At the Pinball Hall of Fame, older games from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are the most prevelant, as this was pinball’s height of popularity
Published November/December 2014

Stepping off the Strip

8 Vegas destinations to gamble on

BYSally J. Clasen
The glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip is impossibly seductive, with its flickering marquees, shiny casino payouts, and show-stopping entertainment. But when it’s time to back away from the novelty acts, slot machines, and yes, all-you-can-eat buffets, you don’t have to travel far to see a different side of Las Vegas. Here are some non-gambling activities to explore when you’re ready to step off the Strip, from niche museums and tours (it’s Vegas, after all) to specialty dining and adrenaline-driven adventures.

1. The Pinball Hall of Fame
1610 East Tropicana Ave. 
702-597-2627
Sunday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. – midnight
Free admission
 
The Pinball Hall of Fame, located 12 blocks from the Strip, is probably your best bet in Las Vegas for low-cost amusement with a high return rate. Nostalgic pinheads can browse — and play — a collection of more than 200 working, restored pinball and arcade machines from the 1950s through the 1990s. Games cost a quarter (or two or three), but it’s free to belt out a rendition of “Pinball Wizard.” The nonprofit arcade, which claims to be the largest in the world, covers 10,000 square feet and dedicates its excess profits to the Salvation Army and other nondenominational charities, hence the dressed-down thrift store demeanor, plus repurposed royal blue carpet scrapped from the Convention Center with a retro attitude that embraces classic game fun to match.
 
112 N. 3rd St.
1-800-979-3370
Hours vary depending on tour
$59/person, which includes food and drink tastings
 
If you want a chance to run into celebrity chefs like Emeril Lagasse or Gordon Ramsey at one of their eponymous casino-based food establishments, a Vegas Valley Food Tour is not your meal ticket. However, if you prefer to sample the flavors of small and family-owned businesses in historic neighborhoods where locals dine, then this is your culinary pick. Led by gourmet guides, the 2.5-hour walking tours appeal to a range of palates and encompass downtown Las Vegas (about 12 minutes from the Strip). During tours, food lovers stroll and make tasting stops at diverse restaurants, cafes, and specialty food stores to sample a range of savory, sweet, and spicy selections while learning about the cultural and architectural significance of the area considered to be authentic Las Vegas. 
 
7000 N. Las Vegas Blvd. (Las Vegas Motor Speedway)
702-643-4343
Hours vary
Experiences start at $109
 
Going 155 mph in a car is risky (and typically illegal) except when you get behind the wheel as part of the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, located 15 miles from the Strip. Those with a need for speed, and others who just want to tag along for the ride, can choose from different NASCAR driving opportunities that range from three to 50 laps on a professional 1.5-mile tri-oval track. Muscle car enthusiasts also can test the track performance of the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Dodge Challenger SRT8 392, and Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 through the American Muscle Car Challenge. 
 
4. Ethel M Chocolates Factory
Tour and Cactus Garden
2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson, Nevada
702-435-2655
Daily, 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. 
Free admission
 
Those with a sweet tooth and an appreciation for old-time candy-making are in luck because it’s only a 10-minute drive from the Strip to reach the Ethel M Chocolates factory in the suburb of Henderson. Ethel M Chocolates was started by Forrest Mars Sr. in 1981 as a tribute to his mother’s recipes and his family’s legacy in the candy business. Visitors can participate in a self-guided tour of the premium chocolatier’s only manufacturing facility, and learn about the traditional techniques of gourmet candy-making while sampling some of the confections. The adjacent Ethel M Chocolates Botanical Cactus Garden is a treat itself and features three acres of drought-tolerant ornamentals, cacti, and other succulents. With more than 300 species of plants, it’s the largest garden of its kind in Nevada. From Nov. 13 through Jan. 1, Ethel M Chocolates has its annual Holiday Cactus Garden with 600,000 sparkling lights and live entertainment, as well as photos with Santa.
Ethel M Chocolates’ confections are made in small batches with no preservatives
Ethel M Chocolates’ confections are made in small batches with no preservatives
If You Go
Visit Zion National Park: Las Vegas and nature are rarely mentioned in the same sentence, yet it’s possible to escape the artifice of the gambling epicenter for a day trip into the wilderness. Within two-and-a-half hours of the Strip, you can visit Zion National Park in southern Utah. While there, check out Kolob Arch, one of the largest freestanding arches in the world. Or hike a slot canyon called the Narrows, a river gorge that is 6 miles long, up to 2,000 feet deep, and, in areas, only 20 to 30 feet wide, with sandstone grottos, natural springs, and hanging gardens. 
 
Admission: All visitors to Zion National Park are required to purchase a recreational use pass (valid for seven days, which includes the Zion Canyon and Kolob Canyon areas). Private vehicle: $25; motorcycle: $12; per person: $12 (typically used for bicyclists, hikers, and pedestrians). Youth 15 and under are admitted free. Park fees are waived on certain days, including Veteran’s Day.
 
Need directions? For directions from Las Vegas and more park information, visit nps.gov/zion.
 
For More Information
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