What to See and Do on Your Next Las Vegas Trip (Besides Gamble)
They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but unfortunately, gambling away your personal fortune is an exception – that sh*t definitely follows you home. Here, 8 Las Vegas trip experiences that capture the spirit of Sin City without sending you into crippling debt.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
Be a Tourist
If it’s your first trip to Las Vegas, we’ll give you the go ahead on a couple of must-see (read: cliched) attractions, and even look the other way while you snap a quick shot in front of the welcome sign. Post-pic, head for the Fremont St. Experience, downtown Vegas’ 5-block entertainment hot spot. Packed into the historic quarter/pedestrian mall is: Viva Vision – a 1,500-foot-long screen that functions as a ceiling and plays 6-minute light shows; the SlotZilla Zip Line – a 12-story aerial attraction that shoots you out of a slot machine-like building and across Fremont Street; and three stages that host live music events nightly. Alternatively, you can rise above the hubbub of the strip at the Eiffel Tower Experience at Paris Las Vegas. A 460 foot glass elevator ride up the miniature French replica and you’ve got yourself 360 degree, LED-heavy views.
Eat a Great Meal
Sin City is no stranger to celebrity chefs or splurge-worthy plates. At the SLS Las Vegas, Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning chef José Andrés indulges meat eaters in a swanky Philippe Starck-designed dining room. On Bazaar Meat’s menu, you’ll find carnivorous raw bar and fire pit-cooked options like Chateaubriand, suckling pig, Wagyu tenderloin, and a daily selection of fresh oysters. If you’re not a steak fanatic, the three Michelin-starred L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, at the MGM Grand, presents a more well-rounded, four-course tasting menu with options like foie gras and black truffle carpaccio, langoustine ravioli, and sea urchin with fennel puree and citrus jus.
Hit a Museum or Exhibit
Beyond the blinking neon lights, fountain shows, and timed volcanic eruptions of the Strip, Vegas has some pretty sweet (albeit still kitschy) museums – who knew! At the Neon Museum, guided tours of the two-acre “Boneyard” bring guests on a safari through more than 200 of Las Vegas’s most iconic retired signs. For something a little more serious, exhibits at the National Atomic Testing Museum cover the history of the Nevada Test Site – a 1,360-square-mile plot that served as the hub of the US Department of Energy’s nuclear experimentation in the 50s (and still operates from time to time today). A walk through the museum reveals the science behind nuclear reactors and atomic weapons (as well as some actual artifacts), and a Ground Zero Theater that simulates bomb blasts.
Drive just 20 minutes west of LV and you’ll land yourself in Red Rock Canyon. The conservation area’s collection of Aztec sandstone peaks offer plenty of hiking trails as well as a 13-mile scenic loop for those interested in observing from their AC-pumped set of wheels. Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic when it comes to UFO conspiracies, Area 51 tours are also worth the day trip. While you can easily arrange tours to the border of the highly classified US Air Force facility, do-it-yourself road trips are also a viable option – just take to Extraterrestrial Highway (the official name for Highway 375) and be sure to make stops at the Alien Research Center and the “Black Mailbox.” You can also follow the masses to the Nevada-Arizona border for a tour of the Hoover Dam; the behind the scenes look at the Black Canyon power plant reveals Depression-era design and machinery that still produces hydroelectric power, regulates the Colorado River, and supplies water to millions of people.
Go (Window) Shopping
Rather than losing big at the tables or slots and getting nothing but tiny complimentary drinks in return, why not take yourself on a shopping spree that’ll pay out in a new wardrobe? Between the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, and The Boulevard, you’ll find affordable brands like BCBG Max Azaria, Desigual, and Chinese Laundry, as well as high-end labels like Balenciaga, Tiffany & Co., and Henri Bendel. Fans of vintage will want to check out Retro Vegas, and Swag Antiques for old-school records, cameras and other one-of-a-kind finds.
Enjoy Some Thrills
Since winning buckets of cash isn’t in the cards for most Las Vegas patrons, it’s good to have some surefire thrills in your back pocket. At Dig This, adrenaline rushes come courtesy of unbridled access to a heavy equipment playground. After a requisite safety orientation, you’ll get behind the controls of bulldozers and excavators and try your hand at a series of exercises including Bucket Basketball (hint: the "ball" is a 2,000-pound tire). For more conventional heart-in-your-throat rides, The Stratosphere offers a number of free falling, spinning, “G-force” approaching attractions including the SkyJump, Big Shot, Insanity, and X-Scream.
Hit a Bar with a Breathtaking View
Sipping a sunset cocktail high over the strip is an absolute Las Vegas requirement. On the south end of the resort-heavy stretch, at the Delano’s Skyfall Lounge (cue the Adele!), artisan drinks – from the same people behind NYC’s beloved Death & Co. – mingle with 180 degree views and house beats some 64 floors up. While the multi-floor OMNIA at Caesars Palace may be better known for its high profile DJs, bumpin’ club scene, and bottle service, an atmospheric outdoor terrace offers more breathing room so no stray elbows send your drink flying.
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Catch a Mesmerizing Show
If gambling is out of the picture and you’re not catching a show, then certainly you’re doing yourself a disservice. Cirque du Soleil unveiled its first permanent show in Las Vegas in the early 90s and the company has been pumping out surrealist acrobatic performances ever since. Currently, you can catch ‘O,’ an aquatic-themed romance full of synchronized swimmers, divers, and circus performers at the Bellagio. Over at the Wynn, another water-themed production, Le Rêve, invites guests to seats at theater-in-the-round-style stage; the dreamy show includes underwater tango numbers, ethereal ballet, and a daring fire dance denouement.
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