13 Things to Do in Las Vegas That Don’t Involve Casinos
If roulette makes you dizzy and losing money leaves you queasy, don't worry: Las Vegas has more to offer than eye-popping casinos and opulent floor shows.
National Atomic Testing Museum
Look beyond Las Vegas hotels and casinos for a more unique experience and plan a trip to the National Atomic Testing Museum, which features artifacts and exhibits dedicated to nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site, located just north of Las Vegas. The museum—which became part of the Smithsonian Institution in 2011—also features a Ground Zero Theater that shows guests what it feels like to experience a simulated bomb blast. There’s also an exhibit about how scientists developed the first atomic bomb. Still looking to explore more underground museums? Here are 8 weird museums you never knew existed.
Neon Museum and Boneyard
If you’re a fan of neon America, Las Vegas is the place for you. Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum features old neon signs from defunct casinos and restaurants in the town’s past. The Boneyard refers to the six acres of land in which the signs are restored and put on display for the public. Some notable classics include the La Concha Motel and the Stardust Hotel and Casino.
Cirque du Soleil
Canadian entertainment company Cirque du Soleil (Circus of the Sun) has been bringing big smiles to spectators’ faces for more than 20 years in Las Vegas. The performers have a number of new shows—such as The Beatles LOVE, Michael Jackson ONE, and Zumanity—helping them bring their unique brand of theatrics and acrobatics to new audiences. A partnership with Criss Angel Mindfreak, an illusionist whose demonstrations of magic and wonder—like levitating a grown man—makes for mind-blowing theater.
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
Those who can’t get enough of the tragic sinking of the luxury ocean liner Titanic should plan a trip to Vegas. Located inside the Luxor Hotel & Casino, the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition showcases the complete journey of the RMS Titanic from construction to sinking to recovery. On display are actual artifacts recovered from the “unsinkable” ship, such as floor tiles from the first-class smoking room, luggage belonging to some of the passengers, a window frame from the Verandah Cafe, the ship’s whistles, and an unopened bottle of champagne from 1900. There are even some full scale recreations, including the “Grand Staircase,” which might just make you feel like you are on the former luxury ship liner itself (or on the set of the James Cameron film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet). Discover 10 things you probably don’t know about the Titanic.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is one of the few motor speedways in the country that allows guests to rent an exotic supercar, including a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Porsche, and race it around the track itself. The call it Exotics Racing. Visitors may also drive a NASCAR race car. The motor speedway also offers racing classes, ride-alongs, and other VIP experiences, should you feel the need for speed. The motor speedway is also the home of many NASCAR events throughout the year.
The Mob Museum—or the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement—is a unique Las Vegas attraction that first opened its doors in 2012. With exhibits and artifacts from the “Sin City” era, when Vegas was built and organized crime ruled supreme it tells the story from all points of view—from mobsters to law enforcement officers to the workers in the glamorous casinos. Theater presentations are designed to completely immerse guests. Want to know more about true crime? Don’t miss 12 things you never knew about the historic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.
The Pinball Hall of Fame
Believe it or not, pinball was once considered a form of gambling in the United States. It was looked upon as a game of chance instead of a game of skill, as it’s seen today, and one of the few places you could play pinball was Las Vegas. The Pinball Hall of Fame and Museum features over 200 different pinball machines and games, including rare ones, such as Williams’ Black Gold and Bally’s Pinball Circus. All machines are available to play for 25 cents or 50 cents, depending on how old the machine is. If you decide to hit the slots on your way, these are the casino games to play if you don’t want to lose all of your money.
The High Roller
Soaring at 550 feet, the High Roller is the largest observation wheel in the world. It offers air-conditioned pods large enough to stand around in, an open bar, and incredible 360-degree views of The Las Vegas Strip. Fans say it’s most breathtaking at night. The ride trip takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. If you’ve no fear of heights, you’ll want to put these tallest skyscrapers in the world on your bucket list too.
The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Located west of the Las Vegas Strip and encompassing almost 200,00 acres of the Mojave Desert, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area provides an escape from the hotel and restaurant scene. After purchasing the entry fee, visitors can choose from 26 different hikes and trails. The stunning 13-mile Scenic Drive through Red Rock Canyon, Nevada’s first National Conservation Area, is definitely a good choice. Other activities include mountain biking, horseback riding, and picnic areas to relax in. The visitor center has a book store, where you can learn more about the area and exhibits. Before you go, check out these hiking pointers to prepare you for adventure.
The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay
Visiting an aquarium isn’t the first thing people think of when going to the desert in Nevada, but Shark Reef Aquarium isn’t your typical aquarium. There’s no shortage of water here with almost 1.6 million gallons of water spread out among 14 exhibits, the largest of which is the 1.3 million gallon shipwreck. Offering a look at more than 2,000 animals, Shark Reef Aquarium has every type of shark you could hope to see, except for great white sharks, of course—here’s why aquariums never have great white sharks.
Dig This is a construction-based theme park a short drive from The Strip where visitors can operate heavy equipment. Choose from excavator or bulldozer. Or if you just can’t narrow it down (because when else are you going to have the opportunity to operate this kind of equipment?) purchase the 3.5 hour Mega dig and try out both. Expect a 30-minute orientation, and you’ll be free to dig tenches or participate in contests of skill. The clothing requirement is that you dress comfortably and wear closed-toe shoes. Yes, you may get dirty, but that’s all part of the experience of driving a bulldozer in the Nevada desert. Hit the gift shop on your way out, where you can browse unique products, like dirt-scented candles—perfect for friends at home. Here are 101 gift ideas for people who are impossible to shop for.
Downtown Las Vegas
Downtown Las Vegas has it all—it’s an eclectic mix of nightlife, art, eating, and entertainment. One must-see is the Fremont Street Experience, a 24-hour mall, light shows, and SlotZilla zip line. Tour the whole area by Segway, then follow up with a micro-brewery tour at Banger Brewing.
Grand Canyon Helicopter Tours
Many visitors are surprised to find lots of outdoor experiences in Las Vegas. Located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the Vegas area boasts a number of national parks, rivers, and other amazing and breathtaking wonders. The Grand Canyon is only about four hours away, and definitely worth the trip. See it all by helicopter tour and come back with photos you’ll treasure. Check out these stunning photographs of America’s national parks.