Where Megawatt Crass Marries Nouveau Class
The 3 ½-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip is the world capital of glitter, festooned with pleasure palaces, quick-hitch wedding chapels, and cheap, all-you-can-eat prime rib buffets – and, of course, it’s alive with gambling, anytime, any kind, and everywhere.
This is where Bugsy Siegel laid down the law and the Rat Pack laid down the style; where Howard Hughes hid out and where Elvis made his last stand; but, maybe sadly, maybe not, all that is changing. In an attempt to promote itself as a family destination, Vegas is still hell-bent on attaining bourgeois respectability, trading in its seedy Sin City image in favor of a luxury future that’s more about indulgence than naughtiness.
That said, visitors will still find their fill of female impersonators and splashy dinner shows (starring Debbie Reynolds, Wayne Newton, and Celine Dion), and can still visit prime stops such as the ultra-camp Liberace Museum (off the Strip on 1775 E. Tropicana Avenue), the Elvis-a-Rama Museum (3401 Industrial Rd.), and the busy Candlelight Wedding Chapel (2855 Las Vegas Boulevard South), which, along with the twenty-five other Strip chapels, accounts for some 80,000 marriages every year.
Among those holdouts, though, you’ll also find the new breed of themed megahotels (such as the Venetian, Paris, Mandalay Bay, and New York, New York) which continue Vegas’s bigger-than-life tradition, appropriating world icons and pumping them up to exaggerated proportions.
More is still more as Vegas moves upscale, so it’s no surprise that among its 225 hotels and motels are 19 of the world’s 20 largest, including the MGM Grand, the champ with more than 5,000 rooms. It’s all dazzling and unabashedly artificial, a 24/7 place where only the money is real and if the crowds in the casino are too big at 2 A.M., that just means one thing: It’s time to go shopping. You gotta love this place.