The best Las Vegas attractions

Our favorite Las Vegas sights and attractions—from waxworks to waterworks

When it comes to finding things to do in Las Vegas, you don't have to look far. The city is a smorgasbord of entertainment, and not just for music or production shows either. Many sightseeing and adventurous activities await you, whether you're just spending the weekend in Las Vegas or you plan on staying longer.

Bellagio Fountains

Critics' pick

The Bellagio's lake throws up entrancing fountain displays choreographed to music from Pavarotti to Sinatra (and, less appealingly, Lee Greenwood). The 1,200 water cannons, arranged in lines and circles, shoot water that dances and sways to the music, reaching as high as 240ft (73m). The best seats are in the Bellagio restaurants, but you get a good view from the sidewalks out front, and from the top of the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas.

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The Strip Free

Big Shot, X Scream & Insanity: the Ride

Critics' pick

If you're afraid of heights, stay away from the 1,150ft (350m) Stratosphere Tower. And even if you don't suffer from vertigo, you might want to steer clear of the resort's thrill rides. The Big Shot will rocket you 160ft (49m) up the tower's spindle under a force of four Gs; at the top, you'll experience a moment of weightlessness before free-falling back to the launch pad. X Scream will propel you headfirst 27ft over the edge of the Tower and then leave you there to dangle. And during Insanity, an arm will extend 64ft (20m) over the edge of the tower and spin you around at a terrifying rate. Best save dinner for later.

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The Strip

Eiffel Tower Restaurant

In recent years, the food at Eiffel Tower Restaurant—lamb, foie gras, steaks—which is to say high-class French dishes with subtle twists, has steadily improved to rival its stunning location. Eleven floors above the Strip in the Eiffel Tower (with great views of the Bellagio’s fountains) and designed with a beautifully modern sophistication, it’s a stunner. The prices reflect this state of affairs, but then what else would you expect?

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The Strip

Gondola Rides

Purchase your tickets at St Mark's Square, then take a ride along canals that weave through replica Venetian architecture. The wooden boats are authentic and the singing gondoliers are tuneful. However, despite the number of newly married couples that take the ride, the backdrop of gawking tourists will dampen any hopes of a romantic moment.

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The Strip

Grand Canyon

Those who visit Las Vegas often like to check out the nearby Grand Canyon, and the city offers many transportation options to get there from companies such as Canyon Tours, or—though the locals might not thank you for it—there are helicopter tour options such as Sundance Helicopter Tours. If you'd rather take a Las Vegas city tour, check out Big Bus, which offers both day and night trips.

M&M's World

This is a four-level chocolate-lover's paradise. Check out M&M Academy, an interactive entertainment attraction showing visitors how these chocolate candies earn their trademark. The attraction includes a 3-D movie, and "graduates" get a diploma. Yes, it's a bit overmarketed. But at least it's free.

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The Strip Free

Madame Tussaud's

The first US incarnation of London's all-conquering attraction contains more than 100 wax celebs in various settings and rendered with various degrees of accuracy (Johnny Depp good, Shaquille O'Neal less impressive). The comparatively small attraction tones down the British history in favor of celebrity and pop culture "encounters": a photo opportunity to don a wedding dress and "marry" George Clooney, for example, or a chance to sing in front of Simon Cowell. Hokey but fun.

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The Strip

The Mob Museum

If you're the sort of person who's interested in exploring Sin City's sordid past, there are two Las Vegas tours you won't want to miss. The Mob Museum downtown is a government-sanctioned history of Vegas' organized crime past, while the Mob Attraction on the other side of town offers an interactive education about the Mafia.

Pinball Hall of Fame

For the most part, a pinball machine is just a pinball machine. To some folks, though, it's a kinetic monument to a simpler time when mindless entertainment didn't necessarily involve sex, hyper-violence or the pixelated undead, a perfectly designed blend of challenge, workmanship and skill. In Tim Arnold's world, it's all these things and more besides. How else to explain his Pinball Hall of Fame, a functioning museum of sorts where more than 100 operational pinball machines spanning seven decades are on show? The Pinball Hall of Fame is a true mecca in a city of replicated ones. 

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East Las Vegas

Southern Nevada Zoological Park

The Nevada State Museum has permanent exhibits on the natural and anthropological history of the region, from ancient Paiute Indians to 19th-century pioneers, and the men and women of the Nellis Gunnery School in World War II. The standout exhibit tells the story of Bugsy Siegel's Flamingo, complete with interactive recordings of Bugsy (played by an actor) threatening business partners. There are plans to move the museum to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve in 2008; call ahead to check.

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North Las Vegas

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