3 Awesome things to do in Vegas besides Gamble
Leah Walker March 25, 2013

I’ve confessed my love for Las Vegas and sing its praises every chance I get. Given my recent devotion to all things Europe, this proclamation is often met with a look of surprise and a head shake. While I admit I haven’t given Sin City the love it deserves recently, I still am one of its biggest fans.

You see, I’m a gambler and Vegas is my mecca. But even if you’re not quite as eager to slide up to the blackjack table and throw down you’re hard-earned money as I am, there are a ton of things to do in Vegas other than gambling. Plus, Las Vegas hotels are probably the most outlandish I’ve ever experienced and are worth the trip to Sin City alone.

People Watch

 

Nighttime on the Strip. Las Vegas 9.4.2010 L1000085cCredit

I challenge anyone to come up with a better place to people watch than Las Vegas. You can’t! It simply doesn’t exist. Whether laying by the pool, having a late-night snack, sitting at a slot machine, or walking the strip, there is absolutely no telling what you will see in Vegas. Thanks to the city’s clever tag line, “What happens here, stays here,” people feel like their vacation is occurring in a vacuum. This place brings out the crazy in otherwise normal people, but those aren’t the ones I like to observe. Instead, it’s the folks who are just plain odd all the time. I’m talking about those who wear their underwear on top of their jeans and mutter nonsense to themselves. It’s like Vegas is a magnet attracting crazy.

Nighttime Las Vegas 9.7.2010 L1040457cCredit

And the strangest of the strange, where do they congregate? Downtown Las Vegas under the canopy of Fremont Street. I’ve seen things there that leave this Vegas veteran shaking her head. When I need a break from the tables {or am broke} I like to wander Fremont in search of the absurd. I don’t have to go too far. And the fact that I love staying downtown, what does that say about me? I guess it takes one to know one.

See the Sublime and the Ridiculous

 

From to the exploding volcano at the Mirage and the sexy pirate sea battle at Treasure Island, Las Vegas isn’t short of ridiculous sights to behold. The Fremont Street Experience downtown at first glance is gaudy, but after about ten seconds of neck craning up at the 25-million LED lights you’re sucked in and counting down the minutes until the show plays again.

las vegas, The Fremont Street ExperienceCredit

Can’t get to Rio for Carnival? You’re in luck, because in the evenings at the Rio, you’ll get a little taste with their Show in the Sky. Essentially it’s a mini samba parade that snakes above the casino on tracks. Ridiculous? Absolutely! But I promise you’ll be knocking people over for those cheap, plastic beads before you know it. And if you haven’t gotten enough of the Mardi Gras experience, check out the Carnival Court at Harrah’s for live music all day and bartenders with flair. The best part is that these shows are free! Who says you can’t get something for nothing these days?

Masquerade in the Sky at RioCredit

And as for the sublime, how about the dancing fountains choreographed to music at the Bellagio? There’s also the Lost City of Atlantis attraction near Caesar’s Forum Shops. This 50,000 gallon saltwater tank contains over 500 varieties of fish. Travel the world in one day by wondering the countless location-themed hotels… Luxor, Rome, Venice, New York, Paris, Monte Carlo, the South Pacific… no place else but Vegas can you do that. The best place to get a look at the “world” of Vegas is not from the Stratosphere observation deck. Instead, get to the top of MIX at THEHotel at Mandalay Bay for a cocktail and a look at one of the most recognizable skylines in the world. If you can get there before 10 pm then it’s free. And while you’re on the south strip, don’t forget to see the Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand.

Bellagio Fountains, Las VegasCredit

If you’re a history person, Vegas has a lot of it. Check out the Neon Museum, which contains over 150 rescued signs dating back to the 1930s. And given Sin City’s close connection with organized crime, it’s only fitting that the Mob Museum is located in Vegas. The Sunbelt Classic and Antique Auto Museum features over 300 restored cars. And before computer games took over there was pinball. In Vegas is the Pinball Hall of Fame, a place where you can not only see, but play over 200 machines at 25-50 cents per game. And if fine art is more your cup of tea then visit Bellagio’s Gallery of Fine Art. Who says there’s no culture in the desert?

The Mob MuseumCredit

Lay it on the Line

 

I’m not talking craps here. Instead, I’m talking adventure. In Vegas just about anything is possible. Heck, even Mandalay Bay brought the ocean to this landlocked locale. In a place where fast is never fast enough and adrenaline is part of a healthy breakfast, it should come as no surprise that there’s no shortage of opportunities for speed junkies. What’s better than ridding in a stock car? Driving a stock car! And if 600 horsepower isn’t sexy enough for you, how about racing a Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Jaguar, or a Ferrari?

If you’re into getting a little dirty, try driving a dune buggy through the rugged desert terrain. Feeling a little Tom Cruise? Get your Top Gun on in an aerobatic plane. Perhaps you missed the boat on your childhood dreams of being an astronaut. There’s a chance for you to get a taste by taking a weightless flight at zero gravity. And for something a bit more tame, how about zip lining across Bootleg Canyon or above Fremont Street? That’s right, y’all. Only in Vegas!

Las Vegas strip at night with Neon lightsCredit

Even though Vegas’ bread and butter is and will probably always be gambling, it does have countless experiences for those non-gamblers. Sin City isn’t the cultural center of the world, but it’s not pretending to be either. Vegas is all about fun, excitement, and an escape from reality for its 40 million visitors per year. And in my book, I think it’s done a pretty damn good job. Sin on, Las Vegas!

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I make a small commission if you make a purchase through my links. It costs you nothing more, but helps keep me stocked in French wine {and a roof over my head}.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

25 Comments

  1. Just got back from my first trip to Vegas. I had my younger daughter with me so there was no gambling at all and we had a great time! Now that I’ve read your post, I see that we missed a few things though.

    P.S. We saw Celine’s show and she was awesome! 😉

    1. Ahhh…I see your post about the Four Seasons Las Vegas. I’ll have to check it out. I’ve not visited that property, but only Mandalay Bay. There really is tons of things to do in Vegas besides party and gamble. It’s just a matter of doing a bit of research. I’m glad you enjoyed your time there.

  2. As someone who works as a croupier for his dayjob, Casinos in general are great for all 3 things you mentioned (People watching/ridiculous/living on the edge). I liken it to a zoo of humanity. Vegas being the Mecca of Casinos, is just the pinnacle of that.

    You definitely see it in your own prism though. I’m a gambler myself, optimistic and curious by nature so I see the lighter side of the mayhem. Can totally understand it if someone sees otherwise. Thankfully most people go to Vegas for a getaway. Being stuck there would leave a different impression I imagine.

    1. I think Vegas living can wear on you. Folks that call it home generally look unhappy compared to those visiting. You hit the nail on the head about being a zoo of humanity. All kinds are assembled into one small place, and with that situation, things can get ugly really fast.

  3. Vegas remains so low on my priority list. I think it’s because it’s one of those places I always think I’ll eventually get to. We’ve had a couple of work-related trips almost happen. So maybe I just keep thinking a work trip will pop up. And while Tunica is nothing compared to Vegas, living in Memphis gives me easy access to casinos along the Mississippi River. So I’ve had my fill of gambling. Maybe one of these days …

    1. I’ve been to Tunica, and you’re right, they don’t compare. If a work trip does come up, I’d definitely take it. You never know. Just go with an open mind.

  4. Vegas has perfected the art form of separating people from their money which is why there are so many other things to do besides gamble. I agree that it is probably the greatest place to people watch with South Beach giving it a run for its money.

    I think they imported those street performers from Barcelona because that guy looks just like one that I saw there. How did I not know about the car museum that you listed?

    1. I have to agree about South Beach. That place is just plain silly as is Venice Beach in California. As for the car museum, it’s a private one and you must call to make an appointment.

  5. Maybe you should take me to Vegas. I have been 3 times and although I’m glad I went – one needs to go before they die, seriously! – but have no real desire to go back. And totally agree with your points actually – people watching is outstanding and there is lots to see besides gambling!

    1. The dining, shopping, and spas alone would make me think you’d like it. We’ll have to do a girls’ trip to Vegas. I can attempt to promise no gambling for me, but if I start to convulse, I must be taken to the blackjack table STAT.

  6. i know you’re a gambler, Leah. i actually am not and have found so many fun things to do in Vegas. eating there is AMAZING and i highly recommend pole dancing lessons for the adventurous girls out there. SO. MUCH. FUN!

    1. It’s an adult’s playground and if you can’t find something you like in Vegas then you’re not really trying. I’m not sure about the pole dancing classes. You know how I feel about dancing, pole or not. I’ll hang in the DJ booth, ok?

  7. We love visiting Vegas (for about four days max!!) and were reminded of how awesome it is after spending a day in Macao… nowhere competes with Vegas. Also, I’m surprised you don’t have “spending six hours at a timeshare presentation” as one of your recommendations… but at least we got free show tickets!!

  8. I lived in Las Vegas for 2 months during an internship for grad school (there are certainly far worse places I could have ended up). Aside from the fun of the strip and casinos I loved the proximity to great outdoors activities Hiking at Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire are within a 45 minute drive and great for visitors. While I was there I canoed the Colorado River from the base of the Hoover Dam and visited both The Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks.

    1. In all these years of going to Vegas, I’ve not gone to the Hoover Dam. I think I’ll do that next time and explore more of the surrounding area. The photos I’ve seen are marvelous.

    2. Hi Leah, great article. I love finding things to do aside from the obvious. I feel lucky that I have family in Nevada and I really enjoy the Hoover Dam and antique shopping in downtown Boulder City. PS: Briana’s comment about hiking at Red Rock and Valley of Fire are things I’ve always been interested in (Briana, if you see this, please email me, I’d love to work together). Happy Thanksgiving!

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