Step off the Strip for a different kind of rip-roaring good time
While the Las Vegas Strip — brightly lit and larger than life — may be Sin City’s most visible claim to fame, there are several other magnificent reasons to visit.
Aside from the all-night gambling and neon lights, Las Vegas offers a thriving downtown, a growing arts district, breathtaking natural and man-made wonders, and plenty of thrill-seeking adventures. From hiking Rocky Gap Road at Red Rock Canyon to seeing the Grand Canyon by helicopter, Vegas also is a mecca for history buffs, golfers, outdoor enthusiasts, and adrenaline junkies of a different kind.
1. Feel the Rush
Laying out hundreds or even thousands at the blackjack table isn’t everyone’s idea of fun; but Vegas, true to form, offers plenty of other ways to get your blood pumping. Rev your engine for a heart-pounding trip around the 1.5-mile racetrack at one of Las Vegas’ newest additions — SPEEDVEGAS. Take a seat behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Huracan, Ferrari 458 Italia, or a Porsche 911, and hit the gas as your coach coaxes you to speeds as high as you can manage.
Experience another kind of adrenaline rush when you take to the skies at SlotZilla down at the Fremont Street Experience. At 114 feet above the ground, fly “Superman-style” from the east end of Fremont just beneath the lighted canopy to the platform in front of the Plaza Hotel and Oscar’s Steakhouse. The flights run from afternoon until after midnight, but an evening flight dazzles thrill-seekers with neon-colored city views.
2. Take a Tour
The Grand Canyon twilight tour takes off in the late afternoon as the sunlight plays out across Lake Mead. You’ll catch an unprecedented view of lake and land as they merge at water’s edge. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the colorful, multi-layered canyon walls as the helicopter dips and sways above one of the greatest natural wonders of the world.
For another, deeper geological look at the Mojave Desert, consider the Eldorado Canyon Mine Tour. Arrive via helicopter, luxury van, or shuttle bus for a first-hand look at one of the area’s oldest and richest gold mines — Techatticup Mine. The old gold mine was the scene for more than a few Wild West stories of murder and mayhem. Tour guides share the tales as they lead groups into the lantern-lit, man-made tunnels for a look at the sparkling quartz veins still running through the mine.
3. Discover the Mojave Desert
Head further into Eldorado Canyon for a peek at Lake Mohave, where from March until October you can see the Milky Way spread out across the night sky. The reservoir is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which covers 1.5 million acres along a 140-mile stretch of Arizona and Nevada.
Take the Historic Railroad Trail for an easy hike through the area. Start at the Lakeshore Trailhead and follow the old train bed almost 4 miles one-way through five underground tunnels to the Hoover Dam. From the same trailhead, bicyclists, walkers, and runners also can pick up the paved, 35-mile (roundtrip) River Mountains Loop trail. As it passes through Henderson, take in an all-encompassing view of the Las Vegas skyline.
West of Las Vegas along the edges of the master-planned community of Summerlin is Red Rock Canyon with its sweeping vistas, red rock formations, hiking trails, and rock climbing. The 13-mile scenic drive offers a glimpse of southern Nevada’s basin and range topography.
4. Relax Resort Style
After a rigorous hike in Red Rock Canyon, consider a spa treatment at one of the area’s destination resorts. Relax beside the pool at nearby Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa or wander along the path of the hidden Zen Garden at JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa. Both are AAA Four Diamond properties, and you can book a massage or luxurious body scrub at either location.
For a day on the course, consider booking a tee time at the championship TPC Las Vegas golf course or opt for golf in one of the outlying areas south of Vegas, such as Reflection Bay Golf Course near destination resort Westin Lake Las Vegas in Henderson. Discover a golf experience worthy of your bucket list at the resort-style desert course at Cascata Golf Club. Nestled among the undulating hills above Boulder City, it delivers caddy-led play on a challenging course with stunning vistas at almost every turn.
5. Explore Fremont East and the East Village
Cross 4th Street from the Fremont Street Experience of an earlier Vegas into the Fremont East Entertainment District and East Village of urban Vegas. Fremont East and the East Village are everything the Strip is not — locally owned bars, restaurants, and shops. The owner-operated bookstore, The Writer’s Block, is packed floor-to-ceiling with books and gift items. This locale also features repurposed casinos like the Western Hotel & Casino and old favorites like Atomic Liquors, Vegas’s oldest free-standing bar where folks once sat on the roof to watch aboveground atomic testing in the Nevada desert.
Downtown Container Park is family friendly by day and home to a three-story treehouse, a massive praying mantis, and countless local shops, restaurants, and bars in modular blocks and repurposed shipping containers. Here you’ll find new favorites like Oak & Ivy, considered by many locals to be the bartender’s bar, where gifted, inspired bartenders pioneer new drinks like the James Brown of Manhattans and the Paper Airplane (complete with tiny paper airplane).
6. Browse the Arts District
The 18 blocks of 18b Arts District are jam-packed with artist studios, antique shops, boutiques, and galleries like Art Square and The Arts Factory that showcase the work and studios of numerous artists under one roof. You’ll find fun coffee shops like Makers & Finders, which serves delicious coffee drinks including a lavender-infused latte, as well as bars like the sister-owned Velveteen Rabbit, which offers a revolving gallery of local art and a seasonal menu of mouth-watering cocktails. The walls of local buildings are covered in street art, including the works of Daniel Holbrook, the Stencil Artista, and Jerry Misko, whose latest work can be found on the Inside Style Home building on Main Street.
7. Wander Through Vegas History
The one-hour docent-led tour at the Neon Museum is the only way to see several famous Vegas signs from the past, like the Stardust sign or the Jolly Roger from Treasure Island. Each tour offers a unique look at Vegas history in all its neon glory.
In a quest for Vegas history, don’t forget the Mob Museum, which pays homage to Sin City’s mob heritage. The three-story courthouse, which once served as a location for the Kefauver Committee hearings in 1950, now showcases the history of the mob and the government agents and agencies that worked to bring them down. Discover how the mob worked, which bodies are still missing, who went undercover, how the mob was surveilled, and the implications all of it had on the rise of Las Vegas.
Save time for the National Atomic Testing Museum, where you’ll experience the rumble and roll of an aboveground detonation in the museum’s multimedia theater and discover the history of the U.S. nuclear testing program.