Las Vegas is a city that promises excitement, entertainment, fortune and fame. It is the ultimate adult’s playground, and a city that draws visitors from all corners of the world.
But with so much to see and do in Sin City, it’s hard to know where to visit, and what to avoid, especially if your vacation time is limited. Vegas hotels offer so much in the way of entertainment, from jaw-dropping casinos to spectacular shows, you might never feel the need to leave your building. But that would be a crying shame, considering the many amazing places to explore.
Just on the Vegas Strip alone - the 2.5-mile-long central section of Las Vegas Boulevard, which runs through the city from northeast to southwest - you can take in the huge entertainment palaces, like Caesars Palace, the MGM Grand, The Venetian and New York-New York, which make up the city’s famous skyline. Beyond the Strip, there’s more to see in Downtown Las Vegas, the city’s historic district and home to some of the city’s oldest casinos. And remember, there’s a whole rugged wilderness to explore outside of the city.
Whether you’re in Vegas for a wild weekend, shotgun-wedding, or a family trip, we’ve got you covered with our bucket list for those top 15 spots that must be seen and experienced, and those that you can save for next time or avoid altogether.
20 15. As Vegas As Vegas Gets - The Famous Peppermill
If you haven’t been to the Peppermill, have you even really been to Las Vegas? Drowned in blacklight, and packed with fake foliage and mirrors, the Peppermill’s Fireside Lounge is a glorious throwback to the days when disco ruled the dance floor.
This place claims to be “as Vegas as Vegas gets,” and you might recognise it from the movies Casino and Showgirls. Located on the Strip, the Peppermill is a great location for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and whatever you call fried eggs at 4 am.
19 14. Turn To The Shady Life At The Mob Museum
Get up close to Vegas crime within the safe confines of Downtown’s Mob Museum. Set in a former courthouse, this brilliant museum chronicles organised crime from vintage Las Vegas, when the mob ruled the joint, to the back alleys of US cities and around the globe.
Explore the real stories and actual events of Mob history through exhibits, including a vintage electric chair, and one-of-a-kind Mob and law enforcement artefacts. A multimillion-dollar renovation will add a hands-on lab in 2018.
18 13. Fall From The Stratosphere
If you’ve ever fancied hurtling 829ft towards solid ground in a controlled free-fall, then doing the SkyJump at Stratosphere is definitely for you. But even if you don’t fancy throwing yourself off a perfectly good building, you can still sign on for some worthwhile thrills.
The Strat is the tallest building in Nevada, where rides like Big Shot, X-Scream and Insanity are just as terrifying as they sound. If you prefer your views without the adrenalin rush, then the tower is still worth a visit for its renowned restaurants and bars, including Top of the World, 107 SkyLounge, and AirBar.
17 12. Get Lit At The Neon Museum
While so much of Las Vegas’ vintage architecture has been reduced to rubble, many of its iconic neon signs have been saved from that fate and set aside at the acclaimed Neon Museum.
Book a tour to wander among the 200 neon signs that sit in a lot called the “Boneyard," and hear tales of eccentric billionaires, long-gone landmarks and the characters that helped make Vegas, well, Vegas. Among the highlights are old signs from the fronts of Caesars Palace, as well as the old Stardust. Tours are best at night, when some of the signs light up.
16 11. Go To The Circus
Cirque du Soleil is not just your run-of-the-mill circus company. Part of Las Vegas for more than 20 years, its 90-minute shows have everything from music to illusion, acrobatics and artistry. They are the very definition of spectacle.
There are seven resident shows filling theatres along the Boulevard. For the most definitive display of Cirque’s charms, book O at the Bellagio, a jaw-dropping show based around a stage that transforms into a pool, displaying some inventive engineering, incredible acrobatics and the company’s classic clowns. Other shows include the martial arts fusion Ka, The Beatles-inspired Love, Michael Jackson One, and the fruity, adults-only Zumanity.
15 10. Tie the knot, Vegas-style
If traditional wedding ceremonies don't seem very you, then maybe the lightning-quick, starry nuptials in Vegas might be a good fit. Tie the knot at the Little White Wedding Chapel, where Frank Sinatra married Mia Farrow, or book the Viva Las Vegas Chapel, where an Elvis impersonator weds the betrothed.
There are so many themed weddings to choose from - adventure weddings, licensed wedding chapels and drive-through I-dos. Getting hitched in Vegas couldn’t be easier; the hard part comes after.
14 9. Bellagio's Signature Dancing Fountains
You might recognise this aquatic spectacle from the movie Ocean’s Eleven. The Fountains of Bellagio is one the most eye-catching attractions at the supersize Bellagio, and one of the many free shows Vegas has to offer. It is a vast, choreographed water feature with performances set to lights and music, featuring more than 1,200geysers nestled in the eight-and-a-half acre lake in front of the resort. The show is every 30 minutes from 3pm to 8pm, Monday through Friday, and every 15 minutes from 8pm to midnight.
13 8. Get That Classic Instagram Pic
The iconic "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada" sign serves as Sin City's unofficial welcome mat. This neon beacon has greeted visitors at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard since 1959, when commercial artist and prolific sign designer Betty Willis designed it as a gift to the city.
Because Willis never trademarked her work, merchandising companies have been able to replicate it on t-shirts, mugs and the vast array of novelty items you’ll find lining the city’s huge souvenir stores. These days, it’s one of the most popular selfie spots in town.
12 7. Go Take A Hike
Need to escape the city for a few hours? Las Vegas is ringed by mountains and canyons, which offer wonderful hiking year-round. There are trails for every fitness level just a quick drive away, whether you want to navigate slot canyons or sand dunes, explore hidden forests or hot springs.
During the winter, hit Red Rock National Conservation Area, where ruddy rock walls are dotted with climbers on world class routes and trails. In the summer, push north to Mt. Charleston, where almost 12,000 feet of elevation means cooler temperatures, forests of bristlecone pine and expansive views of the valley below.
11 6. Swim With Sharks At The Golden Nugget
The pool at the Golden Nugget comes with a three-story water slide that passes through a 200,000 gallon, shark-infested aquarium. You can also experience the thrill of swimming right next to the sharks from the tank-side swimming pool.
If you’d rather not get wet, take a guided tour of the aquarium, hosted by one of the staff marine biologists. You’ll discover the inner workings of the tank and its marine life, witness feeding time for the sharks and learn about the different species. You’ll even go home with a souvenir shark tooth.
10 5. Ride The World's Tallest Observation Wheel
Soaring 550 feet above the centre of the Las Vegas Strip, the High Roller eclipses both the London Eye and Singapore Flyer. At 550ft-tall, it is the world’s tallest observation wheel and it takes 30 minutes to complete one revolution.
Take in the sweeping 360-degree views of the Las Vegas Valley and the Strip from one of its 28 cabins. Pay extra for the Happy Half Hour that supplies your cabin with a personal bartender. Just make sure you go to the bathroom beforehand, because there's no place to go once the wheel gets spinning.
9 4. The Underrated Las Vegas Chinatown
Barely two miles from the Strip, along Spring Mountain Road, a huge district of Asian restaurants has developed over the past two decades. Chinatown Plaza, with its colourful, dragon-adorned, Tang Dynasty-inspired gate, is one of the most exciting and fascinating shopping centres in Las Vegas. Explore Asian retail, arts and culture, and treat yourself with authentic Asian cuisines. Popular restaurants include Harbor Palace Seafood for oceanic delicacies and Sam Woo BBQ for smoky meats.
8 3. The Fremont Street Experience
The Fremont Street Experience, in the heart of downtown, is a 24-hour pedestrian mall with a massive LED canopy that's just the right kind of over-the-top Vegas fun. It's a historic stretch of Las Vegas that's become a lot busier and more boisterous in recent years, and in between the penny slots and street performers, there's plenty of cool stuff you'll want to check out.
Take a zip-line ride from a two-story-tall replica of a slot machine called SlotZilla. Also, squeeze in a Fremont pub crawl and hit places like Commonwealth, Beauty Bar, Vanguard Lounge, and Banger Brewing. Be sure to do as the locals do and stop in at The Griffin at the end of your night.
7 2. Wildlife Habitat at Flamingo Las Vegas
This zoo-like oasis in the courtyard of the Flamingo Las Vegas is home to more than 60 exotic birds, plus 20 turtles and 300 fish. The attraction opened in 1995 and is a great place to escape from the hubbub of the Strip and the nearby LINQ Promenade. It’s also conveniently free of charge and open to the public daily.
Nestled on lush 15-acre grounds, the habitat is home to a beautiful flock of flamingos from Chile, and a colourful collection of other feathered friends such as Ring Tealed ducks and Sacred Ibis. To see the animals in their most active states, swing by for one of the twice-daily feedings at 8.30am and 2pm.
6 1. Spectacular Eruptions At The Mirage Volcano
Another popular free attraction in Las Vegas is the Volcano display at The Mirage, along the Strip. The volcano, which dates back to the hotel's opening in 1989, offers fireballs, water cannons and booming percussion riffs. The soundtrack is a collaboration between Mickey Hart, former drummer for The Grateful Dead, and Zakir Hussain, a musician from India who is a master of a drum called the tabla.
Pyrotechnics go off Sunday-Thursday at 7 pm and 8pm, with an additional show on Fridays and Saturdays at 9 pm.
5 5. Avoid: The Eiffel Tower At Paris Hotel
If you think you will see great, unobstructed views of the Strip, think again. Once the highest tower in Las Vegas, the Eiffel Tower Experience is exactly half the size of the Paris original and is now dwarfed by the many casinos surrounding it.
Just like the real thing in Paris, the observation deck at the top is protected with a wire cage and space is limited, especially when busy - which is often. You may have to wait for people to leave before you can ascend.
The top of the tower reveals panoramic views of nearby and distant buildings, mountain ranges in the distance and best of all, the Bellagio fountains directly across the road. But with so many other tourists clamouring to see, it’s hard to get a look in.
4 4. Avoid: Anywhere Off The Tourist Trail
Usually, we’d encourage tourists to forge their own path and venture into the unknown, but in Las Vegas, it’s best to stick to areas populated by tourists. Safety in numbers, and all that.
Las Vegas, for the most part, is a very safe city for tourists. It is well lit, patrolled by metro police on bicycles and horseback and has cameras at every corner looking out for the safety of tourists. However, use common sense practices in Las Vegas, as you would in any big city, and don’t venture down dark side roads or anywhere north or east of the Downtown area, especially after dark.
3 3. Avoid: Street Vendors Selling Bottled Water
The first reason not to buy bottled water from sketchy vendors in Vegas: It’s illegal. These vendors are not licensed/permitted to handle food or drink for public consumption. Metro police have also determined that some of that water could be unsafe. Some street vendors have been caught with bottles repackaged and resold with tap water to thirsty tourists.
Head instead to the convenience stores along the strip. Afterall, if you’re going to get sick from drinking in Vegas, it shouldn’t be from dirty water.
2 Avoid: Making A Trip To The Grand Canyon
Wherever you go on the strip, you’ll see signs urging you to take a Grand Canyon tour. Make no mistake, the national park in Arizona is absolutely worth visiting, but not so much if you’re trying to see it in one day on an excursion from Las Vegas.
If you are tempted to try, please bear in mind that a drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and back from Las Vegas involves a round-trip of nearly 600 miles. You'll spend more time on the road than admiring this natural wonder. It's not a good use of precious time if you're on a short break.
1 1. Avoid: Messing Up
Ha ha, very funny. But seriously. Vegas is wild. You’ve heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Well, it is certainly true, or at least it should be. It’s the entertainment capital of the world and things have a way of spiralling out of control.
Just don’t let it get too out of control because you really don't want to waste your night locked up with tourists all telling you about their attempts to reenact The Hangover movie.
References: visitlasvegas.com, lasvegashowto.com