Beyond Better the Usual
As I said earlier, I don’t gamble or use prostitutes, so I had to find something else to do in Vegas. Luckily for me, there are a number of things to do in Vegas that’s beyond the usual casinos and clubs on the strip. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Indoor Sky Diving – If jumping out of a real airplane at 10,000ft isn’t your idea of fun, you can simulate the experience in the safely of an indoor facility. Right off the strip, you walk into the facility, watch a short movie and put on your skydiving gear. From there, you walk into the air chamber – which is essentially a padded room with a huge fan in the bottom of the floor. Once the room is sealed, they turn on the massive fan and anyone sanding in the middle of the netted room will float up to 10 feet off the floor. The instructor will spin you around and take photos and video. Pretty Cool! $75 – Vegas Indoor Skydiving
- Dune Buggy Adventure – If there’s a silver lining to being in the middle of the desert, it’s that Las Vegas is a perfect place to participate in a Dunn Buggy adventure. A Dune Buggy is an off-road vehicle (similar to an ATV) but designed specifically for driving in the desert sand. I have to say this was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in my life. I went on a “Mini-Baja Chase” – which is a guided tour in the Nevada sand dunes where you attempt to keep up with the course instructors. Let me tell you – this is no joke – we were going over 60mph in twisting and winding caverns – several times getting air. Expensive – but soooo damn fun. $300 – Sun Buggy Fun Rentals
- The Gun Store – About 5 minutes from the strip, the Las Vegas Gun Store is a gun range that allows anyone 18 years and older to fire fully automatic assault rifles. That’s right, you pull the trigger for a second and 10 bullets fly out faster than you can think to yourself – holy shit that was fun! Pull and hold and empty an entire clip (25 or 50 bullets, depending on rifle) in less than 4 seconds. You can choose to shoot from 20 different assault rifles, including the M16, MP5, AK-47, UZI, SAWs and a few others. They even have shotguns and exotic pistols – like the .50 caliber Desert Eagle. Seriously – how many opportunities will ordinary law-biding citizens get to empty an entire clip form an AK-47??? Highly Recommended – Las Vegas Gun Store
- The Freemont Experience – A section of downtown Las Vegas off of Freemont Street which is essentially the ‘old strip’. Originally the section of the city where most of the hotels and gambling took place, it is now an outdoor pedestrian mall covered by a large canopy. Still the most ‘neon’ section of the city, the ‘experience’ offers nightly concerts, light shows and the Viva Vision (sights projected onto the canopy). Free
- Las Vegas Motor Speedway – This is where Nascar holds several races during the summer months. Though I’ve never been to a Nascar race – it is a big deal in Vegas. More interesting (to me at least) is the Richard Petty Driving school which is stationed at the motor speedway. For about $100, you can take a ride (as a passenger) in a real Nascar vehicle driven up to 160 mph by a professional around the speedway. Wanna drive a real-life Nascar vehicle by yourself? No problem, just cough up over $500 for 3 whole laps. Seriously fun, sorta scary and very expensive. Richard Petty Driving Experience
- Sky Tour – Some of the best pictures of Las Vegas are those taken from an overhead vantage point. Luckily, there are several relatively cheap ways to get these shots. To get ariel views of the both ends of the strip, visit the top of the Stratosphere hotel. For about $20, you can stand on the platform about 1,200 ft in the air with excellent views of the strip – especially at night. To get an ariel view of the South end of the strip – take the new Hot Air Balloon ride across the street from the Mandalay Bay. Though tethered to the ground, it still rises 500ft off the ground for pretty good views of the strip. Finally, you can take the more exciting (if not more expensive) helicopter tour – which covers the strip, downtown Vegas and even the Grand Canyon.
To sum it up – food in Las Vegas is nothing special. Sure, there are a few restaurants scattered on the strip that boast celebrity chefs – a wanna be LA if you will. Still, there isn’t any quintessential “Las Vegas” food. Las Vegas restaurants aren’t any different than what you’d find in Cleveland – the same old restaurant chains that exist throughout the country.
One thing Vegas has a lot of is All-You-Can-Eat buffets – and almost all of them are awful. As I said earlier, the days of the really cheap good food are over. If you are willing to shell out $30-$45 per person, the Bellagio and Winn have excellent buffets. Frommers lists a few places that still offer good steak dinners relatively cheaply – but I cannot vouch for them. At least you’ll have more time to drink ;o)
Few Las Vegas Travel Tips
Few things I’ve noticed form my trips to Las Vegas – your mileage may vary.
- If you want to party, stay in the central strip area. There’s nothing worse than leaving the club drunk and sleepy and having to wait on the cab to drive though 5 mph traffic. Staying in the central section also ensures there’s something going on no matter the time of day. If you want piece and quite – stay on the north strip; luxury Bellagio, Venetian, Winn or the Paris. Kiddie time – Excalibur or Treasure Island. And no matter what – avoid the Circus Circus’ motor home rooms like the plague!!
- I know it’s in the desert, but it actually gets pretty cold in Vegas in the winter. Temperatures frequently get down to the 40s in December and January – even to the 30s. Dress appropriately.
- Don’t rent a car unless you plan on driving outside of the strip. While most hotels do offer free parking, the free lots are usually in the back somewhere and the traffic on the strip can make it more hassle than it’s worth. Take the bus or the monorail.
- Want to get into the hot club, you will have to pay big or wait in line. Tip – bring a hot girl – preferably 3 or 4 of them to improve your chances.
- Vegas.com is an excellent resource to find cheap hotels, discount tickets to shows and even cheap eats. Often you will find deals specifically targeting locals (locals rarely go to the strip except for work) – which can be 20-30% discount. In my experience, operators never check your id when using promos designed for locals – it has worked for me on several occasions.
Las Vegas is absolutely the Wild Wild West – in more ways than one. From prevalent gambling, quasi-legal prostitution, legalized rental of automatic weapons, and the lights on the strip never go out – Las Vegas still holds its reputation as “Sin City”. That said, it has done a great deal to rid itself of a seedy outlaw outpost and now caters to families and corporations. It’s actually one the few places that has something for everyone. In an upcoming article, I’ll talk about me trip to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon launched from Las Vegas. Until then….