I’ve been to Las Vegas a number of times—when I was too young to either gamble or drink, and for a travel conference. Even though both times I wasn’t there for what Vegas is typically known for—gambling and drinking—I was able to get out and have some fun as well as really get a feel for the city itself and all that it has to offer. During my brief stint in the casino after a long day of conference sessions, it only took me about 15 minutes of video blackjack to stomp out thoroughly enraged. It was at that point I knew I had to find something else to fill my time while there instead of slots and roulette.
In this post I want to cater to those who are intrigued by Sin City as a place somewhat close to home to visit that is warmer than Michigan, but who don’t love the clubbing scene or the world of jackpots and taking chances. It is my professional opinion that Las Vegas is morphing into something more than that—a place with out-of-this-world cuisine, unique activities, gorgeous hotels, and an upbeat atmosphere that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Here is a list of some activities you can try doing on your next trip to Vegas that don’t involve shelling out more cash to stone-faced dealers in suits at the casino tables!
It’s only a short show, but the fountains choreographed with music is such a unique experience. Make sure you arrive a couple minutes before they start to get a good view—there are even bleachers at one side of them! I just remember watching them and thinking “Wow, look where I am right now.” They have a way of making you feel really lucky and encouraging you to make the most of the rest of your time in Vegas.
GONDOLA RIDES IN THE SHOPS AT THE VENETIAN
The shops at the Venetian are also accompanied by a river, bridge, and serenading gondola drivers. There is a lighted and domed ceiling that changes with the time of day—there are stars at night and clouds during the day and it’s actually really beautiful and creates an awesome atmosphere for a dinner under the stars in the square. Embarrassingly enough, when I first set foot in this area, I thought it was the real sky and a real open-air area! I thought “Hm, where is the wind?” It makes for a different afternoon or evening if you want to get away from the crowded strip or the sound of slots and clanging change. If you don’t feel like paying the small fortune it costs to actually ride in a gondola, it’s still amusing to walk around and watch others do it.
3. TAKE A TRIP OUT TO FREMONT STREET
Historic hotels, curbside food vendors, and lights, lights, lights! Fremont Street is a different side of Vegas. It’s just a short cab ride away from the strip and a good way to have a night out and get a feel for what Vegas was like back in the day. Some of the bars and hotels there are simply oozing with character, and it’s a refreshing experience after spending a few days in the brand spanking new casinos and modern club scene of the Las Vegas strip.
HAVE A FANCY NIGHT OUT
With all of the executive chefs, famous restaurants, and resorts competing for bragging rights to the best cuisine in the city, the foodie scene in Las Vegas has truly taken leaps and bounds. Where meals used to be cheap and quick and there were buffets a-plenty, now the stakes are really getting higher. I always encourage my clients going to Vegas to splurge on a meal at least one night during their trip. Get wined and dined in low lighting, try a succulent filet mignon, and sip a bottle of aged red wine. It’s not just the food that’s to die for but the experience. You’ll leave full and happy—just don’t let the wine get to your head because the next day you may regret the boldness you felt in the casino that night!
I honestly thought this was too good to be true. Lobster ME has a Panera Bread-like atmosphere but serves all things lobster—lobster mac and cheese, lobster bisque in a bread bowl, lobster on a stick! And in a world where lobster is normally reserved for stuffy upscale restaurants and 6 course meals, this excited me. I’m a casual girl and I loved having a casual place to enjoy my lobster. I’m a seafood fanatic and ate here about 4 times during my Las Vegas stay. Lobster ME is located in the shops at the Venetian near the gondola area.
Okay, so maybe this doesn’t appeal to everyone, but the purpose of these posts is really to share my personal favorites with everyone—places I have actually been. People want to hear firsthand experiences and real personal opinions, right? I hope so…
LOOK AT HOTEL DECORATIONS IF IT’S AROUND THE HOLIDAYS
I walked through the Bellagio two weeks before Christmas (which has a botanical garden in it by the way?!). There was a polar bear made completely of white flowers, a gigantic snow globe, and a glittering Christmas tree towering above. It was truly surreal. I think I even remember fake snowflakes falling. There were paths winding under wintry lighted archways. You can see gorgeous decorations like that throughout all of the hotels on the strip near the holidays. Walking through them is an interesting way to spend an afternoon, and even more so for us true winter folk accustomed to REAL snow. I don’t think I’ll ever see a palm tree strung with Christmas lights without doing a double take.
WALK THROUGH THE HOTELS AND TAKE IN THE THEMES
Medieval dragons, roller coaster rides through “New York”, the Eiffel Tower, pirate ships… You can travel the world all in about the 4 miles it takes to walk the length of the Las Vegas strip. The unique architecture of each resort, casino, and common areas are spectacles in and of themselves. Take a day and just weave in and out of the hotel lobbies, take pictures, and indulge in all that Vegas has to offer. Grab a gelato in Italy (the Venetian), enjoy a cosmo at the bar of the Cosmopolitan, or try a crepe in Paris Las Vegas. You’re sure to leave feeling well-travelled, and all at only a fraction of the cost of actually going to all those places!
A few other things I think would be a blast would be to take a trip out to the red rocks, take a ride on the High Roller, or to do one of the helicopter flights over the strip. They’re not something I’ve personally done yet (but I plan to on my next trip out there!) so I chose not to include them—I’d like my blog to feature mostly things I’ve experienced firsthand. Feel free to leave your favorite Vegas experiences in the comments if you feel I’ve left out a must-do!
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS