Las Vegas, the largest city in the state and one of the fastest growing areas in the country, is Nevada's claim to fame. Dominating the southern tip of the state, this over-the-top mecca for gamblers and vacationers is stuffed to the gills with extravagant entertainment, multimillion-dollar light shows, and enough playing cards and dice to reach to the moon. Expensive cuisine, the hottest dance clubs, live celebrities nightly, unbeatable hotel deals: it's easy to get overwhelmed by it all, which may be exactly the point.
While Vegas has long been considered an "adults only" destination, in the 1990s the city began to branch out and develop more family-friendly entertainment. Theme park rides, zoos and aquariums, arcades, and other less sinful pursuits entice mom and dad to bring the kids along on their Vegas vacation. That said, the majority of attractions in town are still geared at adults, with street barkers still advertising topless shows and the casino floors still off-limits to those underage. Most attention is focused on the Strip, where all the newest and glitziest casinos are lined up, but the traditional Vegas experience can still be found near Fremont Street in the older part of town. In addition, the nearly two million people in the metropolitan area have brought with them the less-glamorous accoutrements of universities, museums, and even plain old motels and diners. Those visiting relatives or the nearby natural attractions may take comfort in finding that away from the neon, Vegas is just a regular town, after all filled with a world of natural beauty unlike any other place on earth. Enjoy hiking in Red Rock Canyon, skiing and snowboarding in Mt. Charleston, and cool off in the biggest desert oasis, Lake Mead. The Grand Canyon, Valley of Fire, Zion National Park and Death Valley are all short day trips from the Strip.