Things to do in Las Vegas
Cirque du Soleil Shows
If Vegas is a fantasy land, Cirque du Soleil’s seven Strip theaters take the fantasy to another planet. The Montreal-based theater company has laid claim to the city’s entertainment scene, offering a lineup of shows that take audiences from Elvis’ deployment, to Britain under the sway of the Beatles, to a far off watery world and a sexy stage show. With theaters built to house the various plots, technology lets Las Vegas’ Cirque shows astound unlike anywhere else. Embrace the escape and you’ll be transported.
Fremont Street Experience
The pedestrian mall that replaced the site of the city’s first paved street is defined by a 90-foot vaulted steel-mesh canopy sprinkled with 12 million LED lamps, making it the largest outdoor LED screen in the United States. Free shows, with animated and live-action video, go off at the top of the hour from dusk until midnight every day. One of the most exciting moments, in fact, is when the lights of Glitter Gulch suddenly go off when the minute hand strikes 12 so the show can commence.
Vegas is the most expensive golf market in the country – but four hours on the course can be a bargain compared to even 30 minutes of contrary dice. For all the outlay demanded, Vegas often gets golf right, and no place is that more obvious than at the 54-hole Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort. Other famous Vegas courses are exclusive to guests of certain resorts; Shadow Creek, for instance, is only available to folks checked in at MGM Resorts properties.
Las Vegas Mob Experience
Part interactive Disney-style immersive exhibit, part mafia history museum, the Las Vegas Mob Experience, which opened in early 2011, is the first of two mob-focused attractions to open in a town that was once run by some very famous last names. Created with input from Bugsy Siegel’s family and Meyer Lansky’s granddaughter (among others), the Experience grants guests a personalized tour through mob business via hologram guides that let you choose your own adventure. Whether you turn out a made man or end up getting whacked is, ultimately, up to you.
Las Vegas Springs Preserve
Built around a 180-acre tract of land where the long-since dried-up spring that birthed the Las Vegas community once gurgled, the Springs Preserve offers 176,000 square feet of museums, educational galleries, and interactive exhibits about the region’s natural and manmade gifts, more than 30,000 plants in an expansive botanical garden, and 2.5 miles of trails. A 79,000-square-foot Nevada State Museum opens soon. The region aspires to become Las Vegas’ answer to Central Park.
Visit this outdoor museum where neon-lit classics like the bygone Hacienda Hotel’s horse and cowboy (1967) and the Flame Restaurant’s flickering signage (1961) have been rescued. Call ahead to view the “Boneyard,” where they keep dozens of non-restored signs, by appointment only.
Pinball Hall of Fame
This unique institution offers folks a chance to play any of the 140+ vintage pinball machines inside. All of the machines are fully operational, most only cost a quarter, and some date back to the 1940s. Open Sunday-Thursday 11am to 11pm; Friday-Saturday 11am to midnight.
Pole Position Raceway
They might look familiar, but Pole Position doesn’t stock your average go-karts. The indoor raceway uses electric karts that can speed up to 45 mph for adults on a track that holds up to 13 people. Races last 10 minutes for standard Arrive & Drive packages. The rush should last at least 15.
Red Rock Spa
Though many Vegas hotels offer spa services, the Spa at Red Rock is one of the few places that truly understands the art of letting go, with treatments that range from the usual (ashiatsu massage) to the unique (try the Thai massage, where the therapist relaxes sore muscles by nudging limbs into yoga-like postures). "Adventure Spa" options include rock-climbing excursions.
If the charm of Las Vegas is in finding things on the Strip that defy expectations and good sense, then how about a 2-million-gallon saltwater tank containing thousands of fish and reptiles assembled by serious marine scientists in the middle of the desert? Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef isn’t weird or flashy the way many Vegas attractions are, but it can certainly wow its guests with too-cool animals – a rare Komodo dragon is a noteworthy attraction; visitors can pet bamboo sharks and horseshoe crabs – and dazzling walkway tunnels through the tank. It also earns credibility in its field beyond its tourist-attraction status: The 95,000-square-foot facility is the only one in Nevada accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
Sky Combat Ace
Channel Tom Cruise in Top Gun in your very own “fighter jet” with this adrenalin-fueled adventure high above the Nevadan desert. At Sky Combat Ace, combat veterans train newbies on basic flight maneuvers before taking them airborne to show off their skills with the pro on board in case things get hairy. For the full experience, sign on for the Sky Combat Package, in which you get to simulate in-flight military engagements fighter pilot style. The best part: bragging rights that are pretty hard to beat.
Stratosphere Sky Jump
The Stratosphere’s tower offers some of the best views in Las Vegas, though they look slightly different when you’re free falling from the 108th floor. Enter the Sky Jump, one of the casino’s high altitude thrill rides, which lets guests plummet 855 feet from the sky to the ground in a zip-line style endeavor that’s available from 11am to 1am Sunday-Thursday and until 2am Friday and Saturday.
Even in Sin City education is important. Learn the art of the striptease at this ladies-only pole- and lap-dancing class where seduction is on the syllabus. Classes are offered daily with various packages including options like an official Stripper 101 license (just the thing to bring home) and souvenir photo.
The "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" Sign
There’s no more iconic image in Las Vegas than the 50-year-old sign created by Betty Willis to announce to weary drivers from Los Angeles that they had arrived. Millions have pulled over to snap photos, from bridal parties to bands of conventioneers. A proper parking lot completed in recent years has made the sign a safer tourist destination – no running through oncoming traffic – though the crowds have also increased.
The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art
In the heart of the Strip, this gallery features expertly curated exhibits with works from artists like Monet, Chagall, and Christo. Drawing from MGM Resorts’ own art collection and sometimes collaborating with museums across the country, including Boston’s famed Museum of Fine Arts, the Bellagio Gallery is the Strip’s premier destination to view fine art. Complimentary docent tours start daily at 2pm. Check the website for information on the monthly Art & Wine pairing event in which a master sommelier pairs glasses with select pieces on display.
Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel
For the ultimate cinematic marriage, head to this infamous chapel – just make sure you’re not one of the ones on stage saying “I do.” The chapel offers a variety of themed weddings, from Elvis to Star Trek.
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On an open-seating flight, head for the back of the airplane. If the flight's not full, it'll likely be emptier back there.
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