Weekend Getaway: Las Vegas

Sin City conjures an image of neon lights, luxury and gambling in casinos. A desert oasis, it’s one of the biggest epicenters for gambling in the world- even the airport is chock full of slot machines.

If you just come to Vegas to gamble, you’ll be missing out on some seriously awesome entertainment options, including a variety of shows with legendary performers (hi, Britney), natural phenomenons and endless shopping.

I visited Vegas for a long weekend several years ago as part of a friend’s birthday bash. Did I gamble a little bit? Yes, but I was also determined to spend time outside of the casino, exploring what Las Vegas has to offer.

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10 Things to Do in Las Vegas (that don’t involve gambling)

  • Visit “foreign cities” or relax by the pool: You can easily entertain yourself just walking the Strip and checking out various resorts, a few recos:
    • Pirate shows at Treasure Island
    • The Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat
    • Botanical gardens and the colorful lobby with a Chihuly ceiling in the Bellagio
    • Gondola rides in the Venetian. Also, the tower in the courtyard is a scaled replica of  St. Mark Campanile in Venice
    • Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay
    • Classic Rome at Caesar’s Palace
    • New York New York is pretty self-explanatory 😉
    • If you stay at a resort on the strip, don’t miss out on pool time. I’ve stayed at the MGM Grand, Tropicana and Hollywood Planet- all of which have great pools to relax next to. The MGM Grand even has a lazy river you can spend an afternoon floating down

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  • See Old Vegas: Hop on a local bus to downtown Fremont Street, where gambling originated
    1. Fremont Street runs through most of the big classic casinos, and is a great place to watch street performers or experience live music. If you visit at night, be sure to check out the Fremont Street Experience
  • Admire vintage signs from the city’s past at the Neon Museum:  The Neon Museum is a non-profit dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs. The museum offers both afternoon and evening tours

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  • Take your mojito onto the streets: There aren’t many places that allow you to freely wander with a drink in hand. I recommend taking your drink to the Bellagio fountain show-  truly a sight to behold

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  • Eat at a buffet: Vegas is known for its plentiful buffets. I’m not usually one for all-you-can-eat experiences, but The Buffet at the Wynn was unreal. Knowing this place has been voted as one of the best buffets in Vegas, we came for an early dinner one night. The crab legs and desserts are worth a visit alone

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  • Take a picture at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas:  Considered a rite of passage by some, this sign on the South end of The Strip is a perfect way to begin your trip
  • Drink inside a chandelier: The Chandelier (inside The Cosmopolitan) is a three-tiered chandelier that’s more than just a beautiful piece of art, it’s also a bar with different cocktails on each level. It goes without saying the ambiance of millions of twinkling crystals makes this a great place to enjoy a cocktail

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  • Go shopping: Something about hitting the Vegas strip brings out the shopaholic in many people.  Most of the resorts have shopping areas, many of which offer a number of medium and high-end choices
  • See a show: This is a main part of what Vegas is all about. Living in New York City and having access to world class entertainment, I opted not to see a show while I visiting (read: Britney wasn’t performing that weekend). But, some of the people I was traveling with saw Cirque du Solei. I’ve also heard the Blue Man Group puts on a great show in Vegas
  • Take a day trip to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon: Admittedly, not scheduling a day trip to visit these attractions during our time in Vegas was an oversight. Both are still on my list of places to visit, and for a good reason
  • Bonus recommendation: Hike Red Rock Canyon (half an hour from the Strip), or drive an hour to the Valley of Fire State Park, home to stunning rock formations

 

Where to Eat in Vegas

Las Vegas is increasingly becoming a foodie paradise. There are a number of places I’d like to check out on a future trip to Vegas, but a few of my favorites from our weekend there include:

  • Hash House a Go Go: My first time at a Hash House was on a road trip through San Diego a few summers ago. When I heard there was one in Vegas, I knew it’d be the perfect place for breakfast after a night of celebrating. Everyone raves about the chicken & waffles, but I’m partial to the sundried tomato, basil & goat cheese farm scramble

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  • Jean Philippe Patisserie (inside the Bellagio): This patisserie holds the Guinness World Record for largest chocolate fountain. We enjoyed a mini chocolate cake here, simply devine

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  • Yard House: Casual, comforting, and good, eats with an impressive beer list
  • Sugar Factory: The goblet drinks loaded with dry ice and candy are a main draw for eating here, but there’s also an entire menu page devoted to French Toast, so you can’t go wrong for brunch

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  • Pub 1842: House-made Fireball, perfectly crunchy frickles, loaded nachos and a boozy bacon root beer float? A definite win if you’re in the mood to indulge

 

 

Getting Around Las Vegas

It’s easy to get around the Strip on foot, but it takes a while to walk from one end to the other. If the afternoon sun has you exhausted, hop on the Deuce bus. These buses regularly run the length of the Strip and up to Fremont Street 24 hours a day.

There’s also the Las Vegas Monorail which runs between the former Sahara and the MGM Grand. We didn’t take any of the monorails, but I’ve heard there are also three smaller monorail trams, which are free and run from the Mirage to Treasure Island, Bellagio to Monte Carlo and Mandalay Bay to Excalibur.

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