Going to Vegas with no plans to gamble is like praying for an atheist: Pointless some might say? Listen, there are a gazillion things to do that don’t involve you throwing cash down, with your fortune hinging on the whim of a roulette wheel. This little desert oasis is more than just casinos and boobs on the Strip. Put the dice down and head on out of that smoky, boozy money-suck of a casino. See what’s out there.
While some of these are easily accessible by cab or Uber, you’ll need to hire a rental car for some that are further away from the Strip. Renting a car in Vegas is surprisingly inexpensive, so go for it (unless you’d prefer to treat yo’self to one of the many luxury cars available?) A Lamborghini Aventador will set you back $5450 for the weekend. Zoom-zoom?
Nothing truly dies in Vegas, it just gets better, and The Neon Museum, aka ‘The Boneyard’ is testimony to that. I mean, what would Vegas be if it weren’t so extra? If you love history, kitsch and opportunities for ah-mayyyyyy-zing photos, you will positively drool over this place. Those old blazing beacons of welcome that used to be displayed over iconic destinations live here now: The Hard Rock guitar, the Stardust Hotel, Caesars Palace and the El Cortez signs are in residence. Even when not alight, they are fabulous and make for such pleasurably gritty touchstones of a time that lives in the hearts of native Las Vegan’s . Offering a labyrinth of dusty paths that weave around the vintage eye-candy in your own time, the Neon Museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating iconic relics of a Vegas past. You can have a photo shoot here, too. (Hello, vow renewal!!) Bookings are required, self-tour or guided, open 7 days. Located about 10 minutes from the Strip by car.
The Nelson Ghost Town is the spookiest, strangest, most offbeat little place. They have a freezer full of rattlesnakes! I’m not even kidding. Desolate and away from the well-trodden path, Nelson is what remains of what was once a gold and silver mining outlaws’ boomtown. Abandoned by hopeful prospectors after stripped of its resources, it was less than habitable after repeated flash flooding from the Colorado River. A vast open space of weathered machinery, barns and out-buildings populate the property, as well as tokens of the place it once was- including vehicles from the 20’s, animal skulls and ancient tools. The film Miles to Graceland was filmed here, and the wrecked plane contributes to the eerily foreboding feel of the place. Check in at the old Texaco station and have a look inside before venturing out to meander among the relics. Mine tours are available, too. About 45 minutes from the Strip by car. And for real, be vigilant about where you step…. listen for rattles.
The desert is such a gorgeous place, and really doesn’t receive its due in accolades. While it looks like a vast nothingness, it’s actually a hive of activity. Structured and hierarchical, it’s a web of very specific life chain support. One organism depends on the other. We may see rocks, and dirt and scrubby plants upon first glance, but what’s really there would outlast any of us in a heartbeat. I’m so in awe of it. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area offers a 13-mile scenic drive which you can do by car or by bike. You can walk, too. (If you’re a nutter.) Spectacular scenery is all around you, and keep your eyes open for wild burros. Take a jacket, it gets windy. Entry fee required. About 30 minutes from the Strip by car.
The Grand Canyon One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and it’s the only one in America! Lucky for you, there are several private helicopter tours you can take to see it. During the approximately 2-hour flight, with a birds’ eye view, you’ll see Hoover Dam, the Mojave Desert, Lake Mead, and the Colorado River. Upon arrival at the most spectacular gorge in the world, you’ll land 975 meters (3200 feet) below the rim of the Canyon, and enjoy a meal from your gourmet picnic basket along with the requisite champagne to toast this magnificent spot. You’ll have 45 minutes to an hour to soak in all of its grandeur. Our tour provider also included limousine pick up and drop off. Mr. Twos and I used Sundance Helicopters and were pleased as punch. There are other tours available that offer different options or they’ll happily do something bespoke for you. Tour duration was 3.5 hours.
I know, I know, they’re painted rocks. But they’re so much more. Seven Magic Mountains are mammoth columns of intense color and might best be described as a psychedelic Stonehenge. Popping out of the desert, literally smack in the middle of nowhere, the renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone has installed totems which are, in his words, “physically and symbolically mid-way between the natural and the artificial.” Measuring over 10.5 metres (35 feet) tall, these behemoths can be spotted from the road in all their dayglow glory before you even arrive at the site. Initially intended to be a two-year installation, the display has made such a splash, that it will be continued for at least three more years. An instagrammers dream, you won’t even need Photoshop to make these photos burst off the page. About 30 miles south of the Strip. Entry is free.
I revel in this one because it’s weird. It’s a bona fide piece of the Berlin Wall, you know, that one that came down in 1989? Somehow, and no one is quite sure by what means, it ended up in the men’s loo in the Main Street Station Hotel and Casino. It’s the Berlin Wall Urinal! There are three actual urinals attached to it, though the wall itself is enclosed in glass to prevent any damage. It’s not some small token bit either, at 3 x 1.8m (10 x 6 ft.). If you aren’t of the gender to enter the men’s urinals, a security guard can take you in to get a peek for yourself. (Of the wall, the wall!) Located in Downtown Vegas, or ‘Glitter Gulch’ this is a great part of town to explore and spend some time in. Located 10 minutes from the Strip.
What about you, fellow traveler? Do you stay in the casinos, avoid them like the plague, or somewhere in between? The list of offerings is legion, limited only by the time you have available. What are your experiences in Las Vegas like? What should we consider for the Part B of this list?
“Why don’t you give me half the money you were going to bet, we’ll go out back, I’ll kick you in the nuts, and we’ll call it a day.”–National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation