Las Vegas, a major highlight 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 is there to do in Vegas besides gambling? Hella a lot actually…
Las Vegas strip at night
I’ve been to Las Vegas more times than I can count now and I absolutely love this city. Madder than a bucket of spiders I find 3 days is about as much as I can handle before burn out hits.
I love watching people play at the tables and I’ll have a go at roulette and the machines on the bars. I set myself a budget and enjoy those ‘free’ drinks but actually I’m not that good at gambling so the tables and the slots bore me fairly quickly. And to be fair, I work hard for my money and I’m not inclined to just throw it away…
But there are so many other things to do in Vegas besides gamble and you’ll find there’s more than enough to keep you entertained without playing the tables.
So what is there to do in Vegas if you’re not into 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.
New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas
Visit Valley of Fire State Park
If you fancy a break from the city 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.
We went with Pink Jeep tours who picked us up from our hotel, the MGM Grand, in a cool vehicle called a tour trekker. We drove out to the state park to see Rainbow Vista, Atlatl Rock, and Fire Canyon. Our guide explained about the petrified sand dunes which were sculpted into unusual shapes and contours by wind, water, and time.
Valley of Fire State Park
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 the museum grounds 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.
Neon Signs at the Neon Boneyard
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 floor 108 or scream your lungs out on one of the rides; Big Shot, X-Scream or, the appropriately named, Insanity.
The Statosphere, Las Vegas
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.
The Belagio Hotel, Las Vegas
Take a 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 Grand 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 different helicopter tours from Vegas to the Grand Canyon. We had a fabulous time on our 4-hour Maverick tour when we visited the Grand Canyon West Rim. We loved it.
Check rates and availability for helicopter tours to the Grand Canyon
A bus tour to the Grand Canyon is a good option if you have more time or you’re not keen on flying. The bus tours also make a stop off at the Hoover Dam so you get two for the price of one.
Check rates and availability for Grand Canyon West Rim
The Grand Canyon from a helicopter
Visit the Mob Museum
Las Vegas and the Mob go hand in hand and the Mob Museum tells the history of the city’s infamous gangsters in a fascinating, and sometimes gory, exhibition. The museum is located near to Fremont Street and the Neon Boneyard. 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. A visit to the Mob Museum should definitely be on your Vegas hit list.
The Mob Museum, Las Vegas – Check rates and availability
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.
Take a guided tour to Hoover Dam
If you don’t have a car then think about take a guided tour to Hoover Dam. You’ll get to walk inside the Dam’s passageways and learn about the construction and maintenance of the Dam from the official Government guides. You’ll also take in views Lake Mead, the world’s largest man-made lake.
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 queue and get your photo taken. There’s a guy who will do that for you so you can be in the shot together and it doesn’t cost a cent.
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 the mesmerising show 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. Can 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…
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.
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To check out my self-guided walking tour of Las Vegas click here
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