15 Best things to do in Las Vegas

February 5, 2021
Monica celebrates on Freemont Street with a virgin daiquiri.

What is the best thing you can do in Las Vegas?  Get the heck out of Las Vegas!  We kid, we kid — But seriously, what other destination requires a vacation in the middle of your vacation?   

Vegas is a buzzing string of mega-hotels replete with the hope of sex and fortune.  Full disclosure:  we don’t get high, gamble, or rent friends for the evening.  That yard of margarita in her hand above? It’s non-alcoholic. Which means she has no excuse for that look on her face.

We come to Vegas for the pools, restaurants, shows and state parks.  We enjoy the funky features of the amazing hotels.  Some may think this disqualifies us from giving a proper Vegas review, but we believe the contrary. If you’re looking to have a Vegas experience you want to remember, or you’ve brought your children with you (you daredevil), check out our list of the 15 Best things to do in Las Vegas.

1. Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park is one of the Best things to do in Las Vegas.

The Valley of Fire is a beautiful landscape of red sandstone outcrops amongst limestone mountains.  Four different Native American peoples have called the region home over thousands of years.

The hiking is amazing.  Fire Wave is a geological feature with alternating red and white layers curling in the earth like a candy cane.  White Domes trail is home to huge views, a slot canyon, and a movie set.  Atlatl Rock boasts an assortment of petroglyphs from the ancient American civilizations.  The visitors center is well done and is frequently visited by the same big horned sheep the natives relied upon for food.  There is a lot to see and do here and one could spend more than a day roaming the acreage.  

2. La Rev — Cirque du Soleil

La Rev The Dream is the best show in Las Vegas.

People tend to have lists of the most amazing things they’ve ever experienced.  The birth of children usually makes the list.  I once watched a coronary artery bypass graft.  It feels strange to say it, but Cirque du Soleil’s La Rev, The Dream at the Wynn Casino is also on that list of amazing experiences.  Births, surgeries… and strange Vegas shows?  

So, what’s La Rev about?  We really have no idea.  It involves a young couple and an apple, but within minutes all colorful hell breaks loose.  Machines appear from a watery pit and strange humanoids slither and flip about.  Acrobats bomb 80’ out of the sky.  A giant angel pays a visit, surrounded by half-naked, upside-down ladies.  Men in wrestling singlets commandeer boulders in fishing nets that swing from the ceiling.  

If all this sounds like a 5000-calorie nightmare, we’re sorry, but you just can’t see the magic.  And if anything on earth truly resembles magic, this psychotic, mind-blowing extravaganza is it.

Update: Cirque du Soleil may be done. Thanks, Covid.

3. Battlefield Las Vegas

Battlefield Las Vegas lets you shoot machine guns galore just off-strip in Las Vegas.

Would you like to shoot a machine gun?  Battlefield Las Vegas can help you accomplish this.  Want to pretend you’re a sniper?  Lay it down with an uzzi?  Launch a grenade?  Would you enjoy firing an assortment of Cold War Soviet guns?  Or would you rather rain holy hell with a Black Ops Gamer Experience?

BFLV is the ultimate gun range. They’ll even pick you up from your hotel and drive you off-strip to make your loud and devastating dreams come true.  The range masters are experienced folks who know their stuff and run a tight ship. 

4. Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club

Is Brad Garrett the funniest man alive.  Check out his show and find out for yourself.

Who knew Brad Garrett was so funny?  In our ignorance we viewed him as his character from Everybody Loves Raymond – a depressed goon playing second fiddle.   When the guy selling tickets got all excited to tell us Brad was in town and performing at his MGM club, we viewed it as a downside.  We wanted to see anyone but him.  Boy, we were wrong.

Brad Garrett is in the running for funniest man alive.  He is as relentless as any comic we’ve ever seen.  How he abused his front row and got away with it we’ll never fully comprehend.  If you like your comedy from the dry bar, this might not be the show for you.  Here’s the thing, though:  we’re the dry bar kind of people.  We don’t seek out foul, dirty things, ever.  So how could something so wicked, so over the top offensive, have us raving – and recommending – years after the show?  Because Brad’s got the funny.  To learn more about Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club, click here.

5. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock Canyon has some spectacular hiking just outside Las Vegas.

Twenty miles West of Las Vegas are the vibrant hills of Red Rock Canyon, home to an assortment of hikes and viewpoints.    We love Red Rocks and make it a point to get out there often.  The Calico Tank Trail is a moderately challenging trek that ends with a totally different view of Vegas than the one you’re used to.  Get off the strip, breathe some fresh air, enjoy a little sun stroke.  Good times.

6. Top of the Strat

The STRAT hotel and casino has some fun rides at the top.

Have we ever met a revolving restaurant we don’t like?  The answer is no, we love them all.  At the north end of Las Vegas Boulevard is The Strat Hotel, Casino, and Skypod, formerly known as The Stratosphere.  The Strat tower is a needle-like structure similar to the Space Needle in Seattle.  Over 1000’ feet tall, the Strat provides panoramic views of Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon, and the surrounding desert.  The view is especially fun at night when the string of massive hotels lights up the road southward.  Our advice is to book a table at Top of the World Restaurant about 30 minutes before sunset and stay until dark.

Above the restaurant on the open-air roof of the tower are three thrill rides:  Big Shot, Insanity, and X-Scream.  Big Shot is the world’s tallest free-fall ride, and Insanity spins folks in a circle out over the edge of the tower.  Both are typical rides in an atypical park.  Now the third ride, X-Scream, is not typical.  No, it’s horrifying, and easily the most unnerving ride we’ve ever – EVER – endured.  I wanted that thing to stop the moment it started.  It should be called PTSD, The Ride.

7. Freemont Street Experience

Freemont Street offers a completely different atmosphere than the Las Vegas strip.

Far from the glitz and glamor of the strip, is the Schlitz and clamor of Old Vegas.  We confess Freemont Street is our guilty pleasure, a place where we can gawk at odd behaviors and eat deep-fried foods.  Juxtaposed against our love of The Wynn Hotel, it’s hard to explain.  

Freemont Street is an iconic, car-free stretch of road lined with hotels and restaurants.  Infamous relics like the Golden Nugget, 4 Queens, and Binions have lit-up the plaza for over 60 years.  

The Freemont casino scene is quite different from the strip – think lower ceilings — but if you’re looking to pour wages into the slots, and you like cheap drinks, these classic casinos have got you completely covered.  

If you’re into music, there are free concerts almost nightly.  If you’ve ever wondered how you could get your photo taken with Vince Neil and Darth Vader at the same time, here ya go.

8. Tournament of Kings

The greatest show on dirt is the Tournament of Kings at Excaliber Hotel and Resort.  The grandfather of medieval times.

Merlin the Magician hosts a dinner event straight out of King Arthur times, where brave knights fight for your affections and applause.  It should be mentioned that Merlin doesn’t provide forks, so plan accordingly.  

In the Tournament of Kings at the Excaliber Hotel, every section / country of the 900-seat arena is represented by a different knight. While you rip tiny chickens apart with your bare fingers and eat your potato like a hard-boiled egg, young men gallop atop burly steeds and clash with knights from the other sections.  One knight will win in the end, and we suspect it is the loudest section who is rewarded with victory.  Hungary!!

This is one of those activities where you’ll get what you give.  If you push past the under-sophisticated nature of the activity — the corniness of the drama, the cheesy Merlin schtick — and root your damned tail off for your knight, you will have a ridiculous and memorable evening.  If you don’t, well, why go?  

9. Neon Museum

Neon Museum collects old Las Vegas signs and puts them in a boneyard

Have you ever wondered where old neon signs go to die in Las Vegas?  It’s called the Neon Museum and its home to brightly lit beacons of a by-gone era.  

What makes the place worthy of a visit isn’t just the memorabilia, but the historical tour that comes with it.  Vegas lore is full of mobsters, failure, and turnover, and the tour gives enough information that the relics come to life with meaning.

Some of the major casinos represented are:  Stardust, Sahara, Aladin, Hard Rock, Fitzgeralds etc.  The pirate head from Treasure Island is there – it’s as big as a 1,000 sqft home.  The guitar from recently shuttered Hard Rock Hotel stands tall into the nighttime sky.  Tim Burton designed a few signs.  A woman in the 1930’s sold chicken out of her kitchen window – she even had a neon sign!

Honestly, we weren’t particularly sold on the experience when we bought the tickets, but it was a very good time and we would recommend it.  

10. Seven Magic Mountains

Seven stacks of colorful limestone makes Seven Magic Mountains one of the best free things to do in Las Vegas.

About twenty miles south of the Las Vegas strip, in what feels like the middle of the desert, are seven, popsicle-like towers of colorful limestone.   Created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, Seven Magic Mountains is a large (and free) art exhibit symbolizing the human presence in the desert.  It is the first of its kind created in this country in the past 40 years, and currently permitted to remain on view through the end of 2021.

As I had hoped, the photos do not do it justice.  It is a strange sensation to be surrounded by desert mountains and find yourself amongst brightly colored anything, let alone seven stacks of it.  Add in a crowd of equally intrigued vacationers all staring up at the bizarre conceptualization and Seven Magic Mountains has the necessary ingredients for a worthwhile tourist experience.

11. Mon Ami Gabi

Monica enjoys a hot chocolate at Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris Hotel on the strip in Las Vegas.

If you’re going to Vegas and ask me what you should do, I would tell you to eat at French restaurant Mon Ami Gabi.  We dine there once or twice every time we come to town.  It is located at the Paris Hotel directly across the street from the Bellagio and has an outdoor seating section with a special perch on the strip.  

The food is fantastic, but more important than the food is the view.  Our advice is to request a seat outdoors on the rail.   Not only will you enjoy an elevated sidewalk seat for crowd watching, but every 30 minutes the Bellagio Fountain goes off, and you have a terrific vantage to enjoy it.  

12. Secret Garden at the Mirage

Sigfried and Roy's white tigers live in the secret garden.

The Secret Garden isn’t just a weird place that Bruce Springsteen’s lovers hide from him.  It is also an enchanting zoo at the Mirage Hotel where you can hang with dolphins, leopards, and the famous white tigers of Siegfried and Roy.  Sorry you never found the garden, Bruce. It was here all along.

The zoo is small but beautiful, and it feels a world apart from the madness over the fence.  For about $15 you can traipse the enclosures and watch the trainers play with the dolphins.  For even more money you can get involved in a variety of ways.  Would you like to train a dolphin? Have you ever wanted to paint with a dolphin?  What do you mean, no?

13. Wynn Buffett

The best buffet in Las Vegas is at the Wynn Hotel and Casino.

The Wynn is our favorite hotel in Vegas, as it is classy, and beautiful, and makes us feel fancy.  Located a touch north of the other hotels, it is far enough out of the way to avoid needless crowds.  

The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas is consistently ranked atop the Vegas buffet hierarchy. After trying a handful of them we agree.  You might have to dig a little deeper to afford it – there are many cheaper options around town – but we think it’s worth it for the quality of the food.  The atmosphere is delightful so the whole experience is excellent and recommended.  

14. Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

The Bellagio is a gorgeous hotel with lots to see.  you can't miss the conservatory.

Whoever designs and executes these floral settings at the Bellagio are geniuses.  The conservatory is adjacent to the hotel lobby and boasts a 50’ high glass ceiling sculpted from copper.  Not that we need an excuse to spend some time in the Bellagio Hotel, but the entire gorgeous, 14,000 square foot botanical exhibit is free to visit.  The flower arrangements change with the season, so there’s a good chance it will be different every time you stop in.

The nearby Giardini Garden Store has some lavish and delicate gift ideas – we bought beautiful dragonfly Christmas ornaments. Don’t forget to check out the captivating chocolate fountains @ Bellagio Patisserie — it’s right around the corner.

15. The Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

Fabulous Las Vegas Sign.

In 1959, Betty Willis designed the iconic beacon for a local salesman.  Sixty years later you can hardly find a minute of the day where there isn’t someone lining up to take their photo with the sign.  

Located on the south end of the strip, a touch beyond Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort, the sign resides in the center median of Las Vegas Boulevard.  There is enough parking for ten or twenty cars.  Even when the line was long there was enough parking to go around.  There are some fine gentlemen who will help you get your perfect photo if you don’t know how to take a photo yourself.

Additional places to see:

  1. Hoover Dam
  2. High Roller
  3. Mob Museum
  4. Pinball hall of fame
  5. Mandalay Bay Pools

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