In Las Vegas, the whole city is essentially an attraction, especially on the Strip and Fremont Street. Beyond that, it can be tough to narrow down exactly what to see and experience. When you’re in Las Vegas, however, there are a few key things that you really shouldn’t miss. Read on to find out which.
Editor’s note: Some services and amenities at these locations may be halted/altered due to the pandemic. Save these ideas for when it’s safe to travel again, and always follow all COVID-19 restrictions, rules, and safety regulations both at your destination and upon returning home.
Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens
Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is a fairytale wonderland. In a huge skylit atrium just off the resort’s lobby, tens of thousands of blooming flowers come together to create a vibrant spectacle that’s worth exploring in minute detail. It’s one of the most fascinating and dynamic Las Vegas attractions—you can come often and always be newly impressed, since the whimsical displays change with the seasons. Often, they include live butterflies and koi ponds. Before or after, head outside to be dazzled by the famous Fountains of Bellagio water show.
Fremont Street Experience
In contrast to the car-heavy Strip, the Fremont Street Experience offers a five-block pedestrian-only promenade. This lively entertainment district is one of the more historic Las Vegas attractions, drawing large crowds (especially on the first Friday of each month), street performers, and copious food vendors. The open-air lane also has plenty of stores, restaurants, and casinos, plus live shows on three stages.
The main attraction here, though, is the 1,500-foot-long video screen—it’s the world’s biggest—arching 90 feet above and over the width of the street. Called Viva Vision, it puts on a spectacular nightly light show with its 12.5 million LEDs. Other fun things to do on Fremont Street include SlotZilla, an 850-foot-long, 12-story-high zipline.
Venetian Canals and Gondola Rides
The whole of the Venetian is an amusement-park version of Italy, but especially its canals. Authentic, elaborate gondolas glide atop clear waters piloted by singing gondoliers. And yes, you can most definitely take a ride. Choose the indoor route if you’d like to go past cafes and boutiques, outdoor if you’d rather go under bridges and sky. Either way, this is not an attraction to forego.
High Roller Observation Wheel
The High Roller Observation Wheel opened in 2014 to become the world’s tallest observation wheel—at 550 feet, it presides over Las Vegas Boulevard and has become a key part of the famous skyline. To ride, you board one of 28 glass-enclosed cabins (each fits 40 people) and strap in for the 30 minutes it takes to complete a full revolution. That time starts with music and an interactive video that eventually fades away so that you can focus on the spectacular 360-degree views of the Strip and beyond. This prominent attraction anchors the Linq Promenade, a lively open-air shopping, dining and entertainment district.
Cirque du Soleil
You’d be remiss to come to Las Vegas and not see at least one Cirque du Soleil show. These spectacular artistic productions feature world-class athletes and dancers, riveting music, impressive sets, and quirky costumes. Though the company is based in Montreal, Canada, it runs seven resident shows on the Las Vegas Strip, each with its own whimsical theme, stunning choreography, and jaw-dropping feats.
Though most travelers to Las Vegas know about the shows, most don’t know that you can get a free behind-the-scenes look at a few of them; KÀ 360 allows an up-close look at how stagehands create the $165 million-dollar production. Likewise, the Beatles Love Magical Technical Tour showcases the technology, set pieces, and opening number that come together to make the show great. And Mystère hosts open rehearsals, allowing the public to watch acrobatic performers rehearse.
Not all of the places to visit in Las Vegas are on the Strip. Hoover Dam, 35 miles east of Las Vegas Boulevard, is a massive engineering marvel that is very much worth seeing. Built in the 1930s, it sits 726 feet tall and 1,244 feet wide. This hydrological force is open for tours, and they’re given by Bureau of Reclamation employees, who show you around the power plant and tell you everything you’d want to know about this National Historic Landmark.
The Hoover Dam visitors’ center is rich with fascinating information, and its viewing platform is a great place to take it all in. Drive out there yourself, or let Papillon fly you over in a helicopter.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Nature lovers looking for places to visit in Las Vegas can take a 17-mile drive from the Strip to arrive at stunning Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The dozens of hiking trails here offer something for everyone. Beginners can start on the easy quarter-mile Lost Creek trail to see Mars-red earth, little animals darting around, a small waterfall, and—for those with eagle eyes—ancient petroglyphs. The Red Rock visitors’ center is worth seeing, but try to spend most of your time outdoors, where Joshua trees spike the landscape, wide-open views restore the soul, and sunsets are simply spectacular.
Springs Preserve, less than eight miles off the Strip, is one of the most delightful but least known Las Vegas attractions. It’s a nonprofit center themed around the Mojave Desert’s natural riches. Start with the open-air train ride showing off the desert landscape, then explore the grounds to enjoy botanical gardens, animal shows, an imaginative playground, and a daily story time for kids. The preserve also presents history-themed museum exhibits, live animal enclosures, educational films, and engaging science activities. There’s easily enough to do to spend a full day here.
The Las Vegas Skyline
Yes, the Las Vegas skyline is an attraction unto itself. Make sure to see it however you are able: If you’re not lucky enough to have booked a top-floor hotel room, worry not. You can still get that iconic view from various places atop town—try the Stratosphere’s observation deck, Rio’s VooDoo Rooftop Nightclub, or Moon at the Palms.
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign
No Instagram account would be complete without a shot of this most iconic of Las Vegas attractions. Betty Willis designed the Googie-style landmark in 1959 and gifted it to the city of Las Vegas, which mounted it atop 25-foot-tall poles. Neon, kitschy, and flashy, this sign is synonymous with Las Vegas. You’ll see it all over souvenirs and films, and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, too.
A small parking lot affords photo opportunities, but be prepared to wait in line to pose with this cheerful beauty. A couple of fun facts to know before you go: The sign is technically in the city of Paradise (not Las Vegas) and its flip side says “Drive carefully come back soon.”
–Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.
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