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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > September 2015 > LAS VEGAS

LAS VEGAS

Explore the bright lights of the Las Vegas Boulevard, then discover the truly wild experiences on its doorstep – all within an hour’s drive of Sin City

On-strips>>>Off strips

@OrlaThomas

PHOTOGRAPHS KRIS DAVIDSON@YesKrisDavidson

Get high>>>

ON STRIP: RIDE INSANITY AT THE STRATOSPHERE

From the top of the Stratosphere, Vegas’s observation tower, the city’s geographical weirdness is writ large: an island of neon in a desert sea. At some point the twinkling lights and skyscraper hotels run out and what surrounds them is nothingness, edged by dark, distant mountain-tops. In other places, a 360° panorama from the tallest tower west of the Mississippi would be enough of a lure, but Vegas always takes it to the next level: here, the view comes with rides. Big Shot rockets visitors to the top of the tower’s steel spire, or you can freefall some of its 100 storeys attached to a bungee rope. Insanity (pictured) looks like a giant version of one of those mechanical claws From the top of the Stratosphere, Vegas’s observation tower, the city’s geographical weirdness is writ large: an island of neon in a desert sea. At some point the twinkling lights and skyscraper hotels run out and what surrounds them is nothingness, edged by dark, distant mountain-tops. In other places, a 360° panorama from the tallest tower west of the Mississippi would be enough of a lure, but Vegas always takes it to the next level: here, the view comes with rides. Big Shot rockets visitors to the top of the tower’s steel spire, or you can freefall some of its 100 storeys attached to a bungee rope. Insanity (pictured) looks like a giant version of one of those mechanical claws

OFF STRIP: HELICOPTER RIDE TO THE GRAND CANYON

‘If you’ve got an offce with a better view, I’d like to see it,’ says pilot John Haverly, inclining the peak of his baseball cap to the helicopter’s tinted windows. Spread out below is the Mojave Desert, its arid ripples and folds like sheets of clay left to bake and crack in the sun. Though we’re travelling at 160mph, headphones muffe the sound of the whirring blades and the experience is oddly serene: how you imagine riding a magic carpet might feel. Nevertheless, hearts soar as John dips the nose and the steep walls of the Grand Canyon engulf the helicopter, its shadow fickering briefy across the glassy waters of the Colorado River. After landing on a rocky shelf with practised gentleness, John hands round mimosa cocktails to passengers as they struggle to take in the enormity of the view. Helicopters stop here with the permission of the Hualapai Indians – this is sacred land to them. ‘I’ve been fying here for 15 years but it’s still special,’ says John, a former military pilot. ‘I could spend 10 lifetimes exploring the Canyon and still not see it all – if you can get bored of a place like this, that’s your own dumb fault.’

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