Yay, a week in the desert!
December 17, 2012 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Things to do in Vegas for non-black-outers?

Looking for some fun things to do in Vegas for a week in mid-January that don't involve blacking out or puking.

Boyfriend and I are staying about a mile off the strip and intend to use the shuttle service to get to the strip. We might play some blackjack, walk around... probably won't be going into any night clubs or strip clubs.

I guess I'm especially looking for show recommendations or anything special going on that time of year. I've checked out some shows on Yelp, and right now I'm most interested in Cirque du Soleil. Any further recommendations are greatly appreciated, including food, shopping, etc. Neither of us have been there since we were under 21 or without parents, so this will be our first time experiencing Vegas as free agents.

We won't have a car, but we'd be willing to rent one and drive away from the strip if it gets too boring. Hopefully we won't have to, but willing to hear recs for things to do further out.

Thank you!
posted by madonna of the unloved to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (21 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Do you like eating out? Vegas is a foodie's dream, with something for everything. There are also huge malls (The Forums at Caesar's is a big one) that are a lot of fun to window shop even if you're not in the market for high end brands.

There are many many Cirque shows going on at all the various casinos. You might try checking the Half Price Ticket booths along The Strip the day you want to go for a deal -- usually Zumanity (the "sexy" Cirque show) is on sale at least.

I recommend checking out Downtown Vegas one evening as well. It's a short taxi ride from The Strip, and it's full of old school charm, as well as The Fremont Street Experience light show.

The Bellagio has the fountain show, of course, and their gorgeous lobby is full of Chihuly glass. Mandelay Bay has an aquarium that's quite nice, as well as a funky ice bar if you've never been to one before. The Peppermill Lounge is a little place about halfway up The Strip that is full of neon and lasers and floating fire pits and oh my god it's terrible and amazing. (Go through the cafe in the front to the lounge itself.)

I've been to Vegas a lot as it's a short trip from where I live, and I'd be happy to give more specific recommendations for restaurants if you mention the type(s) of food and rough price range you'd be looking for.
posted by jess at 6:27 PM on December 17, 2012

The last time I was in Vegas I saw Penn & Teller, and it was fantastic - just totally amazing, way better than I expected. Highly, highly recommended. It's an inexpensive taxi ride from the strip - there may also be a shuttle, I'm not sure.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:30 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was in Vegas for a funeral with my family (so not an optimal partying time...) and would recommend the National Atomic Testing Museum which is about as far from the usual Vegas options as it gets! It's a neat little museum and a very interesting look at Vegas's past history as a testing site. There are aquarium tanks on display at Mandelay Bay that are pretty great even in the lobby areas. The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian were kind of amazing-- hokey and really fun, at the same time.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:33 PM on December 17, 2012

I really enjoyed the "LOVE" show from Cirque with Beatle music. It was well done and used some new versions of Beatle songs. I highly recommend it.
posted by calgirl at 6:39 PM on December 17, 2012

I have enjoyed quite a few Pink Jeep Tours. Beautiful scenery and a lot of fun. Many of the tours are quite nearby (and stunning!)..and some are a full (and long) day, but well worth it -- like Death Valley.
posted by Lescha at 6:40 PM on December 17, 2012

Seconding the Atomic Testing Museum.
posted by djb at 6:50 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

Vegas caters very well for a very wide range of travel segments, from families to retired people. It is definitely not all blacklight partying. All we did was eat amazing food and walk around hotels, using the Monorail a lot.

I strongly suggest matching restaurant recommendations to restaurant.com vouchers - Border Grill is one of my favourite places and we scored dinner at half off. For a fancier dinner on a budget, we went to Charlie Palmer's Steak House at the Four Seasons and each got the "Cut of the Week" prix fixe menu, which remains one of the most amazing things I've ever put in my mouth.

There are also at least three amazing roller coasters attached to various hotels (NY NY, Paris, Stratosphere). The shopping at the Venetian MGM Grand is fun. (Skip the CSI Experience at the MGM Grand, it absolutely sucks.)
posted by DarlingBri at 6:53 PM on December 17, 2012

Penn & Teller were good, but David Copperfield was amazing. Next time I go I want to check out the atomic testing museum. The Statosphere casino at the end of the strip has a 900-foot tower with thrill rides at the top if you like heights and/or adrenalin.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:07 PM on December 17, 2012

Don't be afraid to explore. Last time I was there, we wound up in some Irish pub tucked away in a far corner of one of the casinos that was the usual American faux-Irish pub, but the food was spectacular and the band they had playing for a handful of us was splendid.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:13 PM on December 17, 2012

My opinions about Cirque! Let me show them to you!

Technically not a Cirque show, Le Reve is by a former Cirque creative guy and is my favorite show in Las Vegas right now that I've seen. Mystere is great - I've seen it twice and loved it both times. Ka is good with some amazing effects and staging. I haven't seen Love, but I've heard really good things about it. I was kind of underwhelmed by O - most of the things that made me go "wow" were technical staging things, not the "wow, I'm glad nobody told them humans can't do that" stuff. Zumanity is enjoyable and sexy, but just shy of usual Cirque-awesome. I don't know anything about the rest of the shows (Criss Angel Believe, Zarkana).

Check out downtown Las Vegas, with the Fremont Street Experience. I like the fact that it's more human in scale - buildings are close together and 'normally' sized.

Caveat about shows: The Broadway shows that play in Las Vegas are typically slightly shortened - they usually trim them down to a single act so that they can fit two shows into a single evening. I don't know if the Blue Man Group show is shortened from their typical show that they run elsewhere.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:32 PM on December 17, 2012

Check out chowhound.com's Vegas board-lots of fabulous restaurant selections there. Last time I went, made myself a google doc with all my food recs from chowhound. I especially looked for happy hour and prix fixe menus at fancy places-good food in Vegas can be really expensive. I recommend the buffets at the bellagio or the Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan.
posted by purenitrous at 7:44 PM on December 17, 2012

The Neon Museum was probably the best museum tour I saw in my life. (It's not on the strip, it's near old Vegas.) I wish I could have seen P&T, but they had no shows the week I was there. I spent a little under a week there, it was pretty meh, but I had never been and the main attraction was spending two days in Death Valley before hanging out in Vegas.
posted by Brian Puccio at 9:04 PM on December 17, 2012

Dagnabbit, someone beat me once again to the Pinball Hall of Fame! It's not a hall of fame, it's a pinball arcade (along with a few classic arcade games). It's maintained by the local hobbyist group, which you can be in Vegas, the land of gaming machines, is chock full of skilled techs, because their machines are in astonishingly great shape. Also, mostly quarters-games!
posted by Sunburnt at 10:08 PM on December 17, 2012

Just got back from a weekend in Vegas!:

Saw Zarkana - it was my first Cirque show, I enjoyed it immensely, and I tend not to like things that are stagey and rococo. It is stagey and rococo, but the physical art of it easily overwhelmed that for me. I still do not like clowns, however.

Took a trip to the Hoover Dam - well worth it! An incredible bit of engineering.

Went to this Russian restaurant. Delicious!

I see you have a week; I recommend a trip to Death Valley. I've been before and it's absolutely amazing. Stop off in Amargosa on the way. It's in David Lynch's Lost Highway, and is a fascinating little place, generally.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:08 AM on December 18, 2012

It's a short drive from Vegas but Hoover Dam can be a fun time, especially if you take the hard hat tour.
posted by Runes at 6:17 AM on December 18, 2012

I like Vegas because it can be the cheapest vacation you ever took. Go ahead, rent the car. Valet is cheap and plentiful. The rental is cheap.

Some days I like to do all the cheap stuff.

The .99 Giant Hot Dog at Slots of Fun (the nastiest, most fun casino on the strip)

The 7.77 Steak and Shrimp diner at Mr. Lucky's at the Hard Rock Cafe.

You get the idea.

Hoover Dam is a good tour, and the little town of Boulder City is adorable. Stop at the A&W Root Beer Stand.

Take a trek out to the Grand Canyon. It's a different view than you'd see from Arizona, but it's the same marvel.

The Atomic Museum is pretty awesome.

Too bad the Liberace museum closed because that was good too.

Ride the rides at New York, New York. See the acts at Circus, Circus.

Eat some frozen custard over by The Stratosphere.

If it's warm, swim. If it isn't, read a book by the pool.

Rest and relax. That's the best thing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:29 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I lived in Las Vegas recently, and have shown the city and the shows to an endless stream of visiting friends and relatives.

Regarding Cirque shows: Zumanity was underwhelming, O was fun but not a great overview of what Cirque du Soleil could be, Love is adorable but more like a musical than a Cirque show, Mystere is a great introduction (especially if you like whimsy and don't care much about story), and Ka is a mind-blowing feat of engineering. La Reve, a show with a similar style to Cirque du Soleil, did not impress more than the Cirque shows -- it's vision was not as developed. Now, Absinthe, on the other hand, is an absolute delight. You're in a tiny tent around a tiny stage, up close with irreverent, amazingly fun acts. It's also only there for a short time, so you probably won't get a chance to see it! As much as I love Cirque du Soleil, Absinthe is a unique experience in its own.

Anyway, feel free to Memail me if you want more advice -- I've gotten really good at matching Cirque show to each person's interests and personality.

Other things: folks have already mentioned the Pinball Hall of Fame, the huge arcade full of new and vintage games. Bellagio fountains. Fremont Street is a fun half hour just to take in all the hustle and bustle. If you like a good drink and a good atmosphere, rather than getting smashed, Frank's Tiki Bar knows what they're doing (they have lamps made out of puffer fish!).

If you are into the outdoors at all, I can't recommend Red Rock Canyon enough. There are these amazing formations that look like giant red melty marshmallows, and you can just scramble up and down them like your spirit animal is a goat. It's fun and rewarding and beautiful!
posted by Pwoink at 6:34 AM on December 18, 2012

If you want to go shopping, go to Las Vegas Premium Outlets - best outlet mall I've ever been to, by far. The casino malls are fun to walk through for the oddball stuff and the super luxury, but I wouldn't actually shop there. Last time I went (and I go to Vegas often), brought an empty suitcase to buy suits, casual clothes, xmas presents, all for probably 20-40% of what I would pay in Canada. Maybe less of a deal for Americans.

I go so often I get bored of the strip as well. I love Red Rock canyon, just for the drive, or for hiking, etc. Mt. Charleston is great too. Love the desert!
posted by loquax at 6:37 AM on December 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you so much everyone! We'll be combing through these suggestions and making a google doc of things/food/places that look interesting. I'm hopeful now that we'll have enough to see us through the week.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 2:38 PM on December 18, 2012

sit down somewhere nice, hold hands, and watch the chaos. Las Vegas is a people watching mecca!
posted by couchdive at 5:41 PM on December 18, 2012

« Older Help my younger cousin learn to love her skin.   |   What's Ayahuasca Done For You? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.