Guest Post by Merry Allison of Virginia Vacation Guide
Las Vegas is famously known as Sin City, however, the city has much to offer beyond casinos and gambling. Vegas is home to world-class restaurants and shopping, an excellent aquarium, amusement park rides, and top-notch performers and shows. It’s also a perfect home base to see some of the best National Parks in the country.
The following guide will let you know all of the best things to do in and around Las Vegas.
The main airport for Las Vegas is the Harry Reid International Airport (formerly the McCarrin International Airport). There are many direct flights from major cities throughout the United States.
Once you arrive at the airport, you can choose to get a rental car, though I only recommend that if you’re planning to venture out of the city to some of the nearby National Parks. Generally, you don’t really need a car to navigate in the city. Also, parking in Las Vegas can be difficult and expensive.
If you choose not to get a rental car, then follow the signs to the airport taxi stand. From there, it’s just a quick 15-minute drive to the heart of Las Vegas on Las Vegas Boulevard (famously called the Las Vegas Strip).
Once you arrive on Las Vegas Boulevard, you can travel between many of the casinos, resorts, and other major attractions either on foot, by rideshare, or by taking the Las Vegas Monorail. The Monorail features convenient service from the MGM Grand Resort to Sahara Las Vegas Resort, with stops at Bally’s, Paris, Caesars Palace, Harrah’s, and more.
When to Go
Las Vegas is located in the desert in Nevada. The summers can get very very hot, to the point where it is difficult to spend much time outside. Because of this, I recommend avoiding going during the middle of the summer, particularly the months of July and August. Mid-fall and mid-spring are great times to go because of the more mild temperatures.
Where to Stay
One of my favorite places to stay is the Bellagio. From the Chihuly glass art ceiling in the lobby to the fanciful seasonal art and nature display at the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and expansive Italian villa-style pools and hot tubs, the Bellagio features a gorgeous design and great restaurants.
It’s also centrally located within walking distance to many other major resorts, including Caesars Palace right next door, and Bally’s and Paris, which are both across the street.
It also features the famous grand Bellagio fountain show, which is a choreographed water and music show in front of the hotel that runs every 30 minutes throughout the day and every 15 minutes at night.
The Venetian Resort is another great hotel option. It features a gorgeous decor inspired by the canals of Venice, and it has a large number of great shops and restaurants.
Where to Eat
Las Vegas has no shortage of great restaurants to satisfy just about any appetite and budget. I had a great Asian fusion dinner at TAO Asian Bistro at The Venetian. They feature creative sushi rolls, plus interesting side dishes like charred Brussels sprouts with cilantro lime vinaigrette. I also enjoyed a French bistro meal at Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel.
Off the strip, I recommend going to Piero’s Italian Cuisine. The restaurant hosted the Rat Pack and other celebrities, and it prides itself on an “old school Italian” vibe.
6 Things to do in Las Vegas Besides Gamble
Visit the Mandalay Bay Aquarium
The Mandalay Bay Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Resort is one of my favorite Vegas attractions. It features over 2,000 animals, including sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, endangered green sea turtles, and even a Komodo dragon.
Shop Till You Drop
Las Vegas features some of the best shopping in the world. Some of the top places to shop are The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, which includes a large collection of high-end shops, such as Armani Exchange, Balenciaga, Cartier, Fendi, and Gucci. They also have a wide range of restaurants and specialty shops, including several art galleries and even an escape room.
Other major shopping destinations in Vegas include The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Resort, and The Shops at Crystals. All of these are located right off the Las Vegas Strip, which makes them easily accessible on foot.
Get Transported to Another World
The ubiquitous casinos in Vegas are more than just a place to gamble. Many of them feature a specific theme, often centering around a famous destination around the world.
Some of my favorites are The Venetian Resort, which features a truly excellent recreation of the famous Venice gondolas, canals, and the Piazza San Marco. You can even take a ride in one of the gondolas.
New York New York is another fun casino to explore. It includes a replica of New York City streets and alleys as well as a real roller coaster that travels inside and outside the casino. It’s thrilling and fun.
Caesars Palace features many inspirations from Rome, including the Trevi Fountain and even a mini-Colosseum that doubles as a concert venue.
Take in a Show
On any given day, Vegas hosts some of the biggest acts in the world, ranging from pop stars like Lady Gaga and Britney Spears to classic rock, comedians, rappers, DJs, and more. Be sure to check online ahead of time to see if a favorite artist will be performing when you’re in town.
For entertainment that’s great for the whole family, I recommend the acrobatic troupe Cirque du Soleil, which has several themed shows in residence on The Las Vegas Strip. “O” is a water-themed show at the Bellagio, and “Love” is a Beatles-themed show at The Mirage.
Take a Swim
As I mentioned before, Las Vegas is located in the middle of the desert, and it can get very very hot. It also gets a lot of sunshine year-round. This makes the city a perfect oasis for enjoying time at the pool, and there are plenty of great pools to choose from.
Pretty much any major resort in Las Vegas will have an outdoor pool (or many). The best pools on The Las Vegas Strip are probably the ones at Mandalay Bay Resort, which features multiple sprawling pool areas, including a wave pool, beach club, lazy river, and even a performance stage located in the middle of a pool. I once went to a concert that was at the Mandalay Bay, and I still remember literally standing in the water while watching the show. That was certainly an experience I won’t soon forget!
I also love the pools at the Bellagio. The resort features multiple pools and hot tubs, and it is decorated in an Italian villa style, which gives it a relaxing ambiance. It also tends to be a little quieter than some of the other resorts.
Explore National Parks
Las Vegas is the perfect jumping-off point to see some of the best national parks in the country. To get to many of the following parks, you can drive or purchase a group tour for ease of mind. I have personally used Viator to book the below excursions, and I had a fabulous time on each one.
Though a guided bus tour will cost more money than driving yourself, guided tours allow you to sit back and relax while your tour guide drives you to the destination and back. The tours also feature hotel pick up and drop off from most of the major Las Vegas hotels.
One of my favorite destinations is Red Rock Canyon. It’s located just 30 minutes from the city, and it features stunning red rock formations, hiking, interesting desert flora and fauna, and lovely desert vistas.
You can even take a day trip to the Grand Canyon from Vegas. It is a long day (generally 12 or more hours total), but it is definitely worth it just to get a chance to see the awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur of the canyon. Many tours to the canyon include a stop at Hoover Dam. Once you reach the canyon, you will generally have 2-3 hours to explore the rim on an easy walking hike. There are many guided tours to the Grand Canyon on Viator, including helicopter and horseback riding tours.
I also recommend a day tour to Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. You can usually choose between Lower Antelope Canyon and Antelope Canyon X. Both are great, but for your first trip, I recommend the Lower Antelope Canyon. It tends to be more crowded, but it is larger. The canyon is a slot canyon that you descend into. Navigating through it is a bit like a maze, and every vantage point is photogenic with light and shadow playing off the canyon crevices.
Another day tour that I highly recommend is Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. Time will only allow a limited amount of time at Zion, but you will get a nice sampler of some of the impressive sites and animals at the park. Bryce Canyon was a personal highlight for me. I highly recommend taking the hike down into the canyon. The stunning tall spires of rock are like a natural cathedral. It is an awesome sight to behold.
One final day tour that I recommend is the Emerald Cave Kayak Tour along the Colorado River. The water is generally very calm, which makes it a pretty easy kayak ride. The river and surrounding rocks are grand and stunning. The Emerald Cave, which glows green in the sunlight, is generally best viewed in the summer months.
If you’re interested, you can learn even more about some of the other Best National Parks.
As you can see, Las Vegas has something for just about everyone. Whether you’re interested in nature, shopping, eating, or entertainment, I highly recommend checking out this dynamic desert city!