If you find the idea of visiting Las Vegas a bit daunting, then you can be reassured there’s plenty to do without ever spending a cent at the poker tables. Sure, there are slot machines EVERYWHERE and it can feel a little overwhelming, but plan ahead and you can spend your time soaking up the culture and experiencing some taste sensations rather than losing your shirt on red.
Having been to Las Vegas a few times before, for our recent trip, we decided to make a list of the things we missed out on previously and try to see some of Old Vegas this time around. Our itinerary was based on being in town for three full days and with a trip to the Grand Canyon as the main anchor point, it was really easy to slot our excursions in around this.
We stayed at the Bellagio and scored an upgrade to a fountain view room on arrival, which was a great deal! I highly recommend researching your accommodation options thoroughly before booking. We used Agoda to book this as it was hands down the cheapest of all the comparison and booking sites we checked out, including going via the Bellagio direct. Plus they often have a book now, pay at hotel option for no extra cost which can be really useful if you’re planning your trip on a budget or quite far in advance.
There are obviously pros and cons to staying right on the Strip – it can be more expensive, sure, but it’s also right where most of the action is. For first time visitors, I’d definitely recommend it so you’re in the thick of things, but if you’re a returning visitor, you might want to venture off to one of the more resorty places off-strip.
One thing I’d recommend if you’re road tripping is drop your car off when you arrive in Vegas! There is zero point in having a rental car unless you’re planning on driving to some out of town locations plus the parking charges are a killer. Vegas is, I reckon, very walkable plus there are buses, little monorails between some of the hotels and if you must, Uber – every major hotel has a designated and well signposted Uber pick up spot. You’re just gonna be wasting money having a hire car sitting in a parking garage, so save yourself the hassle and moolah by ditching the wheels!
Here’s my top 10 tips for a super fun, non-gambling time in Sin City (spoiler alert: a lot of them are food/based).
1. Eat at Dirt Dog
I’m not sure where I first saw Dirt Dog, but as a dedicated foodie, it was probably on some sort of Food Network show. I really LOVE corn, and I had seen that they do an elote dog (Mexican street corn on a hot dog) and knew we had to try that golden goodness.
We went for the elote cup, filthy fries and flaming dog – all absolutely delicious and washed down with a Mexican Coke, natch. Seating is limited and it can get busy, but it’s really worth it!
It’s right outside Bally’s hotel in a little plaza area also beside the Paris hotel – hunt it down!
2. Fly To The Grand Canyon
Having missed out on going to the Grand Canyon on our previous trips, this time we were determined not to miss it again. But with limited time, we puzzled long and hard over the best way to see it. Many of the coach tours take all day – like 16 hours long – and who has time for that? I did not fancy the idea of being in a helicopter AT ALL but we found a great solution that meant we saw the majestic canyon without using up a whole day.
Scenic Airlines’ Highlights Air Tour takes less than 6 hours door-to-door, you’re collected from your hotel and dropped right back there, too. A friendly coach driver will take you to Boulder airport, about a 40 minute drive from the Strip, and there you board your little plane for a trip around the west rim of the Grand Canyon. Whilst you do not land on this tour, you will see some truly breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon – it was an almost spiritual experience to see this natural phenomenon in real life! Words cannot really do it justice – it has to be seen to be believed.
With prices starting around $130 per person, it’s not a budget trip but it is a quick and relatively affordable way to see a bit of the Grand Canyon without spending all your time and money on it. We had to get up at 3.30am to catch the early morning flight but it was so worth it and we were back in Vegas, breakfasted and in bed by 11am for a snooze.
3. Explore the hotel lobbies
Many of the major hotels on the strip will decorate in a theme at different times of the year, making for quite a spectacle as you’re passing through. If, like me, you have a creative mind, it’s fascinating to see not only the finished article but to get a sense of just HOW much work and planning and care goes into what is essentially a dead space in a hotel. What is just a giant corridor turns into a beautiful Japanese garden and is tended to by an army of housekeepers around the clock.
The best thing about this of course is that it’s free! You can wander in and experience the stunning tableaus in all the hotels without spending a dime – the later you go in the evening, the less busy it tends to be, if you’re looking for the perfect Instagram shot!
4. Play A Round Of KISS Mini Golf!
This is so much fun! Even if you’re not KISS’s number one fan, mini golf is always fun and doubly so when it’s in the dark and your path is lit by UV and neon lighting! I was given a gift voucher for this for my birthday and it truly was great fun! It’s based in the Rio hotel which is off-strip but easily accessible.
I didn’t win. Gutted.
There is also a sister course at Bally’s hotel which is The Twilight Zone themed – you KNOW we did that too. We got free vouchers to have a game there at the end of the KISS course, so you’re really getting two for the price of one – result!
Didn’t win that either. Huh.
5. See A Show!
This trip, we wanted to see a show without breaking the bank, so we waited until the day of and used one of the abundance of late tickets booths around the strip. It turned out about 15% cheaper than booking with the theatre directly, but it’s definitely worth shopping around.
We saw Penn & Teller at the Rio hotel (right after our mini golf experience!) and it was a super fun show. Plus we met them both in the lobby afterwards!
6. See The Wedding Chapels
Now, I’m not suggesting you elope or do a Britney, but I am definitely suggesting a walk north of the Strip to see the most kitsch collection of wedding chapels you’ll see anywhere.
My particular favourites were the Little White Chapel with its drive up window and Wee Kirk O The Heather wedding chapel – truly just like being at home. Ahem.
This area can be a little sketchy, so if you’re walking, go in daylight and take all the usual precautions. This is a handy little self-guided walking tour map.
7. Eat Evel Knievel Pizza
Have you always dreamt of visiting an Evel Knievel themed dive bar that serves hot and tasty pizza, too? Then dream no more! Evel Pie is the place you need.
It’s in the Fremont Street area and makes a great reward if you’ve walked all the way from the top of the Strip to take in those wedding chapels!
8. Get Fried At The Mob Museum
Also in the Fremont Street district is a really interesting museum all about the mob, its involvement in the foundation of Las Vegas and what became of all the major players and indeed playaaas.
With interactive displays, lots of eyewitness accounts and fascinating artifacts, this place is a gem that tells the story of the less glamorous side of Las Vegas. Plus you can pretend-electrocute your friends, so that’s always fun.
Oh and there’s a speakeasy in the basement that serves DELICIOUS cocktails hidden inside fake books – just don’t tell the Feds.
9. Visit The Neon Museum At Dusk
Of course, the best time to visit a museum full of neon signs is at dusk – it’s getting dark so you can see the signs in all their lit glory but it’s light enough that you can see the detail and workmanship that’s gone into them, too.
With new additions coming in regularly, I really loved this outdoor museum – it really gives a sense of old Las Vegas and the look and feel of that bygone age.
It’s a bit of a walk away from the Fremont Street area, but again, it’s easy to access by cab or Uber. They have a Tim Burton exhibit at the moment, too. Excellent gift shop.
10. Visit The Art-O-Mat
Tucked away inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel (which has some GREAT eating options – Lardo, I’m looking at your porchetta sandwich) is The Art-O-Mat, a repurposed cigarette vending machine which now dispenses art! This is SUCH A GREAT IDEA.
The contents are always changing, so swing by and check it out.
BONUS! 11. Make a withdrawal from the Cupcake ATM
The Sprinkles Cupcake ATM is a fun way to get a delicious cupcake to tide you over as you hike around Vegas!
Also, it’s right next to In N Out. You’re welcome.
Are you planning a trip to Vegas soon? Go on, it’ll be fun.