In Las Vegas during summer, the reading on the thermometer can be a little alarming. We all know it’s a dry heat, but that’s a small comfort when it’s 105°F. One option is to seek out the best pool you can find – and that’s definitely something you should do – but why not add a little adventure to a long weekend and check out some unique indoor attractions away from the Strip?
After the sun goes down, you’ll experience some relief from the heat without that fireball in the sky, but in summer that might not be until 8 p.m. During the day, you can certainly enjoy the Strip’s lavish indoor shopping malls, or spend the day at the casino, but if you head off the Strip, you’ll get to see a whole new side of Las Vegas.
Day one: Pool options
MGM Resorts — Photo courtesy of MGM Resorts - Mandalay Bay
If you’ve arrived from a more temperate climate, Las Vegas’ summer heat might be a shock. Sure, you probably knew it was going to be hot, but if you haven’t experienced it before, nothing prepares you for the intense heat of the desert in summer.
Be sure you’re adequately provisioned for summer in Vegas: sunscreen, a hat, plenty of water and handy footwear, like some flip-flops, to keep nearby. The first time you step on pavement with your bare feet, you’ll understand the necessity of that last item.
After you’ve settled into your room, take some time to investigate the pool options at your hotel. Many of the Strip hotels have pool areas with water features, day clubs, and food and drink service. If you’re in the mood to splurge, you may even want to rent a cabana.
Some of the hotels with more lavish pools, like Mandalay Bay, allow non-guests access if they purchase a day pass, but may limit entry to certain days. At Mandalay, a sandy beach, wave pool and lazy river await you, but you can swim with sharks at The Golden Nugget.
Day two: The Mob Museum
The Mob Museum — Photo courtesy of The Mob Museum
Head to Downtown Las Vegas to visit the Mob Museum, where you can learn all about the history of organized crime – a topic of particular interest to Las Vegas, owing to its history with the Mob. The museum is housed in a historic building that was once a courthouse. During that time, it was used in the Kefauver hearings, and one of the courtrooms has been restored to the condition it was in at the time of the event.
Three floors of exhibits take visitors not only into the history of the Mafia, but also the men and women of law enforcement who hunted them. If you’ve ever watched a movie like Casino or The Godfather and wondered about the true history behind those stories, you’ll find plenty to keep your interest here.
In the basement of the museum, you’ll find The Underground for guests over 21. Here, you can enjoy a drink in The Speakeasy and tour The Distillery – all in the name of gaining a better understanding of history, of course.
Bonus adventures: Explore the Downtown and Fremont East area to find a place (or two) to stop for drinks and dinner. Carson Kitchen, Le Thai, Nacho Daddy or Pizza Rock are just a few of the possibilities for lunch or dinner. For drinks, try the Downtown Cocktail Room or Vanguard Lounge.
Day three: The National Atomic Testing Museum
Terrisa Meeks — Photo courtesy of Terrisa Meeks
The name may sound ominous, but the exhibits at the Atomic Testing Museum will give you an entirely new view of this world-changing weaponry and technology. Las Vegas has a peculiar tie to this era: during the days of above-ground testing in the 1950s and 60s, tourists could watch the mushroom clouds in the distance from vantage points throughout the city.
One of the most powerful exhibits is the Ground Zero Theater, which simulates the experience of witnessing an atomic bomb blast at the Nevada Test Site, complete with rumbling and a blast of hot air upon detonation.
The museum is filled with not only artifacts from the actual testing, but also with pieces reflecting how the era affected popular culture. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live in the age of "duck and cover," you’ll find plenty of examples here.
After taking in all that history, it’s probably time to stop for a bite to eat. If you didn’t notice when you were Downtown, restaurants off the Strip are usually much easier on your wallet. Locals’ favorite Ferraro’s is an excellent choice for Italian, or for a more budget meal, try Ellis Island’s Village Pub Café, where you can also try some of the brewery’s beer.
At the end of your long weekend, you’ll be able to say you did something rather uncommon for many visitors: venturing off the Strip to learn about the city’s history of mobsters and atomic bombs. And you’ll have been able to stay in the air conditioning while doing it!