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10 Things You Can Only Do in Las Vegas

SmarterTravel

There’s no other city like Las Vegas, so it makes sense that this town is full of things you can do only in Las Vegas.

Some Things You Can Only Do in Las Vegas

Before you arrive in Las Vegas, read our list of unique experiences so that you don’t miss the chance to do something that you wouldn’t be able to do anywhere else.

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The Neon Museum

Las Vegas wouldn’t be nearly as famous as it is without the glowing gas that keeps it lit. Appropriate, then, that the city should have a museum dedicated to the stuff. The main attraction at the Neon Museum is the hourlong guided tour of the outdoor Neon Boneyard, an eerily wonderful, dreamlike place where the city’s old neon signs go to retire (and, in some cases, be restored). Needless to say, this is a popular spot for Instagram accounts and engagement photos.

Be sure to book tickets for “Brilliant,” a remarkable 30-minute light-and-music show themed around Las Vegas history. The museum’s visitors’ center is in the former La Concha Motel, a perfect example of midcentury modern architecture.

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The Mob Museum

Vegas isn’t nicknamed Sin City for nothing. The town got its start when mobster Bugsy Siegel built the Flamingo; soon enough, bullies, thugs, and murderers were in charge. Only in Las Vegas would there be a whole museum about the mafia—the museum’s full name is the Mob Museum, the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, and it opened in 2012 near Fremont Street.

It’s a nonprofit dedicated to educating visitors about the city’s dark underbelly with engaging exhibits that display hundreds of artifacts, including mugshots, FBI files, and actual machine guns used for hits. There’s also an immersive forensic lab experience where visitors can learn about how crimes are solved.

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The House of Blues

Okay, so there are actually 11 cities with a House of Blues. But only in Las Vegas can you catch a fantastic concert in an intimate music venue inside a famous resort and casino—that would be Mandalay Bay. Carlos Santana is a regular headliner here, making great use of this music hall’s strong emphasis on acoustics and light.

There’s original folk art, good food and service, and a VIP lounge for special occasions. Don’t miss the rollicking gospel brunch, featuring an all-you-can-eat buffet with chicken and waffles, plus soul singers that’ll get you up on you feet and clapping.

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The Grand Canyon by Helicopter

If you’ve already traveled far to visit Las Vegas, it’s worthwhile (and feasible) to add the Grand Canyon to your itinerary. Truly one of the world’s great natural wonders, the canyon’s ancient topography and 6,000-foot-deep gorge make it an undeniable bucket list item. A company called Las Vegas Outdoor Adventures offers helicopter tours from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon National Park; the luxurious flight provides 180-degree views of the canyon and its Colorado River, as well as the Hoover Dam and other regional marvels.

Then your helicopter will actually descend below the Grand Canyon’s rim, an experience you’ll never forget. If you’d rather travel to the canyon via land, you can drive (270 miles) or take a train or a bus tour from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon.

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The Fremont Street Experience

Only in Las Vegas can you see the world’s largest video screen, comprised of more than 12 million LEDs. Viva Vision, suspended and stretched 90 feet above the Fremont Street Experience, is 1,500 feet long and puts on a nightly light and sound show, much to the delight of the pedestrians on the promenade below.

In addition to being immersed in this nightly spectacle, visitors to this entertainment district can shop, eat, gamble, ride SlotZilla (an 850-foot-long zipline) or experience Fear the Walking Dead Survival, an immersive zombie-themed attraction.

Speedvegas

Speedvegas

If you’ve ever longed to race a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, or McLaren, head to Speedvegas for its 1.5-mile Formula One-inspired track. This dream driving experience starts off with a driving lesson, and then your coach occupies the copilot seat as you take on this state-of-the-art track.

In addition to a half-mile straightaway, it’s got 12 sweeping turns, 15-degree banked turns, and 60 feet of elevation change. Designed to be comparable to world’s top circuits, Speedvegas is housed within a $30 million, 20,000-square-foot complex that also encompasses a bilevel welcome center, indoor and outdoor observation decks, and a satisfying cafe.

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Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Nature’s simple wonders are always superior to even man’s brightest, most sparkling spectacles. This, of course, holds as true in Las Vegas as it does anywhere else. Drive 17 miles from the big, bold strip to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to be rewarded with sweeping views, exhilarating wildlife sightings, and immersion into one of the world’s most arid landscapes—the Mojave Desert. Dozens of well-maintained trails ensure that every level of hiker is accommodated. Keep an eye out for ancient petroglyphs.

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Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.

The Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. in Treasure Island is part whole-body, multi-room video game, part memorabilia museum relevant to anything having to do with the Avengers. The displays here are all originals, and include Captain America’s uniform and shield, Black Widow’s armor and weapons, Ant-Man’s helmet, Iron Man’s suit, Bruce Banner’s laboratory, and more.

The premise is that you train to be an agent via access to a mobile training device, intelligence files, and other clues. It’s an immersive, high-tech experience, and you’ll walk away with more of a backstory on your favorite characters, with a science-infused twist.

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Mount Charleston

You didn’t think you could ski in Las Vegas? Think again. Mount Charleston, known also as Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, gets a decent amount of snow each winter, enough to turn this lovely swath of Toiyabe National Forest into a resort area packed with skiers, snowboarders, sledders, and snowshoers.

A great way to join the freezing fun is to stay overnight at the Resort on Mount Charleston (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g45978-d557993-Reviews-The_Resort_on_Mount_Charleston-Mount_Charleston_Nevada.html  convert to OT), a mountain retreat 40 miles from the Las Vegas Strip—each of its guest rooms has a view of the snowy peaks, as does it restaurant and chalet-style bar. Mount Charleston is worth a summer visit, too. There are plenty of hiking trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds from whence to enjoy the wilderness.

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Human Cadavers

Only in Las Vegas would there be two competing attractions showcasing real human bodies expertly sliced and preserved for their educational and entertainment value. Real Bodies at Bally’s displays unskinned cadavers frozen in motion, via a process called plastination, so that visitors can see every little capillary and organ up close. The museum-like space also explores the effect of things like love and fitness on our bodies, has a section on babies and fetal development, and embraces the morbid aspect of being human—the topic of death isn’t ignored.

Over at Luxor, Bodies . . . The Exhibition has fewer specimens and is more straightforwardly educational, but is just as fascinating. Both of these powerful exhibits have the strong potential to inspire young visitors to become doctors or scientists.

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–Original reporting by Avital Andrews. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

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