Ten Things to Do in Las Vegas (None of Which Involve Gambling)
Las Vegas, Nevada -- aka "Lost Wages" -- is of course world renowned as a gambling mecca. The slots and the roulette wheels go all the time, and the casinos are famous for having no clocks installed so you can run all night if you want to, even if it's sometimes against your better judgement.
Just because you have to itch to confront the one-armed bandit, however, doesn't mean you should avoid Vegas altogether. There's plenty to occupy your time! Here's a list of ten things to do in Vegas none of which require you to even set foot in a casino.
1. Catch a Show
If Las Vegas is famous for anything besides gambling, it's famous for the stars who go there. In Vegas-speak they're known as headliners, and you can seek tickets to a performance of anyone who appeals to you. Many stars blow into town for a few days -- Vegas is less than 300 miles from L.A. -- while other popular performers often land multiyear gigs and temporarily make Las Vegas their home, Celine Dion and Penn and Teller being recent examples. Check the local guides to see who's in town.
But you don't have to see a "name" headliner so see a great show. Mac King performs a comedy magic show at Harrah's, and there are still a few old-style topless shows such as Crazy Girls at the Riviera. Ventriloquist/impressionist Terry Fator from America's Got Talent plays at the Mirage. And Cirque du Soleil usually displays their acrobatic derring-do in mutiple venues. There are also several comedy clubs in town.
2. Take a Walk on the Wild Side
For over a decade, magicians Siegfried and Roy were as much a part of the Vegas landscape as neon lights. Their career was cut short on October 3, 2003, when Roy Horn was injured by one of the white tigers that was a part of their act at the Mirage. Both magicians are officially retired now, but their legacy lives on at the Secret Garden, a wildcat preserve, and its sister exhibit, the Dolphin Habitat. Each is devoted to letting the public get a taste of how these creatures live.
You can hear nature calling from other places as well. Mandalay Bay offers a shark reef, while the Flamingo boasts a wildlife habitat, which includes not only flamingos (duh!) but also black swans, Japanese koi, and other exotic species. And the Silverton has an aquarium stocked with thousands of tropical fish and real live mermaids.
3. See Something Interesting
Vegas is obviously a town that caters to participants. But what if you just want to be a spectator? No problem. There are plenty of things to do in Vegas where the only thing you have to "do" is look.
Want to see treasures recovered from the Titanic? The Luxor has an exhibit area devoted just to that. Fine art more your speed? The Bellagio has a gallery with exactly that title featuring works by Dale Chihuly and Alexander Calder, and beginning in February 2012, a special exhibit of works by Claude Monet and other impressionists. The Bodies exhibit is in town, too (also at the Luxor).
Other hotels display galleries of photographic works. Or if you're a people watcher and don't care whether the people are moving (or even breathing), pop in at Madame Tussaud's at the Venetian. You can also hop down to the Imperial Palace and check out their fabled collection of 300 cars.
4. Get a Thrill
Thrills in Las Vegas aren't only to be had at the roulette wheels or the craps tables. There are plenty of other good ways to stop your heart. The roller coaster at New York, New York circles their scaled-down version of Manhattan at a speed that will take your breath away. Circus, Circus houses the Adventuredome, which is America's largest indoor amusement park. On Convention Center Drive you can find Vegas Indoor Skydiving, which gives you all the thrills of jumping out of a plane without having to worry about your chute failing on you.
Haven't had enough? Get whirled around at 40mph on Insanity, experience weightlessness on the Big Shot, or ride a giant suspended teeter-totter called the X-Scream. They're all at the Stratosphere. Then, for a change of pace (and before your nerves are completely shot), hop on over to the Venetian for a nice, relaxing gondola ride complete with a singing gondolier.
5. Get a Different Perspective
Las Vegas does everything up big. It's no wonder, then, that Vegas is home to the Stratosphere Tower, which at 1100 feet is America's tallest structure west of the Mississippi and comes complete with an understandably spectacular view. In addition to visiting the thrill rides above, you can go out on outdoor observation deck or have dinner at the Top of the World restaurant. Or -- provided you're single, of course -- you can even get married in the Chapel in the Clouds.
Not nearly as tall but nonetheless still imposing is the Eiffel Tower at the Paris, which is about half the height of the French original. Unlike the Stratosphere Tower, the Eiffel Tower is in the middle of the action. It, too, has a restaurant and an observation deck.
6. Enjoy Mother Earth
Everything in Vegas is choreographed, it seems, and Mother Nature is no exception. In Vegas, even water can be channeled to do one's bidding.
The Bellagio offers a free show where the fountains in front spurt and dance to different musical selections, and the result is quite spectacular. People have been known to propose when the fountains are in play. Much older is the volcano in front of the Mirage. It was revamped a few years ago, by the same people who developed the Bellagio fountain show. It also has music and sound effects (taken from real volcanic eruptions). Unlike the fountain show, though, this one also has fire. Prepare to feel the heat.
7. Play Some Golf
Desert? Grass? Water? What a great combination! All we need to do now is to dig some holes and shoot some balls into them and presto, we've got a sport.
Las Vegas is a surprisingly great venue for golfing, with over a dozen courses nearby, each with its own unique features. The Silvertone, for example, offers 27 holes, its nines labeled Valley, Desert and Mountain to reflect their relative difficulty. The evergreens at Desert Pines will make you feel like you're back east. And at the Royal Links many of the holes emulate those found in the British Open.
8. Pamper Yourself
Nearly every major hotel on the Strip has a spa connected with it and spas are great places to go if you just want to unwind. The largest is the Canyon Ranch SpaClub which connects to both the Venetian and the Palazzo. Part of the Canyon Ranch chain of healthy-living resorts, the SpaClub comes complete with a physical therapist and a nutritionist.
Some spas, like the Grand Spa at MGM, have fitness centers connected with them. Most offer some sort of unique or unusual body wrap. If you're in a romantic mood, the Spa by Mandara at the Paris offers a two-hour Paris for Lovers package that includes his-and-her massages and refreshments.
9. Get a Chocolate Fix
A store devoted solely to M&M's? Are you serious? Hey, this is Vegas. Anything's possible.
Granted, M&M's World is a commercial venue, but the designers have also made it fun. Spread out over four floors, the store offers not just M&M's and M&M-related merchandise, but also exhibits, short films, movie posters -- anything related to two of the most beloved letters in chocolate. Check out the NASCAR exhibit on the top level or write a custom message and get your M&M's personalized!
10. Solve a Murder
If you're a fan of the CSI television franchise and have been wanting to try your hand at investigation yourself, CSI: The Experience at the MGM Grand is the place for you. In this life-sized interactive venue you can visit one of three different crime scenes, gather the clues, interpret the evidence, conduct tests in the lab and maybe learn a thing or two about the science behind this popular show. To prove you've got the chops, you can even get a diploma or have your picture taken showing you to be a crime scene investigatory whiz.
These are just some of the things you can do in Vegas even if you're not a gambler, but I've just scratched the surface. There's plenty more. Have a safe and wonderful trip!