It's hard to believe Sin City still holds some secrets, but it definitely does. With all the big shiny attractions we've all heard of and are anxious to check out, there are also plenty of smaller, less flashy (but often more fun) spots visitors should discover. When my guy surprised me with a trip to Vegas for my 50th birthday, I knew playing cards held no real allure for us and I tried to find out about some under-the-radar attractions. We found a few real gems, which are on the list here. Both are auto-related, since my guy is a true gear-head, just like most my family. Finding our way over to the Shelby Factory was sort of an adventure in itself, since we chose not to rent a car after our flight. We never regretted that decision, with the excellent public transportation available for a reasonable price. Seeing some nearly priceless cars and learning more history made us feel like we were in an exclusive club, and a lot of our trip seemed that way. We were diving in and uncovering gems around every corner by paying attention and doing some research. We found a quiet watering hole out of the way, and were drinking for a fraction of what most bars were charging along the main spots on the Strip. Felt like we were insiders, and it felt sort of fun. Isn't that what Vegas is all about?
20 The Mob Museum
The Mob Museum is a natural draw in Las Vegas. After all, part of its allure is the tawdry past and old gangsters, now the stuff of legends, who helped build it into an oasis of sin and fun in the desert. The Mob Museum isn't a nickel and dime affair meant to stuff some other gangster's pockets with tourist money, however. It's a nonprofit designed to tell the story of organized crime and the law enforcement's fight against it. There are displays of memorabilia that will boggle the mind, and interactive exhibits to keep everyone's interest. The museum is open daily, but on a limited schedule, so plan ahead for a visit. Check out the Speakeasy, the Crime Lab or join a scavenger hunt for groups. The Mob Museum is not on the strip but in the original downtown area, and in close enough proximity for even those without rental cars to visit.
19 Pinball Hall Of Fame
In 2009, pinball aficionado Tim Arnold opened the Pinball Hall of Fame at its new location nearer the Strip, with its 10,000 square feet of pinball heaven. See row after row of vintage machines, mostly dating from the 1960s to 1980s when the games were in their heyday, but check out some dating back to the 1950s. These are not roped-off, look-but-don't-touch exhibits, either. For a quarter (or 50 cents for 90s models) you can play the games that captured the imagination of young people before the advent of video games at home. What's especially cool is that this is another nonprofit spot, so the money from the games just keeps the place and the pinball machines running. The owner simply wants to share his passion with others, and any profit is donated to the Salvation Army.
18 Downtown Container Park
No one wants to visit another vanilla version of the same old stuff they see everyday at home. I mean, why visit a mall that has the same (or nearly the same) stores you see in your hometown while on vacation? However, you may want to shop, so why not go to a unique shopping experience like Container Park in Las Vegas? Made up of totally tricked out shipping containers, this retail hotspot features all the shopping goodies you desire, with plenty of fun to attract the non-shoppers in the family. For instance, there's the Dome, which the site describes as "an immersive, 4K-visual dome entertainment experience inspired by the vibe of downtown Las Vegas. Nearly 14 million pixels surround viewers in a series of ultra-HD, 360-degree imagery designed for all ages." There's an interactive playground featuring the Treehouse for kids, all kinds of shops and dining, and it's 21 and up after 9 pm.
17 Springs Preserve
Not all that stands out in Vegas is shiny, sparkly or indoor. A great example is the Springs Reserve, a 180 acre area in the middle of Vegas with natural attractions such as an 8-acre botanical garden, train, and play area for little ones, as well as a flash flood exhibit, an animal exhibit with desert critters and a butterfly exhibit. It has miles of trails, animal shows and bike rentals, and a fun nature exchange for budding scientists. Other attractions include Boomtown 1905 featuring a historical street recreation with interactive elements, a Sustainability Gallery with displays, interactive fun and a play area, and of course, a requisite cafe and gift shop. This is only a sampling, so for those wanting some fresh air and a shot of nature, the Springs Reserve should be the right call.
16 Neon Boneyard
The Neon Boneyard sounds like an alternative, edgy new band but it's another often-overlooked kitschy attraction in Vegas. This graveyard and museum of sorts is solely dedicated to those old, glittery Vegas neon signs. It's actually become a favorite spot for weddings, for those seeking something a little off the regular track. The Neon Boneyard is made up of 2 acres of museum campus touting over 200 signs, including notable ones such as the Golden Nugget, Stardust and Caesar's, as well as the Palms, New-New York and others. Tours are available and allow the guest to view signs at ground level and see things close up and personal. Guests will be given the background story on the signs and their history. Photoshoots are also popular events to book here.
15 Amber Unicorn Books
A vintage used book store is probably not the first thing most people think of or look for while on vacation in Vegas, but maybe they should. Amber Unicorn Books is a big draw for the book-lover set. The establishment has been around for a few decades (a major accomplishment for an indy bookstore) and has 2400 square feet of books. One major section is their amazing offering of cookbooks, and with all the foodies that clamor around Vegas, this is big; over 20,000 cookbooks! They also have antiques, first editions and other rare books. Other offerings include sci-fi, fantasy and metaphysical, as well as theater/art/ film titles. The shop is open 7 days a week, Monday through Saturday from 9-6 pm and Sunday from 9am to 4 pm.
Absinthe is a show that combines elements of burlesque, vaudeville and the Big Top, and has been featured at Caesar's Palace in Vegas since 2011. Under a big tent in an area referred to as Spiegelworld, the 90-minute show is not for the "faint of heart," or those under 18 years of age. There's a bit of debauchery, acrobatics and glitz and grime in equal parts. Why it's not a better known show is odd, as Las Vegas Weekly called it the greatest show in Las Vegas history. Wow! That's a big compliment, for certain, in a town synonymous with showmanship. There are 2 shows daily, at 8 and 10 pm, Wednesday through Sunday. A bar is available inside the tent, and tickets range from $100 to $200.
13 Shelby Tour
As I mentioned, the Shelby tour was a highlight of our trip, and we felt like we were explorers finding the spot and joining the Mustang true believers on a factory tour. The factory is not on the strip, but with a little finagling you can get there with some bus and foot work combined, or it's a simple drive with a rental car. The museum is open daily, and tours are conducted at 10:30 and 1:30 Monday through Friday; no tours on Sunday and only the morning one on Saturdays. There's a lovely showroom of unbelievably historic and valuable Shelby Mustangs, and memorabilia, as well as a gift shop that any car lover will struggle to not spend at. But the tour and admission to the whole thing is free, so why not grab a cool trinket from the shop?
12 Hollywood Car Museum
Another mecca for car lovers in Vegas is the Hollywood Car Museum, where visitors can marvel at 30,000 square feet of famed cars featured in film and TV. You can glimpse autos from the Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee, to Knightrider, to Liberace's collection. The place is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 5 pm, and kids under the age of 16 get in free with a paying adult. They've got genuine car lover bait, from a Mitsubishi Eclipse driven by Paul Walker in the Fast and the Furious film, to the 1965 Benz featured in The Hangover, to campy stuff like the pink hot tub limo featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Kids will be intrigued by the 12 foot tall rollerskate hotrod. A top-rated auto museum you may never have heard of before, is a must see for car lovers in Vegas.
11 Mystic Falls
Within Sam's Town on the old Strip, is Mystic Falls Park. This faux outdoorsy-setting is helped out considerably by the expansiveness of the place. The skylight is 10 stories above, to get some idea of the scale. There are rocky waterfalls, birds singing and trees. But in the afternoon there are shows every couple of hours, starting at 2 pm and going on until the last show of the night, at 10 pm. The show is heralded by a wolf howling near the falls, and then the Sunset Stampede Laser Light and Water Show begins. Music, water fountains dancing, and laser lights accompany an Old West-themed show for family fare that is unlike anything else anywhere else. The best part is the price; it's free! And you don't have to venture out of the way to find it, as there's plenty to do in that area of the original Strip.
10 Topgolf Vegas
Topgolf Vegas is a venue that is located at the massive MGM Grand, which combines golf, pools and bars, as well as other entertainment, shopping and restaurants in one gigantic spot. Topgolf offers 107 climate-controlled hitting bays, 2 huge pools meant for fun, and cabanas and private suites. Also on site are private meeting rooms and event areas, as well as 5 bars and a concert venue with room for up to 900 guests. There are video walls, lessons and pro shops. Among the dining options are burgers, brews and wraps, and Topgolf hosts its own celeb chef cook-off competitions. A Kidzone offers lessons and academies, and even hosts birthday parties. Visitors can enjoy the combo of golf and high tech fun in the way of games. There's plenty for everyone whether you are a golf fan, or not.
Akhob is an attraction like none other in Vegas. Located on the top floor of the Louis Vuitton City Center store, is this art installation by James Turrell. The exhibit is called "Akhob" which means "pure water" and is taken from the Egyptian Amarna period. The exhibit doesn't require you to purchase anything from Vuitton, and indeed there isn't even an admission price. The catch is that you must call and make reservations, as only 4 people are admitted at a time, unless you make an appointment for a single party of 6. The bigger catch? This place is a hit, meaning you need to call ahead, like way ahead, such as a month in advance. It's hard to explain, but it's a couple of chambers entered by way of a circular passage, where visitors are bathed in intense colors that are gentle on the eyes. It is a 24 minute presentation that is liable to leave guest awed and maybe a bit discombobulated.
8 Ethel M. Chocolates And Botanical Cactus Garden
Chocolates and cactus gardens don't immediately seem like a logical combination, but it works in Las Vegas at Ethel M Chocolates and Botanical Cactus Garden. Billed as the largest botanical cactus garden in the Southwest, Ethel M's boasts 4 acres of succulents. The plants feature flowering displays and are sure to wow many a gardener, and entertain a child on the way to the real goodies; the chocolate. You can take a self-guided viewing tour, and enjoy a tasting class session which lasts 30 to 45 minutes. Naturally, there's a gift shop, and for true chocoholics, myself included here, there's a photo op with a giant box of chocolates. Tasting classes are held hourly everyday from 10 am to 7 pm. Chocolate and cactus? Why not? It's Vegas!
7 Fremont Street
If you visit Vegas and skip Fremont Street, you've missed half the fun. It used to be the Strip; it's the original downtown. However, years went by and that area seemed old, neglected and out of date. Then something of a revitalization took place and it became the secret Strip. Today visitors can enjoy the Fremont Street Experience, several casino/hotels and plenty of activities to entertain, food to gorge on and drinks to imbibe... often at a fraction of what it'd all cost on the Strip. This area is also referred to as downtown Vegas, so don't get confused. The Fremont Street Experience includes a light show, Viva Vision, hourly beginning at 6 pm, and there are often live music events, sometimes with big name entertainment. There are zip-lines to scream from, a 3D motion ride, and a Fear the Walking Dead attraction. Consider Fremont Street concentrated and less expensive Vegas fun.
6 Gamblers General Store
Why go to high priced gift shops while on vacation? When people visit Vegas they often want to bring home souvenirs that are Vegas themed but most of those items will be marked up so high you'll have nothing left to spend on yourself. Gamblers General Store has everything associated with gambling you can imagine, minus the support group. There are decks of cards, dice, mugs and keychains, ashtrays and the like. Want a shirt that declares your love of all things Vegas? They have it. Want a piggy bank that looks like a slot machine? Bingo! They have it! Want some used Vegas casino card decks? Yep, they have those too. They've got plenty of adult themed items, like "love dice" or hemp-emblazoned souvenirs. It's a one-stop gift shopping spot.
5 Dig This!
There's always some demo and construction going on in Vegas because it never ceases to remake itself. That's why the next attraction, while odd, is kind of natural to the location. Dig This! is a heavy duty construction dig site transformed into a grown-up play land. Ever fantasize about wearing a neon vest and hardhat, then just pulverizing stuff? Here's your dream playground. At Dig This! you can run an excavator, bulldozer or other heavy equipment, play games and generally work through some issues. There's even a package called, "Aggression Session". It's for those ages 8 and up, and a breathalyzer is required before starting, so no liquid courage beforehand or you forfeit your visit! Have a group? That's no problem, as Dig This! has group experiences available. Dig This! has a themed gift shop, and you'll have plenty of photo ops as well.
4 Shark Tank Water Slide
This is the stuff of nightmares for some, and a thrill of a lifetime for others. At the famed Golden Nugget Hotel pool complex, they sank $30 million into this to offer such amazing experiences as a 200,000 shark tank aquarium, a 3-story complex and oh, yeah...a water slide that puts you through the aforementioned shark tank. Sound like fun? You're braver than me! The pool complex is open to Golden Nugget Guests, but even if you are staying elsewhere, you can pay to enjoy one of the most awarded and talked about pools in the country. You can even take a shark tank tour with a zoologist. The pool itself is outstanding, and there are incredible views for the more faint of heart, who have opted out of the water slide experience.
3 Beer Park
Beer Park sounds like an obvious choice for Vegas. Located on a 10,000 square foot dock with stunning views of the Bellagio's Fountains, Beer Park gives a sort of pseudo sport experience because of the amount of HD TVs everywhere broadcasting all things sports, and the beer and food on tap. Beers number over 100, plus there are 36 on tap. Vendors roam about just like at your favorite stadium, offering grill items and concessions everyone loves. Or you can enjoy the full menu, which requires tough choices like slow-grilled, smoked or grilled over Budweiser-soaked beechwood chips. Kids are allowed in until 9 pm, so it is still a family attraction the majority of the time. Later in the evening, the mood turns from sporting event to block party, with live music or DJs and one of those fave Vegas activities: people watching!
2 First Friday
Anyone planning a first of the month trip to Vegas should definitely check out First Friday Vegas. This is a monthly community event that only the community of Las Vegas could pull off. It's food vendors, arts, crafts and live music and other stuff you can't quite categorize so easily. It's immensely popular including with locals, and involves downtown/ Fremont Street, the Arts District specifically and benefits local community groups and nonprofits, especially low income and disenfranchised groups, to supporting local arts and culture. It's never quite the same experience twice, and it's become an event that locals and visitors alike can enjoy. So bring an appetite, some money, and a healthy, open-minded curiosity.
The Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge sounds homey and classic, doesn't it? Well, classic in Vegas means something else. It's iconic, long-standing and has hosted mobsters, Vegas entertainers of all kinds, and plenty of tourists wanting to soak up the ambience of old school Vegas. The menu is expansive, the drinks legendary, and the interior is 70s tacky with just a hint of cool allure. Movies shot here include Casino, Showgirls, The Cotton Club, and CSI filmed here, as did Carlos Santana for a music video. An episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee featured George Wallace with Jerry Seinfeld at the Peppermill. Basically, it opened in 1972 and since then it's either been the place to be or was the place to be. It's drenched in Vegas over-the-top vibes. Make sure you check out the Fireside Lounge for the full experience!
via: goldennugget.com, ethelm.com, samstownlv.com, hollywoodcarsmuseum.com