Las Vegas, bless its little neon heart, typifies all kinds of American ideas -- excess consumerism comes to mind immediately. But the real story of this city is real estate, and its attendant pursuit of progress and fierce competition, often at the expense of what many are now calling "vintage Vegas." Thanks to the flatness of its landscape -- it's nestled in a valley -- vertical growth (and its opposite, razing), seem more visibly pronounced, open to conversation and debate.

A recent trip provided evidence that the city is indeed constantly renovating, reinventing and redefining itself: In January, the MGM Mirage-owned Boardwalk Hotel & Casino, as one cabby put it, was "imploded," and the legendary Stardust is slated for demolition in 2007. The Boardwalk site is now cordoned off by a chain-link construction fence; Project CityCenter, a complex with 4,000 room hotel-casino, shopping mall and condominiums, will take its place in a couple of years. Stunning and ornate, The Venetian will soon be joined by The Palazzo in 2007, an adjacent resort with about 3,025 suites; a second construction phase will yield even more shops and restaurants. And ground was broken recently for the Club Renaissance Vertical Country Club -- a 61-floor condo project downtown that is the tallest proposed residential, high-rise condo in the entire state. At the other end of the spectrum, Hooters just opened a hotel and casino on the strip.

And if the hard, cold facts weren't enough, here's some anecdotal evidence: At least three times a day someone approached my husband and me with free money, free dinner or free tickets to a show in hopes of snaring us as a potential timesharing couple.

Real estate business aside, Vegas has moved beyond the storied and mostly good buffets, as upscale, multi-starred restaurants continue to sprout; a new outpost of the New York hotspot Tao, with its inventive Asian fusion cuisine, lounge and nightclub, opened in September. I suppose we were lucky to get seated without reservations, but on a Monday night, our promised 20-minute wait turned into an hour. (Note: However de rigueur this practice is, underselling the wait is obnoxious.) Thankfully, the service proved itself quick, friendly and responsive, and the food was nothing short of stellar. We ate two seriously good meals at Thomas Keller's Bouchon; one of them involved pomme frites with breakfast. In short, it's entirely possible to have a relatively tame vacation in this city -- shopping, walking, eating, drinking, and people-watching -- without even engaging in activities that are addictive, or even vaguely sinful. But why would you?

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority runs the city's official tourism site (tel. 877/847-4858; an excellent resource. Their current list of special offers -- too dizzying in number to completely detail here -- is searchable by location, date and keywords. You can also contact them for a free visitor's guide. A search for specials from late March until June 30 revealed deals at Bally's, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Treasure Island and the Venetian, among others.

ATA Airlines (tel. 800/435-9282; has just announced a "Soaring Savings Sale" good for flights to major cities around the U.S. The fare from New York-LaGuardia to Las Vegas is especially low priced from $99 one-way. Fares are valid for off-peak travel through June 30, must be purchased by April 3, and some blackout dates apply. (tel. 800/219-4606; is offering a spring hotel promotion and called "Spring Getaways," and Las Vegas is part of it. Lowest advertised rates at press time include family-friendly Circus Circus from $32, historic (by Vegas standards) Flamingo from $45 and Luxor Hotel and Casino from $55. At mid-range, Paris Las Vegas is advertised from $99, New York New York Hotel & Casino from $100 and elegant Bellagio from $199. If you want to stay off the strip, the boutique operation Red Rock Resort and Spa, located about 12 miles away, is advertised from $259, but it's not open until mid-April.

Travel Zoo ( is also running a series of lodging specials for Las Vegas that are available until they sell out -- and that can happen pretty quickly. Right now, rooms at the newly remodeled Bally's during select dates into June are available $79¿$99. You can also stay at the Tropicana, also on the Strip, from $44 -- the rate is usually over $100. This offer includes two-for-one show tickets and is good on select dates through June but you must book by March 31.

Travelocity (tel. 888/872-8356; is offering a special called "Fly Domestic and Save" with round-trip flights priced from $103. Tickets must be purchased at least 21 days in advance for travel valid through August 3 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays only. While booking you also have the option to bundle your flight with three nights of accommodations. Sample fares to Vegas include Burbank from $103; Albuquerque from $223; Providence from $163; and Washington, D.C. from $243. There are some blackout dates, and the prices they've culled represent travel in early June.

United (tel. 800/864-8331; is running a spring fare sale, and a number of destinations including Las Vegas are included. Sample fares include Denver-Las Vegas, priced at $59 one-way and Los Angeles-Vegas from $49 one way; rates are based on round-trip fares. You must complete your travel by June 6 and a 21-day advance purchase is required. Some blackout dates may apply.

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