Best Things To Do in Las Vegas
Your Las Vegas vacation will likely revolve around the iconic neon lights and famous (albeit somewhat kitschy) sights along the Strip. This is where Lady Luck will make or break your bank account, but there are other diversions attached to the casinos: ride a gondola at The Venetian, see views atop the Eiffel Tower at Paris, Las Vegas or enjoy the renowned fountain show at the Bellagio.
But if you can part with the glitz and glam of Las Vegas Boulevard, you’ll find the rest of the city has plenty to offer. Check out the Fremont Street Experience's lightshow, enjoy a history lesson at the Mob Museum or the Neon Museum, or stretch your legs at Red Rock Canyon. And if you have the time, plan a quick road trip to the Hoover Dam, which can also be accessed via helicopter tour or a bus tour.
Updated July 16, 2019
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Once you pass the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign along Las Vegas Boulevard South, it won't be too long until you're cruising the Strip. Sin City's notorious artery acts as the epicenter of any Vegas getaway. Here 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.
The "Strip" technically runs from Mandalay Bay on the south end (home to an aquarium and a man-made beach) to the Stratosphere casino on the north end, where you'll find the tallest free-standing observation tower in the country (this is where you'll go for the perfect Vegas photo).
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Why spend the money to cross the Atlantic when you can get a decent taste of Italy right in Vegas? Nestled along the Strip, The Venetian replicates the highlights of Venice, complete with gondola rides along the Grand Canal. Visitors can get a taste of what life is like in the Queen of the Adriatic thanks to The Venetian's Streetmosphere program: singers, stilt walkers and "living statues" recreate the typical scene you'd likely encounter in the real Venice for those who opt to spend the day perusing the wares in the Grand Canal Shoppes.
For $29 per person, you can take a gondola ride along the Grand Canal anytime between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; on Friday and Saturday, gondola rides are offered until midnight. Some recent visitors said they found the rides to be overpriced, but said the atmosphere was romantic.
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This Strip staple offers plenty of ways to lay your money on the line, from table games and slot machines to a race and sports book. This is also the choice casino among many high-rollers due to its high-stakes tables. What's more, this casino hosts the World Poker Tour, among other tournaments.
But there's more to the Bellagio than the casino floor. Even those who don't gamble praise the Bellagio for its upscale atmosphere and variety of amenities and attractions.
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You may recognize this Polynesian-themed casino hotel as one of the three establishments robbed by Danny Ocean and his crew in the 2001 remake of the film "Ocean's Eleven." In addition to its Hollywood credits, The Mirage has earned a reputation among frequent Vegas visitors as one of the best places to gamble along the Strip for high rollers and thrifty betters alike.
If you aren't a gambler or you've got kids in tow, the main reason to visit The Mirage is its massive volcano. Every night at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. (and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday), the ground rumbles and the man-made mountain spews fireballs sky-high to the sounds of The Grateful Dead. Recent travelers said it's an impressive show, and best of all, it's free to enjoy.
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It only makes sense that a city devoted to entertainment would feature a casino hotel devoted to the entertainment industry. The facility – which sits mid-Strip across from New York-New York at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue – hosts a variety of performances ranging from big-name concerts to sporting events to Cirque du Soleil's "KÀ." It is also the partner to the nearby T-Mobile Arena which hosts large-scale events, such as the Billboard Music Awards.
The MGM Grand is also home to several top-notch restaurants and nightlife venues, such as Hakkasan nightclub, where celebrity DJs regularly spin hits into the wee hours. During the day, you can experience Wet Republic Ultra Pool, where you can dance, swim or relax in party cabanas. Several shops can be found here as well, but you'll likely spend most of your time (and your money) on the casino floor, which houses poker tables, slot machines and a race and sports book. Travelers were impressed by the size of the MGM Grand Casino, but said the nightlife options are the real star of the property.
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Sure, this towering gold building at the southern end of the Strip boasts all the slots, poker and game tables you want in a Sin City venue, not to mention a variety of restaurants and nightlife venues. (Plus, it's home to the House of Blues Music Hall and plays host to "Michael Jackson ONE," Cirque du Soleil's tribute to the 80s pop icon.) But Mandalay Bay doesn't exude the same level of kitsch found at other casinos along Las Vegas Boulevard – a major selling point for more laid-back travelers. In fact, this is the place you go if you're looking for an escape.
One of the major highlights of Mandalay Bay is its man-made beach: 2,700 tons of sand and a 1.6 million gallon wave pool create an oceanside atmosphere in the middle of the Nevada desert. You can kick off your shoes and work on your tan in one of the rentable cabanas; those looking to avoid bikini tan lines can ditch the top at the Moorea Beach Club.
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You won't have any trouble finding New York-New York: Its faux-Manhattan skyline – complete with scale models of famous Big Apple attractions like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge – occupies almost a full block of the Strip. Sitting across the street from the MGM Grand, New York-New York recreates the Gotham experience in true Vegas fashion, boasting a New York-style pizzeria, several bars and a variety of shops.
As for the casino, it's stocked with plenty of slot machines and table games, but some travelers note that the gaming floor isn't as spacious as those in other Strip venues.
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A staple of the Vegas Strip, Caesars Palace has been welcoming visitors to Sin City since the 1960s. Since then, it has made an appearance in such popular films as "Rain Man," "Showgirls," "Iron Man" and "The Hangover." Those who choose to gamble at Caesars will find themselves in ancient Rome, with massive columns and frescoes paying tribute to the casino's namesake. Those who prefer to use their money in other ways can make their way to The Forum Shops - home to about 160 specialty stores, the newly revamped Fall of Atlantis animatronic show and a 50,000-gallon aquarium.
You'll also find one of Sin City's most famous nightclubs. Formerly PURE, Omnia nightclub underwent extensive renovations before debuting in 2015. The club houses multiple dance floors and lounges with frequent celebrity hosts and popular DJs throughout the year. Plus, the venue's rooftop offers unparalleled views of the Strip. Recent travelers noted that it's one of the most upscale clubs on the Strip, so expect to pay steep cover and drink prices.
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Though it may not be quite as timeless as the actual City of Lights, Sin City's (rather kitschy) take on Paris is one of the Strip's most popular occupants. The property offers a whirlwind tour of the French capital's most iconic sights: You'll find a replica of the Arc de Triomphe, decor reminiscent of the Paris Opera and the Louvre, and the pièce de résistance – a 46 story, half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower. For $16 or $22 (depending on whether you visit during the day or at night), you can take in the 360-degree views from the tower's observation deck.
As far as the casino goes, you'll find slots, table games, horse racing and Keno – with which travelers were more than satisfied. However, some recent visitors mentioned that Paris, Las Vegas isn't the best hotel for families. Still, Paris, Las Vegas boasts several French-themed restaurants and bars, plus a variety of shows, not to mention a variety of shops and the swanky Chateau rooftop nightclub.
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Fremont Street used to be dominated by classic but less-frequented casinos that seemed past their prime. But now, this section of downtown Las Vegas is once again ready to compete with the Strip for visitors' attention.
Occupying several blocks of Fremont Street near the Mob Museum, the Fremont Street Experience includes the immense Viva Vision light show with 12.5 million LED lamps and a 550,000-watt sound system. The area also has several other distractions, such as food stands, souvenir shops and the SlotZilla zip line that sits 10 stories above the pedestrian walkway.
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Las Vegas knows how to go big – especially when it comes to entertainment. So it should come as no surprise that a performance company like Cirque du Soleil thrives here. Translating to "Circus of the Sun," Cirque du Soleil is known for its incredible acrobatic feats, which are performed with an unrivaled level of artistry.
Cirque du Soleil's performances are inspired by a variety of natural and cultural elements. For example, the "LOVE" show (performed at The Mirage) pays tribute to the legendary rock band, the Beatles; meanwhile "O" (which can be seen at the Bellagio) has water playing a crucial role in the performance. Other Cirque du Soleil performances around town include "Michael Jackson ONE" at Mandalay Bay, "Mystère" at Treasure Island, "Zumanity" at New York-New York, "Criss Angel MINDFREAK LIVE!" at the Luxor and "KÀ" at the MGM Grand.
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Spanning the Colorado River and the Black Canyon (which separates Nevada and Arizona), about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, sits the Hoover Dam. The immense concrete structure – which confines Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States by volume – has helped provide power to Nevada, Arizona and California since 1935. These days, in addition to keeping the lights on, the Hoover Dam welcomes more than a million visitors each year as one of America's most recognized landmarks. Some of its most noteworthy sights are as follows:
Visitor Center: You can learn more about the Hoover Dam with a stop at the Visitor Center, which is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs $10 to explore. The facility's Exhibit Gallery features various audio, visual and interactive exhibits, such as a generator model you can walk through, while the theater shows a 10-minute film about the dam. Don't forget to head to the top-floor observation area to snap some memorable pictures of the massive structure, Lake Mead and the Colorado River.
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Seventeen miles southwest of Las Vegas, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area offers travelers a respite from Las Vegas' unnatural neon landscape. Though you can opt to follow the 13-mile scenic car route through the desert, make the most of your visit by stretching your legs along the numerous hiking and biking trails. No matter how you choose to explore the park, you'll find yourself surrounded by the beautiful Mojave Desert and its signature red hills.
Recent travelers recommended planning your hiking route in advance as some trails can be strenuous for novice hikers. It's also a good idea to bring along a map from the visitors center to ensure you stay on the trail. If you don't want to venture out on your own, several of the city's best guided tours offer excursions to the area. Last, but certainly not least, be sure to slather on sunscreen and bring along plenty of water. According to previous Red Rock Canyon visitors, a trip out here is well worth leaving the casino floor behind.
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Back in the day, not even Vegas' neon lights could distract Americans from Sin City's darker side; today, The Mob Museum sheds light on the city's pervasiveness in the 20th century gangster era. Las Vegas' former federal courthouse – located in the downtown area a few blocks northeast of the Fremont Street Experience – now houses distinct interactive exhibits devoted to exposing America's mob history.
Visitors to the museum will learn about such notorious gangsters as Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel and John Gotti and the dedicated G-men and FBI agents, like J. Edgar Hoover, Eliot Ness and Harry Anslinger, who worked to quell crime across the country. The Mob Museum walks travelers through a detailed history of mob activity in the U.S. and around the world, from the rise of organized crime families to the intricate gambling scams still perpetrated today. Recent visitors said they found the staff to be extremely knowledgeable and the exhibits to be in-depth and well curated.
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Once the sun goes down, Las Vegas shines brightly with hundreds of thousands of colorful bulbs flashing for your attention. Neon is nothing new in America's Playground: Hotels, bars and casinos have been luring clients with bright signs for decades. Located on Las Vegas Boulevard just north of the Mob Museum, the Neon Museum pays tribute to the Las Vegas light show, offering guided tours of what's known as the "boneyard."
The nearly 2-acre outdoor exhibit is home to more than 200 pieces of old Vegas signage all laid out for admiration on the desert floor. The one-hour boneyard walk-throughs are led by local historians, who provide details on signs from such iconic landmarks as Caesars Palace, the Golden Nugget and Stardust. The boneyard can be found behind the museum's visitors center, which occupies the lobby of the former La Concha Motel. Recent visitors to the museum highly recommended the night tours, when you can see a few signs that have been restored to their former glory.
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Not all thrill-seekers are satisfied with laying their cards out on the table. When Lady Luck can't get your adrenaline pumping, an exotic driving experience sure will. Headquartered just south of the Strip, SPEEDVEGAS puts those feeling the need for speed behind some of the world's fastest, most luxurious cars. From exotic Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Jaguars to speedy Corvettes and Audis, you'll have your pick of horsepower.
This experience isn't for everyone: Drivers must be at least 18 years old while passengers must be 6 years or older and weigh 60 or more pounds. And the chance to sit in the driver's seat is anything but affordable. However, those who have put the pedal to the metal on a SPEEDVEGAS experience can't stop raving about it.
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For a unique, bird's-eye view of the Strip, take a ride on the High Roller at The LINQ. Standing 550 feet tall and 520 feet in diameter, the observation wheel is the tallest in the world (beating out the London Eye and the Singapore Flyer). The massive Ferris wheel features 28 handcrafted pods made out of Italian glass that can hold up to 40 people each. A trip around the observation wheel takes about 30 minutes, and recent guests say it's a great place for a photo op of the nearby casinos and attractions.
Adults can also opt for a ride within the Happy Half Hour pod that includes a complimentary open bar during your trip around the wheel. Recent visitors said the High Roller is also suitable for families with little ones, but concede that the Ferris wheel might be a bit boring when compared to the other amusement rides and roller coasters found on the Strip.
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