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Las Vegas'10 Best Attractions: Discover the City Beyond the Casinos



If you visit Las Vegas, you probably expect to spend some time in the casino, but you’ll find plenty of other things to do as well. When you need a break from the tables, you’ll find there’s no shortage of choices for sightseeing, exploring and having fun.

On the Strip, you’ll find fountains, volcanoes, fabulous shows, gondola rides and the High Roller, the world’s highest observation wheel. Downtown, you can stop in at the Fremont Street Experience to marvel at the canopy’s nighttime Viva Vision show, or make a visit to the Mob Museum, where you can learn about organized crime, an undeniable part of the city’s history.

The weather in Las Vegas tends to be moderate for most of the year (with the notable exception of summer), which makes outside activities an option most of the time. Outdoor sports like hiking, biking and tennis are very popular. Take a drive out of town to see historic Hoover Dam, or hike over the red sandstone in Red Rock Canyon. Las Vegas isn't the only thing in the Mojave Desert, and you'll find plenty of options for day trips into the surrounding area.

Still wondering what to do when you’re tired of the casino? Keep reading for our suggestions on the best things to do in Vegas.


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The iconic Fountains of Bellagio have been attracting and fascinating people since the shows began. The dancing, swaying waters draw a crowd every time they go off. Streams of water shoot into the air, dissipate into a mist and gracefully arch into curves--all while perfectly choreographed to music. The accompanying music is broadcast throughout the area, so everyone can hear Sinatra while watching the magical dancing waters. A list of songs that play during the shows is posted online, in case you're hoping to catch a specific song. Shows begin daily at 3 p.m. (noon on Saturdays and holidays, and 11 a.m. on Sundays—just in time for brunch). Performances are totally free and are appropriate for all ages. While some of the best Fountain watching is right in front of the Bellagio, there are several excellent vantage points nearby.


Gondola Rides at The Venetian
Photo courtesy of The Venetian Las Vegas


Old Venice has been miniaturized at the Venetian's Grand Canal Shoppes, complete with authentic Venetian gondolas and singing gondoliers. Private two-person gondolas are available, or you can share with another two people for the short ride through the Shoppes. It's not Italy, but it's a fun break from shopping or gambling, and the gondoliers are talented singers. If the weather's nice, outdoor gondola rides are available from 11 a.m.-10 p.m., offering guests incredible views of the resort's striking architecture and the Las Vegas Strip. Although a professional photographer will also be on hand to snap a few quick photos of you before your voyage, you'll undoubtedly want to take a few pictures of your own.




The Stratosphere is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States, but taking in the view isn't the only thing you can do at this height. The thrill rides at the top give daredevils the chance to be dangled off the side of the building or shot skyward. If those rides are too sedate, you can literally jump off the building at the Sky Jump, one of the world's highest freefalls where the controlled descent will take you over 800 feet down in a hurry. The Stratosphere offers four rides: the Big Shot (perhaps the most popular), Insanity, X-Scream, and the Sky Jump. The view from here is incredible, whether you're enjoying it from the observation deck or as you're contemplating just how sturdy the equipment is. You'll also find bars on levels 107 and 108, as well as the Top of the World restaurant on the 106th.


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The Neon Museum
Photo courtesy of Neon Museum


Las Vegas is known for lots of things, including its wealth of colorful neon. But where do old signs end up? If they're lucky, in the possession of the Neon Museum. Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic and cultural enrichment. In addition to an approximately two-acre Neon Museum campus, which includes the outdoor exhibition space known as the Neon Boneyard, the museum also encompasses a visitors' center housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby as well as several restored signs installed as public art throughout downtown Las Vegas. If you haven't visited in a while, be sure to check out the Neon Boneyard, which now features some electrified signs as part of its permanent collection.




The Mob Museum tells the story of organized crime in America. The museum's location in Las Vegas is appropriate, considering Sin City's early history as an outpost of the Mafia. Located in a historic Downtown Las Vegas building which was originally a federal courthouse, The Mob Museum presents a rounded view of this chapter of American history throughout its three floors of engaging exhibits, including high-tech theater presentations, iconic one-of-a-kind artifacts and interactive, themed environments. These are names that many people recognize from the movies, but The Mob Museum tells the true stories. You'll learn about Al Capone, Tony Spilotro and Whitey Bulger, among other infamous men who once played important roles in American organized crime. Visitors also learn about law enforcement agents like Joe Pistone, who went undercover as Donnie Brasco, to help bring down the Mob.


National Atomic Testing Museum
Photo courtesy of National Atomic Testing Museum


One of the top science and technology museums in the United States, the National Atomic Testing Museum tells the story of atomic weapons testing during the 1950s. Associated with the Smithsonian, the Atomic Testing Museum is one of only a few museums showcasing the history behind this history-changing technology and weaponry. Designed to take the visitor in a chronological journey from the early days in the 1940s until modern times, the museum holds a trove of artifacts from the era, from an emblematic "Miss Atomic Bomb of 1957" photo to letters from fisherman exposed to radiation during testing in the Pacific. Las Vegas is a fitting place for this museum because of the city's ties to the Nevada Test Site, where both above and below ground atomic tests (explosions) were done for decades.


Hoover Dam
Photo courtesy of Las Vegas News Bureau


What's appealing about a gigantic wedge of concrete in a remote desert canyon? As it turns out, quite a lot. Hoover Dam was a groundbreaking engineering feat in the 1930s when it was built--even today, it's not easy to pour that much concrete and divert a river. This massive dam created one of North America's largest reservoirs, Lake Mead, and was built during the Great Depression. Hoover Dam played a major role in development throughout much of the Southwest United States, a history that's explained in the displays at the Visitor Center, where you can also learn about its fascinating construction. Now that traffic has been re-routed around the dam to the Bypass Bridge (also an amazing engineering accomplishment), it's easier to wander along the top of the dam and appreciate its Art Deco details. Tours are available to see inside the massive structure, including the power plant.




The Fremont Street Experience is mostly known for its overhead light show, Viva Vision, which is spectacular display of lights and technology. Street performers, impersonators and artists known as buskers are found all along the street level on Fremont Street, making a walk up and down the few blocks under the canopy feel like an adult carnival. A zip line ride, SlotZilla, zooms riders under the canopy and over the heads of the people below. And, of course, every hour after dark the overhead canopy explodes into images and music. During the day, the FSE is a bit more sedate. Pedestrians can stroll from casino to casino and check out the wares at the shopping kiosks. If you're shopping for souvenirs, several places along the FSE feature inexpensive trinkets and tee-shirts.


High Roller
Photo courtesy of Caesars Entertainment


Taking a ride on the world's tallest observation wheel, the 550-foot-tall High Roller, is a fun activity for all ages. Jaw-dropping views of the Strip and city open up as you slowly move toward the highest point of the ride and then slowly descend back down. The round design of the attraction's sleek pods provides a full 360 degrees of visibility. Beverages are available for sale before you board, and the pods are air conditioned so everyone will stay comfortable for the 30-minute ride, even during summer. A recorded narration offers some tidbits of information about Southern Nevada to give you context to the panoramic view in front of you. Before or after your ride, take some time to explore the area around the High Roller, the Linq's Promenade, which is an open-air pedestrian district filled with shops, restaurants and activities.


Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management


Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is an easy escape from the fast pace of the Las Vegas Strip. Located west of the city just outside the edge of housing developments, this chunk of the Mojave Desert is loaded with hiking, biking and nature watching opportunities. Red Rock's spectacular scenery features sandstone cliffs, rugged red rock formations, desert vegetation and open vistas. The rare desert springs throughout the area are home to several rare and endemic species of plants and animals, as well as archaeological sites likes petroglyphs, which are ancient rock art. First-time visitors shouldn't miss the interactive visitor center to learn more about the area. A 13-mile scenic road twists and turns through the area's desert hills, with numerous spots to stop for photographs and hikes, and returns you to the highway so you can turn back toward town (thus its nickname, "the Loop").


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Meet Terrisa Meeks

Terrisa Meeks is a native born, life-long resident of Las Vegas. She's watched Las Vegas grow and change over the years, especially the ever-evolving Las Vegas Strip. She still enjoys hanging...  More About Terrisa

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