15 must-see attractions on the Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas (CNN) — Las Vegas Boulevard — the world-famous Las Vegas Strip — is the central artery of Sin City and the main line to a majority of the city’s best sights, gambling, food and fun.

With neon signs and dancing fountains along an eight-mile stretch of awesome, the Strip delivers sensory overload.

Some of the latest sights to hit the Strip include a new competitive video game arena at Luxor and a virtual reality attraction at the Neon Museum. The city’s pro hockey team, the Golden Knights, are predicted to make the playoffs this year, too, which means their home ice at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard will be in the national spotlight for much of the spring.

These are just the most recent developments along Las Vegas’ most iconic street. Whether you want to roll the dice at one of the city’s casinos, watch a world-class performance, eat at a celebrity chef’s Vegas outpost or simply glory in the glittering spectacle, it can be hard to choose what to do first when you travel here.

It’s best to start at the beginning, at the southern end of the Strip. From south to north, here are 15 of our favorite attractions on one of the most famous roads in the world.

Brian Jones/Las Vegas News Bureau

The iconic "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada" sign serves as Sin City’s unofficial welcome mat.

This neon beacon has greeted visitors at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard since 1959, when commercial artist and prolific sign designer Betty Willis designed it as a gift to the city. Because Willis never trademarked her work, merchandising companies have been able to replicate it on t-shirts, mugs and other tchotchkes.

The sign was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, and it’s one of the most popular selfie spots in town. It also served as the site of a makeshift memorial after the mass shooting at a country music concert in October 2017.

"Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada," sign, Las Vegas Boulevard, South. Las Vegas, NV 89101.

This 1990s-built pyramid isn’t one of the seven wonders of the world, but it stands out in a town where copycatting New York, Paris, Venice and other iconic destinations certainly is a compliment.

Inside, guests ride inclinators instead of elevators to their rooms, and people-movers ascend and descend at 39-degree angles along the corners of the pyramid, creating a rocking sensation that makes riders feel like they’re on a boat.

Outside, a spotlight at the pyramid’s peak boasts of being the strongest beam of light in the world. The resort just opened the Strip’s first dedicated arena for multi-player video games.

Francis and Francis/Courtesy MGM

One of the newest additions to Sin City, this $100 million urban oasis between the New York-New York and Park MGM (the soon-to-be-renamed Monte Carlo) hotels stretches from Las Vegas Boulevard back to T-Mobile Arena.

Along the way, brick walkways wind past the Las Vegas outpost of Shake Shack and other open-air restaurants, a walk-through water feature that evokes parting the Red Sea and "Bliss Dance," a 40-foot-tall statue of a dancing woman. The area is hopping before home games for the NHL’s Golden Knights, the first pro sports team in Vegas history.

While Las Vegas isn’t known for its art scene, MGM Resorts has invested $40 million over the last 10 years in public art at the 67-acre City Center complex.

Notables include Maya Lin’s "Silver River," which hangs behind the registration desk at Aria Las Vegas and depicts the course of the Colorado River; and Glacia, a piece on the ground floor of The Shops at Crystals composed of 15-foot-tall ice columns rising anew each morning and melting in different patterns throughout the day.

A third piece, named "Big Edge," comprises more than 200 kayaks, canoes and other water vessels.

Courtesy MGM

Water that dances like ballerinas. Cannons that shoot water hundreds of feet in the air. Yes, the fountains that span the artificial lake in front of Bellagio Las Vegas have become one of the most iconic Vegas sights. It’s no wonder this is where the characters from the 2001 version of "Ocean’s 11" met to celebrate their big heist.

The spectacle, designed by a company poetically named Wet, opened with the property in 1998 and today comprises more than 1,000 fountains in all, some shooting spray more than 450 feet into the air. The fountains go off weekdays every 30 minutes between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and every 15 minutes between 8 p.m. and midnight. They are even more frequent on weekends.

Unless you’ve got a bird’s eye view from a balcony suite at The Cosmopolitan, arrive early to secure a prime standing-room only spot along the Strip.

Drama is in full effect at this free animatronic spectacle inside the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. The 11-minute show tells the story of the Lost City of Atlantis, and what happens when the ailing King Atlas must decide which of his children should rule.

Audiences are treated to video screen supplements, fireballs, a 20-foot winged dragon and props by set designers who worked on "Thor" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." There are even fish tanks with real, live fish. The show debuted in 1997 and was updated in 2013. Shows start every hour between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Kabik

Malls are nothing new in Las Vegas. But this open-air pedestrian-only attraction, which opened in 2013, is more than a shopping center. The LINQ Promenade stretches from the Strip to the High Roller, the tallest observation wheel in the world (at 550 feet tall, it’s taller than the London Eye).

In between, the Promenade is home to the Strip’s only In-N-Out Burger franchise, a West-Coast outpost for the bowling alley/concert venue Brooklyn Bowl and a Beverly Hills-based Sprinkles bakery that sells cupcakes from an ATM. A zipline is expected to open later this year.

This zoo-like oasis in the courtyard of the Flamingo Las Vegas is home to more than 60 exotic birds (including Chilean flamingoes, of course), 20 turtles and 300 fish.

The free attraction opened in 1995, and it’s a great place to escape from the hubbub of the Strip and the nearby LINQ Promenade. To see the animals in their most active states, swing by for one of the twice-daily feedings, held in a section dubbed "Pelican Island" at 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images for MGM Mirage

Fireballs, water cannons and booming percussion riffs highlight the free "eruptions" at the volcano that fronts The Mirage along Las Vegas Boulevard.

The soundtrack is a collaboration between Mickey Hart, former drummer for The Grateful Dead, and Zakir Hussain, an Indian musician who is a master of a drum called the tabla.

The volcano dates back to the hotel’s opening in 1989. It was updated with new beats in 2008. Pyrotechnics go off Sunday-Thursday at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., with an additional show on Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m.

Baritones boom out Italian love songs as they paddle past. Couples canoodle in gondolas as they glide by. You can’t get more Venetian than this outside of Italy.

So when Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon G. Adelson built The Venetian, he spared no expense to replicate the iconic waterways. Gondola rides are available in two spots: outdoors in a canal that runs along Las Vegas Boulevard, and indoors along the 285,000-gallon Grand Canal, which passes beneath bridges and past piazza cafes.

Most of the stripe-shirted gondoliers sing upon request, and photo packages are available to capture the moment for posterity.

MGM Resorts

The main attraction at family-friendly Circus Circus Hotel & Casino is the Adventuredome-a glass-enclosed big-top with five acres of diversions. Rides include two roller coasters (including one that drops at 1.5 vertical-G), a half-dozen spinning rides, virtual reality experiences and a carousel.

The Adventuredome also sports a carnival midway with more than 40 games, an arcade, mini-golf, bowling and clown shows. The best value is a per-person discounted all-day wristband.

Reality television fans flock to this working pawn shop, which has been the backdrop for the History channel’s television series, "Pawn Stars," since 2009.

Time it right and you might even catch film crews capturing Rick or Corey Harrison examining items or yelling at customers. The queue of people outside the shop is a telltale sign that cameras are rolling. Over the years the retail floor has grown to include branded souvenirs, a sure sign of television success.

Fremont Street Experience

Fremont Street Experience is the heart of downtown Vegas; a five-block pedestrian-only entertainment district with everything from the SlotZilla, the world’s largest slot machine, to a zipline. Actually, the zipline starts inside the slot machine.

There’s also a zombie-themed maze and live music every night. Looking down on all the mayhem is Viva Vision, a 1,500-foot-long video screen with 12.5 million LED lights and a booming sound system.

The best way to take it all in? Slowly, with a yard-long frozen margarita in hand.

More than 40 repurposed shipping containers just east of Las Vegas Boulevard have been turned into a popular spot for shopping, dining and nightlife.

Don’t miss the craft cocktails at the whiskey-heavy Oak & Ivy, and be sure to take the 33-foot-long slide down from the three-story "treehouse" in the center play area.

The giant fire-breathing praying mantis sculpture out front was apparently too cool to burn. (It was created for the Burning Man festival by aerospace engineer and artist Kirk Jellum.)

Neon Museum

If neon could talk, it likely would be able to regale every visitor with colorful stories about Rat Pack-era Las Vegas.

Actually, the more than 200 neon signs sit in a lot called the "Boneyard" do tell the history of Las Vegas at this one-of-a-kind museum downtown.

Among the highlights: Old signs from the fronts of Caesars Palace, as well as the old Stardust. All guests enter the facility through the circa-1961 mid-century modern visitor center, which actually is the former lobby for the La Concha motel. Tours are best at night, when 11 signs light up.

In February, the museum opened an augmented reality experience that incorporates high-tech projectors and Rat Pack-era music to reanimate many other iconic signs.

Matt Villano is a writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. He has covered Las Vegas since 2003, and he has updated and written 11 guidebooks about the city.

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