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Las Vegas: A Short Guide   by Emma Kamer

Las Vegas was built from nothing in the Mojave Desert. Now the once quiet shady oasis is a sprawl of bright lights, gambling and lots of entertainment for adults who wanted the rush of betting on high stakes and fun-filled games. Thanks to the efforts of Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel who created the lavish Flamingo Hilton, Las Vegas was never the same again; the one horse town was swallowed up. More than 35 million people visit the city every year to enjoy the shows, concerts, gambling and the buzz of this play town. The money from gambling has produced a town of such tremendous wealth that often it seems like the designers and builders don't know when to stop. This is a city without limits.

Some people go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, others to Venice for the canals and yet more to New York for a visit to the Statue of Liberty. They are all here, maybe smaller than the real deal but the people of Las Vegas have copied other examples of culture, perhaps as an effort to compensate for newness of their own city. Las Vegas is a temple to gambling- the city survives on the billions poured onto the roulette tables, poker and gambling machines. The hotels are some of the best in the world and are relatively inexpensive thanks to the subsidies that gambling can afford. There are thousands of performers working in the best shows in the world. 'The King', Elvis Presley and 'the Queen', Liberace were two of the artists to perform here and epitomised the Las Vegas of old. Despite the Vegas years not being the highlight of their careers, many people flock to Vegas for the glitz and glamour that these stars helped to develop.

There are things to do in this town that don't involve spending vast amounts of cash- the Fountain Show in front of the Bellagio can be seen every night of the week before midnight, street performers are everywhere in particular in St Mark's Square, a replica of the Venetian. Gondola rides are also available, with a serenading gondolier too! The Gallery of Fine Art houses some exceptional artists including Picasso, Van Gogh and Monet. There are also opportunities to practise driving cars at high speed on the Speedway or taking a helicopter ride for a view of the whole city. The shopping malls of the city are second to none- anything a winner at the tables could want is on offer. This is the place to spend money (lots of it) on beautiful gifts, jewellery and the things that cannot be found anywhere else.

This town is an adrenaline rush and can exhaust even the hardened traveller- it is a matter of trying to keep up! Some of the sights are surreal, the Egyptian Pyramids should not be here, but neither are the gondoliers perturbed that they are nowhere near the real Venice. Maybe it is the warmth of all that neon that gets people in the mood for love. The only other places as popular as the casinos are the late night wedding chapels where couples can pledge their love. As far 'out' as people want, the chapels cater to all tastes (and none!). This could be why Las Vegas is such an addictive city - the surprises and the decadence all wrapped up in fabulous neon makes grown-ups feel like they are kids again.

Peace is never far away; Las Vegas is surrounded by desert and the beautiful scenes are as spectacular as anything in the city. Horse riding is a great way to get back to basics, enjoying the country, as others in the past would have. It is well worth getting out of the city and experiencing the desert, the natural side of this concrete, neon jungle. Viva Las Vegas!

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