Las Vegas is the ultimate shape-shifter, evolving, reinventing and redefining itself, making each visit a sensory showstopper

The Las Vegas Strip Gastronomy is a headliner this month, in the form of some high-profile food fests. The fourth annual Food & Wine All-Star Weekend runs at the MGM Resorts from 4 to 6 October, as does the LuckyRice Asian Culinary Festival, held at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Grazing on small bites may be the best way to taste what’s new in Las Vegas. Casual is the new haute concept, as acclaimed chefs launch Mini Me eateries, serving up comfort food with a dash of whimsy. They include Rx Boiler Room, in the Mandalay Bay hotel, the brainchild of Top Chef Masters finalist Rick Moonen. The setting is steampunk and selections such as the Bacon Wrapped Bacon-n-Egg are not for the cholesterol-wary.

The desert surrounding the city Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas’s CityCenter neighbour, the Aria, is home to another new dining draw. From culinary rising star Shawn McClain, Five50 Pizza Bar serves up bubbling hot (the name refers to the 550-degree ovens) gourmet pizza slices topped, for instance, with Grana Padano cheese and truffles. Marinated octopus crostini, wood-fired clams, craft beers and a meat and cheese bar belie its casual ambiance.

At Pub 1842, at MGM Grand, the theme is beer. Some 40 handcrafted varieties are available tableside, dispensed from personal taps. This is also renowned San Francisco-based chef Michael Mina’s foray into casual dining. His Peanut Butter Crunch Burger (perhaps an ode to Elvis?) is laden with bacon jam, pimento cheese, potato chips and peanut butter.

Cirque du Soleil performing Michael Jackson One

Entertainment, like all else in Vegas, can be elegant and staid or simply outlandish. Such is the case at the ultra-club, Light, at Mandalay Bay. In conjunction with Cirque du Soleil, it’s a sensory onslaught of special effects, famous DJs, mega video screens and pop-up performances by Cirque acrobats. If you prefer a (relatively) more traditional Cirque du Soleil performance, there are eight shows in residence up and down the Strip. The newest is Michael Jackson One by Cirque du Soleil.

Away from the Strip in downtown Las Vegas, one of the city’s most talked-about attractions, SlotZilla – a 120-foot-tall slot machine at one end of the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall – opens this autumn. Here, brave souls can launch on ziplines as far as 1,700 feet. The slot machine arm will come down each time a rider takes off.

The Mandarin Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas

And this being October, the whole month bears the mantle of All Hallows’ Eve. You’ll find Halloween drinks, parties, parades and costume fairs. Or get into the spirit of it at the Goretorium, a state-of-the-art ‘haunted hotel’ attraction that is the brainchild of horror film director Eli Roth. But don’t fear, the enticing tranquillity of Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas is nearby. Head to the Mandarin Bar for an indulgent, signature gold-leaf-trimmed cocktail, or dine in style at the Forbes Five Star Twist by Pierre Gagnaire. Both venues share the 23rd floor, with glittering, million-dollar views.

Ana Figueroa is tourism editor for about.com

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