Just the name ‘Las Vegas’ conjures images of the iconic strip, along which countless glamorous casinos and flashy entertainment resorts are situated. Neon signs, palm trees and replicas of famous landmarks in every direction you look; the extravagance of Las Vegas is what attracts some people, and repels others. Over 40 million people visit the so-called Sin City each year, but not all of them are there for the sensationalism and gambling. If all-night clubbing and roulette tables aren’t to your taste, consider instead one of the endless number of other things to see and do in Vegas.
With such a unique history, it’s no surprise that Vegas offers many fascinating insights into the city’s past, home to museums detailing everything from the city’s connection to the mafia, to its influence on pop culture. Whether your interest lies in natural history or fine art, Vegas has a museum for it. In downtown Vegas, you’ll find the Mob Museum – an interactive exhibit space that lets you listen in on recorded wire-tips, view infamous items used by famed mobsters and walk into the same courtroom that held several of the Kefauver Hearings. This museum is an unmissable experience for anyone interested in organized crime or crime investigation.
Pay a visit to the oldest Madam Tussauds Museum in the world, or learn about the making of the nuclear bomb at the National Atomic Testing Museum. It is also worth seeing the Hoover Dam and its accompanying museum which tells the story of the Boulder Canyon Project and the experience of the men and women who helped build the ambitious arch-gravity dam.
Parks & Gardens
Nevada has no shortage of natural parks, many of which lie on the outskirts of Vegas but are easily accessible with public transport. Spring Ranch Mountain State Park gives you a taste of what it would be like to travel back in time back to the 1860s, when settles lived and farmed on this small bit of oasis land. The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, or ‘Mount Charleston’, can be reached within 30 minutes from downtown Vegas. Its 316,000 acres of beautiful, diverse wildlife makes it a great place for hikers, horse riders, campers and (during the winter) skiers. Bring a picnic and pair of binoculars for a relaxing afternoon observing the plants and animals around you.
If you happen to be visiting Vegas in late summer, you might just be in time for the annual Burning Man event. The experimental project seeks to initiate explorations of self-expression and art. Each year, tens of thousands of people come together as a community, erecting incredible art sculptures, and organising inclusive, artistic events intended to inspire participants. The event provides a nice escape from Las Vegas’ sense of industrialism and commercialism, and is often described as providing visitors with a spiritual experience.
If you’re the athletic type, you might want to know where the nearest activity course is located. No matter the season, a range of indoors and outdoors adventuring can be found throughout Vegas, whether you’re looking for water parks, go karting, golf or rock climbing. The Basement Escape Room, just off the Strip, makes for a fantastic group activity, as it combines puzzles with team work in a creepy setting. This escape room experience is guaranteed to get you an adrenaline rush, but is not for the faint hearted. Theme park lovers can visit Adventuredome, an amusement park featuring numerous rides and arcades.
Reflecting the city’s diversity, Vegas boasts restaurants with cuisines from all corners of the Earth, in a variety of different settings and price ranges. Vegans will be pleased to know that a whole range of vegan dining establishments have taken Vegas by storm in the last decade. Exotic cuisines can be enjoyed at the likes of Cleo, the Middle Eastern themed restaurants, or Max’s Filipino Restaurant. The top rated restaurants in Vegas include Raku, a sushi place, and the Andiamo Italian SteakHouse. If you’re looking for a quick bite rather than sit-down meal, grab something to eat from one of Chinatown’s many takeaways.
Zoo & Aquariums
Fancy getting a close-up look of some of the world’s most dangerous animals, including sharks and lions? Visit the Mirage Aquarium or Shark Reef for an aquatic experience, or check out the Southern Nevada Zoological-Botanic Park. Many wildlife centres in Vegas specialise in particular habitats, rather than housing animals of many differing habitats. Safe Haven Wildlife Sanctuary is particularly popular amongst kids, as it offers a look at older wild cats with strong personalities (plus some other animals) and the opportunity to donate toward their wellbeing.
Theatre & Shows
The one type of attraction that could perhaps be said to rival that of gambling in Sin City is the spectacular show and theatre scene. Show business is an important part of Las Vegas’ culture, with an array of magic shows, concerts, circuses and comedy acts performed every night across the city. For something especially characteristic of Vegas, get your tickets for ‘All Shook Up’ – one of the biggest ever Elvis tribute acts. Cirque du Soleil is also a popular choice, as are traditional burlesque shows which pay tribute to 50s and 60s Las Vegas.
These suggestions constitute just a small number of alternative things to do besides gambling in Las Vegas, a city rich with diversity, activities, attractions and sights no matter your interests!