Best things to do in Las Vegas
What is it? A 53-year-old icon of Sin City decadence, this casino resort still wows.
Why go? 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.
What is it? A new showroom that plays host to some of the hottest resident performers on the Las Vegas Strip.
Why go? Thanks to changing entertainment trends, today, 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. The Park Theater at Park MGM boasts many of the best, including Aerosmith, Janet Jackson, Cher, Bruno Mars and a pair of shows from Lady Gaga.
What is it? Proudly representing Las Vegas’s era of themed resorts, the Italianate Venetian transports visitors across the Atlantic.
Why go? Many of the more preposterously themed hotels in Vegas pay homage to notable locales around the world that would seem tacky anywhere else. But the Venetian pulls off its impersonation with style, thanks to gondolas steered by singing boatmen on turquoise canals and a replica St. Mark’s Square complete with costumed characters and gelato stands under a perpetually sunny sky.
What is it? A wine-lover’s playground below a Brazilian-themed casino.
Why go? Hiding in plain sight beneath the Rio is one of the Strip’s best kept secrets: The Rio Wine Cellar and Tasting Room, home to a $3,000,000 treasure trove of grape juice that includes some 3,000 bottles and a bottle of 1800 Madeira from Thomas Jefferson’s personal stash. You can’t pop that cork, but there are more than 100 vintages available by the glass and plenty of options to buy and try for wine novices and serious oenophiles alike.
What is it? An outdoor art gallery covered with murals by artists from around the globe.
Why go? When Life Is Beautiful Festival launched in Downtown Las Vegas in 2013, it brought with it a team of international street artists and muralists who blanketed the city’s walls with colorful, evocative paintings. That program has continued each year, with new works added and old pieces refreshed or replaced. The result? Exploring downtown feels like wandering through an epic art gallery scaled for giants.
What is it? The Cosmopolitan’s spa offers spaces and treatments beyond the standard repertoire.
Why go? Whether you want to counteract the previous night’s excesses or put your best face forward, almost every hotel has a luxurious sanctuary to help you unwind and shine. Sahra Spa & Hammam at the Cosmopolitan is among the most original, with towering sandstone walls that give way to treatment rooms where guests can opt for services ranging from hot stone massages to detoxifying algae baths to Fire & Ice facials.
What is it? A classic diner and lounge where partiers dig into late-night omelets and gather around fire pits with fruity cocktails.
Why go? If you haven’t been to the Peppermill, you haven’t really been to Las Vegas. The front half of the building is a 24-hour diner, where velvet booths under fake foliage 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, and staffed by servers in floor-length dresses. Gather around a cozy fire pit and order a plate of nachos and the famous 64oz Scorpion Bowl.
What is it? The Great Depression-era landmark that dammed the Colorado River and created Lake Mead.
Why go? The Hoover Dam looms large in Las Vegas history as in physical form, and the 726-foot-high curving cement facade makes for a striking view, whether you take a guided tour, walk onto 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.
What is it? This desert park beckons visitors with canyon trails and crimson cliffs.
Why go? 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. During the winter, hit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, where ruddy rock walls are dotted with climbers on world class routes and trails that lead into lovely gullies. Not into hiking? Drive a 13-mile loop through the park for a taste of the scenery sans the sweat.
What is it? Las Vegas’s first pro sports team has made its home and its name in the middle of the Strip.
Why go? Las Vegas has long craved a professional sports team, and the city’s wish was 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 the Blue Man Group. This is hockey a la Las Vegas, after all.
What is it? A brilliant look into the criminal underworld and how law enforcement has fought its sway.
Why go? 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.
What is it? That giant spire jutting out of Downtown Las Vegas is a casino hotel—topped with thrill rides to get your heart racing.
Why go? If you see a person drifting down to earth from the top of the Stratosphere, don’t freak out. That’s just the SkyJump, a controlled free-fall that sends brave visitors hurtling toward solid ground from 829 feet up. Even if you don’t fancy throwing yourself off a perfectly good building, you can still sign on for some thrills. Follow the shrieks to the top of the Strat, the tallest building in Nevada, where rides like Big Shot, X-Scream and Insanity: the Ride are just as terrifying as they sound.
What is it? A temple to protein that serves impeccable steak and suckling pig and refuses to take itself too seriously.
Why go? Today, most people have heard of kobe beef, but, despite what your local bistro would you have believe, few people have tasted it. That’s because relatively few of the coveted cows are destined for the export market annually. Lucky for you, you can find certified, melt-in-your-mouth Japanese A5 kobe at José Andrés’ Bazaar Meat, the SLS “meathouse” where the Spanish chef celebrates all manner of proteins via playful, creative dishes and presentations.
What is it? A refuge for the city’s old-school neon signs where visitors can walk amid Las Vegas history.
Why go? 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.
What is it? A lighting fixture that’s also a bar that’s also a landmark drinking destination.
Why go? The centerpiece of Cosmopolitan’s casino floor is a massive, three-story chandelier strung with thousands of crystals and housing three separate bars. Hit floor 1.5 for wildly inventive drinks by mad booze genius Mariena Mercer (not to mention killer selfie potential).
What is it? The carefully engineered home of Cirque du Soleil’s most inventive Las Vegas show.
Why go? Aerialists and acrobats and strongmen, oh my! Las Vegas has long been the stateside home of Cirque du Soleil with six resident shows filling theaters along the Boulevard and a seventh on its way in October 2019. 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.
What is it? A family-friendly pool that offers something for everyone.
Why go? From the time summer arrives in early April until its departure in late October, Las Vegas pool parties are the place to beat the heat. Whole families will find something to love among the 11-acre Mandalay Beach's sandy shoreline, rolling wave pool,lazy river and luxury bungalows.
What is it? An airborne tour of the desert outside of Las Vegas, courtesy of ziplines from the top of Red Mountain.
Why go? Ever thought about taking the trope “birds-eye view” literally? That’s the idea at Bootleg Canyon Flightlinez near Boulder City, where a trip to the top of Red Mountain kicks off a 1.5-mile descent over four different zip lines that can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.
What is it? A pinball wizard’s dream arcade, where vintage machines mingle with shiny new eye candy.
Why go? Aficionados of old-school arcade games should make a beeline for the peculiarly beautiful Pinball Hall of Fame, a nondescript warehouse where you can admire—and play—more than 150 operational pinball machines, from throwback games to modern wonders. Bring your quarters.
What is it? The dancing waters of this Las Vegas landmark are a familiar sight in Hollywood movies, but, in person, they never fail to impress.
Why go? Some of the most eye-catching attractions at the Bellagio—a supersize, all-American Italian villa—are the signature dancing fountains. The geysers—more than 1,200 in all—are nestled in the eight-and-a-half acre lake in front of the resort and right on the Strip. Set to music, they erupt 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.
What is it? A spectator venue and participatory playground dedicated to Las Vegas’s newest form of gaming: competitive video gaming.
Why go? Gaming in Las Vegas has long meant cards, dice and chips, but recently the city has seen the light—of a glowing video game screen. At the Luxor, the HyperX Esports Arena hosts competitive tournaments where real cash is on the table and daily play where anyone can pick up a controller for an hour or two.
What is it? A chance to live out your fighter pilot fantasies in the skies over Las Vegas.
Why go? If betting your life’s savings on “red” at the roulette table isn’t your kind of heart-pounding, ditch the Strip for a real adventure. Sky Combat Ace takes visitors airborne in tiny planes where you can experience your own private airshow complete with spins and dives or engage in a mock dog fight while manning the controls. It’s the closest you’ll probably ever get to Tom Cruise in Top Gun.
What is it? A minimalist shrine to Tokyo-style sushi for true fans of raw fish.
Why go? The quip, “I don’t eat sushi when I’m not near the ocean,” is a stupid one. Anyone who says it hasn’t been to Sin City's Chinatown, where masterful chefs serve pristine fish in a nightly dance that becomes a dinner-and-a-show event. At Kabuto Edomae Sushi, , you’ll experience traditional Tokyo-style sushi: fish flown in from Japan, carved with the utmost respect and presented in whatever manner best showcases its flavor. No spicy mayo, no eel sauce and, heaven forbid, no cream cheese.
What is it? A public art project that’s become Instagram catnip.
Why go? Half an hour south of Las Vegas, a neon mirage rises from the desert. No, it’s not a casino. It’s the work of Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, whose “Seven Magic Mountains” site-specific public art installation has become an Instagram landmark and a must-visit for art lovers spending the weekend. The work is comprised of seven towers of boulders drenched in bright, highlighter shades that are meant to comment on human presence in the natural environment. Thanks to a fresh coat of paint, the eye-catching totems are now glowing brighter than ever.
What is it? A pair of luxury shopping spots where the well-heeled go for a workout, a meal and to select tonight’s outfit.
Why go? Take your plastic for a spin around the Wynn’s Promenade and new Plaza shopping center. Stocked with designer boutiques from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Chloé, Chanel and Balmain, there’s also Las Vegas’s first outpost of SoulCycle and restaurants like Cipriani and Urth Caffe.
What is it? A bar-hopping corridor in Downtown Las Vegas where you can wander among cocktail spots, dives, local restaurants and a shipping container shopping district.
Why go? Fremont East, north of the casino corridor, is Vegas’s urbane, work-in-progress neighborhood. What was once a blighted and sketchy stretch of road has become home to gobs of trendy bars, restaurants, shops and even independent bookstores as Downtown is reinvigorated. Swill cocktails at the Downtown Cocktail Room or grab dinner at gastropub Carson Kitchen or Le Thai. Hit the Writer’s Block bookstore for something to read on the plane ride home, and pop into Container Park, a petite shopping center made out of shipping containers and marked by a fire spitting mantis for a snack or a souvenir. Atomic Liquors—which used to host viewing parties on its roof for atomic-bomb test detonations—is ground zero for where old Vegas meets new and now boasts its own onsite restaurant.
What is it? An incredible feast that redefined what diners expect from the Vegas buffet.
Why go? The Vegas buffet was once the butt of jokes—site of rubbery prime rib, greasy chicken and sad chafing dishes full of limp pasta. Those days are long gone. Today, buffets like Caesars Palace’s Bacchanal are veritable feasts where you can 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.
What is it? A racetrack experience where you can drive the car of your wildest dreams.
Why go? If you’ve ever harbored fantasies about flying around the track making high-speed left turns or cruising in a sleek Porsche or Lambo, well, you’re in luck. At Dream Racing at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway you can get behind the wheel of some beautiful steel and hit the gas hard under the supervision of expert drivers who will teach you how to handle your steed like a pro.
What is it? Inside the Bellagio, this airy wonderland gallery fills with seasonal sculptures of flowers that elicit wide eyes and wows.
Why go? The Bellagio Conservatory is one of the city’s great free attractions, a not-so-secret garden that gets a top-to-bottom seasonal makeover a handful of times per year. Step inside 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.
What is it? The first Vegas restaurant from the Michelin-starred, widely acclaimed duo of restaurateur Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm.
Why go? Dining options in Las Vegas rival ones from the finest culinary cities on the globe, due in part to the influx of celebrity chef-helmed restaurants over the last two decades, beginning with Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in 1992. The most recent addition is NoMad Restaurant at the NoMad Hotel, a New York import known for its library dining room lined with 25,000 books and its foie gras- and black truffle-stuffed chicken.
What is it? A massive casino nightclub where partiers in their Vegas best dance till dawn.
Why go? 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 Calvin Harris and Zedd under a huge revolving chandelier.