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Over the past few years, Vegas has had a construction boom with major resorts rising on the Strip from the south to the north. And whereas the early 2000s saw a short-lived (ill-advised) attempt to brand Vegas as family-friendly, now the focus is rightfully back on decadence and indulgence. Just about every property now has a special pool for topless (they call it "European-style") sunbathing.

Many resorts also have expanded their cocktail programs (the fancy word for this is now "mixology").

Some of these efforts have been more successful than others. The posh Encore Beach Club, at Encore, is an exemplary model of the "dayclub" in that it creates a nightclub vibe during the day. Developments at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas have had a similar impact; the property has three on-staff mixology gurus and a special kitchen where these cocktail whizzes whip up recipes all day long.

Other properties have established new benchmarks in amenities. When CityCenter opened in 2010, the $8.5-billion complex included Crystals, a new-era shopping mall with flagship stores of Prada, Tiffany & Co, and some of the spendiest boutiques in America. Also in 2010, the Palazzo launched "Prestige Suites," an optional $100 reservation upgrade that grants guests access to a concierge level including daily snack service, drink service, and a business center.

Despite competition from these up-and-comers, the established properties still pack 'em in. Bellagio's rooms still carry cachet, and The Mirage—the hotel that started the megaresort trend more than 20 years ago—continues to sell out. At Wynn Las Vegas and The Venetian, guests rave about everything from comfy beds to exquisite restaurants and great shopping. Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace might be one of the top spas in town. And for overall experience, the Four Seasons Las Vegas, which occupies top floors of the tower at Mandalay Bay, is still one of the best.

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