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Glitter Gulch
The first neon sign in the city went up here in 1929; now millions of lightbulbs and miles of neon tubing bathe the Gulch in perpetual daylight. The blocks around the intersection of Fremont and Main Streets in downtown Las Vegas are known as Glitter Gulch. This is where you'll find Vegas Vic and his pal Sassy Sal, two of the best-known neon icons in the country. Some of the city's most famous casinos are in the Gulch, including the Golden Nugget and the Gold Spike, as are most of its strip clubs. Shopping consists mainly of souvenirs. Aside from slowly cruising down Fremont Street and basking in the multicoloured glow, there's little to do apart from gamble, drink or watch naked people slither around poles.

Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park remains may pale in comparison to nearby Glitter Gulch, but this is where it all started. Beginning in the 1850s, this adobe quadrangle provided refuge for travellers along the Mormon Trail between Salt Lake City, Utah, and San Bernardino, in southern California. The fort is a mile north of downtown. Some original walls are still standing, and displays of artefacts and photographs illustrate mid-19th-century life on the frontier. There's an ongoing archaeological dig outside.

The Strip
The Mirage is the bête noir of water conservationists; it uses over four million litres of water a day. No wonder Nevada is running dry.
The Mirage is interesting for the action going on outside: a fake volcano, surrounded by an artificial lagoon, erupts every 15 minutes, belching smoke and fire, and 54 artificial waterfalls cascade down the exterior. Not that there isn't glitz galore inside. For a small fee you can watch dolphins frolic in a giant tank.You enter through a miniature tropical rainforest. Should you actually check in, you'll do so at a counter backed by a long aquarium filled with over 1000 fish.

Circus Circus, one of the original casino-cum-theme-parks, is tackiness incarnate. You can take in free circus acts in the tent-like interior, a 'midway' with carnival attractions, and a roomful of video games. Adventuredome is a mini amusement park in a giant dome behind Circus Circus. It boasts a rollercoaster, flume rides, fake dinosaurs and a water slide. Circus Circus is located on the northern half of the Strip and attracts a lot of families, so either head for or avoid it accordingly.

The Imperial Palace Auto Collection includes rare models and dozens of vehicles once owned by the rich and infamous. You can see the cars of several US presidents, and Howard Hughes' 1954 Chrysler (the air purifier cost more than the car).There's Czar Nicholas II's 1914 Rolls Royce, Japanese Emperor Hirohito's 1935 Packard and Adolf Hitler's 1939 Mercedes. The museum is located in the Imperial Palace casino, on The Strip. About 200 vehicles are on display.


Off the Beaten Track

Grand Canyon
You can say that it's just a big hole in the ground. A very big hole. But to stand at the top of the crater as the sun sinks and watch the light fade across the rock face is one of the most awe-inspiring sights on earth.

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
It's less than an hour's drive along Hwy 95/93 from Las Vegas to Lake Mead and Hoover Dam.

The Hoover Dam is an architectural gem, with a simple form and Art Deco embellishments and design. The sensuous geometry of the high concrete wall contrasts sharply with the rugged red rock of the canyon walls. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks against the USA everyone is limited to seeing a movie on the history of the dam and exhibits on its construction and inner workings in the visitor centre. Only dam personnel are allowed to enter the structure.

In the north and east of the dam is the artificial body of water it created: Lake Mead. It's a good spot for boating, fishing, water-skiing and even scuba diving. Hoover Dam is an hour's drive southeast of downtown Las Vegas, from where several companies offer bus tours.

Overton
Overton is about 80km (60mi) northeast of downtown Las Vegas. Settled in the 1880s, Overton hasn't changed much since.

If the flashing lights of Vegas blow your circuits, the laid-back little town of Overton is less than two hours' drive from Glitter Gulch. Aside from a few bars, motels and stores, there isn't much to do here aside from the museum, but it's a good place to escape the hubbub of The Strip.

In the north of Overton are 1000 year old Anasazi Indian pueblos, actually, they're reconstructions on the original foundations. The pueblos are part of the Lost City Museum, which features a collection of locally found artefacts dating back 10,000 years.

Red Rock Canyon
From Las Vegas, to get to Red Rock Canyon, drive west along Charleston Blvd, which turns into SR 159, for about 30 minutes. Fewer than 30km west of The Strip, Red Rock Canyon is everything Vegas isn't: raw, natural and very old 65 million years old.

There are many spots for picnicking, hiking and climbing along the way.A 900m escarpment rises on the western edge of the valley. The canyon's most striking features, Joshua trees, multicoloured sandstone, jagged peaks, can be seen from the loop. There's a good visitor centre at the start of the loop drive.

 



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