Las Vegas is one of the premier party places in the U.S., luring visitors from across the globe with its myriad casinos, abundant live entertainment and mile-long buffets. Sin City also makes a great base for exploring the surrounding area’s natural attractions, from engineering marvels to surreal rock formations sculpted by Mother Nature. Las Vegas has a habit of shattering stereotypes, serving up compelling museums along with family-friendly theme parks. Expect the unexpected in Sin City.
Gaming and Glowing
Many visitors head straight to the casinos when visiting Vegas, and you can’t blame them. Even if you have a passing interest in gambling, you’ll likely find the fountain show at Bellagio or the gondola rides at the Venetian worth visiting. Other popular attractions include the old Welcome to Las Vegas sign and the more extensive collection of fluorescent ephemera at the city’s Neon Museum (with its “boneyard” full of discarded neon signs from The Strip). While you’re at it, pay a visit to the Mob Museum, dedicated to the city’s Mafioso past; you can even see a replica of the electric chair used to execute mobster Louis “Lepke,” Buchalter at Sing Sing.
Clark County H20
Although Vegas is surrounded by desert landscapes, there are plenty of opportunities to get wet. Close to town, the marshy Clark County Wetlands Park serves as a habitat for birds, amphibians and mammals, a rare oasis in the desert. About 35 miles east of Vegas, the 726-foot-tall Hoover Dam stands as a testament to engineering genius. Generating 4 billion kilowatt-hours every year powered by the Colorado River, the dam has dazzled visitors since its completion in 1936. If water sports are your thing, head to the border with Arizona to visit the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, a reservoir caused when Hoover Dam restricted the river’s steady flow. Further downstream, Lake Mohave promises more water fun. This water wonderland offers opportunities for kayaking, boating, and even water scootering as well as some great fishing for rainbow trout and striped bass.
After touring the dam, visit the town that once housed the dam’s many builders and engineers. Boulder city, located 8 miles east of Hoover Dam, pays homage to the construction effort with the interactive Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum. Exhibits relate the social and economic impact of the dam’s construction. For train lovers, the Nevada State Railroad Museum is a showcase for locomotives, train cars and train-themed memorabilia. Dine at the extraterrestrial-themed Flying Saucer (Area 52), where you can enjoy tasty meals and shop for off-beat alien paraphernalia.
What’s for Desert?
The area around Las Vegas offers some of the finest outdoor recreation opportunities in the country, particularly if you’re fond of desert hiking. If you want to experience the beautiful Mojave Desert, don’t miss a visit to the 40,000-acre Valley of Fire State Park, so named because of the striking red rock formations that dominate the landscape. If you’ve got a little more time, the Grand Canyon is a four- to five-hour drive away, as is Sedona, known for its beautiful red rock mesas and spires. California’s Death Valley National Park is a 2½-hour drive away. Closer to town, in the Red Rock National Conservation Area, Cottonwood Valley offers great opportunities for mountain biking and trail running, with around 125 miles of track.
Seeing the Strip
Las Vegas has a vibe all its own. Take a daytime stroll down the main touristy thoroughfare known as The Strip and you’re likely to see all sorts of people, from partying college kids carrying to-go cups full of fruity, boozy concoctions to families taking in the sights. There are always plenty of costumed street performers, too, which makes it feel a bit like a grown-up Disneyland at times. When night falls, things tend to get a bit rowdier, but despite its seedy reputation, Vegas is a relatively safe place, with heavy surveillance and a lot of security, owing largely to the myriad casinos here.
Most visitors to Sin City make a point of getting in touch with their inner glutton at one of the city’s many famous all-you-can-eat lunch buffets. Most feature spreads with hundreds of dishes from around the world, often washed down by endless bottles of sparkling wine. Popular stops include the buffet at Bellagio, with everything from sushi to chocolate cake available — just be prepared to stand in long lines to get in, as this is one of the city’s most popular buffets. Alternatives include Rio Carnival World, which offers a spread of Asian specialty items, as well as the seafood-heavy buffet at the Wynn. Many offer discounts for children, and at Circus Circus kids under age four eat free.
Sin City Celebrations
There is no shortage of events in Las Vegas, and with its numerous megahotels, Sin City is naturally one of the country’s foremost spots for conferences and conventions. All of the major holidays are celebrated here with aplomb, and if you come during Halloween, you’ll encounter all manner of haunted houses, parties and spooky events. New Year’s Eve is also a big deal here, with everything from street performances to over-the-top fireworks displays. Electronic music fans know Vegas for the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), one of the largest electronic dance music festivals in the country. Perhaps the oldest annual event is Helldorado Days, a rodeo-carnival hybrid that’s been going on since 1934.
More Than Gaming
Although most people come to Vegas to gamble, there are plenty of other activities for thrill seekers. Live entertainment is big business here, with everything from music performances to off-Broadway musicals to magic shows, not to mention Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group performances. Amusement park thrills are everywhere. The Stratosphere Casino, Hotel and Tower features a roller coaster and a drop tower, plus Sky Jump. For a quirky shopping experience, take a stroll through Container Park in downtown. Stick around during the evening to see the giant praying mantis sculpture shoot flames from its antennae. Speed Vegas lets patrons hit the gas in a high-powered sports car, while the High Roller Ferris wheel takes riders up to 550 feet.
Though the area now known as Las Vegas was inhabited by Paiute people for generations, it wasn’t until a railway was built between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles that the city began to flourish. The city began to grow even more when the nearby Hoover Dam was constructed, and by the 1960s, the city as we know it today began to take form. If you’re interested in learning about Vegas’ history, head out to the Clark County Museum on the outskirts of town. This living history museum features an array of buildings from the olden days of Vegas, along with an exhibit dedicated to life in the region as far back as the pueblo days.
Don’t Forget Fremont Street
No visit to Vegas is complete without a stroll down Fremont Street, one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares and home to fabulous attractions. Defy gravity at SlotZilla, a combination zipline and thrill ride that runs from the mouth of the world’s largest slot machine. By buckling in for a ride, brave guests can zip their way down the entire length of Fremont — just beneath the flashing lights and displays of Viva Vision — in mere minutes.
For More Information
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