6 THINGS YOU MUST DO IN... to Fabulous LAS VEGAS NEVADA; THIS Supercharged City in the Desert Is All Outrageous High Life, 24-Hour Play, Bright Lights, Shows and Spectacle, with Just a Little Gambling. and in 2009, the Entertainment Capital of the World Is More Affordable, with Even the Best Hotels Cutting Their Prices. GARETH HUW DAVIES Compiles a Big List of Things to Do in and around Sin City

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SPANISH traders gave the name Las Vegas (The Meadows) to a bright patch of green land fed by springs, three miles from today's city. The precious waters dried up in 1962 but now the city's newest attraction is Springs Preserve, a big complex of gardens, trails, nature areas and displays telling the story of the area. It opened in 2007 and is the antidote to the town's glitz and glitter, 'a 100 per cent non-gaming attraction'. Solar panels power much of the complex. There are buildings made from straw bales, carpet tiles from plastic bottles and furnishings out of sunflower-seed husks. The Springs Cafe promises a 'responsible, sustainable, culinary experience'. www.springspreserve.org.


THE Hoover Dam, 35 miles from Vegas, the engineering and architectural wonder of the Thirties, was more than just a Great Depression job-creation scheme. The tremendous curved wall, 660ft thick at the base, 45ft at the top and the height of a 60-storey skyscraper, tamed the mighty Colorado River. The water retained in Lake Mead irrigated the desert and produced CO2-free hydroelectricity in the land of Big Oil. Look for elegant Art Deco touches, and a colossal bronze sculpture of a highscaler who worked on the dam. Go early and see Lake Mead and Boulder City on your return. Then take in the Valley of Fire State Park. (You can't yet hire an electric car to get there, although soon this area will glitter with solar panels, part of President Obama's green drive.)


THIS is a good year to visit Vegas. There's a vast choice of hotels (most come with a casino) and, with a slump in visitors, many are willing to do deals, including the most palatial places on Las Vegas Strip. Ring them direct or check prices on their websites - midweek is cheaper. I found a room for two in THEhotel, one of the top stays in town, from [pounds sterling]100 a night in August. The Venetian and Bellagio were in the same range. Prices are even cheaper off The Strip. For example El Cortez, starting at [pounds sterling]20. If, like me, you worry about the strain Sin City puts on the planet, try the new Palazzo Las Vegas (from [pounds sterling]87 in August), which opened in 2008 as one of America's greenest hotels. …