An oasis of neon and card tables in the heart of the Nevada desert, Las Vegas is the ultimate escape from reality. Whether you want to cruise the Strip or wed at a drive-in chapel, you’ll never get bored in Sin City. But beside the classic casino and nightlife antics, there are plenty of quirky things to do.
The High Roller
At 520ft (158m) wide, the High Roller is the biggest observation wheel in the world. It sits above the center of the Strip where you can see Vegas in all its garish glory – but standing in a suspended glass cabin above the twinkling lights is not the only thing on the menu. You can opt to ride with an open bar, mixing dazzling vistas with a cheeky cocktail; tickets start at US$25 (GB£18) and the wheel is open from the afternoons till midnight, seven days a week.
Zak Bagan has spent years gathering spooky collectibles before curating them into a bone-chilling 30-room museum on Charleston Boulevard in the Arts District. You’ll take a shiver-inducing tour-guided journey through creepy hallways and winding secret passageways, where you might catch sight of Jack Kevorkian’s Death Van, Charlie Manson’s bone fragments and the Conjuring 3’s real-life Devil’s Rocking Chair, lurking in the gloom. The museum is closed on Tuesday and tickets start at US$48 (GB£35), although for US$79 (GB£57) you’ll get extended RIP access.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
If your gambling funds run out, take a drive 17mi (27km) west of Sin City to this magnificent, 3,000ft-high (900m) canyon in the Mojave Desert – a stark contrast to the artificial aesthetic of the Strip. The 13mi (21km) scenic loop drive weaves through spectacular red sandstone formations, but you can also hike one of 26 trails to spot dinosaur footprints, spiky-leaved yucca plants and desert tortoises. Opportunities to rock climb, camp, horseback ride or mountain bike are abundant – just watch out for the rattlesnakes.
Pinball Hall of Fame
This kaleidoscopic arcade has just moved to a new site on the Strip to make room for up to 700 machines. You can spend hours testing out the restored vintage machines that date back to the 1950s, surrounded by the sound of flipping paddles and sharp pings. Don’t miss the handwritten cards detailing the history of each machine to fully absorb this niche of pop culture history. Admission is free and the hall is open seven days a week.
The Simpsons House
The Simpsons House is real – and it’s located on Red Bark Lane, in the heart of a nondescript housing division in Henderson just outside Vegas. Built as a promotional contest in 1997, the house is an exact replica of the cartoon family’s orange two-story home. Today, you can’t go inside as it’s now a privately-owned house that’s been repainted. But the shape and design are still an uncanny match to Marge and Homer’s animated home and is well worth a trip. Note that even the chimney is for show – who needs a fireplace in the sweltering Nevada desert?
National Atomic Testing Museum
Walking through this museum in the University District is a trip through the history of America’s nuclear weapons testing program at the Nevada Test Site. You’ll come face-to-face with some of the first nuclear weapons, as well as a segment of the Berlin Wall and pieces of the World Trade Center. Ultimately, you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of how past and present lessons have informed today’s geopolitics and worldwide nuclear deterrence. Before you leave, make sure you ride the discombobulating Ground Zero Theatre simulation.
At 508 East Fremont Street, you’ll find the pinnacle of surreal Las Vegas dining. Take a bizarre trip into this treasure trove of motorbike stuntman Evel Knievel memorabilia to feast on beer and pizza slices. As your eyes swim with the stickers, the pictures, the hanging motorbike, retro pinball machine and the dusty piano, your taste buds will jump at the unorthodox pizza menu. Be adventurous and try the daredevil toppings, like candied pork belly or rattlesnake sausage.
Flamingo Wildlife Habitat
The Flamingo Wildlife Habitat, opposite Caesar’s Palace on the Strip, is the idyllic escape from Sin City’s buzz. Soothe your hangover as you walk through the luscious 15 acres (6ha) of gardens, watching pink Chilean flamingos wade beneath the shady green of jungle trees. The whole family can enjoy the streams, exotic birds, waterfalls, turtles and multicolored koi fish free of charge. You can even feed the pelicans or have your photo taken holding a big beautiful parrot. The gardens are open all week from 7am to 8pm.
Burlesque Hall of Fame
Cruise through several thousands of costumes, stage props and photographs at the world’s only museum dedicated to Burlesque in the heart of the Las Vegas Arts District. Here, you’ll find Dita Von Teese’s martini glass bath and Gypsy Rose Lee’s traveling truck. Take the opportunity to try out the art of the tease yourself by booking into a class at the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s School of Striptease, or pick up your own props at the gift shop. General admission is US$15 (GB£11).
Erotic Heritage Museum
The Erotic Heritage Museum, near the strip on Sammy Davis Jr Drive, is full of artefacts, fine art, archaeology, physics, technology and culture that are all centered on one thing: humans at our most intimate. Spend an afternoon wondering more than 24,000sqft (2,230sqm) of exhibitions, ranging from the history of human sexuality to sex in space. You can even try one of the naked yoga sessions, or buy tickets to the Puppetry of the Penis show.
For a more traditional Sin City experience, check out these must-see attractions including what to see and do on the Las Vegas Strip. Alternately, check out our top date ideas in Vegas, or take a day trip outside the city. While you’re at it, unwind at one of these top bars or treat yourself to a fine-dining restaurant, before heading back to your boutique hotel or hotel with a balcony to enjoy those Las Vegas views.
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