The glorification of excess -- where else can you indulge (and recover) so thoroughly?
• Grade-A chef poaching -- this longtime hot spot for American culinary celebrities is now drawing the global superstars as well: Michelin all-stars Alain Ducasse, Guy Savoy and Joël Robuchon have all joined the ranks
• Swank boutique hotels, adding sophistication to the surreal Strip
There were those who scoffed when Las Vegas began trying to convince the world that it had a touch of real class. Those days are gone. New boutique hotels like MGM's Skylofts are setting benchmarks for stylish decor. There's hardly a celebrity chef who doesn't have a world-class eatery somewhere on the Strip, and Vegas can now claim more master sommeliers than anywhere else in the country. Tony Award-winning Broadway shows now regularly sweep into town, and Cirque du Soleil's Beatles-themed "LOVE" has been added to the roster. The city also boasts a handful of quality museums and a restaurant called Picasso where you can dine beneath originals. Still a mecca for booze-soaked bachelor parties and busloads of slot machine-seeking tourists, Vegas now caters to a worldly urban elite as well.
To be seen
• Mandalay Bay offers an embarrassment of culinary riches: Alain Ducasse's Mix, Hubert Keller's signature restaurant Fleur de Lys and Charlie Palmer's Aureole, complete with four-story wine tower and "wine angels" who fly up to retrieve your bottle.
• Possibly the most luxurious destination on the strip, the Bellagio is also where poker superstars hone their game.
• The Venetian proves better for decompressing than for gaming. Relax at the world-famous Canyon Ranch Spa, grab a bite at Thomas Keller's Bouchon, stroll the Grand Canal Shoppes or get some culture at the Rem Koolhaas-designed Guggenheim Hermitage Museum.
For the VIP
• The ultimate high rollers' experience has to be Skylofts at the MGM Grand. These amenity-rich duplex penthouses come with a butler, limousine service, private elevator and floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views.
• A round at the notoriously exclusive Shadow Creek Golf Course, the highest-priced public course in America, is available to guests of any of the MGM Mirage hotels. A limo takes you out to the course, where a personal caddie awaits.
• A day at the Vegas outpost of the famed Tucson-based Canyon Ranch Spa Club. One of the best spas in the country, this place is 65,000 square feet of bliss.
If you plan to attend the Hard Rock's much-hyped Rehab poolside party, expect a steep cover, a long line (unless you're a hotel guest) and a jam-packed scene.
Downtown. Fremont Street has been steadily on the rise since entrepreneur Steve Wynn set his sights on the area. Check out vintage Vegas signage at the Neon Museum, or wander through the Arts Factory, the closest thing Vegas has to an arts district.
Cirque du Soleil has now become a Vegas mainstay, with five long-running shows. The water-themed "O," performed in, out and over a 1.5 million-gallon tank, is widely regarded as the best.
When to visit
Avoid the summer if you plan to golf. Temperatures often top 100 degrees F in July and August, though if you're inside air-conditioned resorts all day, you'll hardly notice.