Getting to Know Las Vegas - City Layout

There are two main areas of Las Vegas: the Strip and Downtown. For many people, that's all there is to Las Vegas. But there is actually more to the town than that: Although maybe not as glitzy and glamorous as the Strip and Downtown -- okay, definitely not -- Paradise Road and east Las Vegas are home to quite a bit of casino action; Maryland Parkway boasts mainstream and some alternative-culture shopping; and there are different restaurant options all over the city. Many of the "locals hotels" (pretty much anything with "Station" in the name, for starters), most of which are off the regular tourist track, offer cheaper gambling limits plus budget food and entertainment options. Confining yourself to the Strip and Downtown is fine for the first-time visitor, but repeat customers (and you will be) should get out there and explore. Las Vegas Boulevard South (the Strip) is the starting point for addresses; any street that crosses it starts with 1 East and 1 West at its intersection with the Strip (and goes up from there).
The Strip
The Strip is probably the most famous 4-mile stretch of highway in the nation. Officially called Las Vegas Boulevard South, it contains most of the top hotels in town and offers almost all the major showroom entertainment. First-time visitors will, and probably should, spend the bulk of their time on the Strip. If mobility is a problem, we suggest basing yourself in a South or Mid-Strip location.
For the purposes of organizing this book, we've divided the Strip into three sections. The South Strip can be roughly defined as the portion of the Strip south of Harmon Avenue, including the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, the Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor, and many more hotels and casinos.
Mid-Strip is a long stretch of the street between Harmon Avenue and Spring Mountain Road, including Bellagio, Caesars, The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bally's, Paris Las Vegas, the Flamingo Las Vegas, and Harrah's, among other hotels and casinos.
The North Strip stretches north from Spring Mountain Road all the way to the Stratosphere Casino Hotel & Tower and includes Wynn Las Vegas, Sahara, the Riviera, and Circus Circus, to name a few of the accommodations and attractions.
East of the Strip/Convention Center
This area has grown up around the Las Vegas Convention Center. Las Vegas is one of the nation's top convention cities, attracting around 3 million conventioneers each year. The major hotel in this section is the Las Vegas Hilton, but Marriott has a big presence here and the Hard Rock Hotel is a major draw. You'll find many smaller chain/name brand hotels and motels southward, along Paradise Road. All these hotels offer proximity to the Strip.
Between the Strip & Downtown
The area between the Strip and Downtown is a seedy stretch dotted with tacky wedding chapels, bail-bond operations, pawnshops, and cheap motels. However, the area known as the Gateway District (roughly north and south of Charleston Blvd. to the west of Las Vegas Blvd. S.) keeps trying to make a name for itself as an artists' colony. Studios, small cafes, and other signs of life continue to spring up.
Also known as "Glitter Gulch" (narrower streets make the neon seem brighter), Downtown Las Vegas, which is centered on Fremont Street, between Main and 9th streets, was the first section of the city to develop hotels and casinos. With the exception of the Golden Nugget, which looks like it belongs in Monte Carlo, this area has traditionally been more casual than the Strip. But between the Fremont Street Experience and other ongoing plans, Downtown is beginning to offer a viable alternative to the Strip. Plans are in the works for pleasant public areas and attractions, plus a narrowing of Fremont Street at 8th Street to allow for sidewalk expansion and new bars, so crowds can spill out and mingle. With prices on the Strip running amok, there is more reason than ever to focus your tourist attention and dollars down here. The area is clean, the crowds are low-key and friendly, there is a collection of great bars just east of the Experience, and the light show itself is as ostentatious as anything on the Strip. Sure, by comparison with the overblown Strip, it feels more like a small town than even old time "Vegas," but don't let that allow you to overlook this area. Las Vegas Boulevard runs all the way into Fremont Street Downtown.