Long gone are the days where the prime activity in Vegas was gambling. Today, you can spend an entire weekend in Vegas without even a second thought of hitting the slots ever crossed your mind. With so many distractions around every corner, many people no longer consider Vegas simply a gambling destination, but rather an entertainment destination. From world class shows & entertainment, to top knotch celebrity chef restaurants, to oddball attractions lurking in & outside every single casino, there is basically something for everyone in Sin City.
Vegas is one of my favorite of the man-made vacation destinations and I prefer to spend the majority of my time away from the smoky slot machines. Away from the glitter & glamour of The Strip lies many wonderful natural attractions. If you have the time, I highly recommend exploring the beautiful mountainous surroundings, lakes, & natural wonders of Nevada. After many, many trips, I have compiled a list of my top 40+ things to do in and around the Vegas area. This list is in no particular order, although I have marked what I believe to be the “10 must-dos” with a star.
1. Brunch at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant
The Eiffel Tower Restaurant is a stunning French restaurant overlooking the Strip from the 11th floor of the Paris casino resort. As you can imagine, the views from up here are nothing short of amazing. Unlike many tourist restaurants, the food here is pretty great. Service is exquisite as is the setting which consists of gigantic floor-to-ceiling windows – there is not a bad seat in the house. Request a window seat for a prime view of the Bellagio fountain show.
Tip: If you prefer to avoid crowds, visit during the less hectic brunch hours. Brunch is also a better value for the budget conscious traveler. For a dramatic, romantic experience with all the glittering night lights of the Strip, plan for a dinner date. Be prepared to shell out a few bucks for a very pricey meal that is worth the splurge for the incredible views.
2. Bellagio fountain show*
As in all areas, many of the best things to do in Vegas are completely free. The Bellagio Fountain show is an exhilarating artistic display, consisting of water shooting up over 400 feet in the air, accompanied by music and lights, and is by far the best free show to see on The Strip. If you have already been to Vegas, you likely will have already seen this mesmerizing choreographed dancing fountain show. If not, be sure to place it near the top of your to-do list. The show runs every 30 min during the day and every 15 minutes at night, and thus, is pretty easy to incorporate into any trip.
3. Mirage Fountain Show*
The explosive volcano show in front of the Mirage casino is the 2nd best free show on the Strip. Of course, you most likely have seen this one already if you have ever been to Vegas. It’s impossible to miss as this thrilling spectacle features an amazing soundtrack from The Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, accompanied by a host of dazzling special effects including shooting fireballs. Start heading over to The Mirage at least 15 min prior to 7, 8, or 9pm to get a front row view.
4. Welcome to Vegas Sign*
Although we all have seen this iconic sign in countless media, most of us are too busy on our Vegas vacation to even bother planning a visit to the actual sign. Plus, it’s a bit inconvenient as it is located about a mile off The Strip just north of the Manadalay Bay. It’s quite unbearable to walk this far during a hot Vegas summer. Plus, the line to get your pic is usually super long! I admit that it never even crossed my mind to take my picture by the sign until my 10th visit or so. However, if you do take the time, you will leave with a pretty awesome (and free) photo memento of your stay!
5. Mac King Comedy Show
This super entertaining magic show by comedian Mac King has been a staple at Harrah’s casino since 2000. What sets this show apart from most others is the comedian’s incorporation of both comedy and magic. While it may not be as flashy & high tech as some of the more notable shows, it nevertheless is just as entertaining, if not more so. Oh, and it’s super affordable compared to other shows with rates starting at just $36 with discounts available on sites like Groupon/Yelp and the Tix 4 Tonite booths. The shows runs Tues-Sat at 1 & 3, thus making it a great place to escape the heat for an hour or 2.
6. Red Rock Canyon*
Red Rock Canyon is one of the hidden gems of the Vegas area, and unfortunately, one most tourists will never see as it lies a half hour outside of the city and is not easily accessible if you are flying in and would rather avoid the hassle of renting a car. If you have the extra time available and are tired of the same old Vegas attractions, I really recommend checking out this gorgeous park, which is definitely one of the most beautiful of the Southwest.
If you have ever been to the breathtaking Sedona area, you will notice the similar beautiful red rock & sandstone formations here. There are plenty of activities for a half day outing including a scenic drive (which is also popular with cyclists), a great visitor’s center, and numerous hikes and overlooks to enjoy the fabulous views. If you can pull yourself away from the Strip for a bit, Nevada really does have some amazing natural places to enjoy and Red Rock is one of the best to escape the Vegas clutter for a bit.
7. Brunch at Mon Ami Gabi
Mon Ami Gabi is a fabulous French restaurant with the added bonus of a lively patio which overlooks the Strip. I somehow passed this restaurant dozens of times before finally deciding to check it out. Located at the Paris hotel in the center of the Strip, the people watching activities are amazing here. This restaurant is really popular for that exact reason, and thus, the wait is often ridiculously long on weekends. Food & service are both wonderful. The menu is a bit pricey, so brunch is the way to go if on a budget.
8. The Flamingo Habitat
The Wildlife Habitat is a great place to take a break from the clutter, heat, & noise of The Strip, regardless of whether or not you are staying at the Flamingo. And, the best part of all, it’s completely free! The tranquil lush setting really feels like a mini tropical oasis compared to the barren desert surroundings. Tropical palm landscaping, free roaming flamingos, exotic birds, koi ponds, and waterfalls create a serene setting not found elsewhere on The Strip. Definitely go for a much needed break from the congestion!