Our Guide to the Best Las Vegas Attractions
The best Las Vegas attractions are usually connected to one of the main hotels on the Strip. There really is something for everyone along this hypnotic boulevard of dreams, from medieval fantasies at Excalibur to a gondola ride on the canals of the Venetian. Kids have plenty of diversion as well, which helps to make Vegas surprisingly popular with families.
During the day, a great thing to do is to enjoy your hotel pool. The climate in Las Vegas is dry and hot most of the year, with probably more sunshine than you handle. Nearly every hotel has a pool or three, but if you want to spend an afternoon at one of the really nice resort pools like the one at Encore or Mandalay Bay, you simply need to pay a day use fee. Just be sure to get there early to claim a lounge chair, because Vegas pools are very popular. The world-class fitness centres at top resorts like Wynn Las Vegas are also open to anyone willing to pay the daily fee.
The most popular free attractions are things like the dancing water fountains at the Bellagio or the erupting volcano at the Mirage. These high-profile displays typically happen every hour, on the hour, and are really quite impressive. The Mirage also has a cool dolphin show where you can get up close and personal with these frolicking creatures. Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay is also well worth a visit.
You’ll have to pay for admission to most of the Vegas shows on the Strip, but a couple of hotels have free performances every night. The best is probably Rio’s Show in the Sky ― a bit sexy for the kids but amazing nonetheless. Treasure Island also has the Sirens of TI, a raunchy pirate-themed affair that borders on cheesy.
One show the kids (and parents) will really enjoy is the acrobatics at Circus Circus. Home to the world’s largest permanent circus, the hotel features daily shows that include trapeze acts, jugglers, high-wire walkers and lots of clowns. The entertainment here is free and afterwards kids can play in the massive video arcade or get friendly with the roving clowns. Excalibur is another good place for kids, with its jousting dinner show and overall medieval atmosphere.
One of the more expensive attractions in Las Vegas, but arguably the most mind-blowing, are the performances by Cirque du Soleil. Seven different shows are held at resorts along the Strip, including a Beatles tribute, Mystere, KA and the incredible O. Best of all, kids get tickets at half price and are guaranteed to be blown away by the acrobatics.
You can get some thrills on the Strip as well. New York New York has a decent roller coaster, while the Stratosphere has its fear-inducing X Scream and the twisting Insanity ride. Sling Slot pushes the G-force to the limit, while the Rim Runner is like a giant flume ride that creates a veritable tidal wave when your boat hits the water. Off the Strip, America’s largest indoor amusement park, Adventuredome, provides more than five acres of fun.
One of the really magical resorts on the Strip is the Venetian. On the hour during the day, its St Mark’s Square replica hosts a fantastic Artiste del Arte performance of traditional Italian songs and entertainment like stilt walkers. This is also where you can enjoy a leisurely gondola ride through the network of canals or check out the celebrities at Madam Tussauds Wax Museum.
On a more intellectual note, Las Vegas has a number of interesting and well-designed museums. The Luxor has a Titanic recreation as well as a fascinating exhibition called Bodies that showcases 13 real freeze-dried dead cadavers and 260 organs in a bid to educate and illuminate. Kids with a passion for science will love the interactive Lied Discovery Children’s Museum off the Strip.
Visitors with a little extra time can explore the many attractions found away from the Strip. From helicopter rides over nearby Hoover Dam to hikes in Fire Mountain National Park, there is a lot to do outdoors. The four top-of-the-line go-kart tracks at the Las Vegas Mini Grand Prix are a hoot for kids and adults alike. There are also six stunning desert golf courses in the valley, one of them directly behind Steve Wynn’s Encore resort.
After dark, the Strip turns its attentions to different kinds of entertainment. Most of the big resorts have theatres with at least one famous headliner performing each night. From impossible illusionists like Criss Angel to the indescribable Blue Men Group to comedians you only get to see in Hollywood movies, there is always something worth seeing.
Besides the obvious allure of a few hours of gambling, the nicer resorts on the Strip have some really awe-inspiring cocktail bars, lounges and nightclubs. Don’t expect two-for-one happy hour drinks in these swanky places, but the people-watching alone is worth the price of admission. Strip clubs like Treasures also put the glam in adult entertainment, as you’d expect from such a high rolling city like Vegas.
Vegas is, if nothing else, a place where you get what you pay for. The cheap casinos are dirty, weathered and crowded. Bars with drink specials lack much in the way of style and free shows pale in comparison to the surreal wunderkinds that work for Cirque du Soleil. Having a great time in Vegas is about knowing what to spend on and what to resist. Luckily, there is no shortage of things to choose from.