Purchase your tickets at St Mark's Square, then take a ride along canals that weave through replica Venetian architecture. The wooden boats are authentic and the singing gondoliers are tuneful. However, despite the number of newly married couples that take the ride, the backdrop of gawking tourists will dampen any hopes of a romantic moment.
For the most part, a pinball machine is just a pinball machine. To some folks, though, it's a kinetic monument to a simpler time when mindless entertainment didn't necessarily involve sex, hyper-violence or the pixelated undead, a perfectly designed blend of challenge, workmanship and skill. In Tim Arnold's world, it's all these things and more besides. How else to explain his Pinball Hall of Fame, a functioning museum of sorts where more than 100 operational pinball machines spanning seven decades are on show? The Pinball Hall of Fame is a true mecca in a city of replicated ones. Over the years, Arnold has assembled a vast array of machines from Gottlieb, Bally, Williams and other oddball manufacturers, from gear-and-magnet models to modern digital wonders. Descriptions of each machine's attributed and historic values have been attached to them, most handwritten on index cards. And then, best of all, Arnold invites all-comers to play his machines. All you need is quarters; and if you don't have them, he can change your bills into them. Arnold has recast some of these machines so visitors can best appreciate their inherent beauty. Take, for example, his painstaking public refurbishment of a 1978 Bally machine devoted to the band Kiss. Paying attention to the smallest detail (excepting, perhaps, an actual drop of Ace Frehley's blood in the back glass), Arnold is like an Italian restoration specialist working on the Sistine Chapel. But while both share a certain reverence in th
If you're afraid of heights, stay away from the 1,150ft (350m) Stratosphere Tower. And even if you don't suffer from vertigo, you might want to steer clear of the resort's thrill rides. The Big Shot will rocket you 160ft (49m) up the tower's spindle under a force of four Gs; at the top, you'll experience a moment of weightlessness before free-falling back to the launch pad. X Scream will propel you headfirst 27ft over the edge of the Tower and then leave you there to dangle. And during Insanity, an arm will extend 64ft (20m) over the edge of the tower and spin you around at a terrifying rate. Best save dinner for later.
Where to take the kids
The Nevada State Museum has permanent exhibits on the natural and anthropological history of the region, from ancient Paiute Indians to 19th-century pioneers, and the men and women of the Nellis Gunnery School in World War II. The standout exhibit tells the story of Bugsy Siegel's Flamingo, complete with interactive recordings of Bugsy (played by an actor) threatening business partners. There are plans to move the museum to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve in 2008; call ahead to check.
Marine mammals in the desert? Nothing's impossible in fabulous Las Vegas. Here, bottle-nosed dolphins frolic in a special habitat behind the Mirage. Adjacent to their home is the Secret Garden, a small but attractive zoo with Asian-themed architecture and some big-ticket animals: white tigers, white lions, Bengal tigers, an Indian elephant, a panther and a snow leopard.
Also known as Big Spring, this is where legendary Old West explorers Kit Carson and John Fremont parked their horses in the mid 1800s. Huge cottonwoods and natural scrub fill the area, surrounding an early 19th-century well house. The land has survived both fire and the threat of being paved over in the name of freeway expansion; it was restored as the Central Park of Las Vegas for the city's centennial in 2005 and opened to the public two years later as the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, a huge site given over to botanical gardens, nature trails and a number of museum exhibits. All in all, a very laudable endeavour.