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Las Vegas

From musical fountains to live magic shows, there’s more to Vegas than slots and Blackjack

In the middle of the Nevada desert, Las Vegas is one of the world’s most famous gambling destinations. In many ways, it feels like a giant playground for adults. However, while casinos are the main draw for many a visitor, there’s plenty more to do here than just gamble, with lots of attractions suitable to vacationers of all ages. Here, you’ll find a huge variety of concerts, comedy shows and live theatrical performances, not to mention thrill rides, opulent brunch buffets and even museums.

Along with some permanent shows, including Cirque du Soleil, magic shows by the likes of David Copperfield, Blue Man Group performances and Broadway-style musicals, the city also hosts a regular rotation of some of the world’s greatest singers and bands across a variety of genres. It’s also a great jumping-off point for exploring some of the most spectacular national parks in the United States—from Bryce Canyon and Zion in Utah to Arizona’s dazzling Grand Canyon.

Vegas Past and Present

One of the more unusual museums in Vegas, the Neon Museum is home to a “bone yard” of flashy old neon signs that once graced the city’s infamous strip. Just remember to book in advance, as tours of the popular attraction fill up quickly. Another must-see is the Mob Museum, which focuses on local mafia history. Here, you’ll find plenty of mobster memorabilia, but parents beware, it can be a little disturbing: exhibits include the electric chair that executed infamous mobster Albert Anastasia.

Though not exactly a museum, the Bonanza Gift Shop—the self-proclaimed largest gift shop on earth—is worth a wander, and even if you don’t plan to buy souvenirs, it’s fun to peruse the myriad shot glasses, cheesy slogan t-shirts, and an array of gag gifts and toys.

A 20-mile drive out of town en route to the Hoover Dam, the Clark Country Museum is a fun spot to explore the Las Vegas life of the past. The museum’s Heritage Street is perhaps its most interesting feature, with restored old buildings and houses dating from different eras of the region’s history. Structures range from a 1900s newspaper printing shop to a traditional red barn, plus an old wedding chapel and an authentic Union Pacific steam engine dating back almost a century. The Anna Robert Parks Exhibit Hall features a timeline that shows the area over the ages, from the ancient days of the Pueblo people all the way up to the present.

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Classic Casinos

Casinos are huge draws for many Vegas visitors, and the Las Vegas Strip offers up everything from elegant entertainment to family-focused casino hotels. While many of the hotels have striking features that make them stand out among the competition, it’s hard to beat the beautiful, choreographed fountain shows at Bellagio Las Vegas Hotel, with water jetting hundreds of feet in the air. Treasure Island puts on an exceptional show of its own, featuring costumed pirates performing daredevil stunts, complete with pyrotechnics. And don’t miss the Fall of Atlantis at Caesars Palace, an animatronics show featuring gigantic moving and speaking statues.

A few casinos also double up as theme parks. New York, New York, as the name suggests, is inspired by the Big Apple and features its own indoor roller coaster. Circus Circus has its own theme park, the Adventuredome, with some 25 rides and attractions, including three roller coasters. The star attraction—El Loco—is considered one of the finest new coasters in the country and is only one of six such coasters in the world. The Stratosphere Casino, Hotel and Tower also has some great rides of its own, including a coaster, plus Sky Jump, the world’s highest controlled descent.

Sumptuous Brunch Buffets

Foodies love Vegas, and gluttony is celebrated with aplomb here, nowhere more so than at the city’s famous all-you-can-eat buffets. Most offer some 100-plus dishes, with a huge variety of specialty items from around the world, plus dozens of American classics. The buffet at Bellagio is particularly well-known; guests here can feast on all sorts of international dishes and, if they’ve any room left, top it all off with a sampling of rich desserts. All-you-can-drink sparkling wine is also available for an extra fee.

Other popular options include the buffet at Rio Carnival World, which has lots of East Asian items, including Japanese teppanyaki. Just remember to come with a big appetite and be prepared to wait in lines; these buffets are in high demand, and reservations aren’t always an option.

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World Class Museums

Las Vegas entertainment options aren’t limited to glitzy casinos, rollicking shows or endless buffets. Several museums in town serve to enlighten and amuse curious visitors. Take a trip into Vegas’s quirky, informative and historic side.

Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas is the place to see all the hottest celebrities—or, at least, their wax doubles. Dozens of celebrity likenesses, from athletes to movie stars, are dressed to impress and ready to join you in your next selfie. Many of the figures are placed in settings that commemorate fame-launching moments. Be sure to grab a seat in the museum’s 4D theater for a Marvel-inspired presentation, which features larger-than-life comic book heroes and villains as well as special effects.

You don’t have to be a pinball wizard to enjoy the pings, dings and bells in the Pinball Hall of Fame. Located right off the Strip, this 10,000-square-foot arcade is an old school gamer’s dream. Even the younger generation will learn to love the hands-on experience at this destination, which is kept up and running by the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club. Bring your quarters and your best moves, and enjoy a day—or night—of flipping for the high score on the Night Rider machine.

Step back in time to the days of dinosaurs at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. What began as a community collection of prehistoric artifacts and wildlife exhibits has grown into a world-class presentation of Egyptian treasures, special-effects displays and one big animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex. Be sure to see Nevada’s native flora and fauna highlighted in a multi-sensory exhibit. Young scientists will enjoy hands-on activities, such as digging for fossils and exploring the deepest parts of the ocean.

Nevada’s crucial role in the era of atomic research is well known, and that history is well documented at the National Atomic Testing Museum. The collection of technology, publicity material and historical objects spans the age of nuclear science and the Cold War. Experience a bomb blast –simulated, of course—in the Ground Zero Theater, and learn how different types of radiation are monitored. Visitors with their own stories related to atomic testing and nuclear research are encouraged to share them and become part of the museum’s archives.

Don’t let the name fool you—Discovery Children’s Museum is just as much fun for adults. The Las Vegas institution is chock-full of interactive exhibits and kid-friendly play spaces. Whether you or your young family members want to put on stage plays or perform cool science experiments, solve mysteries or learn about eco-friendly living, the children’s museum aims to entertain and educate visitors of all ages. The museum’s traveling featured exhibit changes frequently, so every visit is fresh.

For More Information

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority

866-983-4279

www.vegas.com

 

Nevada Commission on Tourism

775-687-4322

www.travelnevada.com