Las Vegas, a big city stop on our US road trip, is the gambling mecca of the world. Balls bounce around the roulette wheels, poker faces remain unflinching and chips change hands 24 hours a day, every day. But what has Vegas got to offer if you’re just not into gambling? Actually, there’s a whole heap of fabulous things to keep you entertained in sin city. In no particular order, here are my top ten things to see and do in and around Las Vegas besides gambling.
Check out the Hotels on The Strip
Vegas is known for it’s ‘over the top’, larger than life, themed hotels. Take a walk up the strip and you’ll travel the world from Paris to New York and Venice to Egypt. Step inside to explore The Venetian themed shopping mall, art and designer shopping at The Wynn or the themed lobby inside The Bellagio. My favourite Vegas bar, The Bar at Times Square, is a duelling piano bar, in New York New York hotel in a Times Square themed area. The Strip is loud, colourful and brash and you could spend days in Vegas just checking out the hotels lining the way.
Visit Valley of Fire State Park
If you fancy a break from the city the Valley of Fire State Park is less than an hour’s drive away. Get out into the wilderness of the Mojave desert for the day and discover strange rock formations, ancient petroglyphs, wildlife and rainbow rock striations.
Vintage Vegas at the Neon Museum
The Neon Boneyard is one of my favourite vintage spots in Las Vegas. Leading up to the museum itself you’ll drive the scenic byway which displays some of original Vegas’ classic hotel and casino signs like the iconic Silver Slipper and the Hacienda Cowboy on his horse. Inside you can get up closer and hear about the history of the signs which tell of Vegas’ early beginnings and the hotels frequented by the Rat Pack and the Mob. Every sign in the museum has a story.
The Neon Boneyard tours sell out quickly but you can check times, availability and book tickets here.
Get a bird’s eye view from the Stratosphere
Check out the sky-high view of fabulous Las Vegas from 1149 feet above the city at the top of The Stratosphere. If that’s a bit tame then you could bungee jump from the 108th floor or scream your lungs out on one of the rides; Big Shot, X-Scream or, the appropriately named, Insanity.
See the Bellagio Fountains
Every evening the waters outside the Bellagio Hotel start to ripple and suddenly the fountains rise up, light up and dance to the music. It’s totally magical and if you’re passing you’ll be compelled to stop and stare as the jets of water dip and dive and sway to the music. The first time I saw the Bellagio fountains was on my first ever day in the city and it stopped me in my tracks. The music was Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas – spot on.
Take a Helicopter trip to the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon National Park is 280 miles from Las Vegas but there is a way to see it from the city in less than a day – and the journey is an experience in itself. A helicopter ride takes just 60 minutes to reach the canyon and you’ll get aerial views of Hoover Dam en route. Once near the canyon, you’ll see this spectacular landscape from above showing the massive scale of the fissure. The helicopter will land in the canyon where you can see multi-coloured striata stretching out into the distance and take in the views looking up from the base of the canyon. There are many helicopter tours available but Maverick is one that I’ve flown with in the past and had a fabulous time with.
Visit the Mob Museum
Las Vegas and the Mob go hand in hand and the Mob Museum, which is located near to Fremont Street and the Neon Boneyard, details the history of the city’s infamous gangsters in a fascinating, and sometimes gory, exhibition. Take your time, you’ll need at least two hours to fully appreciate the three floors of the museum and all it has to offer. You’ll learn how The Mob was created and how organized crime impactted on the city with archives of old photographs, anecdotes and news stories. You’ll sit in the Court Room where gangsters were tried and even the see the wall against which the St Valentine’s Day massacre took place. Entrance is $23.95 for adults but you can get a $4 discount if you book online in advance.
Take a Trip to Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam is just 30 miles from Las Vegas and takes around 45 minutes to drive there from Las Vegas. Constructed in the 1930s, the dam is a feat of engineering and straddles The Colorado River over the states of Nevada and Arizona. You can still drive over the dam which is a pretty cool thing to do but take the time to walk up to the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge to get a fabulous view of the dam from the bypass.
Directions to Hoover Dam from Las Vegas: Go southeast on Interstate 515 which will eventually turn into US Highway 93 which will then take you to the Hoover Dam. The Visitor Centre is open from 09:00am to 17:00 hours every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. There’s free parking on the Arizona side or your can pay $7 to park in the Nevada purpose built car park.
See also – Beyond Vegas – Visiting Hoover Dam
Find the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
Head to the uptown end of The Strip past Mandalay Bay hotel and in the central reservation you’ll find the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. Join the short queue and get your photo taken. There’s a guy who will do that for you so you can be in the shot together.
Visit the Fremont Street Experience
Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas is where some of the first hotels and casinos sprung up in the city. A massive LED lit canopy covers the entire street. The Viva Vision video screen is 1,500 feet long, 90 feet wide and sits 90 feet above Fremont Street. Every evening from around 6pm or 8pm, depending on the season, you’ll witness an hourly state-of-the-art light show made up of 12.5 million LED lamps which lasts for around 6 minutes. If you fancy something more you can also take a horizontal zip-wire the length of the street under the roof – see if you can spot the zip-liners in the video clip below.
There are some seriously freaky people who pose for tips along Fremont Street. Most of them are not wearing very much – which in 99% of cases really isn’t pretty…
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So, those are my top tips for what to do in Las Vegas if you’re not that into gambling. Do you have any to add? Let us know in the comments below so we can all check them out.