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Themed Tours in Las Vegas

Mid Strip

Here's the most crowded part of the Strip, although some of the larger casino hotels take up a great deal more space than may first appear. That's because this is, for the most part, the ‘luxury resort hotel on steroids' portion of Vegas. In between are leftovers from Vegas' tacky era. With a few exceptions, most items of interest will be inside, where there are all kinds of distractions designed to keep visitors within the property rather than straying to competitors.

Start: Sidewalk in front of the Paris Las Vegas.

After admiring the landmarks of Paris outside, take a stroll inside, where the feet of the Eiffel Tower replica rest on the casino floor, itself watched over by a ceiling painted to resemble a Parisian spring day. Revolutionary-era facades ring the casino area, and lead to Le Boulevard, the hotel's cobbled shopping area. The original plan was for the smell of fresh bread to waft through here, complete with the occasional dash of a bike rider ferrying fresh baguettes to the eateries. That attention to detail has been lost, but the Disneyland version of Paris is still in place. It's not romantic so much as silly — giggle over the various French-ified signage (Le Car Rental) — but heavily themed is the way Vegas ought to be; and this $785-million fantasyland certainly fits the bill.

Bellagio

The opening of this lightly themed behemoth in the autumn of 1998 marked the beginning of the end for the Vegas theme trend and the start of the march towards hotel elegance.

Caesars Palace Forum Shops

The first great absurd hotel shopping mall in Vegas, and still the one to see. Walk down corridors designed to look like the streets of ancient Rome — albeit new and gleaming — with a sky-painted ceiling overhead that tricks you into thinking it's broad daylight when it's really approaching midnight. The 160-store sprawling complex includes a recent, more modern-looking (though just as liberally adorned with Roman statues) extension featuring a three-storey atrium accessed by a spiral-shaped escalator. It's a hoot even if you don't care about shopping.

Opening Hours: Sun-Thu 10am–11pm, Fri-Sat 10am-12am.

Fountain of the Gods

This fountain appears to sport the same faux marble statue copies that pop up all over Caesars — until Bacchus, in his drunken glory, comes to creaky animatronic life and delivers a somewhat muffled speech about the wonders of decadence and living it up. The other statues concur. There are some laser effects to try to make it more up to date, but it remains cheesy and phoney. It's what passed for a marvel in old Vegas. It's amazing it's still there. In The Forum Shops, section D on the casino level; (see 3). Free shows every hour on the hour.

Where: In The Forum Shops, section D on the casino level; (see 3).

Times: Free shows every hour on the hour.

Aquarium/Atlantis Fountain Show

More elaborate and ambitious than the fountain show listed above, this one tells the ‘story' of the fall of Atlantis. Look for an actual story line, bigger special effects, and correspondingly bigger crowds. For the low-tech and less demanding, behind the fountains is a nifty (and free) 50,000-gallon salt-water aquarium. With luck, you'll arrive during one of the regular (and entertaining) fish feedings.

Where: In The Forum Shops, section F on the casino level; (see 3).

Times: Aquarium daily feedings at 1.15 & 5.15pm; Free 8-minute fountain shows every hour on the hour.

Vosges Haut-Chocolat

Get a shot of energy at Vosges Haut-Chocolat which, in addition to exotic chocolate-based candy confections, offers a cocoa bar and fancy ice cream.

Where: In Caesars Palace Forum Shops, section H on the street level.

Telephone: +1 702 836 9866

Flamingo Las Vegas

When mobster Bugsy Siegel's $6-million Art Deco–ish baby was born in 1946, all the staff (even the caretakers!) wore tuxedos. Siegel met an infamous end in 1947, and little of his original structure remains. The Flamingo no longer rules the Strip roost, but its free wildlife sanctuary (yes, there are flamingos) and gardens are still beautiful and worth a gander.

Where: 3555 Las Vegas Boulevard. S. (between Sands Avenue & Flamingo Road).

Telephone: +1 702 733 3111 or 800 732 2111

Website: Flamingo Las Vegas Website

The Mirage

Built on the site of the old Castaways hotel, The Mirage made Steve Wynn's reputation as the king of Las Vegas hoteliers when it opened in 1989. Say ‘hi' to the scary-looking statues in front of the resort commemorating magicians Siegfried & Roy, who performed almost 6,000 shows here before Roy Horn was seriously injured onstage in 2003 after a disastrous encounter with one of the famous duo's beloved white tigers.

TI Las Vegas (Treasure Island)

When it opened in 1993, this US$450-million property was designed to attract families with a Disneyesque Caribbean pirate theme. That idea walked the plank in 2003 and the property was turned into an adult-orientated resort with scarcely a trace of theme. And its once kid-friendly free pirate battle now features sexy sirens.

Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes

Every bit as over the top as The Forum Shops, but less cheesy, provided you don't automatically sneer at architectural reproductions (which are wonderfully rendered). Given how well executed the place is — including a rather cunning scaled down replica of St Mark's Square and canals with actual gondoliers — and that there are even period costumed performers who sing and otherwise interact with customers, it qualifies as a mall-as-theme-park experience… in a good way.

Where: 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.

Telephone: +1 702 414 1000

Opening Hours: Sun-Thu 10am-11pm, Fri-Sat 10am-12am.

Website: Venetian Grand Website

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