Las Vegas, also called “Sin City,” is known as a gambling mecca. But what if you don’t gamble? If you find yourself “stuck” in Las Vegas (perhaps attending a conference or workshop) here are eight categories of things to see and do in the Las Vegas area that have nothing to do with gambling.
Even if you’re on Las Vegas’ famous “Strip” (Las Vegas Blvd.) you can partake in some amazing sights that doesn’t require any type of gambling. Although the hotel-resorts have largely “dethemed” their properties, there are still some really interesting design and architectural elements. You can “travel” from Egypt (Luxor) to New York City (NYNY), to Paris (Paris, LV), to Venice (Venetian) all within a few blocks.
More interested in “real” geography and environments? The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is less than 20 miles from the Strip, on the northwest edge of the city. There are more than 30 miles of hiking trails and a 13-mile scenic drive, plus horseback riding, rock climbing, biking, and picnic areas. There is also a visitor center with exhibit rooms and a book store.
Mount Charleston, otherwise known as the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, is about 35 miles west of the city. It’s a particularly popular destination in the hot summer months, with cool mountain breezes and more moderate temperatures.
About an hour’s drive northeast of town is the Valley of Fire State Park. It is Nevada’s oldest (and largest) state park, dedicated in 1935. Hiking, picnicking, and camping are available. While summer daily high temperatures can be extreme (100+ degree F days are common, and hitting the 120 degree F mark is not unheard of) and winter daily temperatures can fluctuate between 75 degrees F and freezing, fall and spring months are generally mild and pleasant.
Finally, don’t forget to check out the Hoover Dam, which is a short drive southeast of Las Vegas.
As you might expect from large resorts, there are a wide variety of spa-like services available. Women can get the usual facials, manicures, and pedicures. Men and women can also get massages, haircuts and styling services. All spas are open to the general public so you’re not limited to going to the hotel you are staying at.
Men, consider trying a barber straight-razor shave along with a hair cut. This is a particular interest of mine and something that actually changed my grooming life to such a degree that I became a “guru” at it. Be sure to ask for the most experienced shaver on staff for the best possible results. Some specific barbers to consider include those at Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, Mandalay Place, Mirage, Riviera, and Venetian (all on The Strip), and the El Cortez near downtown.
Although the prices for goods and services on the Las Vegas Strip can cause “sticker shock,” there are a number of free things to experience. Perhaps the most famous are the fountains in front of the Bellagio resort. Every 15-30 minutes between 3:00 p.m. and midnight (depending on time, day, and weather conditions), “dancing fountains” choreographed with music shoot water to heights of up to 24 stories.
Similarly, the volcano in front of the Mirage hotel erupts nightly from dusk to midnight every hour on the hour, weather permitting.
Daily, every hour on the hour starting at 11 a.m. the Fall of Atlantis is reenacted by 9-foot-tall animatronic statues (and a 20 foot dragon) at the Forum shopping area of Caesar’s Palace
Lots of other “freebies” come and go in Las Vegas, so be sure to check THIS listing.
Gambling are not the only gaming opportunities available in Las Vegas; you can play other games too, usually with a “twist!” “Adventuredome” at Circus Circus boasts family-oriented rides (roller coaster and motion-control), miniature golf, arcade, and midway games. Games that might be considered a little less ordinary include a KISS-themed mini golf course, a Pinball Hall of Fame with over 150 vintage pinball machines, all playable and inexpensive ($0.25 to $0.50), and a number of adult-oriented thrill rides atop the Stratosphere Tower.
You might just be able to satisfy a life-long fantasy in Las Vegas. Due to the sheer number and variety of visitors to the area, it is possible support some unusual businesses that cater to some very distinct clientele!
Ever want to drive an incredibly expensive sports car? There are several businesses in Las Vegas that can make that dream come true. You can even “upgrade” that experience by driving a NASCAR-style stock car.
How about getting to play with heavy construction machinary? You can spend an afternoon running a bulldozer or excavator digging trenches, stacking one-ton tires, or playing “bucket basketball.”
If that’s still not enough action for you, there are several gun ranges in Las Vegas where you can rent and fire vintage and automatic weapons (under supervision).
One fantasy you can cannot fulfill in Las Vegas (legally) involves prostitution. Despite what the mass media and street corner barkers may lead you to believe, prostitution is very much illegal in the Las Vegas area. There are legal brothels in Nevada but the closest ones to Las Vegas are in Pahrump, about an hour’s drive to the west.
Las Vegas has a fair share of museums, botanical gardens, and zoological exhibits. A couple that stand out from the crowd include the Neon Museum and the Mob Museum. Both celebrate Las Vegas from very distinct points of view. The Neon Museum displays much of the signage from earlier days and older technologies. The Mob Museum displays artifacts from the days of organized crime running the city.
Some other venues worth looking into include the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, the National Atomic Testing Museum, and the Auto Collection at the Quad hotel. Other collections and exhibits come and go, so be sure to check what is currently showing.
Las Vegas’ claim to culinary fame used to be cheap buffet food. No more. Some of the world’s finest chefs maintain restaurants in the city and dining experiences can be truly extraordinary. Do yourself a favor by indulging in items you may never be able to experience otherwise, such as the finest aged steaks, the freshest seafood, and the most indulgent desserts. A quick internet search will probably show you several options for whatever food you are interested in.
But don’t fret buffet lovers, there’s still a variety of buffets in Las Vegas, though the good ones have relative prices to match their variety and quality.
Virtually every major Hotel/Resort/Casino in Las Vegas offers some kind of production or musical entertainment. Everything from international headliners, magic shows and tribute” bands can be found at almost any given time. Check any of the Las Vegas tourism sites (like THIS one) to see what will be playing during a particular time frame.
A safe bet for enjoying a “house production show” may be one of the Cirque du Soleil shows that play in the city. Mystere is often recommended as a gateway into this type of show. A more “Vegas” type of production show would include Bally’s Jubilee! which is adult oriented (and some might consider risque’).
Do you avoid gambing because you don’t understand the games? Many of the casinos in Las Vegas offer “classes” on popular table games, particularly Blackjack and Craps. Attending these classes may give you the confidence you need to try a game of luck. Just be sure to never risk more money than you can afford to lose and keep in mind the odds are always in the casino’s favor.
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