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Las Vegas
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The best things to do in Vegas

Casinos, hikes, museums, professional sports and more ace things to do in Vegas

Written by
Sarah Feldberg
&
Lori A May
Contributors
Krista Diamond
&
Scott Snowden
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Las Vegas. Just mentioning the name of the city conjures a mental picture of bright neon lights, huge hotels and countless casinos. Frequently referred to as Sin City, movies like The Hangover have done little to repeal its reputation of being a 24-hour epicenter of indulgence. There are tons of great things to do in Veas, and Nevada's biggest city draws an average of more than 36 million visitors every year. Most think of The Strip as being Vegas, however, this is just one small part.

The name Las Vegas is Spanish for 'the meadows' as once upon a time, it was abundant with wild grasses, plus there's a natural desert spring, making it a key location for the journey westward. This was also instrumental when construction began in 1931 on the Hoover Dam, the same year Nevada legalized casino gambling. Vegas served as both a home to many workers and an opportunity to blow off steam and spend their hard-earned. Consequently, there's a lot more history behind the self-proclaimed Entertainment Capital of the World than you probably realize.

The best things to do in Las Vegas run the gamut from seriously entertaining to awesomely educational. Looking for culture? Spend a day exploring Las Vegas’ best attractions and museums. Hungry? You've come to the right place because there are tons of amazing restaurants in Las Vegas that highlight the city's rich and diverse culinary landscape, not to mention some of the world’s most amazing buffets. Take in a night of world-class entertainment or spend your time lazing in the sun at a glam resort pool. Vegas is great for family, friends or even a quality solo trip. Our list will help you discover all the magic Las Vegas has to offer.

Best things to do in Vegas

  • Attractions
  • The Strip

Bellagio’s signature dancing fountains are arguably the most popular attraction on The Strip. The geysers—more than 1,200 in all—are nestled in the eight-and-a-half acre lake in front of the resort. Set to music, the fountain erupts every half-hour in the afternoon and every 15 minutes throughout the evening until midnight. Not just free, the aquatic spectacle immortalized in Ocean’s Eleven is truly priceless.

The National Atomic Testing Museum
Photograph: The National Atomic Testing Museum

2. The National Atomic Testing Museum

Can you actually believe that during the 50s, people would saunter into the streets along The Strip, still clutching their Cuban Sunsets and watch as enormous atomic mushroom clouds appeared on the horizon and arced skyward? The history and development of America's nuclear weapons programme is both hypnotic and horrifying. And strangely enough, Las Vegas was close to the heart of it. A visit to this museum should absolutely, unequivocally be on your Sin City Must Do List. 

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With one foot in the past and one in the future, Caesars is one of the last old-school properties remaining, and few Las Vegas casinos can match it in atmosphere. Come to wager a few chips on the sprawling casino floor, take a dip in the lavish Garden of the Gods pool, browse the Forum Shops, see a concert in the Colosseum, or just to wander the halls while quoting The Hangover.

Located a little further north-west from the north end of the Strip, past the Venetian, is a 'heavy equipment playground' where thrill seekers can drive life-size Tonka toys for fun. You choose either a burly Caterpillar D5G bulldozer or 315CL hydraulic excavators: with a bulldozer, you can build huge mounds and push gigantic tires. With an excavator, you can dig trenches and stack 2000 lb tires. Or you can even try both. 

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The Venetian is an ever-expanding resort and entertainment complex with indoor and outdoor gondolas and larger-than-life décor. Inside, St. Mark’s Square is replicated complete with costumed characters and gelato stands under a perpetually sunny sky. Bask in lavish comfort here, as The Venetian boasts some of the largest suites on The Strip and has multiple pools in Italian-inspired gardens.

  • Bars
  • The Strip

If you haven’t been to Peppermill, you haven’t really been to Las Vegas. The front half of the building is a 24-hour diner, where velvet booths welcome guests to hearty plates of eggs and hash browns and piled-high fruit plates. The back half is the Fireside Lounge, a glorious throwback to the days when disco ruled the dance floor, drowned in blacklight, packed with fake foliage and mirrors. Gather around a cozy fire pit and order a plate of nachos and the famous 64oz Scorpion Bowl.

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The Great Depression-era landmark that dammed the Colorado River and created Lake Mead, The Hoover Dam looms large in Las Vegas history and the 726-foot-high curving cement facade makes for a striking view, whether you take a guided tour, walk along the bridge or view it from a boat on Lake Mead. It took five years and 21,000 men to build the mighty dam on the Colorado River, and it’s worth stopping by to see the fruits of their labor.

Thanks to changing entertainment trends, The Strip is littered with stars as production shows have made way for resident headliners—A-list musicians and bands that set up shop in casino showrooms for extended runs. Park Theater regulars have included Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Aerosmith and Cher. The venue seats 5,200 and VIP seating includes dedicated cocktail service. 

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  • Things to do
  • Downtown

Set in a former courthouse that hosted part of the Kefauver Hearings, this brilliant museum chronicles organized crime around the globe and in Las Vegas—where the Mob really used to run the joint—as well as law enforcement’s efforts to combat it. Permanent exhibitions include a vintage electric chair, a piece of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall and a speakeasy display complete with full cocktail bar. For an extra fee, you can venture into special experiences like the Crime Lab, Firearm Training Simulator or a tour of the museum’s in-house distillery with tasting included.

Aerialists and acrobats and strongmen, oh my! Las Vegas has long been the stateside home of Cirque du Soleil with five resident shows filling theaters along the Boulevard. For the most definitive display of Cirque’s charms, book O at the Bellagio, a marvelous spectacle based around a stage that transforms into a pool in the blink of an eye and is stocked with astonishing acts, inventive engineering and the company’s classic clowns.

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Vegas visitors are often shocked to find that The Strip isn’t four miles of glitz plopped down in the midst of open desert. Rather, the city is ringed by mountains and canyons, which offer wonderful hiking. Visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area where rock walls are dotted with climbers on world class routes and trails lead into lovely gullies. Not into hiking? Drive a 13-mile loop through the park for a taste of the scenery sans the sweat.

  • Things to do
  • price 1 of 4

Still one of the best things to do in town, the old Fremont Street casino district continually rebuilds itself into a thrilling entertainment zone thanks to new attractions, constant live entertainment and budget-friendly eats. The overhead canopy light and sound show pumps out favorite songs paired with digital light accompaniment that nearly everyone stops to take in. Some folks pass through quickly thanks to the SlotZilla zipline course. Take a stroll through old-school Vegas and pick up a beer to go in this pedestrian-friendly entertainment hub.

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  • Museums
  • History
  • Downtown

Las Vegas has a habit of blowing things up when they get old, musty or simply unprofitable. But while the city’s vintage architecture has often been reduced to rubble, many of its iconic neon signs have been saved from that fate and set aside at the acclaimed Neon Museum. Book a tour to wander among the relics, hearing tales of eccentric billionaires, long-gone landmarks and the characters that helped make Vegas, Vegas.

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Whether you seek rejuvenating me-time or a romantic couple’s massage session, head to Spa at The Linq for an amazing recoup from whatever Sin City threw at you the night before. You can select your own music and choose your favorite scents for aromatherapy, or let the pros pick a winning combination to ease your pains. The must-see feature here is the restorative Himalayan salt therapy cave that naturally soothes allergies and congestion.

  • Restaurants
  • East of the strip
  • price 3 of 4

A favorite among LV locals, Ferraro’s Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar has been serving up fine Italian cuisine for more than three decades. The family’s southern Italian heritage is honored with artful dishes comprised of fresh house made pasta, premium cuts of meat and seasonal produce. Paired with a stunning wine list your sommelier will decipher, Ferraro’s makes for a legendary night out on the town. 

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Las Vegas pool parties are the place to beat the heat and Mandalay Bay Beach is perfect for all ages—and even open to non-hotel guests with paid admission. Play along the 11-acre sandy shoreline, cool down in the rolling wave pool and lazy river, or chill out in luxury bungalows. Three bars and a grill line the beach playground so you can soak in the desert sun all day long.

While just about every casino has a dedicated buffet on site, Caesars Palace Bacchanal Buffet is hands-down the most amazing all-you-can-eat experience you’ll have in Sin City. The food is brag-worthy and the atmosphere is refined, perfect for date night or family reunions alike. Pack your plate with everything from gorgeous dim sum to lump crab avocado toast to oysters on the half shell. And that’s just your appetizer round. Pick up a clean plate and pace yourself. There’s a bounty to enjoy.

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  • Shopping
  • The Strip
  • price 2 of 4

This is the world’s largest observation wheel and it's in the heart of it all. Take a slow motion spin 550ft above the Las Vegas Strip for unbeatable views of the skyline and desert beyond. A single loop takes 30 minutes. If you really want to take it to the next level, book the Happy Half Hour and enjoy an open bar on your ride.

Fremont East, north of the casino corridor, is Vegas’s urbane, work-in-progress neighborhood. What was once a blighted stretch of road has become home to gobs of trendy bars, restaurants, shops and family attractions as Downtown is reinvigorated. Swill cocktails at the Downtown Cocktail Room or hit the Writer’s Block bookstore for something to read on the plane ride home. Pop into Container Park, a petite shopping and dining center made out of shipping containers complete with a kids play area and live entertainment throughout the day.

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  • Things to do

The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is one of the city’s great free attractions, with a not-so-secret garden that gets a top-to-bottom seasonal makeover a handful of times per year. Step inside the 24-hour gardens and you’ll be greeted by a themed horticultural exhibit that uses thousands of flowers to form gorgeous sculptures and landscapes. It’s like a miniature Disneyland for plant fans.

Las Vegas does nightlife the way it does everything else: big, bold and positively over-the-top. For the all-out experience, enter the 75,000-square-foot OMNIA at Caesars Palace, where you can join the masses popping bottles and dancing to DJs like Steve Aoki and Zedd under a huge revolving chandelier. 

 

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Just 16 miles east of the Las Vegas Strip, Lake Las Vegas is an expansive complex with hotels, golf courses and waterfront restaurants. The lake is calm and inviting, perfect for standup paddleboard sessions and kayaking, flyboarding and rowing. Catch a dragonboat race or take a yacht cruise, then cozy up on the lawn for musical performances spring through fall.

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  • Things to do

Las Vegas has long craved a professional sports team, and the city’s wish was first fulfilled in 2017 with NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights. The team made an improbable run to the Stanley Cup in its debut year, cementing its place in the hearts of local fans and capturing the attention of hockey aficionados around the globe. If you’re in town during the NHL season, catch a game at the Strip-side T-Mobile Arena, where devoted fans cheer on the black and gold and the half-time show is known to feature Cirque du Soleil or other surprise acts. This is hockey a la Las Vegas, after all.

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