There is so much more to Las Vegas than gambling. There are world-class museums, auto collections, art galleries, and wildlife exhibits. Las Vegas has all the greatest stores and malls and there is entertainment in every inch along the Strip. Las Vegas is a great base for outdoor adventures. The Red Rock Canyon, Death Valley, and the Grand Canyon, Area 51, ghost towns, Native American reservations, and state parks are within a short driving distance. I’ve been to Las Vegas at least once a year for the last 20 years. Sometimes I gamble, mostly I don’t. There’s a lot to do and see in Vegas that I never get bored. I’m happy to share my non-gambler’s guide to Las Vegas.
If you’re staying on The Strip don’t overlook Downtown Las Vegas.
Here are a few attractions in Downtown that you shouldn’t miss.
National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement – better known as The Mob Museum is housed in a historic former federal courthouse and Post Office. The high-tech exhibits chronicle the battle between organized crime and law enforcement and are packed into the three stories of the historically significant building. The curators have done an excellent job telling the story of Las Vegas and the Mob.
The Neon Museum is part art, architecture, design, advertising, and history but all Las Vegas. It is a monument to one of the world’s most fascinating cities and to the art form it made famous. This outdoor museum is the final resting place for more than 200 of Las Vegas’ former neon signs and displays about 120 of them.
Head down for at least one night-time walk along Fremont Street. You have to see The Fremont Street Experience to truly understand it. The Fremont Street Experience is a canopy of light and sound that arches over the main section of Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. Words don’t do it justice. As well as the overhead show, plenty of street performers line the street to entertain you.
Banger Brewery Tour
When visiting Freemont Street downtown, don’t miss Banger Brewery. Sign up a day or two in advance to take a free brewery tour that covers how their beer is brewed. The tour includes a free sample, so it’s pretty much a no-brainer.
Gold and Silver Pawn Shop
If you like the television show, Pawn Stars, then you should visit the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop. It’s less than a mile from the Downtown Freemont Street Experience and is where the actual Pawn Stars series is filmed. Go early to have the best chance of seeing the stars and beating the lines.
Here are a few attractions on the Las Vegas Strip that you shouldn’t miss
Las Vegas Blvd (known as The Strip) is an incredible place, morning, noon, or night. Open 24/7, The Strip is pure entertainment with something for everyone. More than 37 million people visit the strip every year. The Strip is where you’ll find Las Vegas’ most iconic landmarks, including the Bellagio Fountains, the Eiffel Tower at Paris, Las Vegas, the pyramid and sphinx belonging to The Luxor and The Venetian’s Grand Canal. Packed into the 4+ miles are casinos, thrill rides, live music, theaters, clubs and pubs, not to mention several golf courses, shopping malls, and gourmet restaurants. From The Strip, you can see the fountains at the Bellagio, the Mirage’s volcano, and Caesars Palace with its fall of Atlantis and festival fountains. With the cross-section of visitors and celebrities who come to Las Vegas to be seen, people watching is prime time entertainment.
The High Roller
Get above the action and enjoy a birds-eye view of the action on the High Roller, Las Vegas’s 550-foot-tall observation wheel. Climb aboard one of 28 air-conditioned pods for a 30-minute spin up and over Sin City. There are windows on all sides of each pod, as well as video narration that points out the sights down below. Visit during the day for shorter lines, or go at night to see the Strip lit up.
Many celebrities make Las Vegas their home to perform for long periods. You can see Celine Dion at Caesar’s Palace, Britney Spears at Planet Hollywood and Boys II Men at The Mirage. Other popular shows include Blue Man Group, Penn & Teller, David Copperfield and ventriloquist Terry Fator in his “Cast of Thousands” at The Mirage.
There is entertainment in every inch along the Strip. The casinos have on-going performers, comedians, and artists performing at all hours of the day. One of my favorite spots is Carnaval Court.
Carnaval Court Bar and Grill
It’s an open-air street party at the center of the Strip that attracts a lively, diverse crowd. Day and night, there is a colorful flurry of sound, light and motion. You can enjoy music from live bands and DJs and be dazzled by the charismatic, bottle-flipping bartenders.
Piano Bar at Harrah’s
If you’re all about having outrageous, non-stop fun on the Strip, The Piano Bar at Harrah’s Las Vegas delivers just that. Located right at the casino exit, just a few steps from the action-packed Carnaval Court, The Piano Bar offers a full slate of live, interactive shows including Dueling Pianos show and Rusty’s All-Star Las Vegas Karaoke. It also has the best free show on The Strip—Big Elvis. Pete Vallee stars as Big Elvis in a classic Las Vegas impersonator show. Vallee has performed more than 7,000 performances on the Strip, making this Las Vegas Elvis show an institution. He rocks out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons only at 2 pm, 3:30 pm and 5 pm.
Las Vegas has all the greatest stores and malls. There’s plenty of shops to spend money in, but sometimes window shopping can be just as satisfying. Just outside The Strip you’ll find the Town Square and the Fashion Show. There are also shops within the hotels—Caesar’s Appian Way, Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood, Grand Canal shops, and Via Bellagio. The list goes on! You will find all the biggest store names, luxury brands, and even the outlets. Add to this list pawn shops, antique stores, and thrift stores.
Eat like a king in Vegas! Famous for its buffets, Las Vegas offers everything from fantastic, little hole-in-the-wall gems to 3-Michelin star restaurants. There are popular diners and dives that serve foot-long hot dogs, or homemade burgers and shakes from scratch. For more classic dining come for Restaurant Week in June. It’s a foodie event not to be missed.
Las Vegas can be your epicenter for great outdoor adventure.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
About 25 minutes from The Strip by car, Red Rock Canyon is a great place to explore the desert area that surrounds Las Vegas. The canyon is beautiful and it showcases sweeping vistas of towering red rock formations and looming 3000 feet sandstone wall. Drive the 13-mile scenic drive for a great sampling of red rock canyon.
The area offers hiking, camping, rock climbing, horseback riding, biking, miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing, and a visitor center with indoor and outdoor exhibits as well as a bookstore.
The Hoover Dam is the largest arch suspension bridge in North America. The dam straddles Black Canyon, holds back the mighty Colorado River, and forms Lake Mead. You can photograph the dam and its vicinity, tour the surrounding areas, kayak or raft on the Colorado River, enjoy the views from the observation deck at the visitor center, and lunch at the local restaurants. You also may want to drive across the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (The Hoover Dam Bypass.)
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead is one of the deepest reservoirs in the US and it has an impressive 550 miles of shoreline. The lake offers several year-round activities like boating, yachting, waterskiing, fishing, sunbathing, and swimming, scuba diving, wildlife watching, and hiking. The lake also has four marinas and boat tours can be booked from any of these Marinas for fishing or water sports.
Extraterrestrial Highway and Area 51
Nevada State Highway 375 was officially renamed the extraterrestrial highway because of the many UFO sightings along this lonely stretch of road. (It is close to the mysterious Area 51, a super-secret Air Force test facility.) The Extraterrestrial Highway is about 100 miles of glorious nothingness with vast desert and mountain views. While traveling on the extraterrestrial highway it may seem that there’s nothing but desert, but the area is full of history and natural beauty if you know where to look. There are ghost towns, historic mines, petroglyphs, and other places of interest within easy driving distance from the small town of Rachel.
Las Vegas is a great base for visiting southern Utah’s “Mighty 5”—a remarkable quintet of National Parks made up of Arches, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef.
You can’t leave town without a photo at the iconic Las Vegas Sign
Las Vegas Sign
Head past Luxor and Mandalay Bay to the end of the strip to get an iconic photo with the famous Las Vegas Sign. There is a small parking lot. You probably won’t stay too long since there’s not much around the sign of interest. However, a stop here is well worth it.
If you’re a non-gambler, reconsider Las Vegas for your next vacation destination. Las Vegas has so much more to offer than gambling. We are only scratching the surface with this non-gambler’s guide to Las Vegas.