A nighttime view of the Las Vegas Strip

8 Less Usual Ways to "Do" Las Vegas

Sure, you could blow your budget on a Cirque show, an evening at the crap tables and a meal at a celebrity chef’s joint that costs more than your monthly mortgage. But there are other, less usual ways to do Vegas that can be just as entertaining. Here are some suggestions.
A close-up of the massive red rocks of Red Rock Canyon, in Nevada
Ditch the Strip for the Desert
Sure, the Las Vegas Strip at night is eye-candy. But it doesn't come close to the beauty of Nevada's many desertscapes. Drive just 40 minutes from the Strip to see Red Rock Canyon (pictured). One of the top rock climbing destinations in the world, it's also a terrific place to hike or tour by car. The most spectacular rock formations are nearest to the visitors center.
A B-53 Gravity Bomber on display at the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas
Get Scientific
Odd but true: there’s an outpost of the Smithsonian in Las Vegas. It’s called the Atomic Testing Museum and it’s one of the finest combination science and history museums in the US. Along with learning about how “the bomb” was developed, there are fascinating exhibits on all of the everyday products that are on the market still, developed by scientists working on atomic energy and weapons.
The sign at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel in Las Vegsa
Crash a Wedding
With a wedding happening, oh, every 10-minutes or so throughout the day, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one to watch. And when you go to a chapel like the “Viva Las Vegas”, the ceremony will likely be downright theatrical. Vampire, galactic, Bluez Brothers, Egyptian, Zombie, Rocky Horror and even Cirque du Soleil-style weddings (an aerialist performs over your heads as you light the unity candle) are par for the course here. Be polite and ask the bride and groom first if you can watch. Most won’t mind an extra witness or two.
First Friday Celebrations in Las Vegas
Party with Artists and Artisans
On the first Friday of every month, Las Vegas throws an art fest downtown and it’s the real deal. Called….wait for it…”First Friday”, it a major shopping fest, with live music, food and loads of good cheer. Pictured are street acrobats entertaining the crowd. You can find complete information at FirstFridayLasVegas.com.
The Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas
Stephen Hannafin/Flickr
Don't Spend a Dime
Sure, you can squander your kid’s college fund at the slot machines. But with the Bellagio Fountains, the volcano in front of the Mirage, the light show on Fremont Street and the unadulterated fun of simply gawking at all the odd types who come to Sin City, you can have a heckuva good time here for free. There’s no reason to spend a cent to get entertained in Vegas.
The gaming tables at the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas
Mark Richardson/Flickr
Improve Your Blackjack
And no, you won’t have to lose money to do so. Nearly all of the casinos host free gambling lessons, usually in the late mornings and they are not only fun, but they could save you big bucks in the long run, teaching you smart strategies for when you’re playing for real.
The MGM Lion Outside of MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas
Dan Orth/Flickr
Rate a TV Show...and Get Rewarded
Since the whole world comes to Vegas, so do the focus group companies. And at the MGM Grand (pictured), you’ll find one who will reward you with coupons for all sorts of goodies if you’ll agree to watch the tube for half-an-hour or so and share your opinion. Heck, you watch TV at home for free. Why not get rewarded for your “efforts”.
A sea urchin appetizer at the restaurant Raku in Las Vegas
Ron Dolette/Flickr
Dine OFF The Strip
That’s where many of Las Vegas’ best restaurants are. Lotus of Siam serves legendary Thai food (the late-great Gourmet magazine called in the best Thai restaurant in the US); Raku was shortlisted for “Best New Restaurant in the US” by the James Beard Foundation in 2011 (its fabulous uni appetizer is pictured here); and the city even has a Chinatown (ok, its in malls), with terrific, highly authentic food from all parts of Asia.
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas
Pay Your Respects to Las Vegas' Storied Past
Believe it or not, Vegas is a darn good museum town. The Mob Museum does an excellent job spilling the beans on who actually built Sin City; the Neon Museum (once known as the Neon Boneyard) preserves all the city’s fab neon signs from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s; and the Springs Preserve re-tells the city’s pioneer past (along with making very good points about water conservation today).