Fun and fantasy collide on the South Strip. Close to the airport, the resorts and attractions at this end of Las Vegas Boulevard go from Mandalay Bay (and the Delano Las Vegas) all the way to Park MGM, and include the sprawling MGM Grand Resort. Whether it’s a man-made beach lagoon, a glass pyramid, a medieval castle, or an Oz-like complex, imagination in these parts most certainly runs wild.
A first-time tour should start at the iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign, just west of the runways at McCarran International Airport. From there, swing through the shark habitat at Mandalay Bay, check out the "Sphinx" in front of Luxor, and view the circa-1950 stained-glass skylights inside the renovated Tropicana.
The kitschy jousting in the Tournament of Kings at Excalibur is topped only by the gravity-defying loops of the roller coaster at New York–New York. Park MGM, the South Strip's newest resort, has an Eataly Italian market and restaurants galore. Then, of course, there’s the MGM Grand—one of the largest hotels in the world—that now has Topgolf, one of the swankiest driving ranges from which you'll ever swing.
Dig deeper and you start to appreciate the details of the South Strip resorts. The palm-frond fans inside Mandalay Bay. The apartment-style rooms at NoMad Las Vegas. Even New Yorkers say the West Village–inspired food court at New York–New York feels like home. And the giant bronze lion in front of MGM Grand is a throwback to the hotel’s affiliation with the movie company, but it's also a veiled reference to the Wizard of Oz, which inspired the building's green hue.
Noncasino destinations are worth visiting, too. The multicolor rock towers of Seven Magic Mountains inspire rumination. Hershey's Chocolate World satisfies chocolate desires of every age. Town Square, an open-air mall, is a great place to spend the day to escape the casino vibe and spend a day shopping. Then there's The Park, with an arena that's home to Sin City's first professional sports franchise, the NHL's Golden Knights. Compared with the rest of the Strip, which is more modern and, at times, stuffy, the South Strip is whimsical and just plain neat.
The area that loosely stretches from the McCarran Rental Car facility south of 215 to Southern Highlands is a mix of stand-alone hotels (such as the Silverton and the South Pointe), big-box stores, time-share resorts, and residential neighborhoods. It’s also the first stretch of metropolitan Las Vegas that road-trippers from Los Angeles encounter on their approach. Without traffic, travel time from these parts to the South Strip is about 15 to 20 minutes. During rush hour, however, you might be better off dealing with traffic lights on Las Vegas Boulevard.