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How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Las Vegas

Las Vegas is the ultimate destination for experiencing the thrills of high-stakes gambling in the world's most glamorous casinos.

But if you don't find the idea of risking your hard-earned cash on the casino floor very enticing, not to worry!

In a city like Vegas, there are plenty of outrageous activities available to help you make the most of your vacation, gambler or not.

If you're not a gambler, even better. You can save your money and spend it on the luxurious restaurants, clubs, spas and shopping that this decadent city is ripe with. And you just might spot Paris Hilton or Carmen Electra while you're at it.

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Dining

While Vegas is well-known for its cheap and abundant buffets, fine dining has made inroads in recent years as Sin City capitalizes on its new image as a family destination.

Celebrity chefs from Wolfgang Puck to Thomas Keller sport their own restaurants within the strip's hottest hotels.

Emeril's DelMonico Steakhouse in the Venetian Hotel combines impeccable service with mouthwatering cuts of meat. The barbeque shrimp shouldn't be missed, either.

Always willing to please, Las Vegas also boasts re-creations of famed local eateries from across the country. One such attraction is Pink's Hot Dogs, a famous L.A. hotspot that frequently attracts hour-long lines for tasty dogs named after their celebrity fans.

The Vegas branch has recently been added to the Aladdin Hotel, so celeb fans can have their Pink's fix while on vacation.

Another famous L.A. spot, Canter's Deli, has made its way to Vegas, serving up famous New York cheesecake and Jewish rye inside the Treasure Island Hotel.

One other notable mention … the hotels on Fremont Street in downtown Vegas offer fried Twinkies and Oreos. It's a taste experience everyone should indulge in.

Nightlife

One of the hottest clubs of the moment in Vegas is Tao, an Asian-inspired restaurant/four-level nightclub in the upstairs of the super-luxurious Venetian Hotel.

The original Tao is in downtown Manhattan, and the Vegas branch is much more decadent, catering to the city in which it resides.

Bathtubs filled with rose petals (and beautiful girls bathing in them) greet visitors as they enter the club and rows of Buddha statues line the ceilings above the various bars.

At more than 42,000 square feet, Tao is one of the biggest clubs in the world, and it's also known for the celebs that party on its dance floors.

Nicky and Paris Hilton, Usher, Wilmer Valderrama, Jermaine Dupri and Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey … just about every star you can think of has been spotted here.

While the music and crowds may be a little intense for some, it's the most dazzling place in Vegas for stargazing.

Another key nightlife spot is Peter Morton's Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Although it's not located directly on the strip, the Hard Rock has held the reputation as the hippest destination in Vegas since it opened. It's got a hot young crowd, and you'll always find lots of spring-break type partiers living it up there along with the biggest celebrities.

Body English, the rock-inspired nightclub inside the Hard Rock Casino, has seen the likes of celebrity guests like Anna Nicole Smith, Snoop Dogg, Carmen Electra, Courtney Love and Pamela Anderson.

But it's the outdoor pool area that's most likely to sizzle. The pools are surrounded by sand, palm trees and mini-islands, making it an awesome place to relax and be seen in the sweltering 100 degree-plus summertime Vegas temps.

The pool area even offers a swim-up blackjack table, so you can take your gambling habit into the water with you.

Even if you're staying elsewhere, the Hard Rock is one of the key hotspots to hit for a drink or a night out while in town.

Shopping

Elizabeth Berkley may have mispronounced Versace in the Vegas-based movie, "Showgirls," but Sin City has Donatella and then some. The stunning shopping malls are among the best spots to sightsee.

Three that stand out as especially impressive are the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, the Forum Shops at Caesars and the newest installment, the Wynn Esplanade.

The Grand Canal Shoppes are designed to mirror the Venice canal, complete with gondoliers in striped shirts paddling and singing along the water. The ceilings are blue with white clouds, and walking along the cobblestone canal feels very close to a sunny day in Venice, including street performers and gelato stands.

The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is a re-creation of ancient Rome, accented with columns, arches, fountains and most famous of all, a ceiling that changes slowly from daytime blue to starry night and back again.

All the hottest designer shops are at your service, but half the fun is enjoying the sights and watching the super rich spend like there's no tomorrow.

Lastly, the Wynn is a gorgeous new casino built by Vegas mogul Steve Wynn. The Esplanade shops include Jean Paul Gaultier, Manolo Blahnik and, most notably, a Ferrari/Maserati store that charges $10 admission simply to enter and browse!

Rumors have it that the big winners in the casino are known to pay cash and drive straight off the showroom floor in the super posh sports cars.

Vegas On the Cheap

When it comes to free entertainment, worth mentioning are two of the strip's coolest shows that every out-of-towner should check out.

The Bellagio Hotel and Casino sports famous dancing water fountains, which are a nighttime sight not to be forgotten. You can't miss the music, lights and water shooting straight into the Vegas sky.

And at Treasure Island, one of the hipper-themed hotels on the strip, an outdoor show called "The Sirens of Ti" is complete with scantily clad pirates and sirens showcasing their hard bodies and action/adventure skills.

As the saying goes, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." There are countless ways to create an unforgettable experience in this incredible city, which you may or may not choose to keep to yourself …

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