Just when you think you know a place, it surprises you, and Las Vegas has never been more full of surprises. Once a heady hangout for mob bosses and hedonism-seekers, it’s now a world-famous entertainment hub attracting the biggest and best in the industry. And while nightlife is huge (you’ll struggle to find better pool parties anywhere else), alcohol imbibement encouraged and gambling a mainstay, there’s a plethora of other activities drawing global crowds every year. Here are some of the best things to do in Las Vegas if you’re keeping away from the tables…
Las Vegas is nothing if not OTT, and in some areas, it’s even more… extra. In addition to eye-popping dining (the Mayfair Supper Club at the Bellagio is a cut above) and drinks served by mermaids (and more at Superfrico in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas), there’s a 19,000 sqm space dedicated to the weird and wonderful: Area 15. An immersive entertainment hub at the north end of The Strip, the warehouse-sized space features VR experiences, arcades, psychedelic art installations and more, each of which could take an afternoon to explore. Such as OmegaMart, the second permanent installation from Santa Fe-based art collective MeowWolf. A comedic and bizarre shopping centre (selling products such as ‘emergency clams’ and canned schadenfreude and omnipotence), visitors can walk through fridge doors into huge spaces covered in fluorescent artworks and interactive games. With Games of Thrones creator George R R Martin as the Chief World Builder for the company, it’s no wonder it feels ‘out there’.
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Taste a tipple in a Vegas speakeasy
Despite a boom in secret bars around the world, most speakeasies still fail to add that extra sense of satisfaction when you pull up a barstool and take your first ‘forbidden’ sip. Las Vegas is just the latest city to see an influx of these tourist-tempting watering holes, and it’s easy to see why. Many of the major hotels have their own; take the green door to the side of the food court in Flamingo Las Vegas to access ‘The Count Room’ or open the janitor’s closet in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to access the lively The Barbershop Cuts & Cocktails. Seeking something earthier? Head to the north end of Las Vegas Boulevard for a cheap drink in Mike Morey’s Sip’n’Tip, a low-key, dive bar-style speakeasy with a three-hour ‘happy hour’. Can’t get enough of Vegas’ bizarre vibe? Try the Cabinet of Curiosities in Horseshoe Las Vegas which features an array of odd knick-knacks and is accessed via a telephone-supplied password and crawlspace.
See a show
Almost as much of a draw as the roulette tables is Vegas’ incredible lineup of entertainment acts. World-renowned for its residencies, from regulars such as magicians Penn and Teller to acrobatic specialists Cirque Du Soleil (who currently have eight different shows in the city) to one timers like Adele and Lady Gaga, the Nevadan city literally has something for everyone. Making waves in 2023 is the live version of Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum’s surprise hit film Magic Mike. A runaway success in the cinema, holidaymakers can now immerse themselves in the sensory overload that is the live performance. Expect hypnotic dance routines, catchy pop tunes and raunchy encounters in the 90-minute set at the Sahara Las Vegas hotel. David Copperfield and Shin Lim headline the magic offerings, while Usher, Lionel Richie, Maroon 5 and Carrie Underwood are just some of the musical acts appearing throughout the year. There’s no real way of bagging a bargain with names this big (and in Vegas no less) so be prepared to shell out, but trust us, it’s worth it.
Experience wellness bliss
With every luxury hotel comes a luxury spa, and Vegas is hardly short on those. Soothing massages, rejuvenating facials and ice cold ice baths are just the start of the city’s wellness offerings. Guests at the snazzy The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (The Cosmo to those in the know) can enjoy endless options at the decadent Shara spa, salon and hammam. Aside from all the pampering you could hope for, VIP guests can opt for the Sahra Spa Penthouse Suite, a private hideaway with two whirlpools, a wet bar, plush living area and shower, all accessed by their own private elevator (obviously). Other big names in the biz boast sumptuous spas with divine treatments. The Nalu Body Massage at the Wynn & Encore Las Vegas, the Fit Massage at the Canyon Ranch Spa in The Venetian Las Vegas and the Ashiatsu Massage at Aria Resort & Casino are great places to start. All have fantastic communal spaces, many with thermal pools, mist showers and salt rooms in addition to the lavish saunas, steam rooms and jacuzzis. Dreamy.
Get out of town
The bright lights of The Strip might be mesmerising, but there’s more to the city than the neon lights, mega casinos and replicas of iconic landmarks. Spending an afternoon downtown in the 18-block Arts District is a must, as it provides an almost surreal dose of reality amongst the craziness. Eye-catching street art covers the exterior brickwork of many a vintage clothing and antiques outlet, which are broken up by coffee and auto-repair shops. Funky bars – such as the arcade game-filled Horse Trailer Hideout – serve IPAs and creative cocktails such as the whisky and marshmallow infused ‘Fluffy Cowboy’. There’s also a burlesque hall of fame, ninja karaoke (yes, you read that right) and First Friday: a gathering of live music, street food, craft displays and art galleries which happens on the first Friday of every month. There’s enough to do here to holiday in itself, but tacking it onto a Strip-based visit gives travellers the best of both worlds.
Explore the desert
Beyond all the buildings and human hubbub lies the expansive Mojave desert. If you’re keen to explore (and you should be) most of the major hotels offer car hire services in house, which means climbing in Red Rock Canyon, dune buggying in Nellis Dunes and being blown away by Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains are a mere a drive away. If you’d rather avoid the car hire faff, enrol the help of professionals – particularly if you’re keen to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world, which is only a 40 minute helicopter ride away. Book a movie-worthy experience with Maverick Helicopters, who bundle up to six guests in a chopper and whizz across the Hualapai Indian Reservation all the way to the western tip of the Grand Canyon. The route takes adventurers over the impressive Lake Mead, jaw-dropping Hoover Dam and the odd, not-at-all-disconcerting, solo caravan, home to hopeful gold prospectors. Lucky passengers might spot bighorn sheep, wild mustang and elk, but if not, touching down on the very edge of the 1200ft deep canyon and sipping champagne is reason enough to go.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
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Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
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