Places You Shouldn't Miss While in Las Vegas

by Female Abroad

Las Vegas is located in the deserts of Nevada and glows like a dazzling gem at night due to all the vibrant, multifaceted neon lights. This fun/drunk/stuffed/undescribable desert city has become famous because of the several, different possibilities it offers to tourists. Almost 100 years ago, this Deer Town received its first gaming license and that started the migration of hears of gamblers to the casinos, the post war Union gangsters, the Rat Pack, and today the Celebrity Chefs along with deep pocketed people that are sure they will win that next jackpot. What make it among the top most tourist spots are the long lasting (and sometimes unusual or missing) memories that visitors take home.

The Strip

Starting at the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign this 2.5 mile (6 km) long strip creates the central part of Las Vegas Boulevard from Mandalay Bay to Stratosphere (some will argue Treasure Island is the end of the strip) and started popping up in the mid-1940’s with the Flamingo being the first in 1946. This sign was created in 1959 and is found on the southern tip of the strip, past the Mandalay Bay and Little Church of the West. As you continue along the strip you are met with huge, themed entertainment palaces that contain luxury hotel rooms, pools, day-spa’s, fine dining, performance venues, glamorous night life, and most have gambling halls as well. You really need to get out and walk the Strip to get a feel for not only how large these properties are but also all that Vegas has to offer plus the interesting local characters. There are so many unique museums, interesting sidewalk performers, and numerous other activities that you’ll miss if you do not walk it. At night, the illuminating neon and glittering signs draw crowds like moths to the flames and the city becomes alive. If you want an unforgettable view then make sure to take a helicopter ride (if you are not into views or don’t want to spend the cash then this is also fine to skip).

A popular site to visit on the strip besides the sign is the Ethel M Chocolate Factory where you can take a free self-guided tour (great to get out of the summer heat!) that ends with a free visit to the Southwest’s largest cactus garden with more than 300 species across three-acres.

Hotel’s to Visit On the Strip

You'll find many distinguished hotels in Las Vegas; most are considered attractions themselves with a variety of unique features, free shows on the side streets (ex. dancing fountains at the Bellagio) plus you’ll feel like you’ve travelled the globe. Caesar’s Palace takes you back to early Rome, feel like you’ve been to Venice at the Venetian, the Mirage brings you into a tropical paradise with an erupting volcano, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower at Paris for a view of the strip, or grab a slice of Pie at New York New York while wandering the back allies of Manhattan. Even if you go to MGM, it is no place like home! While the hotel is no longer Wizard of Oz themed there are still some hidden details and paintings (look up!) around the property. There are a few hotels that really stand out among others for theming.

In 1946, one of the first themed hotels opened - The Flamingo. Found right on the strip, if you head towards the back of the casino you will find an exit into a hidden, lush escape where live flamingos, koi, ducks, swans, turtles, and two rescued pelicans live. While walking around, taking in the lush palm trees, waterfalls, and greenery, you really do not feel like the strip is just steps away. Plus it is all free. One downside - if you are not a smoker, the Flamingo’s tend to sleep by the smokers pit. As you enter back into the hotel, there is a little stand that sells snacks, their pizza is amazing!

The first time I went to Vegas I stayed the Luxor. Why? It was a girls trip and cheap because not only is it one of the oldest hotels on the strip, it is also at the far southwest tip so it can be a long walk to the center of the strip. The fun part though is it has an ancient Egyptian design with its pyramid shape and a sphinx that proudly gazes out over the street with an obelix next to it. Finding it at night is also super easy at it has the brightest light beam in the world projecting from the very top of the pyramid. You cannot miss it.

During the summer, one of the busiest hotels is the Mandalay Bay due to their Shark Reef aquarium. Here you’ll find more than 2,000 animals from odd golden crocodiles, Komodo dragon, varieties of jellyfish, turtles, 15 sharks, eels, stingrays, piranhas, and more. There is even a Dive with Sharks program if you want to do something very unique!

With Vegas, most people think of the Bellagio Casino’s Fountain. Opened in 1998, this Bellagio (a town on the side of Lake Como in Italy) themed hotel is known for more than just the Fountain. If you enter the lobby, the ceiling is one of the most photographed due to Fiori di Como by Dale Chihuly as it features more than 2,000 hand blown glass flowers. Once you take in the ceiling, head to the Botanical Garden Conservatory. Here you will find rare flowers and gigantic Christmas trees throughout the year while the 100+ gardener’s change the themes year round to match major seasons and/or holidays.

The Venetian is one of my favorite hotels as it keeps the theming throughout the entire property. The themed shopping arcade resembles Venice with blue skies painted on the ceiling, Gondola boats running through the canals, Rialto & Bridge of Sights crossing over the canals before you come to a recreation of St. Mark’s Square with Streetmosphere performers (singers, living statues, jugglers, etc). The gondola rides however I find a complete tourist gimmick. Last time we went it was $40 per person and that was just to do the inside canals, the outside ones were extra.

Off-Strip Sights Worth the Trip

Travellers can easily take a helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon or venture into the hills and mountains around the city to do something more active than wandering the strip. If you are looking for something outside then the most popular items besides the Grand Canyon is the Hoover Dam and Lee Canyon on Mount Charleston.

For the Hoover Dam, it was really the start of Vegas as people headed to the area to live while they helped build the Dam during the Great Depression. It is also due to this building project that the area was not as badly hit as the rest of the US during that time.

Lee Canyon is not only picturesque but it is also known for it’s great summer hiking as well as it’s skiing and snow boarding in the winter. If you do go hiking in the summer, do not be surprised at the number of weddings you will run into.

If you are looking for some different history and culture then the Neon and Mob Museum’s are certainly not to be missed.

The Mob Museum allows people to try out a real Tommy gun, listen to real wiretaps, see a wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and learn about how the city really sprung up due to help from the Mob.

For the Neon Museum, this place shows a different side of the city - a less Mob centric one. It uses Neon to show the growth of the city from being a stop over on the way to California to what it is today. The museum is doing its best to buy, store, and restore classic historic neon signs from businesses in the area that have either closed or upgraded. This is certainly one of the most popular museums to visit from the Strip and can book out quick as tour guides take you around the property, explaining the history as well as the preservation of these reminders of the past.

What places would you add to this list? Did we miss something? Anything you do not agree with? Why not drop us a line and let us know what you think!