“Vegas baby!” is usually the first thing that goes through my head every time my plane touches down when going to Las Vegas. I have now been to Sin City three times and enjoy it more with every visit. The first time it felt like I had stepped into this other world; as it is a constant barrage to the senses. This is one place that it is hard to get bored. Of course there is the obvious casinos, gambling and clubbing experience. However if the party lifestyle is not your scene, there is still plenty to do. If you are into shopping, there is pretty much any store you can think of available; from the everyday stores to your high end name brands. For entertainment there are numerous shows ranging from acrobats, famous singers, magic, comedy, dancing, and the list goes on. You can find any type of cuisine to eat, and any chef you have ever heard of from a reality cooking show has a restaurant there. There are multiple spas for relaxing, museums to tour, and the whole area has a fascinating history. If you love nature, you don’t have to go far from the city to find some parks work hiking.
In short, if you crossed Vegas off your list because you thought it was all party, your missing out. If your reason for visiting Sin City is to get complete wasted and gamble all your money; then some morning (or more likely afternoon) take a cold shower and grab a big cup of coffee. There is more to the city that you don't want to miss. Here are a few of my favorite things to do:
The Neon Museum
Sometimes called the Neon Boneyard, this location you may have seen in a movie or two. It is where numerous neon signs go to retire once their casino is torn down. The tour itself is really fun and informative as well. Walking through the boneyard, learn the history and development of the area, as the signs guide you through a chronological past. Even though there are quite a few of the signs that don’t light up anymore, it's still a better trip to make when it's dark. The museum has lights shining on the signs, plus it's not as hot at night (remember you in a dessert). This place is extremely popular and does tend to sell out, so book your tickets and time slot in advance.
Looking for something free to do? Check out the various casino’s themselves. I”m not talking about gambling either. Just walking through many of them and marvel at their vastness and decor. Browse their stores, or see what delectable treats they have to offer at one of their restaurants or cafes. The top three I recommend to check out are:
1. The Venetian and Palazzo: Though I’ve never been to Venice, I like to pretend that is where I am when I visit. The canal weaves through cute stores as you listen to the gondola driver serenade his passengers in Italian. Grab a gelato and pose for a picture with the street performer. The facades of the stores have a European feel to them, the ceilings are painted like the sky, and you feel as if your strolling through a mini city.
2. Caesars Palace: There are some beautiful fountains and statues after Greek Gods worth checking out. If you are around at the top of the hour, don’t miss the free Atlantis story show in the shopping area.
3. The Bellagio: This resort offers a lot of free things to see. There is the famous glass ceiling sculpture by Dale Chihuly. Right off the lobby is a conservatory/garden area that is always decked with lavish flowers and based on the season. Finally step outside and watch the famous water fountains. Set to music, they do a great job programming the water to move with the tunes. I never get tired of watching it and usually catch a few shows while in town. I have yet to hear the same song twice.
Note: The strip can be deceiving and things are not always as close as they appear. We found the best way to bounce around is to park at once casino and then visit a few in that block. Then drive to another casino when done. However, since our last visit, more casinos are charging to park. Take that into consideration and plan ahead.
This iconic landmark is worth the 45 minute drive out of the city. I had seen picture but couldn’t fathom how massive it is until seeing it in person. There are two tour options; a Power Plant tour and a Hoover Dam Tour. The Dam tour (and be warned they make a lot of dam jokes) includes the power plant tour but is extended. It is more detailed and you get to go into the tunnels and innerworkings more. That is the dam tour we took (sorry couldn’t resist). This tour is not for those claustrophobic. Enclosed spaces never bother me, but even I started to feel uneasy by the end. There is no heating or cooling inside either. We went in December so it wasn’t bad, but the tour guide said she had people pass out in the summertime from the heat. The place gets crowded as the day progresses, and if you want the Dam Tour, they limit the number of people per day. I recommend getting up and trying to arrive in the morning around the time they open.
If you have time on the way back, stop by the Valley of Fire State Park. Upon arrival at is vibrant and unique red rock formations, and rugged desert terrain, it is easy to see why Hollywood has used it in things like Total Recall and Star Trek as an other worldly planet.
The Freemont Experience
I call this Old Vegas. This is the Las Vegas I remember seeing in the movies when I was growing up. Its Binions, the Gold Nugget, and all those famous neon signs such as the cowboy and cowgirl. Today the road is closed off from cars to make it pedestrian friendly. Don’t worry about sun or weather as a roof or canopy made of LED lights, that does a music show at night, will keep you protected. As foreign as the strip can feel, this place also seems like its own bubble in the Vegas universe. There are multiple stages around with free bands playing music, street performers everywhere, and it feels like spring break on steroids. If you want to gamble or try your hand at a table game, this is the place to do it. The odds are better and the minimums lower.
Tip: Only go at night. I cannot stress this enough. We went once during the day and was not impressed. It feels like a seedy ghost town in the middle of the day. Also this is not a place for kids; especially at night. I was shocked by the number of young kids I have seen there at 11:00 pm. Not having your kids out with a bunch of drunk party people on a school night should be Parenting 101.
Take in a Show
My favorite thing to do in Vegas is to take in a show. I try to go to one every night I am in town. As I mentioned before there are a variety to choose from, and I know I’ve only scratched the surface of available options. Some of the bigger names shows can be pricey, but there are also some smaller theaters that offer lower faire tickets. My husband and I usually splurge on a more expensive show with each visit, then take in a couple of the more affordable offerings. For the pricier shows, we have never been disappointed by a Cirque de Soleil show. The acrobats are breathtaking and impressive. It not uncommon to hear the word, “wow” whispered during the show.
There is a big mall close to the middle of the strip called the Miracle Mile. This facility has any mall store one can conjure in their brain. It also has the Saxe and V theaters offering a wide range of show options at good prices (and you may be able to snag coupon).
Shows I’ve seen and can recommend checking out are KA, La Reve, Penn & Teller, Zombie Burlesque, and O.
Hopefully on my next trip out I can report back some new and fun things to do. Hit me up with your favorite things to do in Vegas!