Though Las Vegas was basically built on the casino industry and gambling helped give rise to the term “Sin City,” it is a misnomer that only those who want to hit it big in poker or the slots should visit. Though more than 80 percent of people spend at least some portion of time gambling while they are in Las Vegas, only about 15 percent visit specifically to hit the casino floor.
In fact, Las Vegas has become increasingly friendlier for those who would prefer not to gamble. If you’re one of those people, here’s what Sin City has in store for you.
Shows and Concerts
Whether you like stand-up comedy or mind-blowing magic, there is sure to be at least some sort of show on the Las Vegas Strip that piques your interest. Cirque du Soleil has a large presence along Las Vegas Boulevard, and roaming off-Broadway shows, such as The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera, frequently set up shop for an extended period of time. There are several adult revues, including the classic Jubilee! and vampire-themed Bite. In the shoulder and low seasons, look for discounts on permanent shows.
Las Vegas also has several music venues, which highlight big-name bands and local musicians alike. The best known venues in town include the House of Blues and the Pearl at the Palms, but chances are that you can stop in any bar, pub or club and there will be some form of late-night entertainment. Because musicians have to compete with all the other nightlife in Las Vegas, concerts tend to be inexpensive compared to other major cities.
Many people are surprised to learn that Las Vegas is a good destination for outdoor sports enthusiasts. Due to its rocky and mountainous landscape, rock climbing, bouldering and hiking are popular activities, especially in nearby Red Rock Canyon. In the springtime, the desert blooms make a great setting for photographers. And its location near several national parks means that visitors can easily enjoy day trips to other natural areas in southern Utah, southern California and northern Arizona.
>>Read more about outdoor activities near Las Vegas.
Las Vegas has several specialty shops and mainstream stores that you can find throughout the United States. There’s something about shopping in Las Vegas that particularly appeals to people, though I promise the credit card bill will go home with you at the end of your trip. The good news is that you can get some great buys, especially at one of the several local outlet malls (especially the Las Vegas Premium Outlets).
Other popular shopping destinations include the Fashion Show Mall, the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace and Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile, all of which are located on the Las Vegas Strip. A newer shopping area, known as Town Square, has opened south of the Las Vegas Strip and offers plentiful shopping in an outdoor, pedestrian-friendly setting. It also has a play area for children, several restaurants and a movie theater.
Spend Nothing at All
If you prefer to keep all of your money in your pocket, take advantage of the many free activities in Las Vegas. During the day, wander through M&M World and watch the gondolas float by at The Venetian. In the evening, enjoy the Fountains of Bellagio and the Sirens of TI. If you have a car, there are several other free things to do off the Strip. A tour through Ethel’s Chocolate Factory is a favorite as is catching the Fremont Street Experience light show.
And, of course, it’s always free to people watch in Las Vegas.
Dance and Party
Las Vegas is frequently ranked as one of the best places to enjoy nightlife in the United States, and the sheer number of nightclubs helps to explain why. From classic Spring Break-type of clubs to classy ultra-lounges, you’ll be able to find at least one nightclub (and sometimes more) in just about every resort.
Before you head out for the clubs, it’s important to know that each has its own dress code. Certain nights have certain themes, and, depending on who is spinning music or which celebrity is making an appearance, lines might be longer than usual and cover prices might change. Some clubs are closed a day or two each week as well. If you want table service, make your reservations in advance, and don’t be shocked when a bottle of booze sets you back several hundred dollars.
Nightclubs in Las Vegas only seem to last for a few years before they shut down and something flashier and trendier moves in. You’ll likely find new clubs every time you visit town, but don’t get too attached because they might not stick around for long.
Though many pools in Las Vegas are open year round, it is often too cool to swim in the winter months. Nonetheless, guests at hotels will have a thorough choice of large family-friendly pools.
During the summer months, the Las Vegas’ pool club scene kicks into high gear with live DJs spinning poolside, fruity cocktails served by personal attendants and gorgeous people who just want to escape the heat. Several other adult-only pools offer a more laid-back, luxurious experience that is more first class than Spring Break. Of course, swimming isn’t required.
Find the Child Inside
Though generally considered to be an adult-only destination, there are several activities in Sin City that will bring the kid inside to the surface. Circus Circus is known for its indoor amusement park and arcade games, which adults will enjoy as much as children. The Stratosphere has a handful of adrenaline-pumping rides at the top of its tower, which dangle you over the Las Vegas Strip. You can also find roller coasters at New York New York and Sahara.
Despite being the in the middle of a desert, Las Vegas has several golf courses. Some are located near the Strip while others will require a rental car to reach. Spring and fall are the best times to play golf in Las Vegas as the summer days can be brutally hot, even in the mornings. Green fees vary and generally range from $75 to more than a couple hundred dollars. Check with your hotel concierge to make arrangements if you’d like to golf on your Las Vegas vacation.
>>More information about golfing in Las Vegas.
Photo credits: MGM International (Contortionists), mrmatt (hiking), Pieter Musterd (shoes), Amyn Kassam (Fremont Street), thinkpanama (nightclub), if you love me (pool), gTarded (Stratosphere rides), Robert V. (golf ball)