What to Do in Vegas if You Don’t Gamble, or Just Get Sick of the Action
Las Vegas is like the desert sand, full of different layers and unique elements. Gambling may be the layer must people walk on, but if you dig a little deeper, there are many more wonders to see and experience in this great city.
Most of the talk about Vegas focuses on casinos, shows, and great clubs. Hey, there's nothing wrong with those—they form the intricate fabric that makes Las Vegas one of the most amazing travel destinations on the planet. Where else can you pass 10 fake Elvises on a half-mile walk, witness guys dropping $10,000 a hand in blackjack, and receive hand-delivered drinks to your seat. That said, the action in Las Vegas can wear on you, and if you're an adventurer bent on discovering the best features on the fringes of your travel destinations, there is plenty to find in Sin City.
Here are the Top 5 things to do in Las Vegas when you get tired of gambling:
1. Breathe outdoor air at Red Rocks
If you spend a few days in Vegas, you'll find that your Vitamin A falls to the floor, you are whistling Muzak in the shower, and you haven't seen a single thing that vaguely resembles nature. What's the cure? Find your way to the truly magnificent Red Rocks area, located just 20 minutes west of the Strip.
Red Rocks gives you three great activity options, adjustable based on your fitness inclination and the amount of food and drink you've ingested during your visit. You can take the 13-mile one-way scenic drive, which is, not coincidentally, quite scenic. There are numerous stopping points where you can pop out for a great view or a short romp on a trail. There's plenty of wildlife to soak in, and the spectacular mutli-color stratified rock that gives the park its name are astounding. Those who are feeling a bit braver can take a longer hike—there are plenty of walks for a mile or two up into the canyons, where you'll find cool caves and other sedimentary features.
Traveler's Tip: It can be very difficult to keep on a "trail" at this park. This is no east coast hike, but it's also quite difficult to get lost on the treeless rock face.
Lastly, the scenic drive also makes for a terrific bike ride. You'll find a few places in town where you can rent a road bike and make your way along with the cars. It's fairly tame because traffic is one-way, but be fit. There are decent hills and elevation gains here, so the ride is not for the faint of lung. Bring water for either the hike or the bike, of course. And sunscreen outside of the casinos is mandatory in the Vegas desert.
2. Get a darn good view of hydroelectric at the Hoover Dam
If as a kid you loved Legos or, even better (and you'd be older), your Erector set, then you should make haste to the Hoover Dam on your trip to Vegas. The Hoover Dam is at the border of Arizona and Nevada. It's a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. The Dam is not only a great feat of ingenuity, it offers a terrific way to think about the Great Depression period in the U.S., as this was one of the projects of the Works Project Administration, a Depression-era program to get Americans working again.
The Hoover Dam is located about 35 miles from Las Vegas. It's an easy car ride if you have a rental car, but you'll also find plenty of options for bus and even helicopter tours from the Strip being peddled as you walk down the sidewalk (along with a few less savory offers). Once you arrive, take the extra time and a few bucks to do the Hoover Dam Tour. It gives you a great, dark view of sheer depth and magnitude of the project. Find out more about the Hoover Dam tours and book early.
3. Visit Mount Charleston, and bring your mittens
I have been visiting Las Vegas since I was far too young for it to be sane, but only recently I took a drive up Mount Charleston and found it one of the most amazing attractions in town. Why? Well, it can be 100 degrees Farenheit on the Strip but snowy at the top of the mountain. The peak is just 35 miles northwest of town, and you'll need a car or to hire a taxi to make your way up there. It's clean air, wonderful views on a clear day, and chilly, chilly, chilly.
There's plenty of hiking, a couple nice lodges for a cup of coffee (or an overnight stay), and occasionally some winter sports. Mostly, you'll find yourself off the beaten path and surrounded by astonishing natural, woodsy beauty less than an hour from your last roll at the craps table.
4. Strap on some heat and visit one of two Mob Museums
Only in Las Vegas would two museums honoring the "mob" (or the mafia, for the uninitiated) open in one year. Who wins with this wicked mano-a-mano mob battle? You, the fearless, mob-intrigued traveler. Both open in 2011.
First, you can visit Tropicana Hotel & Casino and take in their mob memorabilia museum, which will be called the "Las Vegas Mob Experience." It's slated to feature over 1,000 artifacts of mobdom. You'll also find real-world tests of strength and other interactive exhibits. What's truly nifty about the Tropicana's effort is that rather than be mere observers of the history, they've chosen to partner with real descendants of the featured stars of the era. Supporters include Millicent Rosen, daughter of Flamingo hotel-casino owner Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel; Antoinette Giancana, daughter of alleged Chicago Mob boss Sam Giancana; and Cynthia Duncan and Meyer Lansky II, the grandchildren of Mob boss and gambling maven Meyer Lansky.
If you're not sated by the exhibits at the Trop, then head downtown and check out the city-sponsored Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. What it lacks in a catchy name (it's called the Mob Museum for short), it more than makes up for in location. This museum is located in the old city courthouse, the very place where the 1950 mob hearings were held.
5. Take a walk, for heaven's sake
If you haven't been persuaded to engage in any of these adventures, I have saved my personal favorite for last. Lather on some SPF 50, grab your camera (you'll want it, I promise), strap on your sneakers, and head out to the strip for a walk. The Strip is far longer than it looks, and the hotels are so large that they seem close when in fact the properties themselves span many football fields in length. The Venetian has over 4,000 rooms. Caesars Palace has over 3,500 hotel rooms. The new Cosmopolitan features a 65-foot tall chandelier with 2 million crystal beads. And you will not see more amazing examples of commercial architecture than you can find on a walk through the new City Center complex and the Aria Hotel & Casino.
In short, it's a heck of a terrific walk for exercise and sightseeing. Plus, the city has installed all manner of techniques for you to avoid traffic, including great over-street bridges, escalators, and walkways. There is simply no better way to get the feel of the scale of this city than walking it.
Early morning and early evening walks are best to avoid the heat and see sides of town you will never see in the casinos. It's not all pretty, but it's all fascinating.
Sin City offers plenty that isn't sinful. After all, what's the fun of sinning if there's nothing to compare it to? Get out, have some fun in Las Vegas, and then soak up the nightlife indoors with everyone else.
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