Vegas, baby
June 3, 2021 6:01 PM   Subscribe

My recently adult kid has informed me she wants to go to Las Vegas. Why not? Feeling vaxed and ready for new experiences. We're a queer, quirky, nerdy family with no interest in gambling and a high capacity for kitch. What should we do in Vegas over, say, a 4 day weekend?

Where should we stay? What buffets should we eat (we're pescetarian but not picky)? What shows should we see that aren't astronomically expensive? What off, or on, the beaten paths sites should we see?
posted by latkes to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (25 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Vegas has great places to eat—the buffets are tourist stuff.
Eater list
Open Table list
Wetlands Park
Cirque de Soleil opens in July.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:08 PM on June 3, 2021

I hate Vegas but this weird interactive thing makes me want to go again.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:15 PM on June 3, 2021 [13 favorites]

I went for a reunion a few years ago, restaurants were not cheap. We went to the Cirque du Soleil Beatles show and it was really great. There are 2 immersive Van Gogh exhibits. Las Vegas is so tourism-oriented that finding stuff to do is easy. Also, it's a great place to hang out in or near a pool.
Sites that seemed useful when I went:
posted by theora55 at 6:17 PM on June 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Neon Museum!
posted by Juniper Toast at 6:18 PM on June 3, 2021 [12 favorites]

Hockey in the deserts of Vegas might be fun---and the Knights are actually very good and currently in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Next season should start in October if that fits your plans better.
posted by beaning at 6:21 PM on June 3, 2021

2nding Meow Wolf. The neon museum, especially the night tour.

Not buffet but check out any of Chef Kenny's vegan places for tasty meat replacement spins on mostly Chinese food.

I used to love the Taiwanese area but haven't found time to visit it for a while so it may have changed.

Depending on your heat tolerance and how bad it is when you visit, Red Rock Canyon is a nice day trip.

I don't know if they allow under 21s but there's at least one kitschy dive tiki bar off the strip.
posted by Candleman at 6:25 PM on June 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

I've been wanting to go to this art installation for a while. It is about a 20 min drive from downtown.
posted by pando11 at 6:34 PM on June 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

The Pinball Hall of Fame just reopened in its new, larger location.

And I'll third the Area 15 installation with Omega Mart. Plausible Deniability is still on sale!
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:57 PM on June 3, 2021 [6 favorites]

Bad Owl Coffee in Henderson is Harry Potter themed and has delicious food and drinks.

The Downtown Container Park has great food, often live music, and a giant fire breathing praying mantis during non-COVID times (looks like the praying mantis is currently closed but may reopen by the time you visit).
posted by bananacabana at 7:18 PM on June 3, 2021

If you haven't been before you gotta go to Hoover Dam at least once!
posted by mostly vowels at 7:24 PM on June 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Red rock national park is beautiful and worth a half day or so, though I might avoid it during the summer unless you like getting up early or just don’t mind being smothered by the anvil of the sun.
posted by skewed at 7:26 PM on June 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

-nthing meowwolf omega mart
-DigThis is expensive, but SO FUN (backhoe especially)
-valley of fire state park near-ish to hoover dam is incredible even if it's so hot you can't get out of the car.
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:37 PM on June 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Hoover Dam or Grand Canyon for a day trip
posted by sixswitch at 7:53 PM on June 3, 2021

I only went to Vegas once but I still think about Viva Las Arepas for delicious Venezuelan arepas, and Bouchon for nice breakfast or lunch (and also sweets, if you're inclined). Not buffets but I highly recommend both.
posted by methroach at 9:05 PM on June 3, 2021

Depending on your flavor of nerdiness, you might enjoy the National Atomic Testing Museum. (I did! And not just because it was 120F outside and the air conditioning inside was aggressive.)

Double Negative is supposedly an accessible day trip, though not if you are driving a small rental car.

As others have recommended, Meow Wolf. I have not been to this one but a friend just reported that it was great.
posted by esoterrica at 9:32 PM on June 3, 2021

We've really liked the neon museum, it's pretty amazing and so beautiful at night. Also I'm not sure if you mean 21 or 18, but my partner and I love to spend time at banger brewing on Fremont street. Their beer is very nice and we've always had a nice chill time.
posted by Carillon at 9:46 PM on June 3, 2021

I love Vegas and these are my favorite things to do!
-Seven Magic Mountains as mentioned upthread
-The Peppermill! Their lounge is kitschy and incredible, spring for the souvenir photos!
-Atomic Liquors is a fun, historic, dive-y bar that your newly 21yo kid might be interested in
-VegeNation is a must for us on every visit, excellent vegan food
-the area near Atomic and VegeNation (kind of behind the Container Park) is fun to explore, there’s a good bookshop there called The Writer’s Block
-if you like mid-century furniture, clothes, design there is an AMAZING store called Retro Vegas. Lots of well-curated, pristine kitsch! If the owners are there chat them up, they have great recommendations.
-you can hire a photographer in Vegas through Flytographer and get family portraits done, maybe on the Old Strip, in the Neon Museum (you need a permit!), etc.

As I was writing this comment I thought, huh, haven’t I recommended these things before? I have! Here’s another answer of mine that has some additional recommendations. Have fun!
posted by stellaluna at 9:54 PM on June 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

You say you don’t want to gamble but don’t let that prevent you from walking through the casinos. They can be kitsch personified. Also the people watching everywhere is over the top. Las Vegas is truly one of the crossroads of the world. You will see people from every corner of the globe.
posted by mmascolino at 10:11 PM on June 3, 2021

I was just in Vegas last week for a short vacation. Here's my experience:

Day 1: Hoover Dam / walking the Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, driving the Lake Mead North Shore Drive, Valley of Fire.
Day 2 / nerdy day: Pinball Hall of Fame, driving down to see the Ivanpah and Nevada Solar One solar power generating fields (the former was far cooler than the latter if you're strapped for time), Ethel M's Chocolate Factory / Tour in Henderson.
Day 3: Red Rock scenic drive and Red Spring / Calico Basin including a couple ~1m hikes, driving the strip, watching planes at LAS from a parking lot on E Sunset.

Stripsteak at Mandalay Bay has awesome food if you can splurge for a meal there, but be prepared for sticker shock.
Had plenty of time each day after getting back to the strip to find eats / gamble / relax in my hotel.

A few notes:
- Plan ahead and know what is open what days / times. Many buffets I looked into were still closed, and most of nearby casino-based restaurants had limited hours and even limited days. I was surprised how much stuff was not open / operating / in service even given the recent removal of mask mandates. (Some venues still require them so be prepared.)
- Red Rock now requires advance reservations for the Scenic Drive, so if you want to check it out make sure you make them. (There were plenty of spots open the night before I went but that was on a Wednesday; YMMV on weekends.)
- If you should be going anywhere near the downtown end of the strip, ensure you have plenty of time to get there. There was a crap ton of construction on the northern half of Las Vegas Blvd (roughly from Caesar's Palace on north IIRC) and single-lane in many parts; getting around was a nightmare even on a Wednesday afternoon. It took a good hour and a half to go from Mandalay to the Strat and back.

Other ideas that I've enjoyed before but not this time:
- Gold and Silver Pawn Shop (where they film Pawn Stars - do NOT sign up for anything outside / in the parking lot!
Spam trap!)
- The High Roller (Ferris Wheel)
- Ripley's Believe It Or Not
- Death Valley

Stuff I wanted to do but was not open when I wanted to go:
- The Mob Museum
- The Atomic Testing Museum
- The Neon Museum
posted by SquidLips at 10:12 PM on June 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Neon Musuem - big yes!
Mob Museum - also yes!

Downtown lodging - Golden Nugget - good location, shark tank in pool, GIANT actual nugget, old school vegas, not so big it is a hike to your room.
The D - good location, small and easy to navigate, sigma derby upstairs, loooooong bar, girls dancing on tables.

Never stayed there, but El Cortez is old school, small casino, with a lounge that screams old school vegas

Le Thai on east fremont is good and most dishes can be made with shrimp.

Strip lodging I like the mirage and the venetian. The venetian it is a hike to get to the room elevators, but the rooms are great. The mirage pool is beautiful if you are in to pool days.

is probably the least expensive of the cirque shows and is great.
posted by domino at 7:00 AM on June 4, 2021

You might like the immersive "Akhob" installation, by James Turrell. It's inside a Louis Vuitton store, of all things. Free, but you need to call ahead (many weeks in advance) to make a reservation: (702) 730-3150.
posted by baseballpajamas at 7:28 AM on June 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

MARY'S hash house has 20 different kinds of jam/jelly
posted by brujita at 10:55 AM on June 4, 2021

If you want some roadtrip kitsch, you can hardly do better than exploring the Extraterrestrial Highway, so named because of Vegas's vicinity to Area 51, a once-secret Air Force test base, and the rumors of alien ships and corpses, as well as exotic experimental aircraft sightings.

Rachel, NV is near the midpoint, and it was the mecca for UFO hunters because it's the closest town to Area 51, and you used to be able to climb certain mountains and see into the base, before the USAF extended its boundary to prevent that. So the town's tourism economy mainly relies on UFO affinity.

Seconding the Peppermill-- went to a destination wedding there and we ended up camped out there most nights of the trip. Absolutely spring for the photos.
Seconding the Pinball Hall of Fame as well.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:38 AM on June 4, 2021

You want kitsch? Try the Hollywood Car Museum. So weird but awesome. When we went, we asked a cabbie to take us there, thinking it was a staple attraction, and he said, "Where??" We had to dig out the address. The place is full of unusual/amazing cars that are either replicas, or actual famous cars. Liberace Museum dregs wound up here as well. We got a Groupon, and it included a discount on admission, and free can of pop and sunglasses. It was so amazingly bizarre. Dude who owns it runs the counter, and was super nice, but also odd. Incredibly memorable for its weirdness.
posted by liquado at 8:16 PM on June 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm not a gambler, and I enjoyed staying at the Four Seasons (non-gaming and non-smoking). It's part of the Mandalay Bay resort (the top four floors are the Four Seasons rooms), but it has it's own separate semi-secret lobby.

I also enjoyed Penn & Teller's magic show at the Rio (around $65 per ticket); Penn hung out in the lobby and chatted with fans after the show (Thursday-Sunday).
posted by JDC8 at 9:21 PM on June 6, 2021

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