In the last decade Las Vegas has gone from sinful getaway to family-friendly destination and back again.

The Nevada desert destination drew 40 million visitors in 2006 – with the UK being the largest overseas market for the past six years.

Vegas is great for shopping, with taxes lower than New York and a huge selection of boutiques. And then there’s the good weather and hotel availability (the city will have 150,000 rooms by 2009), with midweek bargains available.

The latest Vegas makeover has a lot to do with luxury. Deluxe hotels such as the Wynn Las Vegas have sprung up alongside exclusive spas, shops, restaurants and of course casinos.

The restaurants match the latest trends in New York and London, while big-name entertainers perform after hours. Here’s a breakdown of the latest happenings on, and off, the Strip.


 


Hotels


The fully-renovated Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino (pictured, top) is open for business on the site of the former Aladdin, while The Palms recently opened its Fantasy Tower, complete with Las Vegas’ first Playboy Club.

The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino, a 3,000-room property connected to The Venetian, is due to be completed later this year. And scheduled to open in 2008 is the 2,000-room Encore, adjacent to the Wynn Las Vegas.

Work has also started on MGM/Mirage’s £3.5 billion City Center Las Vegas between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

This huge project will be centred on a 4,000-room, 60-storey casino/resort, and will also include a 400-room Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a Harmon hotel with the same capacity, and 5,000sq ft of retail/entertainment space. City Center’s first phase is due to open in 2009.

Construction starts this year at the north end of the Strip on Echelon Place, set to open in 2010 on the plot currently occupied by The Stardust.

The project comprises a casino, luxury shopping and a 400-room Shangri-La Hotel with a 20,000sq ft Chi Spa. Also part of the development will be the 550-room Delano Hotel Las Vegas and the 860-room Mondrian Hotel Las Vegas.


 


Shows


Love, Cirque du SoleilTwo Broadway hits have recently arrived: Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Wynn and musical comedy The Producers at Paris Las Vegas. A new addition to the line-up is Menopause: The Musical at the Hilton.

Hans Klok The Beauty of Magic is new at the Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. Pamela Anderson guest stars until the end of August.

X Burlesque debuted this year at the Flamingo Cabaret, while the Riviera Hotel and Casino introduced Ice: Direct from Russia, combining ice skating with acrobatics.

Cirque du Soleil’s show LOVE (pictured), based on the music of the Beatles, opened at The Mirage last summer. More shows are planned for the Luxor in 2008 and the new MGM Mirage City Center in 2009.

Celine Dion’s A New Day will run five nights a week at Caesar’s Palace, until mid-December. When Dion is not playing Elton John’s The Red Piano takes over, with shows until the end of the year. Bette Midler opens at Caesar’s Palace in February 2008.

Agents can book all the top Vegas shows, as well as add-on tours and activities, through Keith Prowse Attraction Tickets.


 


Nightlife


Revolution Bar, Las VegasPoolside entertainment is the latest trend in Vegas with Tao Beach at the Venetian, Bare at the Mirage pool, Rehab at the Hard Rock and Moorea Ultra Beach Lounge at Mandalay Bay.

The latest nightclub to hit the Strip opened this year at Stratosphere. Polly Esthers is a 26,000sq ft venue with multiple themed rooms playing music from the 1970s to the present.

Then there is more Fab Four-inspired fun at the Mirage. The Beatles Revolution Lounge (pictured) offers 1960s music in a contemporary but suitably psychedelic environment.


Tryst at the Wynn Las Vegas has a 90ft waterfall and lagoon plus an ‘ultra lounge’ – an exclusive club without a dancefloor. The MGM Grand also has a new upscale lounge, Rouge, in the space formerly occupied by Teatro.


 


Excursion


The Skywalk at Grand Canyon West is a glass walkway that extends 70ft from the rim of the canyon, so those brave enough to look down can admire a 4,000ft drop.


Skywalk is 120 miles east of Las Vegas, in neighbouring Arizona – it is accessible as a day trip by road but is quicker and more breathtaking by helicopter.

Ecolocigal attraction Springs Preserve opened in June 2007, with a mission to teach visitors about the desert environment and the importance of conservation.


The Preserve combines museums, galleries, educational and play areas, an interpretive trail system and a botanical garden. It is situated on a 180-acre site just five minutes’ drive from the Strip.