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The Best of The Best

The Best of The Best

LAS VEGAS — From modest origins as a railroad hub, Las Vegas has turned into the world’s most over-the-top tourist destination — a place where anything goes and anything can happen. 

A century after its founding, it has become the No. 1 tourist city in the country, home to the world’s most elaborate hotels, most outlandish entertainment and a legendary bar, nightclub and casino scene.

There are things in Sin City that are unimaginable anywhere else. Where else would you find pirate ships battling in public on a nightly basis? Or wedding chapels open 24 hours a day?? Looking for quintessential Vegas? To celebrate the city’s 100th anniversary, USA TODAY’s Gene Sloan offers a guide to eight icons of the Las Vegas tourism experience — and the ultimate place to find each one.

Read his choices below or explore them in our Interactive graphic.

The Elvis impersonator
Our pick: Matt Lewis of Legends in Concert

Even those who play Elvis in Las Vegas find it hard to explain why they’re in such demand.

“It’s a strange phenomenon,” admits Matt Lewis, kicking back between shows at the Imperial Palace casino on the Strip. “I know I’m not Elvis. They know I’m not Elvis. But it’s somehow fun when everyone plays along.”

More than 25 years after his death, Elvis remains a common sight on and off the Strip, from the Stardust lounge to the Barbary Coast. But few impersonators have him down like the 32-year-old native of Kansas City, Mo., who brings down the house at the Imperial’s Legends in Concert production (tickets, $39.95-$59.95).

Lewis started doing Elvis at parties at 16 and dropped out of college a decade ago to pursue his passion full time. Now, when he comes on stage at the 800-seat Imperial Theatre, writhing his hips and quivering his lips to Viva Las Vegas, the crowd goes wild. Says Francis Murillo, 53, of Hacienda Heights, Calif., one of the showgoers who mob Lewis afterward for autographs: “I saw the real Elvis years ago; he’s just as good.”