From A-list entertainers and big-budget stage shows to gourmet experiences from celebrity chefs and luxury hotels, pools and casinos to breathtaking canyons, plains, forests and mountains, Las Vegas offers an experience like no other city. Here are some of the best things to do on your next visit.
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1. Drive across the Strip
Pulling behind the wheel of Las Vegas (Spanish for “the meadows”) as a Sin City newcomer is a classic experience — arrive after dark, approaching from the south for maximum “wows” and the iconic ” Welcome to Las Vegas Sign Drive down the 4.2-mile stretch of Las Vegas Blvd between Russell Rd and Sahara Ave, known worldwide as “The Strip.”
2. Watch a show
Nothing beats a show in Las Vegas © Jerry Alexander / Lonely Planet
Vegas is synonymous with world-class entertainment. Queen Celine aka Celine Dion, who was previously retired, is making a comeback from November 2021 and a host of notable artists are taking up residencies here.
However, the hottest ticket in town remains Cirque du Soleil. Whimsical costumes, aerial acrobatics and synchronized swimming create an electrifying atmosphere. Immerse yourself in the original water spectacle – “O”, Chinese martial arts-inspired “Kà”, musical tributes to the Beatles (LOVE), circus spectacle “Mystère”.
3. Eat at a celebrity chef’s restaurant
In Las Vegas, celebrity chefs share star status with top entertainers, but few casino resorts offer such a revered dining offering as the Palazzo and the Venetian, whose acclaimed dining rooms include Napa Valley prodigy Thomas Keller’s Bistro Bouchon, the Steakhouse Cut by LA trendsetter Wolfgang Puck, and original Food Network personality Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico Steakhouse (with a Cajun twist).
A range of more casual offerings, including B&B Burger & Beer and Sushisamba, are accessible even to those who haven’t won big at the tables.
4. Hit the racquet
Megan Thee Stallion performing at Hakkasan Nightclub in July 2021 © Denise Truscello / WireImage
When Vegas hosted the Electric Daisy Carnival (the giant of the EDM world) in 2011, attendance surpassed 230,000.
Casino operators soon seized a long-awaited opportunity to reverse the slump in traffic Vegas had suffered since the 2008 economic crisis: the ordinary gambler no longer had money to burn at blackjack or risk at slot machines, and instead wanted to escape the stresses of life more than ever.
After the festival, the MGM Grand’s megaclub Hakkasan persuaded world heavyweight DJs Calvin Harris, Tiësto and Steve Aoki to move into residencies, and today Vegas rivals Ibiza as a destination for dance parties.
5. Hanging out at a luxury pool
Don’t miss all the luxury pools in Las Vegas © Ethan Miller /Getty Images
In the running for the best resort pool in Las Vegas is Mandalay Bay’s stunning “beach,” with 2,700 tons of imported Southern California sand, 6-foot man-made waves, a “beach” casino, and a lazy river you can float down before Catch him a summer concert under the stars, wins hands down.
But don’t let that stop you from trying each of Vegas’ ubiquitous pool bars, from MGM Grand’s Wet Republic to Encore’s ultra-chic Beach Club and Caesars Palace’s tried-and-true Garden of the Gods.
6. Get on the STRAT
Want a bird’s-eye view of the Vegas skyline? Time to climb the STRAT © Mitchell Funk / Getty Images
Anchoring the northern stretch of the Strip, The STRAT’s glittering, three-legged tower is the tallest of its kind in the United States. There’s no better place to get a bird’s-eye view of Las Vegas than from this vertical metropolis that resembles a flying saucer on a pole.
At sunset, ride the country’s fastest elevators to the Observation Deck (260m) or enjoy a cocktail in the slowly revolving 107 SkyLounge. Night time is best for the biggest scares on the tower’s rides, or be a daylight daredevil and do a SkyJump freefall.
7. See vintage Vegas
This is a city where they tear down perfectly good buildings for no reason. The wrecking balls of The Strip keep swinging, which is why a trip to retro downtown is so satisfying.
Antique neon signs take pride of place along Fremont Street, and old-school casinos like the Golden Nugget and El Cortez hark back to the Rat Pack era. Don’t miss the Neon Museum, where even more Vegas history is lovingly preserved.
8. Downtown Pub Crawl
Atomic Liquors on Fremont Street is the oldest freestanding bar in Las Vegas © Greg Thillmont / Lonely Planet
After splurging on cocktails on the Strip, head downtown to the lively Fremont East entertainment district. Start at Container Park to browse the stalls with an open IPA container, chat with tattooed locals, and find your way amidst trippy industrial art.
From here, you can happily flock to the chaotic late-night bars lining Fremont Street. First Fridays in these areas are local legends: community arts festivals turned street parties giving the nearby Arts District a mini-carnival makeover on… you guessed it… the first Friday of the month.
9. Learn about the history at Springs Preserve
Tired of smoky casinos? Detour off The Strip for a breath of fresh air and discover eco-conscious design at this educational museum complex.
The Springs Preserve is located on the site where dry natural springs once fed Las Vegas and where traders of the southern Paiutes and the Old Spanish Trail made camp.
Family-oriented attractions include the Origen Museum, Nevada State Museum, and the Desert Living Center, as well as hiking trails, wildlife viewing, botanical gardens, a healthy cafe, and a weekly farmers’ market.
How to survive a trip to Las Vegas
10. Visit the National Atomic Testing Museum
The Smithsonian-affiliated National Atomic Testing Museum evokes an era when the word “atomic” evoked modernity and mystery.
After visiting the museum, one can almost imagine 1950s gamblers and tourists picnicking on the rooftops of downtown casinos while mushroom clouds billowed on the horizon. Enter the deafening Ground Zero Theater, which mimics a concrete test bunker.
11. Catch the view at the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
The Bellagio’s conservatory changes with the seasons and features eye-catching floral arrangements installed with a crane through a 50-foot ceiling.
12. Enjoy the lights at the Fremont Street Experience
Famous Fremont Street has an amazing light show ©Photos593/Shutterstock
Stretching through the center of Vegas’ historic downtown Glitter Gulch neighborhood, this five-block pedestrian mall is lined with old-school casinos and topped by a domed steel roof.
Every hour from dusk until midnight, the 1400-foot long canopy turns on a six-minute light and sound show. The shows are ridiculously cheesy but fascinating when you’re drunk.
It’s even more exciting when you randomly zoom past the zip lines attached to the 12-story Slotzilla, a slot-themed platform at the east end of the mall.
13. Check out the exotic Flamingo Wildlife Habitat
Escape the madness at the flamingo wildlife habitat, behind the casino. Over a dozen acres of pools, gardens, waterfalls, and waterways are filled with swans, exotic birds, and ornamental koi (carp).
Chilean flamingos and African penguins roam here, and palm trees and jungle plants thrive in the middle of the desert. Catch a glimpse of pink feathers at the Tropicana (attached to birds, not an exotic dancer).
14. Explore nature in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Joshua Tree in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area © nstanev /Getty Images
Just a short drive (13 miles) from the Strip, Red Rock’s dramatic vistas are revered by Las Vegas locals and adored by visitors from around the world.
The gorge, whose 3,000-foot red rock slope rises sheer from the valley floor, is believed to have been formed by extreme tectonic forces some 65 million years ago.
A 13-mile, one-way scenic drive offers mesmerizing views of the canyon’s most prominent features. Hiking trails and climbing routes start from roadside parking lots.
15. Visit the Mob Museum
It’s hard to say which is more impressive: the museum’s physical location in a historic federal courthouse where gangsters sat for federal hearings in 1950-51, the fact that the board is chaired by a former FBI special agent, or the carefully curated exhibits It tells the story of organized crime in America.
The museum features practical FBI gear and Mafia artifacts, as well as interviews with real-life Tony Sopranos.
16. Watch a ball game at Las Vegas Ballpark
The boys from Las Vegas’ own minor league team – the Aviators – hit fastballs here in the summer months, aiming for the Spring Mountains, which can be seen behind the stadium.
See a different side of the Las Vegas Strip from above © f11photo / Getty Images
17. Take a Vegas balloon ride
Soar over West Las Vegas on a one-of-a-kind balloon ride, with The Strip on one side and Red Rock Canyon on the other.
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This article was first published on May 20, 2021 and updated on December 20, 2021