Best Las Vegas attractions
The Bellagio’s lake throws up entrancing fountain displays choreographed to music from Michael Jackson to Gene Kelly (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 460 feet. Grab a seat in one of the Bellagio restaurants overlooking the water, or take in the view from the sidewalk out front. Watching live, this mandatory Vegas attraction is just like you’ve seen in the movies—only better.
From Las Vegas it’s just over four hours’ drive to the utterly breathtaking Grand Canyon and the best selfies of your life, and the city offers many transportation options to help you get there and explore. Check out companies such as Canyon Tours or Pink Jeep Tours for ground, air and water options, or buzz over to Arizona and land below the rim on a helicopter tour. If you’d rather take a Las Vegas city tour, check out Big Bus, which offers both day and night trips.
If you’re afraid of heights, stay away from the 1,150-foot (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 160 feet (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 27 feet over the edge of the Tower and then leave you there to dangle. And during Insanity, an arm extends over 900ft of air and spins you around at a terrifying rate. True daredevils can take it one step further with the SkyJump, a controlled, 829-foot leap from the tower that has you reaching speeds of 40mph on the way down. Best save dinner for later.
Purchase your tickets (starting at $21 per person) at St Mark’s Square, then take a ride along the aquamarine 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.
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, chef Jean Joho’s restaurant is a stunner. The prices reflect this state of affairs, but then what else would you expect?
If you’re fascinated by folks like Al Capone and the underworld dealings of gangsters past and present, Downtown’s the Mob Museum, housed in a former courthouse that hosted part of the Kefauver hearings, is a must. The museum’s exhibits and artifacts (including the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Wall) detail the Mafia’s impact on Las Vegas and the rest of the country, as well as the steps law enforcement took to bring the dons down. Check the museum calendar for special speaker events, author talks and Mob-related parties.
Just 17 miles west of the Strip, Red Rock Canyon National Conversation Area is a world apart, a striking geological destination that draws more than 2 million people each year to hike, climb, bike and explore. The 13-mile scenic drive makes stops at trailheads where short hikes reward visitors with glimpses of petroglyphs, fossils and the ruddy Aztec sandstone that gives the park its name. Active types can easily spend a day (or more) absorbing Red Rock’s charms, while less outdoorsy folks will find it a pleasant detour from the flashing lights and incessant soundtrack of the casinos.
Vegas has a reputation for rigging its history with explosives and sending it into a cloud of dust. However the neon of Vegas past has escaped that fate thanks to this Downtown museum and its fantastic Boneyard full of vintage signs. Book a guided tour in advance and learn about the town’s legendary haunts and odd characters through the signs they left behind. Pro tip: Opt for an evening visit when you can see some of the refurbished signs illuminated to their former glory.
The Las Vegas Strip doesn’t have a reputation as a fine-art destination, but there’s plenty to see if you know where to look. Your first stop: The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, where you’ll currently find an exhibit of 43 Picasso works focused on his portraits. The gallery is open daily with docent tours at 2pm, but for something a little extra Vegas-y, check out the monthly Art & Wine series, which pairs wines with specific pieces.
“Femme au collier juane,” courtesy Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society
The Las Vegas Strip offers plenty of epic vantage points, from the restaurants atop Mandalay Bay to the clubs that crown the Palms, but perhaps the best views come courtesy of the Linq’s anchor attraction, the 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel. Grab a few friends and your camera and climb aboard one of the glass pods for a 30-minute trip over the Strip with 360-degree views of the Vegas Valley. And if you like your vistas with a side of booze, book a spot in one of the Happy Half Hour cabins, which includes an open bar during your trip ’round the wheel.
To most people, 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. How else to explain his Pinball Hall of Fame, an interactive museum of sorts where more than 100 operational pinball machines spanning seven decades are on display and ready for your quarters? The Pinball Hall of Fame is a true mecca in a city of replicated ones.
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 (Nicki Minaj good, Will Smith less impressive). The comparatively small attraction tones down the British history in favor of celebrity and pop culture “encounters”: an opportunity to join the “wolf pack” from The Hangover, for example, or a chance to pose with Miley Cyrus and her wrecking ball. Hokey but fun.
With its flashing overhead light show, parade of street performers, regular live music and merry bunch of drunks, the Fremont Street Experience has always been a sensory-overloading spectacle. But now when you stroll beneath the VivaVision canopy you’ll also hear the whir—punctuated by occasional shrieks—of zipliners zipping overhead. SlotZilla fliers can opt for the lower zipline or upper zoomline, which launches riders superman-style 10 stories overhead. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s just a tourist.
Fans of Pawn Stars flock to this Las Vegas Boulevard pawn shop where you might catch a glimpse of Chumlee, Rick or the Old Man among the antique guns, rare books and memorabilia. Bring a piece for appraisal, browse the wares or pose for a photo in the city’s most famous pawn shop, just be prepared to wait: long weekend lines are a regular fixture. In fact, the crowds are so consistent that Rick Harrison has built a miniature shopping plaza right next door. So when you’re done checking out the ancient coins, you can grab a slice of pizza, some barbecue or a plate of gravy- and cheese curd-smothered fries at Smoke’s Poutinerie.