If you’ve always wanted to visit Las Vegas but don’t like to gamble or party, don’t worry! You will find plenty of things to do in Las Vegas that don’t involve gambling or partying. I resisted going to Vegas for a long time, but when we eventually visited, I found lots of fun activities to keep me occupied in and around the city for several days. Keep reading to discover my suggestions for the 25 best things to do in Las Vegas!
The party capital of the world actually offers an amazing variety of activities for every type of traveler. If you are a nature lover, or love to hike, bike or climb, you’ll find many gorgeous state and national parks within reach of Vegas. A foodie? You’ll find a mind-boggling variety of rave-worthy gastronomic experiences to sample and savor. If you are a photographer, the opportunities for night shots, views from above, and slices of life are all around you on the Strip.
25 BEST THINGS TO DO IN LAS VEGAS
From shows to museums, and shopping to culinary experiences, Vegas does everything on a grand scale. There are so many amazing experiences you can enjoy here that no single list can hope to cover them all. But I hope you’ll find my list of the 25 best things to do in Vegas a good starting point to plan your time in this amazing city.
#1 Spend a day driving through the Valley of Fire
Just an hour away from Sin City, you’ll find a world that’s as different from the neon lights of Vegas as chalk from cheese. Drive through the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada’s oldest state park, and prepare to be amazed by the size and color of the red rock formations. In bright sunshine, you’ll think the rocks are actually on fire.
The 10-mile road through the park is listed as a Nevada Scenic Byway. You’ll see cool petroglyphs and stunning rock shapes, from a beehive to an elephant. And you can get epic road photos here as well. So if you love scenic drives, put a visit to the Valley of Fire at the top of your list of things to do in Las Vegas.
#2 Enjoy a gondola ride at the Venetian
From the costumes to the serenades, the gondoliers at the Venetian come pretty close to the real thing. And a gondola ride inside the casino along the Grand Canal is a fun thing to do when you visit Las Vegas. You’ll float under bridges and past cafes and restaurants, with people walking along the pathways on either side, just like in Venice.
There’s an outdoor gondola ride at the Venetian as well, but I prefer the one inside the casino under the real-looking indoor blue sky. A ride for two is pricey, but totally worth it!
#3 Do a day trip to Death Valley National Park
We actually took two days out of our Las Vegas holiday to enjoy the sights at Death Valley National Park at a somewhat relaxed pace. But if you’re up for it, and prepared to leave early and return late, you can do it as a day trip. For many outdoor enthusiasts, a trip to Death Valley is the highlight of a trip to Vegas. And when you see the breathtaking otherworldly desert vistas at the park, you’ll understand why.
Most of the major sights at the park are relatively close together, considering the park is over 3 million acres. Don’t miss Artist’s Drive with its colorful canyons, Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, and Zabriskie Point, one of the most amazing scenic viewpoints I have seen anywhere.
#4 Watch the Bellagio Fountain show
The Bellagio fountain show is a free Las Vegas attraction that never gets old for me, no matter how many times I see it. It’s always the first thing I rush to see when we visit Vegas. At our last visit, we actually stayed in a Fountainview room at the Vdara, so I was able to see the show multiple times each night with no crowds around me!
The Fountains of Bellagio is a show that combines the dance of water with music and light. It’s a real feast for the senses. The show lasts only a few minutes, but in those few minutes you experience magic. You must definitely add this experience to your list of things to do in Las Vegas!
#5 Pose for a photo at the iconic Las Vegas sign
You cannot visit Las Vegas and not get a photo at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign! Especially if it is the first time you’re visiting. The sign is in the median at the south end of Las Vegas Boulevard, the street also known as the Strip. The most convenient time to get your photo is on your way in from the airport, or on your way out, although it looks its best when it’s lit. There’s parking available nearby.
Did you know the sign has been there since 1959? It’s 25 feet tall and one of the most beloved landmarks in Vegas.
#6 Walk the Strip and admire the facades
If you walk along Las Vegas Boulevard, a.k.a the Strip, you can see the gawkworthy exteriors of the various resort properties. Walking south to north, some highlights you will see: the giant Sphinx at the Luxor, the castle turrets of the Excalibur, and the New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty at New York New York.
Further along, you will see the Eiffel Tower at the Paris, the fountains of the Bellagio, and the Venetian, with a facade that takes after the Doge’s Palace in Venice.
Walking the Strip to admire the resort facades is one of our favorite things to do in Las Vegas. Do it both by day and by night for different experiences.
#7 Drive (and hike) Red Rock Canyon
Just 16 miles from Las Vegas is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon State Park. Here you can do the one-way 13-mile scenic drive through the park. You will see stunning red sandstone formations and beautiful vistas. You can stop to admire the views and to take photos at stops along the drive, have a picnic in nice weather, and just enjoy being in the peace and quiet of the lovely park.
If you’re up for an active day, you can also hike or climb at Red Rock. If you want to hike, you can choose from over two dozen trails. Keep your eyes peeled for local flora and fauna.
#8 Do a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon
For a thrilling way to see the Grand Canyon, book a helicopter ride from Las Vegas. You will soar over Lake Mead and Hoover Dam before traveling over desert vistas en route to the magnificent Grand Canyon. You’ll love the huge picture windows and comfy seats! You can opt for a tour that lands on the floor of the Grand Canyon for lunch before you return to Las Vegas. How awesome is that? The helicopter rides are pricey, but totally worth it!
If you want to visit the Grand Canyon as a day trip, consider an air and ground tour, so you’ll get a decent amount of time at the park. Driving to the South Rim, the most magnificent part of the park, takes five hours from Vegas, so it’s not really practical as a day trip.
#9 Catch a show
You have to set aside time to see at least one show when in Vegas, more if time and your pocketbook will allow. Pick O, the Cirque d’ Soleil show at the Bellagio, if you like grand spectacles and drama. The show is set on an aquatic stage, and performers do their acts in the water, on it and above it. If you love the wacky, try the Blue Man Group at the Luxor.
Whether it’s music, or magic, or drama, you will find shows here that you will enjoy. Make sure you book well in advance for good seats at reasonable prices.
#10 Sample a Las Vegas buffet
One of the best things to do in Las Vegas is enjoy all the culinary options available. And sampling a Vegas buffet should head your list of foodie experiences. The variety on offer will astound you. I have never seen such huge spreads anywhere. Not all Vegas buffets are awesome, though, so do your research before you fork over your money.
My top choice? As a vegetarian, I love the Wynn buffet because of the breadth of offerings that aren’t just salads or steamed veggies. And if you have a sweet tooth, the dessert options at the Wicked Spoon, the Cosmopolitan Buffet, are to die for.
Be warned: the buffets are not inexpensive, and the lines at peak meal times can tend to be really long. Either eat at a non-standard time, or be prepared to pay the surcharge for “VIP” access (read: shorter line) when the regular line is long.
#11 Take in the views from up high
If you love rooftop views (or a view of the Strip from above), you have many choices in Vegas. Take a ride on the High Roller, currently the world’s tallest Ferris wheel. The cabins are glass-enclosed, so your photos may not be the best, but just being up there looking down upon Vegas is an awesome feeling.
Or head to the Top of the World Restaurant at the Stratosphere Casino, where you can grab a drink or dine while enjoying the lights of Vegas several hundred feet below. And just a few feet higher than the highest point of the High Roller is the top of the Eiffel Tower Experience at Paris Casino. Any one of these spots can provide the thrill of seeing Vegas lit up beneath you.
#12 Do a day trip to Zion National Park
If you are up for the three hours of driving to get from Vegas to Zion National Park, you must do a day trip to Utah’s first national park when in Vegas. Once in the park, you can ride the free shuttle in season, generally March to November. The Zion Canyon shuttle stops at several points along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and loops back to the Visitor Center.
Short walks from the shuttle stops lead to scenic viewpoints for great photo ops. The Riverside Walk is an easy 2-mile walk along the Virgin River, and easily doable as part of your day trip. Or you can drive the scenic route from Zion to Mt. Carmel for more breathtaking scenery.
#13 Dine at a celebrity chef reaturant
For another fabulous Vegas foodie experience, book a table at one of the many celebrity chef restaurants in town. From Wolfgang Puck to Thomas Keller and Gordon Ramsey to Bobby Flay, many celebrity chefs own eateries on Las Vegas Boulevard, and dining at one (or more!) of these places should definitely be on your list of the best things to do in Las Vegas.
On my bucket list is a meal at Twist, on the 23rd floor of the Mandalay Oriental. It features classic French cuisine with a modern twist, and offers a multi-course vegetarian menu!
#14 Gawk at the opulent casino interiors
Some of the resorts on the Strip are worth visiting just for their fabulous interiors. The two most gawkworthy, all year round, are the Bellagio and the Venetian. The Conservatory,at the Bellagio is decorated afresh for each season. We visited during the holidays last year and loved the huge polar bears and beautiful red and green everywhere. And definitely stop by the main lobby to gaze up at the stunning Chihuly ceiling.
At the Venetian, beautiful marble floors, the faux blue sky, and the painstaking re-creation of the Grand Canal make for a great stroll through the property. During the holidays, the Wynn puts on a fabulous display of holiday decorations.
#15 Head over to Fremont Street for a taste of old Las Vegas
We have visited Vegas many times, but it was only on our most recent trip that we visited downtown Las Vegas and Fremont Street. With its indoor zip line, lots of street performers, souvenir stalls, and eateries, Fremont Street is definitely worth placing on your list of things to do in Las Vegas. There’s free live music, and after 6 p.m., an hourly free light show to enjoy.
Downtown Las Vegas is a great place to people watch. If you are a photographer, you will find lots of great photo ops here. You have to get the iconic shot of the Golden Nugget Casino, lit up at night. Ad don’t forget to step inside to view the gigantic shark pool inside.
#16 Visit a museum, or an art gallery
Did you know that Las Vegas is home to a bunch of museums, some really unique? At the Neon Museum, you can see lots of old Las Vegas signs in the outdoor Neon Boneyard. Take a guided tour to learn about the history of the exhibits. Book in advance for a guaranteed spot on a tour. At the Mob Museum, you can learn about the history of organized crime. If you love vintage autos, check out the Nostalgia Street Rods Museum.
If you are an art lover, you can view changing exhibits at the Gallery of Fine Art at the Bellagio. Self-guided audio tours help you learn as you view.
#17 Explore Hoover Dam and Lake Mead
Set aside a day to visit the amazing Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead National Recreational Area. Located in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, the Hoover Dam is an amazing piece of engineering. When you do a tour of the power plant or the dam, you’ll find it difficult to believe that the dam was built way back in the 1930s.
Make sure to visit the Observation Deck on the top floor of the Visitor Center, from where you can get spectacular views.
The Lake Mead recreational area is huge, and you could spend days here enjoying the wilderness. On your day trip from Las Vegas, drive along Lakeshore Road and/or Northshore Road to take in the scenery. You get lovely views of the lake and the drives are both very scenic. Or get out on to the water! Take a cruise or go boating.
#18 Be pampered at a spa
Like everything else in Vegas, the spa options are grand and endless, and you will have a difficult time deciding which ultra-pampering experience to choose. But a spa experience should definitely feature in your list of things to do in Vegas!
For decadence at its best, splurge on the Moroccan Journey at the Sahra Spa & Hammam in the Cosmopolitan. The experience is not easy on your pocketbook, but it’s worth every single penny. Or try one of many extravangant treatment options at the Aria Spa, where a daily facility fee allows you to be transported to Japan, with Ganbanyoku heated stone beds and the Shio Salt Room.
At the Canyon Ranch Spa, attached to the Venetian and the Palazzo, the Aquavana, with its amazing array of hydrothermal options, comes as a complimentary add-on when you get a treatment or a day pass. Enjoy a deep tissue massage here: Canyon Ranch is renowned for the quality of its therapies.
#19 Shop till you drop, or just window shop
Las Vegas is a shopaholic’s mecca. The resorts boast high end designer stores, but the city also features outlet malls where you can get deals. Head to the Container Park in Downtown Las Vegas for a unique shopping experience: the shops are made from recycled shipping containers! Here you will find local retailers rather than international or national brands, but it’s a fun stroll.
To browse exclusive brands, visit The Shops at Crystals, the most decadent of the Strip’s high end shopping complexes. I love the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian for the setting: cobblestone walkways, faux blue sky with clouds, and, of course, the water.
#20 Check out the most iconic casual eateries in Vegas
Las Vegas is home to many “best of class” casual eateries. If you’re in the mood for a high quality, reasonably priced burger in Vegas, try Chef Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar in the Mandalay Bay Resort. For vegetarians, there’s an excellent veggie burger here. And don’t forget to order a milkshake!
If you are a pizza lover, head to Pizza Rock, which offers six styles of pizza by Tony Genignani, a 12-time world pizza champion. Choose the award-winning Margherita pizza if it hasn’t run out when you go…only 73 are made each day!
In Las Vegas, you can try casual fare from your favorite celebrity chefs as well. Head to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon at the Venetian for French cuisine at its best, or Giada at the Cromwell for great Italian cuisine and possibly a photo with Giada!
#21 Photograph the Strip at night
As an amateur photgrapher, I loved the breadth of photo opportunities in Las Vegas! From the fancy facades of the resorts to the rich interior elements and from up-high views to close-up shots on the Strip, you’ll be spoiled for choice. But the quintessential Las Vegas photos you need to come away with are night captures of the Las Vegas Strip.
For those iconic poster-worthy Strip photos at night, shoot from the Eiffel Tower Experience looking both north and south. Sadly, tripods aren’t allowed, so steady yourself and take lots of photos so you get at least a few good ones. You can also shoot from the top of one of the walkways that punctuate Las Vegas Boulevard. You’ll have to hold your lens close to the glass to minimize reflections.
#22 Visit the succulent garden at Springs Preserve
If you are a plant lover, you’ll find a beautiful sanctuary right in the heart of Las Vegas at the Springs Preserve Botanical Garden. At this award-winning desert garden, you can view the renowned Mojave Succulent and Cactus Collection, with many of the plants grown from seed or local cuttings.
The garden features thousands of plants. Some specimens were rescued from local lands that were being developed. Spend a couple of hours strolling through the garden, and emerge recharged and refreshed!
#23 Enjoy the Volcano Show at the Mirage
The Volcano Show is a great free nightly attraction you can enjoy at the front of the Mirage, on the Strip. A fire, water, and sound show that features fireballs and explosions, the Volcano Show was created by the same team that designed the Fountains of Bellagio. A highlight of the show is the accompanying percussion music, by drummer Mickey Hart and tabla great Zakir Hussain.
There are only three shows nightly, so arrive early for a good viewing spot. If you’re staying in the Mirage with a view of the site, you can enjoy a wonderful aerial view. But to feel the heat and the throbbing rhythm of the drums, experience it up close!
#24 Tour a ghost town!
We walked around Rhyolite, a ghost town near Death Valley. It was fascinating to see the old buildings. Rhyolite was a bustling gold boom town in its heyday, with hotels, casinos, a school, and a bank. But once the boom was over, its citizens fled.
Much closer to Las Vegas you can tour Nelson, Nevada. Nelson is just a 45-minute drive from Las Vegas. Nelson is one of the first places in Nevada where gold was discovered. Called Eldorado by the Spanish that first settled here, the town became Nelson after a mine was built here. A true lawless wild west town in days gone by, Nelson makes for a fascinating visit. Take a tour of the Techatticup Mine to see the quartz rock through which the gold ran.
#25 Soar over the Strip
For the ultimate Las Vegas adventure, soar over the Strip in a hot air balloon. Or take a helicopter ride over the Strip.
Hot air balloon rides are generally offered as sunrise experiences, but some operators in Las Vegas offer a sunset option during the winter. You will float over the Strip and the surrounding desert, including the Red Rock Canyon area. Bathed in mellow morning or evening light, both the city and the desert look fabulous.
If you opt for a helicopter ride, it’s generally offered in the evening/night, so you’ll be able to see the Strip and the city all lit up.
So there you have it: my list of the 25 best things to do in Las Vegas (that aren’t gambling)! What’s at the top of your list of things to do in Las Vegas? Tell me in the comments below! Have I missed a Sin City experience you love? I’d love to know if you have a great addition to my list!
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