pools.

Best Archetypically Las Vegas Hotel: As of press time, there weren't any. Las Vegas hotels are one and all doing such massive face-lifts that the archetype is going to be but a memory. Still, despite some major changes, including a complete exterior face-lift, Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/427-7243), will probably continue to embody the excess, the romance (oh, yes) and, well, downright silliness that used to characterize Vegas -- and to a certain extent still does.

Best Non-Vegas Vegas Hotel: Mandalay Bay's expansion, THEhotel, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/632-7000) is as elegant and sophisticated as any lodging in Manhattan. All accommodations are true suites, complete with plasma-screen TVs and deep soaking tubs. Since it's a separate tower, you are far away from the clash and clang of Vegas -- at least in spirit. In reality, it's just a medium walk down a long hallway. Quite possibly our favorite hotel in the city.

Best Swimming Pool: Hands down, the acres of water park fun at Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/632-7000) -- wave pool (even if the waves never get all that big), lazy river, beach, regular swimming pools . . . no wonder they check IDs carefully to make sure only official guests enter. Everyone wants to swim and splash here. If you can't, you won't be disappointed by the amorphously shaped pools with water fountains and slides, plus a rather festive atmosphere at The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/627-6667). But if you've ever longed to swim at Hearst Castle, Bellagio, 3600 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 888/987-6667), with six swimming pools in a neoclassical Italian garden setting (and a more hushed, chic ambience), is for you. Then again, the pool at the Green Valley Ranch Resort, with its foliage, beach, in-water gambling, and everything else, perhaps has them both beat. But its distant location (in south Las Vegas) takes it out of the running. Only just, though.

Best Spa/Health Club: We only wish our own gym was as handsomely equipped as the one at the Canyon Ranch Spa in The Venetian, 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 877/883-6423), which also has a number of other high-priced amenities on which you can blow your blackjack winnings. We are also partial to the full complement of machines at the health club at Bellagio, probably the best-equipped club of all. Attendants who soothe you with iced towels and drinks, a well-stocked locker room, and comfortable lounges in which to rest up after your workout are other pluses.

Best Hotel Dining: Foodies will work up a good case of gout trying all the haute-cuisine options at Bellagio, which has restaurants by Todd English (Olives) and Julian Serrano (Picasso). The hotel has seven James Beard Award-winning chefs on staff. The Venetian isn't too far behind, with restaurants from Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse, and Joachim Splichal (Pinot), plus branches of the noted Lutèce. In The Venetian's new expansion is a version of Thomas Keller's bistro Bouchon. Wynn Las Vegas, 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 888/320-9966) has brought in a number of name-brand chefs, including Alex Strada (Alex) and Paul Bartolotta (Bartolotta).

Best for 20-Somethings to Baby Boomers: Palms Resort & Casino, 4321 W. Flamingo Rd. (tel. 866/942-7777), is the single most happening hotel for the hip and hip-hop sets. No wonder Britney stayed here before, during, and through the aftermath of her quickie marriage. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 4455 Paradise Rd. (tel. 800/473-ROCK), bills itself as the world's "first rock 'n' roll hotel and casino" and "Vegas for a new generation." Aficionados of headbanger clubs won't mind the noise level, but we aren't sure about everyone else.

Best Interior: For totally different reasons, it's a tie between New York-New York Hotel & Casino, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/693-6763), The Mirage, and The Venetian. The Mirage's tropical rainforest and massive coral-reef aquarium behind the registration desk may not provide as much relaxation as a Club Med vacation, but they're a welcome change from the general hubbub that is usual for Vegas. Speaking of hubbub, New York-New York has cornered the market on it, but its jaw-dropping interior, with its extraordinary attention to detail (re-creating virtually every significant characteristic of New York City), makes this a tough act to beat (though Big City residents may despise its realism). The Venetian's authentic re-creation of Venice, however, might top it.

Best for Families: The MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/929-1111), is still a hit with families, despite backing away from more child-friendly details such as its original Oz theme and eliminating its amusement park. Then there is also the classic choice: Circus Circus Hotel/Casino, 2880 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/634-3450) with ongoing circus acts, a vast video-game arcade, a carnival midway, and a full amusement park. Less aged, and less hectic, Mandalay Bay, 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. S. at Hacienda Avenue (tel. 877/632-7000) is a more modern choice, right for families because you can gain access to both the guest rooms and the pool area (itself fun for kids, with a beach, a wave pool, and a lazy river) without trotting through the casino. And grown-ups will find party-fun restaurants, bars, and clubs (including the House of Blues) for their own enjoyment. Those of you with bigger budgets might want to try the Ritz-Carlton because not only is it well out of range of Sin City's temptations, but it also offers a variety of healthy and fun activities (from hikes to fly-fishing to stargazing).

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Best Rooms Off the Strip: Again, we love the Ritz-Carlton, with its perfect decor, spacious interior, and gorgeous bathrooms, but you'll probably want something closer to town.

Best Rooms On the Strip: We need to break this down. If one is talking suites, then THEhotel wins the day, with their one-bedroom could-be-a-great-apartment-in-Manhattan sophisticated wonders. Best "suites" (because no matter how they are billed, it's really just one big room) are clearly the 700-square-foot extravaganzas at The Venetian, with separate sitting and bedroom areas, full of all sorts of special details. Best "room" goes to the brand-new Wynn Las Vegas, where the rooms are quite big, the bathrooms not far behind, the beds are plush, the TVs (plural!) are flatscreen, the windows floor to ceiling, and the tubs are deep. The Grand Tower rooms at the MGM Grand are the best bet in the medium price range; their modern twist on 1930s curves stands out from the cookie-cutter decor found all around town. Downtown, the rooms at the Golden Nugget, 129 E. Fremont St. (tel. 800/634-3454), are by far the best.

Best Bathrooms: This honor goes to THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, where the good-size marble bathrooms feature a large glass shower, a separate water closet, and a soaking tub so deep the water comes up to your chin. If only they'd angled the plasma-screen TV a bit better -- it's hard to see from the tub, though it's fine for the shower. It's a wonder anyone ever leaves to go to the casino, either. But not far behind is Wynn Las Vegas, which offers a similar layout, including that plasma TV and the deep, long tub, plus lemon-grass-scented amenities and silky robes to cradle you afterward.

Best Noncasino Hotel: Four Seasons used to win this category, but now it's a tie with THEhotel. It can't be a coincidence that both are found around Mandalay Bay. Once you've experienced the Four Seasons' quiet good taste, superior service and pampering, and the serenity of their noncasino property, or the sophistication and elegance of THEhotel, it's hard to go back to traditional Vegas hotels. But best of all, should you want the best of both worlds, you need only pass through one door to have access to Mandalay Bay and all its traditional Vegas hotel accouterments, including that missing casino. Coming in a close second is the Venezia at The Venetian; same idea as THEhotel (a separate yet equal entity, the noncasino part of the casino hotel), though we prefer the decor and gestalt of the latter.

Best Casinos: Our favorite places to gamble are anywhere we might win. But we also like the casinos in The Mirage (lively, beautiful, and not overwhelming), New York-New York (because of the aforementioned attention to detail -- it almost makes losing fun), and Main Street Station, 200 N. Main St. (tel. 800/465-0711), because it's about the most smoke-free casino in town, and because it's pretty.

Best Downtown Hotel: It's a tie. The upscale Golden Nugget is exceptionally appealing in every aspect. And Main Street Station, which has done a terrific job of renovating an older space, now evokes early-20th-century San Francisco, with great Victorian details everywhere, solidly good restaurants, and surprisingly nice rooms for an inexpensive price.

Best Views: From the high-floor rooms at the Stratosphere Casino Hotel & Tower, 2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S. (tel. 800/99-TOWER), you can see clear to the next county, while the Strip-side rooms at Four Seasons give you the entire Las Vegas Boulevard panorama from the southernmost end. Higher-up floors at the Las Vegas Hilton show you that same panorama from a different perspective.

For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed accommodations, visit our online hotels index.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

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