Elvis once sang, “Viva, Las Vegas.”
The famous song, which came to us by way of the Romantic Comedy motion picture with the same name, was recorded in 1964 and follows the story of a man who is gambling and rambling his way through Sin City.
While a trip to Vegas can easily be spent toiling in front of a one-armed bandit (slot machine) or going all in at the poker tables, there is a lot more to Las Vegas that can make it a memorable trip. Whether you are on the world famous strip, in the downtown area or even out in the desert, Las Vegas has something for every traveler.
Things to see and do in Las Vegas, Nevada
On the strip
This is where you will most likely spend the majority of your trip in Las Vegas as this is where most of the action happens, and with 15 of the world’s 25 largest hotels, by room count, there, it’s easy to see why. The 4.2-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard that starts at either the Stratosphere or SLS, depending on who you talk to, and concludes at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, just 0.4 miles away from the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, is designated as an All-American Road and a considered a scenic drive as well. So whether you plan on heading into one of the many resort casinos or not, you can be sure you’ll never have a shortage of things to do.
Sometimes, when you are in a new place, it can be a good idea to get a lay of the land, and see where you will want to make sure you visit. What better way to do this than by taking a ride on one of Vegas’ newest, and now tallest, attractions?
The High Roller Wheel, which is rather appropriately named, is located outside of the LINQ Hotel and Casino that is situated between the Flamingo and Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino and across the strip from Caesars Palace. The brand-new attraction opened on March 31, 2014, is currently the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, and boasts a nine-foot advantage over its predecessor in Singapore, at 550 feet.
While the wheel’s construction is quite amazing and revolutionary, everyone knows that the most important part of it is how cool the ride actually is. There are 28 cabins, which are climate controlled and automatically rotate with your angle to make sure you stay upright, that each allow 40 passengers, meaning that at full capacity, the High Roller can accommodate 1,120 total riders.
Once at the top, the wheel will allow you to see some really wide-angle views of Las Vegas during the course of the 30-minute ride. A basic ride will cost you $26.95 during the daytime, but tickets for a night ride, while the wheel is illuminated with 2,000 LEDs, will run you $10 more at $36.95. Other options include a Happy Half Hour, starting at $37, which will get you unlimited beer and mixed drinks during your 30-minute ride, and even private rentals. For more information about the High Roller Wheel at the LINQ, including pricing and hours, check out their website.
Of course, once you get your bearings, you’ll want to head out on the town and check out all of the cool things you’ve seen from high above the Vegas strip. Let me tell you, there is no shortage of things to see and do, including a plethora of things that you may not even think about unless you know about them before heading to Sin City.
The many resort hotel and casinos on the strip each have a unique flair of their own. While some showcase specific eras in time, like Ancient Rome (Caesars Palace), Ancient Egypt (Luxor) and Medieval Europe (Excalibur), others focus more on destinations like Italy (Venetian), France (Paris) and the United States (New York, New York). Many of the main attractions that the hotel and casinos offer have to do with those specific themes.
At the Venetian, travelers can take a gondola ride through the resort’s Grand Canal, floating beneath bridges and past small eateries along the way, giving you a feel of authentic Venice. The rides can go both indoor and outdoor, so no matter what the weather, you’ll be able to enjoy the experience. The ride lasts around 15-20 minutes and will set you back $21 per person for a four-passenger journey or $84 for a more romantic cruise for two.
If you’d rather stay outdoors at night and want to check out some of the cool things the casinos have to offer, consider visiting the Fountain at the Bellagio or the Volcano at the Mirage.
Outside of the Bellagio, passersby can see the more than 1,000 fountains shoot water more than 1,000 feet in the air as they are synchronized to a number of different musical pieces from movies and other famous artists and composers. Shows go off all year and happen every 30 minutes from times, which depends on the day of the week, that begin around 3 p.m. Once the sun goes down, the fountains ramp up their shows, which include lights, to every 15 minutes from 8 p.m. until the last show at midnight. With a wide array of songs and a show that are never quite the same, the fountain can be something you stop and watch a few times during your trip to Vegas. For more information about show times, a song list and more, check out the Bellagio’s website.
Over at the Mirage, travelers can trade in water for fire as they check out the Volcano in the front yard of the hotel and casino. The unique attraction, which has been in front of the Mirage since 1989, underwent a $25 million redesign in 2008 which included fire effects, new music and both water and light effects. Although the Mirage has dialed back the number of times the eruptions occur, visitors of Las Vegas can see the 10-minute show every night beginning at 8 and 9 p.m. with an additional show starting at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays only. Mickey Hart, drummer of the Grateful Dead, as well as composer Zakir Hussain combined to create the one-of-a-kind score for the show that includes real volcano sounds.
If nature and wildlife are more up your alley, be sure to take a trip to both the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio or the aquarium over at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
A staff of 120 people help to make the Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio one of the most beautiful places to visit on the Vegas strip. With an ever-changing set of displays, that usually revolve around the seasons, the garden staff uses tens of thousands of flowers to decorate and transform the 14,000-square-foot space into a breathtaking sight to see. Currently, with the Bellagio Garden setup for the spring season, the staff has used 82,830 flowers in total and have included trees like Cherry Blossoms, Magnolias and more. The Gardens can be accessed by entering the Bellagio, the entrance is actually right across from the front desk of the hotel. Travelers can check it out, for free, as they walk towards Café Bellagio. You can view a stop-action webcam of the building process and the exhibits as well as see the upcoming shows and events on the Bellagio website.
When you are done checking out the Botanical Gardens, head further south on the strip to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino to check out the Shark Reef Aquarium. With over 2,000 animals to see, which includes over 100 different species and 15 separate species of sharks, the aquarium is a very popular place with children and adults alike. Travelers can get up close with sharks, rays and even crabs in the “Touch Pool”, which is, literally, a hands-on experience. The aquarium is open seven days a week, but has diminished hours in the off season. During the summer, May 24-Sept. 1, the facility is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. Check out a virtual tour of what you might see here, and for more information and ticket prices, check out this portion of their website: “Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Hours and Pricing”
Are you a fan of chocolate? Well, Vegas is a perfect place to feed the craving. Both the Hershey’s Chocolate World and the M&M’s World attractions are on the strip and promise to offer unique and fun ways to feed your chocolate addiction. Plus, the two attractions are nearly across the street from each other, just four minutes on foot!
Hershey’s Chocolate World, located right in front of the New York, New York Hotel and Casino, claims to be the, “Sweetest Store on the Las Vegas Strip,” and with 13,000-square feet of Hershey’s brand products and gifts, they may be right.
Travelers will be able to create and customize their very own chocolate bar, take part in an on-site Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup advertisement and, of course, purchase as much chocolate as humanly possible. Of course most of these attractions will hit you in the wallet, but it can be a fun way to get out of the casinos and find some tasty treats for yourself. Once inside, travelers will also be able to check out a giant sculpture of the Statue of Liberty that is made out of nearly 800 pounds of chocolate! Wow. Learn more about the attraction and its hours on their website.
Just a little ways down the street, in front of the MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, travelers can stroll into the M&M’s World attraction and continue to feed the need for delicious chocolate. The four-floor building offers a number of treats and free attractions for visitors, so it’s certainly a must-stop for the chocolate fanatic.
On the first floor, travelers will find unique gifts that are personalized as well as jewelry. On the second level, there is an abundance of clothes related to the M&M’s brand and the M&M’s Candy Wall which features tons of colors of the candy as well as flavors you may not find in stores. The highlight of the third floor for travelers is usually the M&M’s Personalizer, where travelers can dump in the candy they bought and have it customized to have printed sayings and letters on them. On the top floor, travelers who love NASCAR and the number 18 M&M’s car of Kyle Busch can purchase some swag or, if that’s not your thing, visitors can check out the holiday shop.
This attraction is great for kids too, you can bring them along to meet some life-size M&M’s characters, sit down and take in the nearly 15-minute 3D movie or just get them all hopped up on sugar! For more info about the M&M’s World attraction in Las Vegas, like hours and directions, visit the store’s website.
If you love photography a must-visit spot on the Strip is the Polaroid Fotobar and Museum. Located right next to the LINQ Hotel and Casino, this attraction is part store and part museum, but when combined, makes for a truly unique and cool place to visit in Vegas.
Travelers can head into the store, armed with their very own photos, and have them printed on some cardboard Polaroids, which can be a pretty cool memento if you use some of the photos you have taken while on your trip. There are also other supplies and frames that are available for purchase too. It does take some time to have your photos printed, so during that time, travelers can check out the second-floor museum devoted to Polaroid cameras and art itself. Although the museum is small, it doesn’t diminish how cool it is, plus it’s just long enough to keep you busy while your photos print downstairs.
Check out the Fotobar’s Facebook page for cool events and hours, as well as when they will be showcasing local artists’ work, by clicking the following link: “Polaroid Fotobar Las Vegas”
While we are on the subject of photos, be sure to head to the southern-most point on the Las Vegas Strip and get your photo taken with one of the most iconic symbols of the Sin City, the Las Vegas Welcome Sign.
Just about 10 minutes past the last major resort casino on the strip, Mandalay Bay, sits the, “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas,” sign. This neon-lighted welcome wagon is one of the most photographed sites in the city and has been there since 1959. While in year’s past travelers used to risk their lives to get photos with the sign, as it was in between the highway, the city of Las Vegas built a walkway and parking lot near it in 2008 to make for much safer photo ops. So no need to worry, you won’t have to jump out into traffic to get that perfect selfie.
The Las Vegas sign was created in 1959 for $4,000 at the time, which was mega cheap, and the design was done as a gift for the city. The design was never copyrighted so anyone can use it in advertisements, movies, etc.
Take in a show
Las Vegas has more live events and shows than you’ll be able to count, so they will certainly have something for everyone that is travelling with you. Whether it is music, dance, comedy or something entirely different, Vegas has a number of options to keep you in awe.
While artists like Celine Dion, Brittany Spears and Donny and Marie Osmond dominate the musical scene, comedians like Carrot Top, Jeff Dunham and Penn and Teller will have you laughing to pieces. With a number of options, including music from the Beatles, Michael Jackson and more, Cirque du Soleil is one of the most popular acts in Vegas. Travelers can also check out numerous magic shows and even Broadway musicals too! Check out Vegas.com for more information about shows, descriptions, show times and tickets.
You can go downtown (Las Vegas)
Before there was the Vegas Strip, there was downtown Las Vegas. It is the historic center of the city and features a look at the old gambling districts, before the newer, and much larger, resorts came into the picture.
Aside from the iconic casinos, like the Golden Nugget, the California Hotel and Casino and Main Street Station, there is the Fremont Hotel and Casino that is named after the street that most of the downtown casinos are located on. Outside, on Fremont Street, lies the Fremont Experience, which offers more than just an easy way to travel between the various casinos.
The Fremont Street area is partially covered by a 1,500-foot video screen that is both 90 feet high and wide. Guests can check out a number of different light shows that put the 550,000-watt sound system and 12.5 million LEDs to work. Each show lasts nearly six minutes and are every hour on the hour starting between 6 and 8 p.m. (depending on the time of year) and running until midnight or 1 a.m. According to the Fremont Street Experience’s website, more than 17 million visitors will see a light show each year.
Also at the Fremont Street Experience is SlotZilla! What’s a SlotZilla? Well, it’s a 12-story slot machine that has both a zipline, that is 77 feet off the ground, and zoomline, which is 114 feet high. Visitors can pay for a ride on either of the two, $25 for the zipline and $45 on the zoomline, and check out the Fremont Street Experience from high above at nearly 40 miles per hour! The SlotZilla itself is the world’s largest slot machine and is certainly something that thrill seekers should check out. To purchase tickets for the SlotZilla portion of the Fremont Street Experience, check out their website.
If you are looking for live music, Fremont Street also has three stages where bands and artists play every night. No matter what genre of music you are into, one of the three stages is sure to have what you are into, and with no tickets or price of admission, why wouldn’t you stop and listen for a while? Take a look at the live music calendar on the Fremont Experience’s website and plan accordingly, or just head out and be surprised, either way you are sure to have some fun.
Away from the Fremont Street Experience, travelers can check out one of the best historical museums in the country by visiting the Mob Museum in the downtown area. The building sits just two blocks away from Fremont Street, located on Stewart Avenue. Inside, travelers will meet the, “usual suspects,” according to the museum’s website.
With a number of attractions inside, visitors will be shown the history of organized crime through interactive displays, news stories and much more. As the website says, “Whether you like it or not, this is American history.” Exhibits will show travelers the history of the mob and its beginnings, Hollywood’s love affair with organized crime, famous court cases, how the government tried to fight back and, of course, the effect that the mob had on the establishment and growth of Las Vegas itself. If you are looking for an interesting, interactive way to get away from the casinos, this is certainly a great choice! Tickets vary in price, but for more information about admission and what’s offered, be sure to visit their website here: “The Mob Museum”
Get out of town
Need a day away from the strip? Well, Vegas has more to offer than just the casinos and shows.
One of the big attractions outside of the city, is actually visible from the Vegas Strip and is a great place for outdoor lovers. The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located just 17 miles away from the Strip and offers travelers a chance to get connected with nature. Although its main attraction is probably for hiking, biking and climbing, Red Rock also has places for travelers to horseback ride, shoot, camp, picnic, ride ATVs and more. Plus, for the travelers that would prefer to stay in the car while experiencing nature’s beauty, you can also take a scenic 13-mile drive through the area that will provide you with some gorgeous views and plenty of photo opportunities.
Visited by more than 2 million people a year, Red Rock Canyon is a perfect place to view the beauty and natural diversity of the Mojave Desert. With a plethora of wildlife, like tortoises and wild horses, as well as amazing plant life, featuring a number of cacti, visitors should probably remember to bring a camera with them as you never know what you’re going to see.
So pack a lunch, and take a day away from the city by getting back to nature. Although not many people venture away from the Las Vegas Strip when thinking about a trip to Sin City, places like Red Rock Canyon are one of the many that will make you rethink that idea. If you need more information about the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, visit their website.
Another way to get out of town is by taking a trip to one of the most iconic landmarks in the country. Plus, you’ll get a dam good tour out of it as well.
The Hoover Dam, which is situated 48 minutes to the southeast of the Las Vegas Strip, had its construction completed in 1936 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1985. Receiving over 7 million visitors annually, which is boosted to 17 million when you add in the visitors to Lake Mead, the dam is also a source of power. The 17 turbines that are inside of the dam generate enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes.
While all traffic used to be able to drive over the dam itself, thanks to a two lane portion of Route 93, after the events of September 11, 2001, construction began on a bypass that would divert traffic off the of the top of the dam due to safety concerns. That bypass was completed in 2010 and traffic can now drive parallel to the dam to get a good look at it.
Tours are still given at the facility, although they are less in-depth again due to security concerns, and nearly a million people a year take them. There are two separate tours at the Hoover Dam, one that covers the power plant portion and another that takes you around the dam. While power plant tickets can be purchased online in advance, dam tour tickets are only available onsite and are first-come-first-serve. Ticket prices vary and some discounts are available for military personnel, but an average adult ticket is going to run you somewhere around $15 per tour. For all of the ticketing information visit this page on the Hoover Dam website.
One of the few things that is probably under appreciated at the Hoover Dam is the artwork. Denver Artist Allen Tupper True was hired during the construction of the facility to decorate the inside with amazing tile and sculptures on the ceilings and walls. He drew inspiration from the Navajo and Pueblo Native American Tribes of the area and came up with some really beautiful pieces of art. Also at the dam, travelers will find the Oskar J. W. Hansen Memorial, which is a tribute to all the workers that died during the construction of the facility and is named after the man who made all of the sculptures around the Hoover Dam area. Part of the plaque on the memorial reads, “They died to make the desert bloom.”
Other suggestions, once you are done visiting the dam, include a trip to Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, and checking out the Valley of Fire to the north of the lake. There are a number of companies that will offer cruises on the lake as well as numerous options for kayaking, fishing and much more. At the Valley of Fire, travelers will see some amazing rock formations that would have anyone in awe.
If all else fails, why not get married?
There are 2.3 million wedding a year in the United States. 114,000 of those ceremonies take place in the city of Las Vegas, which means that roughly 455 weddings occur per day in Vegas. With more than 50 possible places to tie the knot inside city limits, it’s crazy to think that five percent of the nation’s weddings take place in a spot that makes up just .004 percent of the country’s landmass.
For the travelers that feel like taking a leap, the first step would be obtaining a marriage license. That can be done at most chapels, or online using this link. Travelers can also find a list of most of the wedding chapels in the area here.
This is just a sampling of the attractions and things you can do on your vacation to fabulous Las Vegas. With an endless supply of things to do, and one of the coolest backdrops to do it in, you’ll be singing “Viva Las Vegas” in no time at all! Sundance Vacations offers multiple properties in the Las Vegas area, to find out more and learn about even more things to do, head over to our “Las Vegas Things to Do page” on our company website!
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