Where to begin? This was my first time to Las Vegas. My central impression is that most of the depictions of Las Vegas in cinema and television are accurate. The only difference is that when you actually walk the strip you can't mute the sound or change the channel when the atomic bomb of sound and neon strikes you. It's completely outrageous, utterly overwhelming, and definitely worth-seeing once in your life.
It was a fun trip for observational purposes, but I can't imagine going to Las Vegas to "party" like most of the others there seemed bent on doing. The drunk and merry poured in and out of the casinos and restaurants, people of many ages, carrying cigarettes and oversized margarita tubes and $1 beers. At the slot machines sitting side by side were people dressed to kill and people looking like they'd just rolled out of bed. Whether it was 10 AM or PM, they were out there getting drunk and gambling.
I met my mother and older brother in Vegas; it was a family vacation. None of us gamble but for experimental purposes we did feed about 75 cents into a slot machine to try it out. We lost. We walked away.
Shows are abundant. There's the famous Las Vegas headliners... Don Rickles, Wayne Newton, Sigfried and Roy, David Copperfield, etc... then there are the musicians and comedians present on temporary gigs. Either way, their faces are all over the place. Via our hotel we got free coupons to attend a show by "mentalist" Gerry McCambridge. It was totally entertaining. He was very funny and foul-mouthed on stage and the tricks were curious.
Of course, there's the specter of prostitution everywhere as well. Sex working is illegal in Las Vegas (and its whole county), but legal elsewhere in Nevada. Still, it seems to be happening in the famous Sin City. On the streets you can pick up little trading-card sized hooker advertisements and there are Adult/Escort newsletters in boxes on every corner. Yes, I collected as many as possible.
There is a casino for every famous city and historical context. 1920s NY, medieval times, Hollywood, Paris, Nascar... every theme has been mined and interpreted in the form of gawdy interior design. This makes for good sight-seeing. You're free to walk in and out of whatever casino you want. It's strange... many of the sights were "beautiful", but due to their nature as imitations, due to their inherent falseness, I didn't feel moved by them. It was more of a freakshow. The one exception was the elegant and understated Belagio fountains show (remember the triumphant crooks relaxing in front of it in the end of "Ocean's 11"?).
ABOVE: We attended the famous "Fremont Street Experience", which is a gauntlet of shops set beneath an enormous digital screen "ceiling" that blocks out the sky. Musical tributes are played on the screen; we saw the tribute to Queen. It was pretty neat seeing humongous lightning bolts and visages of Freddie Mercury soar across 3 city blocks.
We took some day-trips beyond Las Vegas. Red Rock Canyon has a fine driving loop with many stopping points to enjoy the big rippled rock faces and gorges. We also went to the Hoover Dam.