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TRAVELS TO LAS VEGAS

If you have never been to Las Vegas, following you will find a brief introduction and tips from the Vegas Visitor's bureau to make your visit enjoyable:

Since the summers in Vegas are sizzling, head over to the air-conditioned Smith Center to check out the stunning architecture and intuitive design of this new building, or drive by the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute for an architectural sight you've surely never seen before. In the warm summer evenings, you could cool off with a drink in your hand as you head out on the water on a Lake Mead Cruise.

Next up - people watching. It may sound mundane, but with the cross-section of visitors and celebrities who come to Vegas, it's usually primetime entertainment. And there's no better spot to partake than Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas, a French bistro right on the Strip with the bonus of being directly across the street from the famous Bellagio fountains. Another great spot to grab a bite and observe your surroundings is PBR Rock Bar & Grill at Planet Hollywood, where you can scan CityCenter, the Bellagio and the Strip all at once.

Cruising the Strip is required for any first-timer, by car or by foot, and since we're on the Strip, now's a good time to start. As you cruise, check out the signs for the Cirque du Soleil shows. There are seven permanent shows on the Strip, including the heralded "O" at Bellagio and KÀ at MGM Grand, and the people back home will expect you to see at least one of them.

There's so much to do in Vegas besides gaming, but if this is your first time in town, you almost have to play a little. Many hotels offer free lessons for novices - the Golden Nugget among them.

Hungry yet? Las Vegas used to be famous for buffets. Nowadays, you can also enjoy the culinary creations of any number of celebrity chefs; but as a first-timer, a buffet is in order. The Buffet at the Bellagio will satisfy your palate with international selections, while Cravings Buffet at the Mirage offers 11 live cooking stations. Also, don't miss one of Las Vegas' premier dining destinations, and one of New York City's most historic restaurants, the Old Homestead Steak House in Caesars Palace. But don't eat too much! Part of any first trip to Vegas should include staying out all night and eating breakfast before you head back to the room.

Looking for adventure? We've got you covered; whether you like thrills by air, land or sea. Start with the SkyJump at the Stratosphere. At 108 stories, it's the longest controlled free fall of its kind. Then, experience Fremont Street Flightlinez, where you get hooked to a harness and zip line right over the crowds on Fremont Street and under the giant video canopy. Not daring enough? How about swimming with the sharks at the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay?

Speaking of the room, a first-timer should consider staying at Caesars Palace. Evel Knievel. Muhammad Ali. Rain Man. This is the birthplace of many a Las Vegas legend. Who knows? It could be the birthplace of yours.

Vegas Basics:

Las Vegas, an ever-changing fantasy-land of a city, has seen unbelievable expansion since it emerged from the desert just over 100 years ago. The sights and sounds of Las Vegas are enjoyed by millions of visitors every year. They stay in some of the most glamorous, unique hotels in the world. They eat at five-star restaurants and expansive buffets. They play at casinos, pools, health spas and golf courses. Sometimes (many times, actually) they even marry each other.

You will be dazzled by Vegas, but the sheer number of things to see and do can seem overwhelming. A little advance planning will help you to enjoy your Vegas trip. Continue reading for basic visitor information (what to bring, things to know) and an overview of this special destination.

Basic Info

Electricity: The United States uses 110 to 120 volts AC (60 cycles). If visiting from outside of North America, you may require an electrical adapter for any electronics or appliances you want to bring. Las Vegas electrical outlets accept the standard North American plug with two flat parallel pins.

Emergencies: For police or medical assistance call 911 (toll-free).

Telephone Area Code: 702.

Tax: There is an 8.1% sales tax on purchases and a 12% tax on hotel rooms in Las Vegas. Properties near Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas incur a 13% tax on hotel rooms.

Casino Etiquette

It is best to avoid bringing personal electronic items into the casino. Hotel security is always on the lookout for photography and video of casino machines and tables and will quickly remove persons doing so. All players must be at least 21 years old - no exceptions.

Health

You are in a desert, and your body will need fluids, especially in the summer months. Carry a bottle of water, and be sure to bring sunscreen.

Safety

The high-concentration areas of Las Vegas are among the safest places for visitors in the world. Security is tight, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take the same precautions that you would at home. Be aware of your surroundings and stay away from threatening situations. If gaming, keep an eye on your purse, change bucket or chips. If there is an incident, police and security personnel are generally highly visible.

Smoking Etiquette

Generally speaking, smoking is permitted on the casino floor at most resorts, in some guest rooms and in bars that don't serve food. It is not permitted in public areas such as restaurants, hotel lobbies, the Las Vegas Convention Center concourse areas, or McCarran International Airport.

Tips and Gratuities

This town is all about people working hard to make you happy. A little tip helps to say thanks. Here's a handy guide.

Credit or charge cards are widely accepted throughout Las Vegas. The most common are Visa, MasterCard and American Express, while Discover, Diners Club and Carte Blanche are also generally accepted. Some vendors may accept international cards like enRoute, EuroCard and JCB.

Cash machines, or ATMs, are available at virtually every hotel. If you need to cash a check, some check-cashing businesses will handle out-of-state personal checks, with provision of verification and personal identification. (Check in advance to see what fees may be charged.)

In terms of budgeting, it all depends on how high or low you want to go. Las Vegas is a great choice for travelers looking for value; it's possible for two people to eat well and have a great time on around $100 a day, not counting room accommodations. Or, visitors can choose from among myriad world-class restaurants and spend more than that per person for dinner. It's all about choice!

Great deals are available on lodging throughout the city, where you can pay from less than $50 for a room to well over $1,000 a night. Prices vary widely depending on the time of year and day of the week.

Tipping Guidelines

In Vegas, 15 to 20 percent of the total bill is a good rule of thumb for tipping. Some additional guidelines follow.

Hotel personnel: Generally tip $1 to $2 for each bag of luggage. If you are using concierge services, a $5 tip is appropriate.

Dealers and slot attendants: A small bet for the dealer is the usual method of tipping at gaming tables. A small tip is also appropriate for keno runners and slot attendants.

Taxi drivers and tour guides: Taxi drivers usually receive $1 to $2 for a direct route, or follow the 15 to 20 percent rule, whichever is greater You should provide $1 to $2 to tour guides for each person at the end of the tour.

Things to Do with Kids

We admit it: This town was made for grown-ups. But that doesn't mean we don't love kids. Take a look at the broad range of family-friendly activities we have to offer.

Most importantly, look for accommodations with a pool. Many Vegas hotels feature huge video arcades and diversions like roller coasters and other rides. The choices for shows and events have also diversified, and it is easy enough to find entertainment suitable for families. In addition, children under 12 can often stay free in their parents' rooms, and well-priced buffets are ideal for families. Many hotels provide programs for children and teenagers, while babysitters and childcare facilities are also sometimes available. Inquire with your hotel.

Visitors under the age of 21 are prohibited from loitering in casinos, and the Strip has a curfew. (Hotel security officers keep a keen eye out for anyone underage near any slot machines or table games.) Children under 18 are not allowed to be out after 9 p.m. unless accompanied by an adult.

It may also be a good idea to rent a car for your stay. Distances on the Strip can be deceiving, and a lot of walking is required to see everything.

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