Las Vegas is world famous as a gambling mecca. But visitors don’t have to take chances on having a good time. Our list of must-see and -dos in Sin City is a sure bet!
Check out our curated lineup of must-see attractions, hidden gems and unforgettable experiences that will make your next trip to Las Vegas complete!
If you’re making your first trip to Vegas, then you may spend a good portion of your trip covering the basics. Granted, nothing about Las Vegas is basic, but every tourist destination has some things you really need to do before you can really claim that you’ve been there.
Strolling the Strip
Walking up and down Las Vegas Boulevard is a rite of passage. You haven’t been to Sin City if you haven’t done it. Mandatory photo-op stops include the Bellagio Fountains, The Caesars Palace porte co·chère, The Mirage Volcano (while it lasts) and, if you really want to stretch your legs, the Welcome to Las Vegas sign.
Along the way, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to play a few games of chance, have some cold drinks, shop ‘til you drop and get a bite to eat, in and of-themselves all a part of the real-deal Vegas experience.
Visiting Fremont Street Experience
If you haven’t gotten in enough crazy people watching, or perused enough souvenir shops after a day or two of meandering the Strip, then head down to the older side of town to check out the Fremont Street Experience.
This tourist hot spot is like the midway at the state fair on steroids. It’s an over the top collection of casinos, bars, restaurants, light shows, musicians and street performers where the party lasts all night.
Dining & Drinking
Vegas is known for a lot of things, and the culinary scene is near the top of the list. First-timers in Vegas are amazed at all the options. Celebrity chefs are the name of the game at the top end, and there’s no shortage of stars: Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsey, José Andrés, Lorena Garcia, Nobu Matsuhisa, Mr Chow, Giada De Laurentiis and so many more.
Chilling at the Pools
When it comes to sunshine, Vegas has it in spades. Hitting the pool is a must-do, especially if you’re visiting from the upper Midwest,the Northeast or England, where the sun hides behind rain clouds way too frequently. Whichever hotel or resort you’re staying at will have a pool. Be sure to use it!
Hitting the Clubs
When the sun goes down, the nightclubs heat up. Vegas has some of the most thrilling clubs on the planet, and if you’re a party all nighter, then be sure to make this a part of your trip. Top DJs from around the world have made Las Vegas their home. And pretty much every major sports league championship winning team comes to Las Vegas to celebrate at one of the Vegas clubs, including the latest NBA champs, the Denver Nuggets.
Casino Games and Race & Sports Books
Let’s also mention the obvious must-do. Las Vegas was built on gambling, first and foremost, even though it’s added to its entertainment offerings over the years.
Slots, poker, blackjack, pai gow, craps and roulette can be found all over town, and you might just be the next lucky player to hit it big. It happens all the time and would be a great way to celebrate your wedding anniversary, like a recent winner at Caesars Palace.
Now that sports betting is becoming more popular and more widely offered in the US, the industry is booming in Vegas more than ever. It doesn’t have to be a big event like the Super Bowl or March Madness to have some fun. Every gameday is a great day to place a wager and to root for your bets to cash. On the Strip, you should visit the iconic sportsbooks at the Westgate and at Caesars Palace, or check out the flashy newcomer at Circa in downtown Las Vegas.
Repeat & Frequent Visitors
Ok, now that we’ve covered the basics for the first-timers, let’s tell you about the deep cuts that locals have on repeat and returning visitors should add to their list of must see and dos.
The More Unusual
There may not be a more iconic visual representative of Las Vegas than the showgirl. Once a staple of showrooms up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, they have been a part of the city’s entertaining history for decades and still have a place in the Vegas universe.
You can celebrate the history of this Las Vegas mainstay at Grant Philipo’s Las Vegas Showgirl Museum. Tens of thousand of showgirl artifacts are on display there, including actual wardrobe pieces, sets and props, costume designs, film footage, historical documents and photos.This museum allows visitors to pay homage to the glamour and beauty of Las Vegas entertainment, as well as show business history from other parts of the world.
Slots machines aren’t the only amusing games with bells and whistles galore. The Pinball Hall of Fame is a fun destination where the games are playable and the stakes are lower. The history of this arcade staple is told through the machines in the collection and continues with every quarter you pump in.
Car enthusiasts should stop by the Carroll Shelby Heritage Center to pay tribute to one of the greatest car builders and designers of all time. The museum is free and open to the public during normal business hours. Self-guided and VIP behind the scenes tours are sure to get motor heads revved up.
A visually stunning part of the Vegas Valley, Red Rock Canyon is great for hikers, rock climbers and bikers. Photographers will have no lack of beautiful landscapes to capture, and the scenic drive in a rented convertible is an awesome way to spend an afternoon. Bring your camera!
The waters of the Colorado River fill the reservoir behind Hoover Dam and create the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It’s the country’s first and largest national recreation area, offering visitors swimming, boating, hiking, cycling, camping and fishing. While you’re on your way to or from the lake, repeat Southern Nevada visitors may also want to spend some time in Boulder City. The historic town that built the dam has a number of things to see and do, too. Many outdoor outfitters can be found here, and there are lots of shops and restaurants. The people are friendly and offer plenty of living history lessons if you stop them to say “hello.”
Las Vegas’s summer respite for outdoor enthusiasts is Mt. Charleston. The temps atop the mountain are 15 to 30 degrees cooler and offer a cool spot to enjoy nature during the hottest times of the year. Hiking, mountain biking, disc golf and the chair lift are just a few of the summer activities available. It can also be a lot of fun in the winter because there’s a ski resort too!
Helicopter rides are a great way to see the city from a new perspective. The major players are Papillon, Maverick and 5 Star. And you’ll get the best deal by booking directly with the operators. They all pledge to match or beat any third-party price you may find online.
All three offer a variety of packages, depending on what you want to see and the add ons you can’t live without. The starter rides, which offer a 10–15 minute flight over the Strip, are a pretty reasonable way to spend a hundred bucks.
The Nevada State Railroad Museum has free admission and also offers excursion train rides from its covered platform near Boulder City. If you want to upgrade your ride and join the engineer and the brakeman in the cab, it’s an easy add-on at just $35. The museum will soon offer a much improved guest experience with the addition of its new Visitor’s Center.
Museums & Exhibits
The National Atomic Testing Museum gives guests a comprehensive look at how the atomic age captivated the country. History buffs can explore the story of nuclear testing and its impact on popular culture. If you’ve just seen the smash hit Oppenheimer in theaters, then this museum will help tell you more of the story.
The Rita Deanin Abbey Art Museum celebrates the incredible career of the “most important unknown artist in Southern Nevada.” She personally designed the spaces at the Las Vegas museum that now bears her name. The prolific artist used many different mediums in her southwestern themed abstract art.
Las Vegas might take its knocks for being a light on culture city, but don’t tell that to the folks at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Not only do they host a fantastic lineup of touring Broadway shows and nationally known musical acts, but they’ve also got one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in town. The art deco style theater oozes style and is a fantastic place to see if you’re into architecture.
The Mob Museum is another must-see and -do spot in Las Vegas. Yes, the museum itself is a big draw, but the building it’s housed in also has historical significance. The downtown Las Vegas museum’s neoclassical building was opened in 1933 as the US Post Office and Courthouse. Prior to opening as the museum in 2012, renovations restored many of the building’s historical features.
Golfers who are also into architecture should book a tee-time at Las Vegas National. The 18-hole course weaves its way through the Paradise Palms neighborhood, Las Vegas’s first master planned community. Homes here once belonged to some of Hollywood’s biggest stars including entertainers, mobsters and other members of the city’s social scene. Famous residents included Johnny Carson, Debbie Reynolds, Dionne Warwick, Phyllis Diller and Rip Taylor, just to name a few.
For its sheer vintage Vegas vibe, the Neon Museum offers the best tour in town. Guided tours are conducted by knowledgeable staff and last 45 minutes. It’s hard to call the Neon Museum a hidden gem because it’s one of the most popular attractions in town, but with everything else there is to do, visitors don’t always make it to the museum. That’s why we like to remind repeat visitors not to miss this must-see and do in Las Vegas. The Neon Museum gives photographers of all stripes one of the best photo ops in town.
The Hoover Damn tour is no joke even though the Griswolds sure had their laughs in the movie Vegas Vacation. The Guided Dam Tour gets you access to historic tunnels, a ride in the original elevator to the top of the dam, a view of the Colorado River through the inspection ventilation shaft, a stop at the 8 commercial generators in the Nevada Powerhouse and a look inside the 30 foot diameter penstock where you’ll feel the vibration created by water rushing through the pipe. There’s nothing funny about one of the engineering marvels of the modern world.
Some of the best views of Las Vegas can be had from some very high vantage points. Head to the LINQ Promenade to ride the High Roller. It’s not just a ferris wheel, it’s an observation wheel — and the world’s second tallest at that! A smooth half-hour ride moves at a barely noticeable speed, so motion sickness isn’t a problem.
The Stratosphere lays claim to the title of the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States and the second-tallest in the Western Hemisphere, surpassed only by the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario. Located at the north end of the resort corridor on the Strip, the Strat also has amusement rides for guests with a bit of a daredevil streak in them.
The Legacy Club rooftop at Circa Casino is 60 floors up and delivers an elegant lounge with a panoramic view of the Downtown Las Vegas skyline. If thrill rides scare you at any speed, then this new bar might be a better choice.
The Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas also offers visitors top-notch views. It’s not as tall as the real thing in France, but it’s not a bad simulation and since there’s hardly ever any clouds in the desert, the view is rarely obscured.
This list of must-see and must-do in Las Vegas is in no way an exhaustive list, but we do hope it gets you started! If you’re looking for more, check out our sister blog’s entry for Exploring Vegas After Your Wedding: What to Do and See.