Whilst the number 1 selling point of Las Vegas appears to be the glitz and glamour of the casinos and the luxurious allure of fine hotels there are numerous other things to see and do in this lively city. It would be false to presume that in order to have a break in Vegas it would cost a small fortune, like many cities, certain lesser known attractions can be cheaper and sometimes free whilst still being worthwhile. In this article I run down 8 cool and possibly unexpected things to see and do in Vegas.
Art in Las Vegas
It is most probable that highbrow culture isn’t perhaps the first thing that springs to mind at the mention of Las Vegas. However, in recent years there has been a splattering of galleries and projects popping up around the city. Perhaps the most well known in Vegas would be The Gallery of Fine Art located at the Bellagio hotel which holds works from Picasso, Renoir and Degas. It is thought that the emerging underground art scene in Las Vegas is likely to become more prominent in the coming years with a flourishing Avant-garde scene in the city. Last year the CityCenter development set up 25 modern art installations around the city based at different locations of hotels and casinos.
Black Canyon Rafting
Whilst the idea of rafting might spark images of rapid flowing water and a thorough drenching whilst sitting in a rubber dinghy it should be mentioned that a rafting trip in the Black Canyon is a relatively calm affair. Open to all ages and abilities a rafting trip will be on the calmer waters of the Colorado River which is controlled by the majestic Hoover Dam. The Dam itself is a huge attraction and being on the water gives a unique opportunity to see the structure from a different angle. Moving away from the dam the rafting voyage will take you 12 miles downriver where there is not much else to do but sit back and enjoy the lovely scenery and intimate wildlife. $88 per person and $54 for under 12’s.
The Neon Boneyard
On the front of it Las Vegas is a contemporary, cosmopolitan city that does all it can to be constantly changing with the times and revamping its hotels, casinos and tourist hotspots. However, a trip to what is known as the Neon Boneyard will transport you back through the history of Vegas casinos and in particular the neon signs that are a pivotal point of attraction. The Boneyard, which is a type of informal museum, hosts a large collection of old neon signs and neon artwork that has been disposed of by casinos over the decades. For those interested in Las Vegas’ history there is nowhere more iconic than the Neon Boneyard with signs dating back from the 50’s including well known neon works such as the original Aladdin’s lamp and the Moulin Rouge sign from the Las Vegas strip. By September 2011 over 150 signs will be on show at the Neon Museum at $15 per person.
Vegas for FREE
Often free shows and events are to be found at peak times along the Strip as casino’s attempt to entice customers. The spectacular Bellagio fountains are something to be viewed and from 3pm to 8pm the fountains put on their own little show as they dance along to typical Vegas musical numbers. If the fountains seem a little tame for your taste then there is always a visit to be taken to the Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand where there are always a few lions on show in the centre of the hotel to be observed. Elsewhere on the Strip are free shows that can be seen daily such as Treasure Island’s TI: Sirens a musical production featuring enough acrobatics and explosions to make viewing worthwhile. Street performers also line the Strip with many spectrums of talent on show and living proof you don’t have to shell out a fortune to see something special in Las Vegas.
Valley of Fire National Park
Of course it is no secret that Las Vegas has been built in the middle of an extensive and spectacular desert. Many will not be tempted to drive an hour out of Vegas into swelteringly humid desert but for those that do make the trip the rewards can be fantastic. The Valley of Fire National Park situated to the North East of Las Vegas is home to what seem to be carefully sculpted rock formations of vivid red that have been carved from wind and water over millions of years. The Valley of Fire will seem a world away from the ultra-modern glitz of Vegas; the area has been used for its unearthly feel in films such as Star Trek and Total Recall. The Park is open to camping and hiking all year round though it is recommended that visitors make the trip to this part of Nevada in the cooler months as temperatures soar to around 50C in the summer.
Pinball Hall of Fame
Once the most important feature in the arcade, the pinball machine has a lustrous history in the US and the most recognised place to view that history would be the Pinball Hall of Fame. Across the street from the Liberace Museum the Pinball Museum looks a pretty non-descript place from the outside, yet when you venture inside the eyes are met with rows upon rows of pinball machines old and new. Unlike most other museums, the experience is totally hands on as the machines that are in working order are there to be loaded with 25 and 50 cent pieces. Pinball machines on offer range from the earliest models of the 1930’s all the way to modern day contraptions. Entrance to the museum is free and all proceeds go to charity.
Atomic Testing Museum
The state of Nevada was used extensively during atomic tests during the 1950’s in particular by the U.S government. The main atomic testing site in Nevada was about an hour away from Las Vegas towards the infamously barren desert and established in 1951. These days Las Vegas has shown it is enthusiastic in educating people about the impact of the nuclear age in Vegas and throughout the world. The museum isn’t out of the way either, situated just off the Strip on East Flamingo Road. Inside the museum enthusiasts will be thrilled to see warheads, weapons and are able to take part in a simulation of experiencing a nuclear blast whilst in a bunker. Entrance fees are just $12 dollars and under per person.
East at Sushisamba
This last travel tip is a bit of a novelty one but still an interesting thing to do nonetheless. In the sprawling Palazzo Casino amongst the drifting indoor canals sits the Sushisamba restaurant, a culinary mix of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine. With a do it yourself Sushi making course and a somewhat bizarre brewery guide to sake there are few eateries in Vegas with such a unique selling point.