What can you do in Vegas if you're not gambling?
December 29, 2004 1:02 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I will be in Vegas next week (for a conference). We've been there before and done the casino/gambling thing, which we're not really into. What else is there to do? Note: we won't have a car (but we can take taxis as long as we don't run up a zillion dollars in fares). Also, we're smart enough to find out what shows are playing. We're more interested in stuff that isn't obvious.
posted by grumblebee to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (34 answers total)
Too bad you don't have a car, although there might be public transportation available; Hoover Dam is only a short drive from downtown and is a pretty amazing sight.

There are some good restaurants in Vegas; of course there is the Vegas Nobu, which is as good as any of the others. Places like the Bellagio's fancy restaurant (is it still Picasso?) are actually kind of pedestrian, given that the chef trained under James Beard. And the food is overpriced - you'd expect sublime for this price, but you won't get it.

Most of the great places to eat in this city are off the beaten path: Lotus of Siam is sometimes overhyped but does serve good Thai, not as great as Cha-Am in Berkeley or some of the places I've eaten at in Manhattan but good. Rosemary's is certainly a fine restaurant and while not inexpensive is certainly worth a trip - the multicourse lunches are great and I would assume their dinners wouldn't disappoint either.

There are lots of good & cheap ethnic joints all over town - a couple of good pho places that I remember and some decent tex-mex throughout the area. I saw more sushi joints than I expected on my last visit but I don't usually eat fish, raw or not, that far inland.

Have a great trip!
posted by luriete at 1:16 PM on December 29, 2004

The Liberace Museum (warning...site contains FABulous music) was fun. Really.

I've always wanted to go to one of those places that lets you shoot machine guns, but never had the time.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:22 PM on December 29, 2004

I would definitely think about renting a car and driving to Red Rock Canyon and/or Hoover Dam.

I love the Olive's in the Bellagio; the Nobu at the Hard Rock Hotel is fantastic.

If you can only see one show in Las Vegas, make it O. If you're going to see two shows, O and Penn and Teller at the Rio (preceded, of course, by a visit to their Seafood Village Buffet and a viewing of the Rio's weird Masquerade Show in the Sky).
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:24 PM on December 29, 2004

I really enjoyed getting a ton of those 2 for 1 coupon booklets and going on all the roller coasters for cheap.
posted by jessamyn at 1:25 PM on December 29, 2004

Since you didn't ask for anything in particular, here are a few things my wife and I enjoy doing in Vegas:

- see the Luxor Hotel (the pyramid), it's quite impressive.
- the Mirage has dolphins. It's actually a tasteful not-very-Vegas-like animal park.
- the Flamingo Hilton has penguins (the south american kind that can handle some heat) and flamingoes. Not tasteful but they're cute and it's free.
- there's a decent aquarium (Shark Reef) at Mandalay Bay.
- shopping: Caesar's Palace and Aladdin have the cheesy/upscale tourist places. Fashion Show Mall has some nice shops. There's a Fry's (electronics/geek supermarket) at the end of the strip between Luxor and the airport.
- roller coasters: New York New York and Sahara have good ones.
- nature: Lake Mead is only 20 minutes away from town, it's beautiful even though the water level is low. Ethel M (M&M Mars co.) has a large cactus garden at their factory in Henderson.

Cabs are pretty affordable in Vegas, it should be easy to get to all but the last two in a cab.
posted by mmoncur at 1:38 PM on December 29, 2004

Oh, the Shark Reef at Mandalay bay is excellent!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:47 PM on December 29, 2004

I was in Las Vegas the summer of 2003. My family is the type that plans a million events and activities on vacation, but Las Vegas was the biggest challenge because there really isn't anything to do away from the main strip.

Off the strip:

1. We first went to the Liberace Museum, which was full of 17th century pianos, jewelry, humongous costumes, china sets, and mirrored cars. It's a 10-minute car ride from the main strip. But unless you’re really committed to understanding the flamboyant legacy of Liberace, it’s a bit lame – the collection is fabulous and extremely opulent, but the exhibition space and design is hideous and unappealing with extremely bad lighting, and no wall text. You were also barred from taking photographs, which is annoying. We were like the only group in the museum at the height of tourist season, so i don't think it's a popular destination. It was boring.

2. We also went one evening to the Minor League AAA Baseball Game, a team called the Las Vegas Area 51s, which was a little boring, but i'm not a big baseball fan. It’s about a 20-minute ride from the main strip. You get a big feel for the local scene at the game, as it's all families and people from around the area.
posted by naxosaxur at 1:48 PM on December 29, 2004

mmoncur is on the right track imho. The Strip is quite a spectacle and if it's your first time to Las Vegas, you really ought to absorb it. The shopping at Caesar's and the Fashion Show mall are fun. There is also an outlet mall at the North end of the Strip:


One non-strip, taxi-accessible stop you should consider is the Fremont Street area. Go late at night (10pm or later) on a Friday or Saturday for the light show: there's a convex cover over the street for 4-5 blocks and the inside of it is filled with lights that are synchronized to light with different songs. It's sort of like a low-budget video, but it's fun. The gambling is much easier and friendlier here as well.
posted by glyphlet at 1:54 PM on December 29, 2004

Museums. Museums. Rides. Rides.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:55 PM on December 29, 2004

I second the Liberace Museum, only because I've always wanted to go (I've never made it because closing at 5pm has always proven too early for me in Vegas Time). It's off the strip & often overlooked.

On preview, I'm willing to commit to understanding the flamboyant legacy of Liberace. YMMV.
posted by obloquy at 1:56 PM on December 29, 2004

Someone has to mention legalized prostitution. It's not going to be me, though.
posted by Sinner at 2:00 PM on December 29, 2004

I like the Liberace Museum, though it is housed in a poorly-lighted strip mall space. The old ladies who work there are adorable.

And the Fremont Street Experience is a must. Be sure you see all the vintage refurbished neon and electric signs that have been preserved by the Neon Museum. Maybe you can finagle a tour of the Neon Museum's Neon Boneyard, which is one of my life goals.

On preview: Prostitution isn't legal in Las Vegas. The closest legal brothels are at least 50 miles away.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:01 PM on December 29, 2004

Red Square at Mandalay Bay is freaking amazing. You will not be disappointed with the food there. Call for reservations.

The Spice Market Buffet at Aladdin is also quite good.

Rita Rudner does a good show at New York New York, but I'd avoid ALL of the restaurants there - they're very bland.

Folies Bergere at Tropicana is a traditional Vegas show.

The Blue Man Group is amazing. If you're going to see them anywhere, see them in Las Vegas. Seeing them in a smaller theater like in New York or Boston just doesn't have the same impact.
posted by glyphlet at 2:04 PM on December 29, 2004

Oh, do not waste your money on the roller coaster at New York New York. My wife and I stayed there about two months ago and got free tickets, and if they weren't free I would have demanded my money back. It's horrible.

Aside from that, I would definitely recommend the shark aquarium at Mandalay Bay; it's a hike to find it, and not terribly cheap for a 40-minute walk-through, but excellent nonetheless.
posted by arco at 2:09 PM on December 29, 2004

Ellis Island: decent/cheap microbrew and karaoke every night (these people are serious about their karaoke)

Gilley's: two words - "bikini bullriding" (if, you know, you're into that sort of thing)

See also: Vegas on 25 Cents a Day and Cheapo Vegas Thrills (not that I'm implying that you're cheap - they just give you good ideas for things to do that don't involve gambling or big shows)
posted by ecrivain at 2:20 PM on December 29, 2004

What, no one's going to mention the Star Trek Experience? What kind of geeks are you?

I'm with arco: the NYNY roller coaster is ghastly, and will rattle your fillings out.

The Spousal Unit and I are also non-gamblers, but we went to Vegas to be married by Elvis, and had a great time. Nearly every casino has some sort of periodic, free entertainment, like dancers and acrobats that set up in the mall below the Aladdin every 30 minutes or so.
posted by frykitty at 2:23 PM on December 29, 2004

Please, for me, please shoot guns at the Las Vegas Gun Club. I was unable to get there last time I was in Vegas, and have lamented my lack of Tommy Gun shooting experience. Someday, someday...

For an oasis of sanity near the Vegas Strip, try Batista's Hole in the Wall. Note, I'm only going on atmosphere, wine, and cappuccino, as my italian cuisine experience is quite limited.
posted by sleslie at 2:45 PM on December 29, 2004

This isn't really a tip about places to go, but here it is anyway: include a $20 with your ID when you hand it to the person at the registration desk. You'll be upgraded to a nicer room.

A friend that works at NY NY told me to do this, and believe me, it works :-) I got upgraded to a corner room view a great view.
posted by glyphlet at 2:53 PM on December 29, 2004

Offhand, grumblebee, this wouldn't be for the Martindale-Hubbell Annual convention, would it?
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:58 PM on December 29, 2004

I'll second Red Rocks---i'm not a nature person at all, and i liked driving/wandering around there (it was a perfect break from the noise/lights/stimulation)
posted by amberglow at 2:59 PM on December 29, 2004

Or The Amazing Meeting!3 ?
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:12 PM on December 29, 2004

Last time I was there, I went to the art gallery in the Belaggio -- I got to see Impressionist paintings and an exhibit dedicated to Alexander Calder.

And then I ate at In-N-Out Burger, which is also a must.
posted by sugarfish at 3:39 PM on December 29, 2004

Somebody beat me to Red Rocks....I've not been there, but my fiance is a geologist and thought Red Rocks was almost as cool as the Chippendales show. Maybe even cooler :)
posted by freebird at 3:41 PM on December 29, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the great suggestions.

Shawnstruck, the convention is CES. Both my wife and I are speaking at a conference there. But we'll have a lot of time off, too.
posted by grumblebee at 4:32 PM on December 29, 2004

You can rent a car mighty cheap these days and the Nevada desert has a spectacular desolation. Plus you can cruise up into the mountains northwest of town, or down to Hoover Dam.
posted by LarryC at 5:18 PM on December 29, 2004

Another vote for Red Rocks. Or Valley of Fire state park (about a half hour north on I-15).

Other than that... I really like the UNLV library.

Yeah, I'm a geek.
posted by weston at 5:28 PM on December 29, 2004

This might sound really wacky but try and get into one of the cab company lost and found offices. Use another of those $20 bills to bribe your way in if necessary (the one I went to a few weeks ago is about a $6 cab ride off the strip), not that you want to take anything away with you but just to see the amazing variety of stuff people leave behind in cabs and then never bother to retrieve. I, conversely, was not about to leave town without my cell phone.
posted by billsaysthis at 5:33 PM on December 29, 2004

The lounge in the Peppermill is pure 70's Vegas, go late and get all romantical. Ride the strip side of the BigShot at night.
posted by roboto at 5:33 PM on December 29, 2004

I love the outlet mall in Vegas. I spent waaaay too much money there. ; )

Bally's Big Kitchen Buffet is fantastic. Well worth the money. Imperial Palace also has a really good buffet.

I actually really enjoyed World of Coca-Cola, especially the fountain at the end where you could try Coke products from all over the world.

New York New York has a bar in the middle of the casino called The Bar at Times Square that has dueling pianos. It's loads of fun.
posted by SisterHavana at 5:48 PM on December 29, 2004

Just make sure you spend lots of time at Alexis Park checking out the high end stuff!
posted by Chuckles at 7:01 PM on December 29, 2004

See also Ask Metafilter: What should I do in Las Vegas? (December 2003)
posted by werty at 9:48 PM on December 29, 2004

What's wrong with the bus? It's cheap, relatively frequent, and runs all night, unlike most cities' bus systems.
posted by calwatch at 10:38 PM on December 29, 2004

If you do check out the 12/03 thread, note that the pirate battle is back, though in a less-fun version (singing and dancing, less goofy 30s-movie dialogue). The ship still sinks, though, and things blow up.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:23 AM on December 30, 2004

I am way late to the party, but if you're into videogames even slightly, check out GameWorks. SO and I spent several hours there when we were in LV a couple of years ago. It was a lot of fun (because we like videogames).
posted by suchatreat at 10:55 AM on December 30, 2004

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