This desert oasis is a city that most people already know a decent amount about. It is one of the biggest epicenters for gambling in the world. When you get off a plane in Las Vegas airport you are immediately greeted by slot machines.
As you leave the airport you have amazing views of “The Strip”, which is an incredibly long stretch of mega casino and resorts lit up by glowing neon lights.
Wondering what should I not miss in Vegas? Keep reading to find out the things you must do in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Attractions
The gambling doesn’t stop there as gas stations and even grocery stores feature slot machines (seriously, people actually hang out and gamble in grocery stores).
Las Vegas has done a good job of adding more than just gambling to its offerings. It attempts to brand itself as the “entertainment capital of the world”, and frankly they are doing a pretty good job of it.
There are musicians that take up permanent residency in Vegas (yes Britney, Backstreet Boys, and maybe Gaga), an incredibly variety of shows (Cirque du Soleil to Blue Man Group), world class dining options, phenomenal golf courses, mountain hikes, endless shopping (high end to outlet malls), pool parties and nightlife, and even a manmade beach and ski-resort.
As a Vegas local the novelty of many of these things has worn off, but I can’t deny that when I first moved to Vegas, I was enthralled by everything “Sin City” had to offer.
This list is in no way inclusive of everything you could plan on a Vegas vacation, but is designed to include some of the most iconic Las Vegas attractions that are perfect for the first timer, and things that you may not think to explore.
10 Things Not to Miss in Las Vegas
1. Welcome to Las Vegas Sign
Of all the things not to miss in Vegas, taking a picture at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign is a rite of passage for vacationers. Whether you are here for a bachelor party, work convention, or just escaping cold winter temperatures this sign on the South end of The Strip is a perfect way to begin your trip.
Book your tour: Private Pink Cadillac Tour of Las Vegas with Elvis
2. Visit Foreign Cities
Okay not really, but lots of the casinos are based on a location or theme from somewhere else in the world.
The Paris features its own Eiffel tower and really is reminiscent of Paris, the Venetian is based off of the canaled streets of Venice (discussed more below), the Luxor is based off of ancient Egypt, Caesar’s Palace is based off classic Rome, the Imperial Palace shouts out to Imperial Japan, and New York New York is pretty self-explanatory.
Obviously visiting a casino is not a substitute for seeing these places, but I recommend exploring more than just the one you stay in as it is fun to see what elements from around the world have implemented in Vegas.
You might also be interested in: 14 Unique Things to do in Las Vegas
3. Fremont Street (Old Vegas)
Fremont Street is where you will find the old school Vegas casinos like the 4 Queens and Golden Nugget (featuring a water slide through a shark tank). Even though it is old, it is not run down or left behind.
Fremont Street runs straight through most of the big classic casinos, and is a perfect spot to get a drink from an outdoor bar, see some of the most unique street performers in the world, experience free live music, as well as have strippers attempt to pull you in to see their shows (seriously, be careful).
4. Bellagio Fountain and Gardens
One of the top 10 things to do in Vegas, watching the Bellagio fountain show is a must see. Even though each resort has amazing things to see, the water show and botanical gardens at the Bellagio cannot be missed. The 8 acre man-made lake features a dancing water fountain show choreographed to music. The show is different every 15 minutes, and the results truly are beautiful. This is the spot that was glorified in Oceans 11 (Brad Pitt and George Clooney could make anything glorious).
The gardens in the lobby are exquisitely decorated and maintained for each season with some of the most unique plants and flowers in the world. Even as a local I make a point to go down each year to see the gardens decorated with a Christmas theme.
Book a stay at the Bellagio on the Strip and get free access to the pools and gardens.
5. Gondola Ride at the Venetian
The sky in this picture really is painted on, and it does look that amazing in person.
The Venetian is a luxury resort based off of Venice Italy. My favorite part of the Venetian is that they built canals throughout the ground floor and mall of the casino, and offer motorized gondola rides while you get serenaded by your very own gondolier.
Even though it makes my husband want to barf, I love how romantic these rides are. Somehow they designed it so that you don’t feel like you are floating through the middle of a casino.
The Venetian is a great, centrally located hotel to stay on in the Las Vegas Strip. Check prices here.
Note – Want to see some more absurd things to do in Las Vegas? Like knowing what it feels like to float in space?! If so, check out 14 Unique Things to do in Vegas next.
6. Adventure Rides at the Stratosphere
The Stratosphere is hotel and casino that towers over all on the North end of The Strip. Recently rebranded to “The STRAT”, the Stratosphere is most famous for its views of The Strip and hair-raising rides.
It is by far the tallest building in Vegas, and the rides up top are NOT for someone who is afraid of heights. My favorite is the Big Shot, which shoots your seat straight up the top of the tower and into the sky.
It is the tallest thrill ride in the world. If that isn’t gutsy enough for you, you can jump off the top via controlled cables to the bottom.
Book the STRAT Hotel in Vegas here.
7. The High Roller
This gigantic observation/Ferris wheel is brand new to Las Vegas. It is like the London Eye, but bigger. Surprisingly it really is a fun ride as pods are big enough to feature whole groups of friends, and even your own bar and bartender. Skip the line by buying tickets here.
8. Hoover Dam
Not all the attractions in Vegas feature neon lights. The Hoover Dam is a testament to modern engineering. I found the tour showing how the dam generates power for Las Vegas fascinating. Also, the lake made by the dam (Lake Mead) is great for boating.
Book your tour: Vegas – Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam & Route 66 Small-Group Tour
9. Las Vegas Ski Resort
Yes, in the mountains just 45 minutes away from The Strip developers built a ski-resort. It is not huge, and does not feature the world’s best snow, but the novelty of being able to ski within 45 minutes of the scorching desert heat is unreal.
10. The Mob Museum
Part of the reason that Las Vegas is built the way it is today is because of the involvement of organized crime. The mob used casinos to launder their money. Supposedly organized crime is out of Vegas now, but a fascinating history remains. The Mob Museum doesn’t just explore Vegas’ criminal history, but the characters that made this possible from around the country.
The museum does have some creepy elements as it allows visitors to hold a tommy gun, explore crime scene photos, and even see the bloody walls left from massacres.
There are so many more things I would like to list but don’t have the space for.
What would you add to this top 10 things to do in Vegas list? Let me know in the comments below.
Where to Stay in Las Vegas
Overall Favorite: Bellagio Hotel & Casino – A Luxury resort with five pools in a courtyard setting. The rooms are the ultimate luxury. The inspiration for this property was Lake Como in Bellagio, Italy. This hotel features a free water show with fountains synchronized to music is right in the middle of the Strip. The average daily rate of a room at the Bellagio is about $200, so make sure you get ample opportunity to enjoy.
Most Luxurious – Aria Resort and Casino (Our honeymoon hotel) – One of the newer hotels on the strip (opened December 2009). This was the hotel that my husband and I chose to stay in the night we got married, before heading out on our honeymoon to Iceland. It can be pricey, so if you are going to stay here make sure to take advantage of all the features of City Center has to offer. The shopping, restaurants, pools, and spas cannot be beat.
Family Choice: Circus Circus – This property’s location is right off the Strip, so you have immediate access to any of the big casinos, yet you can book Circus Circus at an extremely low rate. On more than one occasion I’ve had family with little kids book this for $19 a night.
Circus Circus also features its own INDOOR amusement park, Adventuredome.Adventuredome is a cheap way for kids to get to experience smaller versions of all the rides at a typical amusement park (roller coasters, bumper cars, boat swings, etc). My nieces and nephews thought this amusement park was just as good as Disney Land (it’s not), but it is a fraction of the cost.
Budget Choice: The Golden Nugget – Located off of Fremont Street, or what many people now call Old Vegas. This hotel recently received a complete renovation, and now the rooms feel brand new, and are beautiful. My favorite feature of this hotel (other than the price) is the waterslide that goes straight through a shark tank. Seriously, a water slide that goes within inches of huge sharks! I have literally booked this hotel for friends at a rate of $25 per night, though in high season and on weekends it is more expensive.
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