There’s more to Vegas than the Strip —family-friendly activities, unique museums, great art and breathtaking nature. So make memories that don’t have to stay there.
Strip Like a Local
The Strip houses pop culture from high to low. The Crystals mall features two James Turrell installations: one above the monorail platform, the other hidden in the Louis Vuitton store. Meanwhile, the “Lake of Dreams” at the Wynn Hotel uses 5,000 lights for fairy tale shows set against the waterfall. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art features an impressive collection.
Crash a Wedding
What would Vegas be without Elvis and a wedding? Even if it’s not your own, there’s always someone tying the knot at the Graceland Wedding Chapel, or any of the other Elvis-themed wedding venues in town. Take a seat and watch the happy couples coming and going. Did we mention the pink Cadillac?
The Neon Museum showcases the history of Sin City through retired signs. As Tom Wolfe noted, Vegas is "the only town in the world whose skyline is made up neither of buildings, like New York, nor of trees, like Wilbraham, Massachusetts, but signs." Guided tours are available to walk visitors through the faded glow of history.
Explore a Desert Dreamscape
The Springs Preserve, an 180-acre kid-friendly palate cleanser, features a botanical garden, museum, galleries, and nature trails. Built around the city’s original water source, the Las Vegas Springs, the preserve is owned and operated by the Las Vegas Valley Water District, hence the emphasis on conservation and sustainable desert living.
See Quirky Sites
The Mob Museum documents the worlds of Al Capone, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Meyer Lansky, and Whitey Bulger. Upcoming new additions include an exhibition on Prohibition complete with working distillery, a crime lab explaining forensics, and a café. There’s also the National Atomic Testing Museum with a Ground Zero Theater that simulates an atmospheric blast.
Hike Crimson Canyons
Check out Red Rock Canyon for hiking—26 numbered trails of varying difficulties, to be exact. There’s also plenty of wildlife to observe, mountain biking, scenic drives, stargazing, and camping. Fossils of dinosaurs and early mammals immortalized in the Aztec sandstone are a reminder of whom got there first.
Go All Night
Secret Pizza in the Cosmopolitan Hotel has good NYC slices and people-watching, if you’re willing to wait in line. Or explore Fremont Street downtown—there are a slew of karaoke bars, and a three-story waterslide, and shark tank at the Golden Nugget.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Valley of Fire State Park is about an hour from the city, with great hikes and amazing night skies. Definitely catch the sunset. In the 1920s, an AAA official did just that, noting the entire valley looked like it was on fire. If you have the time, visit the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.
Discover Rainbow Magic
About 10 miles south of Las Vegas, Seven Magic Mountains, an outdoor, public art installation, seems to arise from nowhere. In 2016, Swiss multimedia artist Ugo Rondinone stacked seven rainbow-colored towers of boulders, 30 feet in height. The stones are painted in DayGlo, which he chose as the most “artificial colors you can get” to contrast with the surrounding landscape.
Fountains at the Bellagio Hotel are iconic for a reason. In concert with lights and music, the water dances up to 460 feet high and and the show is curiously mesmerizing. The music ranges from opera and classical to show tunes, country, pop and holiday. Budgeted at $40 million, they’re constructed from 1,203 nozzles and 4,500 lights, choreographed by computers and software designers.