Star: Fountains of Bellagio
Leave it to Vegas to make Old Faithful look staid and unambitious. As many as 26 times a day, the 8 1/2-acre artificial lake in front of the Bellagio explodes into a mesmerizing ballet of dancing water. Synchronized with tunes ranging from Sinatra’s crooning to Tiësto’s high-energy electronic dance music, more than 1,000 pressurized shooters send water geysering hundreds of feet into the air, while 4,792 lights illuminate the sight and nearly as many smartphones dutifully capture it.
Secret: Wetlands Nature Preserve
Vegas might sit in the middle of North America’s driest desert, but 20 minutes to the east an oasis appears. On 210 acres of willows, cottonwoods, and meandering waterways, the Wetlands Nature Preserve at the northern tip of 2,900-acre Clark County Wetlands Park boasts 20 crisscrossing miles of flat, lush trails. From the nature center at the main entrance, one path heads east to a gentle stream murmuring through cattails and bulrushes; another leads west to a small pond with banks begging for a picnic. The hiking here is scarcely more strenuous than a stroll through the Venetian, which leaves you with plenty of energy to look for beaver, fox, and coyote. Every drop flowing through the preserve is clean, reclaimed municipal wastewater, a touch of restoration in a city more famous for its consumption.
Star: The Strip
The Strip’s embrace of celebrity chefs turned a steak-and-potatoes town into a destination for big-name restaurateurs: Joël Robuchon, Gordon Ramsay, and so on. Perched right at the edge of the Bellagio fountains is Lago by Julian Serrano, an Italian restaurant from the two-time James Beard Award–winning chef. Sleek and colorful, with a mirror-tiled pizza oven for a centerpiece, the place is playfully futuristic, and its sprawling menu features small plates both traditional and contemporary. The boneless quail wrapped in prosciutto and the fusilli coated with lamb ragu are favorites, as is the small, chewy pizza topped with creamy buffalo ricotta and a layer of salty speck.