01/21/2005 12:00AM

Face it, we're America's hottest town


A lot of Americans have never visited Las Vegas. Yet. But if you watch television or see a movie, you can't avoid seeing something about this city, and why it's the hottest vacation destination in the world.

For the third straight year, the Carlson Wagonlit Travel Trends Survey calls Las Vegas number one among all domestic U.S. destinations. Orlando, Fla., was a distant second.

The amount of TV shows and movies originating from here is mushrooming. The Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship was filmed this week for an hour show to air on ESPN on Feb. 20.

ESPN shows reruns of the World Series of Poker from the Horseshoe that outdraws many live college basketball games. And if you've watched ESPN the last two months, you could not have missed a commercial for "Tilt," a poker-themed drama series based in Las Vegas.

The Travel Channel must have a film crew that works here year round. Every week it airs something about Las Vegas. For example, this week it will show: Las Vegas Engineering Marvels; Great Hotels - The Venetian; Great Hotels - Mandalay Bay; and Ways to Spend a Million in Vegas!

Reality shows have taken Las Vegas to heart, too.

Reality shows that focus on a day in a Las Vegas casino are: American Casino on the Discovery Channel, Green Valley Ranch; Caesars 24/7 on A&E, Caesars Palace; and The Casino on Fox, Golden Nugget.

Other reality shows have reached out to Las Vegas residents to be contestants: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search on NBC, Alicia Hall; The Apprentice on NBC, Chris (last names not given on the program); Extreme Makeover on ABC, Aimee Baum; Extreme Makeover-Home Edition, renovated a home in North Las Vegas; Survivor-Palau on NBC, Janu Tornell; How Clean is Your House on The Learning Channel, Ben Norton.

More new Las Vegas-themed shows are coming.

The Entertainer on E! will show Wayne Newton on a search to find the "next Las Vegas Superstar." Clean Sweep on The Learning Channel will focus on seven Las Vegas-area homes. Inked, on A&E, will be based at Hart & Huntington Tattoo Co. at the Palms. The Ultimate Fighter, on Spike, will be televised from the UFC Center.

And if you rent one of these movies on DVD you'll see lot more of Las Vegas than you ever dreamed of: Honeymoon in Vegas, Ocean's Eleven. Ocean's Twelve, What Planet Are You From?, Diamonds Are Forever, California Split, Con Air, City Slickers - The Legend of Curly's Gold.

Also: The Electric Horseman, Fools Rush In, Get Shorty, Rain Man, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, I Love Trouble, Miss Congeniality 2, Swingers, Looney Tunes - Back in Action, America's Sweethearts, Indecent Proposal, Mars Attacks!, Showgirls, Casino, My Giant, Play it to the Bone, Vegas Vacation, Dance With Me, and 3000 Miles to Graceland.

There's probable some movies that I've missed. Just send me an e-mail and I'll add them to this growing list.

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap Up radio show.