Contrary to the evidence of many light-pocketed tourists leaving Sin City, a trip to extravagant, flamboyant, downright infamous Las Vegas doesn’t have to entail spending the weekend sat at a blackjack table counting your losses. There are literally thousands of things to do in and around Vegas, and the iconic strip is truly just the beginning in an almost never-ending list of sights and sounds that will send you home with memories a casino never could. The absolute best thing you can do here is to hire a car, giving you the all-American freedom to escape the chaos when you want to get away from the bright lights and big city.
Ride a Gondola through The Venetian
Las Vegas architecture really is next-level, like most other things in the city, and nowhere is this truer than at The Venetian. Complete with a faux cloudy-blue sky, twinkling canal and Renaissance-style buildings that truly look like they belong in Venice, this unbelievable hotel offers actual gondola rides on its waterways, for a slice of Italian charm right in the middle of Nevada.
Visit the Mob Museum
If you’re looking for a glimpse into the darker side of Sin City, and some serious reasons not to get into gambling, look no further than the Mob Museum. Learn about America’s history of organised crime, Las Vegas’ transformation from a Wild West town to the global home of debauchery, and the see how the Mob made moonshine during prohibition.
Zipline down Fremont Street
To get your adrenaline pumping in a way Roulette never could, head to Fremont Street, a (marginally) toned-down area of Old Vegas, to tackle SlotZilla. This five-block-long zipline will eject you from a giant slot machine 11 stories above the heads of the street’s punters, and you’ll whizz through the air before landing on the city’s most historic casino: Golden Gate. Superman, eat your heart out.
Feast on a buffet at Wynn Las Vegas
Voted the city’s best buffet, the spread at Wynn is truly out of this world (and the setting is something special too). Settle down in the airy, marble-floored atrium, where huge floral centrepieces add an elegance you wouldn’t expect from a buffet and dive headfirst into the cornucopia of mouthwatering offerings. Think unlimited snow crab legs, freshly carved prime rib and gourmet cheeses followed by a towering chocolate fountain, handmade crepes and scoop after scoop of gelato – the list is genuinely almost endless.
See the signs at the Neon Boneyard
A retirement home for Las Vegas’ disused neon signs, the Neon Boneyard is a photographer’s dream. Some iconic pieces of Vegas history have come to rest here, and the derelict signs hark to a time gone by, lit up at night time by the lights of restored signs above them. These neon wonders once advertised wedding chapels, restaurants, casinos and motels, and have now started a new phase of their lives as a fascinating glimpse into Sin City’s past.
Seven Magic Mountains
Just 25 minutes from the mayhem of the strip, a fascinating art installation awaits in desert surrounds; a little-known gem akin to Nevada’s very own Stonehenge. Neon-painted boulder totems tower into the sky; standing proudly in stark contrast to the smooth blue skies by day, orangey-pink hues blending seamlessly with the unparalleled desert sunsets each evening. Though this exhibition was meant to be temporary, it will now be on display until the end of 2021.
Gaze at the Sloane Canyon petroglyphs
Located in the Sloane Canyon National Conservation Area, the Sloane Canyon petroglyphs are definitely one for the historians among us. With an estimated date of between 8000BC and 1000BC, the more than 300 art panels could be one of the oldest examples of Native American rock art in the United States.
Go skiing (yes, skiing) in Lee Canyon
When you feel like you’re literally cooking in the 50-degree heat of Nevada, you wouldn’t imagine that snowy white pistes could be found anywhere in the state, but you’d be mistaken. Believe it or not, Mount Charleston and Lee Canyon, just an hour away from the scorching desert heat of Las Vegas, serve up a winter wonderland where skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing and sledding are all possible in the winter months. If you want to escape for more than a day, book a night or two at The Retreat. High up on Charleston Peak, this alpine lodge makes a perfect cool-weather getaway.
Catch some bad guys at Police Chase Vegas
For a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience (if you’re a law-abiding citizen, that is), this activity will have you engaging in a high-speed chase – either as the police pursuit vehicle or the getaway driver, depending on whether you fancy being the goodie or the baddie. For that extra injection of adrenaline, opt to experience a PIT manoeuvre and send a fellow junkie spinning across the race track.
Time travel at the Rhyolite Ghost Town
With a boom as powerful as its fall from grace just 18 years after being founded, Rhyolite Ghost Town was a product of the Gold Rush and, like many other towns tucked away down United States backroads, it has been left the to elements. Once possessing a thrumming heart of gold, all this town now holds is the empty shells of a general store and a bank, a more than dilapidated train station and a collection of weird and wonderful art – the most poignant of which are towering ghost statues, the only inhabitants of this lost town.
Thinking about visiting some of the USA’s national parks? Read this post to find out which one is for you.