Top Las Vegas Attractions
A common misconception about Las Vegas is that it’s all about the gambling. It’s true you can gamble day and night at all the dozens of casinos, the airport, even the gas stations and supermarkets. However, the unique and exotic entertainment that Las Vegas offers goes well beyond the gambling. There is something here for just about everyone. I have been living in this town for almost 9 years, so here is a list of 10 of the most appealing attractions and shows worth checking out in Las Vegas in no particular order:
Cirque Du Soleil
Before I get into why Cirque Du Soleil is worth checking out, here is the name of each show and where they are playing:
“O” – The Bellagio
“KA” – MGM Grand
“Mystere” – Treasure Island
“Zumanity” – New York-New York, note that this show is part burlesque
“The Beatles LOVE” – The Mirage
“Michael Jackson ONE” – Mandalay Bay
Each Cirque Du Soleil show has some type of theme throughout it. Some of the themes are revealed in the title of the show. Regardless of what each show is about, you really can’t go wrong with seeing any one of them. They are all so mesmerizing and visually stunning that when you walk out you almost feel like you don’t really understand what you just saw. Throughout each show, there is so much constantly happening on the stage all at once. It is a massive blend of all kinds of circus stunts and tricks. There is music being played during the entirety of each show. At times because it is difficult to watch everything at the same time as there is so much to take in, you may find yourself watching one or two activities more specifically.
The cast of each show has several dozen performers and while some are a bit more featured than others, they are all spectacular. It is like nothing you have ever seen before. After they’re over you think about how you walk around every day and almost nobody is even remotely capable of pulling off even a small version of what some of the countless number of acrobatic and athletic stunts that you just saw. That’s what makes it so captivating. Your world goes from knowing nobody who can do these movements, and now suddenly everyone you were looking at could all do them, and none of the tricks were alike. The shows are original, unique, and essentially never take their foot off the gas start to finish. These shows give a most powerful experience. Its magnificence is unforgettable, while at the same time if you were to see one of these shows again, you would be surprised at how much you forgot. That’s how much brilliance is being performed simultaneously.
The Titanic Exhibit
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition can be found at The Luxor hotel. The movie “Titanic” from 1997 was one of the most smashing successful hits at the box office. If you were taken by the story of how this gigantic palatial ship sunk, you will certainly find the museum to be quite gripping. When the RMS Titanic sunk on April 15, 1912 it was to forever be known as one of the most tragic, yet amazing events in American history. The supposed unsinkable ship which went down in the Atlantic Ocean during its maiden voyage to New York and left many artifacts behind. It is remarkable to see we recovered as many objects from the wreckage as we did. You will see all kinds of kitchenware and luggage. Floor tiles and ship whistles, even a bottle of champagne that never was, nor will be opened. In a way the whole thing is horrifying. You feel your emotions stir as you try to grasp what the many victims aboard this ship went through.
As you tour the museum it’s designed to simulate like you are riding the ship yourself. You walk through carefully recreated rooms that were shared by the first class and third class passengers. The famous Grand Staircase has also been recreated. This gives you a better sense of how beautiful it all was. The accompanied classical music you hear throughout this part of the tour leaves you with a very eerie feeling. You remember that this excitement and beauty is what all the passengers were experiencing. But hearing the enjoyable music also reminds you that none of these people knew what was about to happen.
Throughout the tour there are quotes from those who survived and from those who sensed something was wrong before anything even went wrong. The bow that had the view of the oncoming iceberg has also been recreated. Getting to see what would make the ship’s demise from the same vantage point that the crew did just before collision also leaves you with a haunting feeling. You come across a complete list of all the crew members and passengers that survived and perished. You see who rode in each 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class.
Perhaps the most stunning part of the exhibit comes at the very end when you get to “The Big Piece.” Among all the many small items aboard the ship, only one piece of the actual ship has been hoisted from the ocean floor. In addition to being able to see this large piece, it is also shown where exactly it was located on the ship. After understanding that, it helps one to further understand how huge the Titanic was. The Big Piece is overwhelming to look at in person, yet the picture of it on the ship makes it into a dot.
You won’t find these artifacts anywhere else. It’s a bit ironic that artifacts from the most devastating and famous shipwreck are now on display in the middle of the dessert, nevertheless, the Titanic exhibit completely takes you away and provides you with an unforgettable, emotional close look at one of the most infamous nights in American history.
The Mob Museum
The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, more simply known as The Mob Museum opened recently in 2012. It is located in downtown Las Vegas right near Fremont Street, and is the most comprehensive mafia museum there is. It is one of the most fascinating places to visit, especially if you are a mafia buff.
Three stories high, I spent 3 hours in there during my first visit and it felt like I rushed. That’s how much history and artifacts they have gathered. There are tons of photos of many of the most notorious old time mobsters. There are many photos depicting what life was like during this time and other exhibits displaying the mob’s heavy control over prostitution, gambling, and drugs. There is also a specific wall with photos of all the actors that portrayed famous gangsters in movies or T.V. series. It almost feels like you’re inside a hall of fame, only it’s for the country’s most infamous. Many of the artifacts are hands on, making the experience seem all the more realistic. There are videos that cycle old anonymous interviews with former mobsters. The wire-tapping section, where visitors may listen to old recordings of gangsters discussing plans with one another is perhaps the most astonishing portion of the entire museum. No other segment allows you to come all but face to face with these charismatic yet ruthless criminals.
Las Vegas is definitely a fitting place to have such a museum, seeing as it was the mob that originally built Las Vegas, and presided over it for so many years. It is a bit unnerving to look at some of the dozens of the old photos of famous gangsters at the scene which they were killed. You see the actual corpses and their blood. It is an emotional museum to go through, looking at all the artifacts of old guns, quotes from gangsters and those trying to apprehend them. Even the blood-stained wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago remains intact and on display.
It is a great place to spend an afternoon if you’re looking to slow down the constant fast pace of Vegas and look closely at some of the brutality that used to occupy so much power in this country, and the constant uphill battle of those trying to fight it.
There are several mind numbering magicians in Vegas like Penn & Teller and Mac King just to name a couple, but none I feel can outdo the unbelievability of David Copperfield. Nothing to do with the fact he is also the most commercially successful magician, Copperfield is simply a genius. If you love magic and only have time to see one show, this needs to be it. Every one of his tricks could be the finale of another magician. You see a lot of magicians where you didn’t necessarily feel like you knew what the illusion was. Even if you really had no idea, just the fact that maybe you think you did is enough to take some of the excitement away. Well, that’s not likely to happen with Copperfield. It gives you the feeling like your reality has just been completely altered. You know what you saw just happen right in front of you. You know everyone else saw it. Except it makes no sense. You really don’t know what you just saw. I left the theater in a state of utter flabbergast.
With his dry humor and how fast he talks sometimes, he makes a spectacle of himself I have never seen before. You can really see how his intelligence is on another level incomprehensible to most people. His presentation is all business. There are no flashy show girls to serve aesthetically. The show doesn’t need anything to make it better. The illusions themselves carry the show all by itself. Even if you are somebody who is bored by magic, this show will befuddle you. It doesn’t matter that you never lose sight of the fact that what you just perceived wasn’t really there. This is more than just a magic show. It serves as a reminder that anything is possible. I can’t emphasize enough that this is a show you have to see if you can. It will blow your doors of reality and common logic completely off.
Not to bring anyone back to school while they’re in Vegas, but Real Bodies located only at Bally’s provides an incredible look at the human body and teaches us how the body works from the inside out. It isn’t science class. It’s an artistically creative presentation of our functional reality. They quite simply take something that is real (your body), and show it to you. The complicated part is the miraculous process of Polymer Preservation that is used to keep the bodies from decaying. Each gallery features real human bodies on display along with hundreds of organs. It’s the sort of thing you have to see for yourself to believe. The bodies are a bit shocking to look at, but I wouldn’t describe as graphic. Most of the bodies come from China, donated by those who wish to give themselves, literally, to science.
The bodies are displayed doing all kinds of different things like dancing or throwing a ball. This adds a lot of life to the exhibit as we see what the inside our body looks like as we do those kinds of activities. It is visually stunning, and the fact that the bodies are in unique poses adds so much more to the experience than if they were just standing upright. You get a close look at what your intestines look like and the respiratory system. A pair of healthy lungs can be seen along with those of a smoker. They even have a sample of what actual lung cancer looks like. The more you see, the deeper you understand just how deep the processes of your bodily functions go. When we walk around and feel normal, we remain aware of all the activities that are needed just for something as simple as that to happen. There is so much happening, and having this experience brings that awareness to light. It took me by surprise.
There are approximately 20 bodies inside the exhibit, and if you are somebody that has a passion for studying science and/or the human body, this will serve as one of the most memorable parts of your Vegas experience. Even if this isn’t something that particularly grabs you, it will once you come face to face with these preciously preserved and maintained human bodies. That’s what happened to me. This breakthrough is simply miraculous. Nothing else I’ve seen has provided me with such a close look at any and every part of the body, how it functions, and how it all makes us the species we are.
The Bellagio Fountains
They say it is the best free show in Vegas and for good reason. The fountain show takes place right on the strip directly in front of the main entrance to the hotel. It is only about 5 minutes long, and depending on the time of day, this show could run as frequently as every 15 or 30 minutes. There is always music being played in the background during each show. It is a wonderful sight to see the fountains shoot high, loud, and in unison, dancing together letting you know that you are definitely in Las Vegas. A simple 5 minute fountain show doesn’t sound like it should be that amazing to watch, but considering what you get out of those 5 minutes, you can’t help but stop and watch.
People are always hanging out on the strip in front of the hotel waiting for this little gift to take off. If you’re walking along the strip and are going past the Bellagio, you too ought to stop and take a look to see for yourself what this 5 minute craze is all about. There is something about it that is just very gripping and can give you chills. It is a lot of fun to watch day or night from any hotel room on the strip. It is relaxing and will bring joy to your heart. However long you are in town, making a point to see the Bellagio fountains will easily help you understand why they are so famous. And you’ll always look forward to watching them again when you come back.
Red Rock Canyon
I’ve met and seen a lot of people who couldn’t handle Vegas anymore after a certain point. They are having too crazy of a time. It is obviously their own fault and not Vegas’, but the point is if you’re coming to Vegas for a few days, it might be worth it to take a timeout one afternoon and go out to Red Rock Canyon. Once you get to Vegas, no matter what your intent is, to some extent the volume gets turned up all the way and doesn’t come down until you leave. That’s one benefit to going to Red Rock. You take some time to recharge and regroup, and feel fresher for when you go back to the strip. You might get more out of the remaining days on your trip than if you stayed there the whole time.
You obviously must leave the strip to go to Red Rock Canyon, but it is only 15 miles west. The red rocks and many different hikes there are beautiful. Of the many views there are, some of them you can easily see the entire strip. It’s amazing to be on these hikes and realize how close you are to all the madness you just came from.
Whether you live in Vegas or are just visiting, the relieving feeling of getting away is felt even more when you go to Red Rock because of what you are getting away from. Vegas is such a different place. It’s known for being so crazy yet has the total opposite place you can go to right nearby. Red Rock serves as the perfect complement to Vegas in that regard. You can turn the volume all the way up whenever you want, and then back all the way down.
You can come to Vegas and essentially get the best of both worlds by going as crazy as you need to on the strip (assuming you want to) and get out into peaceful nature. Or if you’re just looking to do everything on the strip except party, you will certainly enjoy Red Rock as an optimal vacation during your vacation.
If you are traveling with kids, or if you just like to go on mind twisting rides, head over to the Stratosphere. Located on the northern side of the strip, the Stratosphere is a fun place to be inside of. Before you think about the rides, the observation tower stands at 1,149 feet. That is good enough for tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States. Complete with a 360 degree view of the city, it’s an excellent view of a city that is remarkable to look at from any vantage point.
There are 4 rides you can go on. They are all short and sweet, providing exhilarating thrills from a perfectly safe optical illusion. First there is the Big Shot, which launches you straight up to a height of 1,049 feet and you feel weightless as the ride retreats before being launched again. The entire ride is only about 30 seconds and that could definitely sound like a waste, but there’s no other jolt quite like that one. Kids would certainly enjoy.
The Insanity ride holds you 68 feet out over the strip. You spin around in circles as the ride slowly tilts your seat forward so that you are looking straight down at the ground as you continue to spin.
The X Scream is the closest thing to a roller coaster. In the previous rides, you are safely strapped in familiarly to other roller coasters, but they are not cars lined up on a track. The X Scream has 4 cars lined up on a very short track that also functions as a lever. The lever goes up and down at abrupt and unpredictable intervals while the cars zoom back and forth on it and at times to make it look like you are about to zoom right off the track, off the Stratosphere, and straight into the ground.
Lastly, its most recent addition, the SkyJump. If you’ve ever wanted to safely jump off of a high rise building, now you have a chance. The SkyJump is known to provide a controlled free fall, in which the jumper travels down 855 feet up to 40 mph. The jumper rides a vertical zipline that starts from the 108th floor. The ride is estimated to take about 18 seconds I imagine it would feel quite longer than that.
Fremont Street Experience
It wouldn’t feel right going through a list of things to do in Las Vegas without mentioning the Fremont Street Experience, which could be had 24/7 in downtown Las Vegas. When you go downtown you’ll immediately notice the vibe has completely changed. Downtown just has a much rawer feeling to it. It’s not something you can really understand before you’ve done it. If you are staying on the strip that’s good. I think you’ll be able to take in the difference of downtown more by going there second.
Part of the rawness comes from the people watching. Vegas comes in all shapes and sizes. The wealthiest and most beautiful stand side by side with the most down and out. Vegas is very transient. Many homeless people pass through there, most which have some type of drug and/or gambling problem. A lot of them tend to gravitate towards downtown.
For some people the strip is too fake and glitzy. That too many people are stuck up and trying to be a spectacle. They would rather have the original and that’s what downtown is. Cheaper gambling and cheaper drinking. If you weigh 350lb. or more you can eat for free at the Heart Attack Grille. If you keep walking till you get out of the canopy you’ll reach Container Park, a recently built park that has all kinds of interesting places to have desert and each other munchies. It has a playground and kind of a boutique feeling to it as well.
The canopy stretches a distance over Fremont Street, and at night is the light show which goes on every hour. Also underneath the canopy you can zipline all the way down Fremont Street side by side with somebody else. Live music goes very often and you can always count on seeing some of the quirkiest street performers you’ve ever seen.
The Golden Nugget has renovated its facility and is looking extremely high class while still maintaining its old school character. Across the street from there is Binion’s, the place that made poker famous, which features the wall of all the champions to have captured The World Series of Poker Main Event title, along with every member inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
It’s a much different experience downtown. It has the loud carnival feel to it, while still giving off the same charm it’s always been known for.
If you continue past downtown and continue a relatively short distance up north, you will hit Speedway Blvd., which is the home to Exotics Racing. Up there you may select from a wide variety of top of the line luxury sports cars and let it rip on the track. Start to finish you get around 10 minutes of driving in, and you will be supervised with one of their staff members in the passenger seat.
The cars to choose from are Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Audi, Acura, Corvette, McLaren, Mercedes, and Nissan. Before you hit the road you take a short class on safety. Here you learn what the route of the track looks like, and you are briefed on what specific rules of the road you need to follow. It is certainly a good idea to pay attention to this. After the briefing is complete, you going around on the track first as the passenger. You do 2 laps around the course, and after that, the wheel is all yours. In case you are worried about racing around a danger track, it should be made clear that the track is very basic for amateurs. Part of the appeal is the fact you’ll be able to drive well upwards of 100mph. This would not only be too dangerous but it wouldn’t even satisfy one’s need for speed. If you remember that old racing game on PlayStation called Gran Turismo (the only version I ever played) the track you drive on is identical to the simplest course in the video game.
It’s a thrilling experience to drive such a beautiful fast piece of luxury. You are equipped with a helmet, and there are never that many cars on the track at once. Just make sure to listen to the instructor at all times and it’ll be a great rush.
Even though you have to go a way’s from the strip, getting to rip, or even just drive a super baller sports luxury car for a little bit fits right in with the beat of Las Vegas. A lot of people are already riding a high of some kind the moment they land in Vegas. There is an adrenaline pumping the whole time, and converting that adrenaline into a need for speed gives one an awesome euphoria.