There is so much to do in Las Vegas aside from gambling. Unless you’re heading to one of the five-star casino restaurants in the city, you may never need to stride across a casino floor.
Because of space constraints, I have included the most popular non-gambling options in Sin City. However, there are so many more—from cannabis sampling to meditation workshops—that are available to all.
Concerts in Las Vegas
Every large casino in Vegas will offer “shows.” These are the varied extravaganzas for which visitors many come to the city to see. “Going to Vegas to see some shows” is as common a reason to fly into Sin City as playing high-stakes blackjack.
However, in addition to these shows—which can include offerings by Cirque du Soleil and Criss Angel—there is another type of event that is attracting crowds to the city.
We are talking about big-name, world-class musical concerts. The kinds of acts that have typically been associated with Madison Square Garden and Wembley Stadium are now main-stage attractions on the Strip.
Think Bruno Mars, Aerosmith, Billy Idol, and Cher. Then, add Christina Aguilera, Chicago, Diana Ross, and David Lee Roth. All of these artists are not just in town for one concert, but they’re enjoying Vegas “residencies.”
When an artist has a residency, he or she is living in Las Vegas and performing shows for up to a year. Celine Dion was famous for her sold-out Vegas residency, and Gwen Stefani had the same kinds of crowds.
The reason why these acts can “stay put” and just play one city for a year is because the whole world comes to Vegas. You can get flights to and from anywhere here, many of them non-stop.
The artists love it because they don’t have to be on the road (exhausting), and they can enjoy the palatial luxury that Vegas hotels have to offer. Visitors love it because, before and after the concert, they have all of Las Vegas and its many delights close at hand. It is a win-win situation for everyone, and the full houses are a testament to the idea’s success.
Burlesque Shows in Vegas
If you’re not familiar with burlesque, here is a description in a nutshell: Burlesque is an art that sits halfway between a dance troupe performing to jazz music and a strip-tease show.
It is a seductive dance act that highlights music from the 1930s to the 1960s, with elaborate costumes and “pin-up girl” hairstyles.
Vegas is home to a number of burlesque-themed venues. There is Bugsy’s Cabaret Showroom, the Burlesque Hall of Fame, and even a performance space in the Miracle Mile Shops that does “Zombie Burlesque.”
The Flamingo hosts a show called X Burlesque, and there are several others around town that specialize in this type of show.
Theater and the Night Life
Las Vegas has a number of venues that host Broadway shows and other theatrical presentations. The Smith Center, which is not on the Strip but is an easy cab ride away, is a stunning venue for such shows (and one of the few symphony halls in the US that allows attendees to take their glasses of wine to their seats!).
Here are some examples of the theatrical presentations you can find in Las Vegas: the stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird, the Tony winner Hades Town, My Fair Lady, and A Christmas Carol.
An evening of appetizers and cocktails, followed by a theater performance, and wound up with late-night dining at one of the city’s utterly decadent restaurants is an ideal couples’ night out.
Different Dishes for Dining
Okay, if you are not aware that the world of gastronomy has moved to and settled in Las Vegas, let me enlighten you.
Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen is here. Giada DeLaurentiis has a dining room on the Strip. So does Guy Fieri (a casual eatery), Mr. Chow, Guy Savoy, and Nobu. Oh, and Wolfgang Puck has his Spago here in Sin City.
And besides the big names, there are notable experiences at China Poblano as well as at Momofuku (both inside the Cosmopolitan), the Lazy Dog (if you find yourself in the suburb of Summerlin), and a thousand others.
And by “thousand,” we mean “more than a thousand.” OpenTable alone offers reservations for more than 2,700 Vegas restaurants. Considering that not all local restaurants accept reservations, you can estimate that the actual number of local eateries approaches 3,500.
Museums and More Historical Appreciation
Las Vegas has a number of museums, including options that you would expect in any urban environment, such as a natural history museum as well as a children’s interactive “museum.”
However, there are two museums unique to Sin City that garner rave reviews from travelers around the world.
I am not “into” violence, so I put off going to this museum longer than I should have. Inspired to finally visit by the sheer volume of enthusiastic reviews from family and friends, I made it in.
This is a solid chunk—not just of the history, but of the local flavor—of Las Vegas. Any history buff will appreciate the attention to detail in this space dedicated to the impact the Mafia had in building the modern city.
Any cocktail enthusiast will appreciate the fact that the “speakeasy” exhibit actually serves Prohibition-era cocktails! Take that, other cities! This is a museum that only Las Vegas can offer.
This is an ode, a testament, and a love letter to the art of neon. Much of the myth and mystique ascribed to Las Vegas is due to the sheer brilliance (and I mean that literally) of the casinos, restaurants, and every other business that wants to grab visitors’ attention. Hence, neon.
In addition to paying homage to all things neon, this museum also has a “boneyard,” which is where you will find older, discarded signs of storied and long-gone properties.
It’s an unforgettable place to spend your hours between lunch and dinner.
Enjoy a Movie in Las Vegas Hotels
Many casinos in Las Vegas have their own well-appointed movie theaters right on site. A good example is the Red Rock Casino’s movie theater, located in the casino next to the food court and the bowling alley.
More importantly, the Red Rock’s movie theater is just a 30-second walk from Kids Quest, a secure childcare site within the casino that logs your child in using your ID and won’t release the child to any other person.
Another option is the Suncoast Casino. The Suncoast is off the Strip and toward the western edge of town. This property has a movie theater (that sells ice cream cones, red wine, and mixed drinks in addition to the ubiquitous popcorn) and a locally famous/favorite restaurant called 90 Ninety that has reasonably-priced bits and expensive (but oh-so-worth-it artisanal) cocktails.
The Great Outdoors
Sitting on the western edge of Las Vegas is a national monument known as Red Rock. This stunning natural setting is a mecca for hikers and photographers, with its red rocks, cool canyons, and miraculous views.
If you are on the east side of town and want to stay close, consider taking a shady stroll through the Clark County Wetlands. This is a paved loop near small brooks and over bridges.
If you wonder how there can be wetlands in this desert, you may be interested to know that Las Vegas means “the meadows” in Spanish. Here in Las Vegas, there is subsurface water that makes its way to the surface in springs and small creeks.
We were, for thousands of years, the only freshwater between the Los Angeles basin and the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico. Hence, the need to stop here to water people and cattle and horses before modern water access to distant lakes and rivers were created.
This is a wonderful way to get a feel for the origins of the area and to lend depth to your visit here. As much as we adore the Strip and the tangible energy of our modern city, we also have much history to offer as well. There is even a city park on Cimarron Rd., between Sahara Ave. and Desert Inn Rd., that has preserved an actual section of the Spanish Trail.
A Final Thought Before You Go
Actually, it is a surprise that Vegas visitors even make it onto the casino floor to gamble; there is simply so much non-gambling activity to partake in that gambling has almost become secondary to the rest of the Vegas experience.
Enjoy your time here in Sin City; no matter how long your stay, there will still be so much more to explore and taste and touch for your next visit, and the one after that…