Yes, the Las Vegas Strip is a scenic byway. I was surprised to learn this, too, as nearly every officially designated scenic road features natural attractions. And there’s nothing natural about The Strip, except the occasional palm tree. But those aren’t native to Las Vegas either! And yet, the scenic byway honor makes perfect sense. The Strip is one of the most recognizable roads on earth. But it became world-famous fairly recently. Las Vegas itself is young, founded in 1905. Gambling, casinos and the city’s renowned entertainment scene began in downtown. In 1966, the billionaire Howard Hughes started purchasing Las Vegas hotels. As the Mob’s influence dissipated and Hughes’ buying spree intensified, the transformation was on. The Strip actually lies outside the Las Vegas city limits and was originally known for properties like Dunes, Sands, Stardust and Riviera. While those hotels are long gone, other grande dames such as Caesars Palace, Tropicana and Flamingo remain. In the 1980s, the megaresort revolution started, leading to the opening of some of the world’s largest hotels including Mirage, Excalibur, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and Venetian. Like the slowly evolving landscape of California’s Pacific Coast Highway or Colorado’s San Juan Skyway, The Strip is ever-changing, albeit at a much faster pace. That said, don’t expect to move quickly. Constant construction and slow stoplights keep traffic crawling most times.
Best Time to Visit
Generally, weeknights are best, usually right after sunset. I’ve tried driving in the middle of the night but by then, some lights are off and Bellagio’s fountain show is dark. And forget Friday or Saturday! That said, driving The Strip (especially in a convertible) is an unforgettable and quintessential American experience. And heavy traffic and long red lights mean plenty of time to gawk and inhale the unnatural brilliance. And exhaust.
Route & Map
The Strip officially runs from Mandalay Bay at the south end to Sahara Avenue at the north. But The STRAT is frequently included, even though it lies inside the city limits. But it’s hard not to include. Formerly The Stratosphere, the hotel and casino features the highest structure in Las Vegas and the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States.
4½ miles, one-way
Depending on where you’re staying, plan on at least two hours. It usually takes at least an hour to drive The Strip in one direction.
Start with Visit Las Vegas, the city’s official tourism website. Of course, every hotel operates a site, too.