This article is published in partnership with Hotels.com, who asked us to share our experiences in Las Vegas to help you plan for future trips.
Las Vegas has been THE poster child for glitz and gambling for decades. One look at the Las Vegas Strip with its iconic lights (all 12 million of them!), world-renowned casinos and over-the-top architecture, and it’s easy to see why this city has attracted the rich, the famous, and the millions of visitors who aspire to be both. But the city offers more than just slot machines and crap tables on its main drag.
Venture farther afield and you can find luxurious accommodations with all the upscale amenities you want, but with a more relaxing vibe away from the hustle. And when it comes to things to do in Las Vegas off the Strip, there’s a wide range of options for every type of visitor.
12 Things to Do in Vegas Off the Strip…
FOR THE SPORTS LOVER:
1. T-Mobile Arena
Hockey fans will love the fact that Vegas has its own NHL team, the Golden Knights, giving those who are hockey-obsessed a great reason to visit the city. (Canadian visitors can enjoy the fact that the team even boasts 17 Canadian players in their 2021 roster.) Even in the heart of the Mojave desert, you can enjoy the best game on ice, just a few steps away from all the action of the Strip.
2. Allegiant Stadium
If NFL football is your sport of choice, you’ll definitely want to head to the newly-opened, state-of-the-art Allegiant Stadium, home to the Las Vegas Raiders. Amping up the experience ‘Vegas-style’, the stadium comes equipped with a translucent roof, retractable doors that offer spectacular views of the Strip, and the 85-foot tall Al Davis memorial torch – the largest 3D-printed object in the world. So Vegas!
3. New Circa Hotel
If you want to multitask and enjoy sports on the big screen while you’re swimming in one of Las Vegas’ most unique rooftop pools, check out the brand new Circa hotel on Fremont Street. The sports-focused hotel features Stadium Swim: 6 pools on three different levels, all with a perfect view of a 4-story tall, 143-foot wide, 14-million-pixel screen! After you’re good and wrinkly from having soaked up sports in the pool all day, check out Nevada’s longest indoor bar at the hotel’s 165-foot long Mega Bar (with 46 TVs broadcasting more sports – of course.)
FOR THE HIKER:
4. Red Rock Canyon
Las Vegas locals who love hiking will be the first to point you to Red Rock Canyon, Nevada’s first National Conservation Area, located 17 miles west of the Vegas Strip. A favourite park known for its 13-mile scenic drive, it is also home to more than two dozen hiking trails of all levels of difficulty. One of the easiest is a half-hour trail that takes you to Petroglyph Wall where you can see 800-year old rock art, or up the ante with the surprisingly green La Madre Spring trail, a 2 hour moderate hike where you’ll see pinyon pine (a scent I always associate with the Southwest), juniper and scrub oak trees.
5. Valley of Fire
About an hour or so from Vegas is Valley of Fire State Park, known for its striated, undulating red sandstone rock formations, eroded hollows and rock basins. Popular landmarks here include Elephant Rock (a somewhat emaciated-looking pachyderm, but you get the idea), Rainbow Vista, and the Fire Wave. Lesser known are the Fire Cave, a short hike from the Scenic Loop Road, and Pink Canyon, an unmarked trail sculpted into abstract shapes of soft pastel pinks that are less intense that some of the park’s reds. (In fact, Valley of Fire got its name in the 1920s because an AAA official who was travelling the road at sunset was so impressed by the vibrancy of the light on the red rocks that it looked like the area was on fire.)
TIP: Hiking in the desert comes with its own set of safety precautions, so be sure to educate yourself about when to go and what to bring by checking with each park’s website before heading out.
FOR THE THRILL-SEEKER:
6. The Strat
If your idea of risk-taking involves adventure, not gambling, and by adventure you mean thrill rides, you’ll want to head to the Strat, Las Vegas’ 1149-foot tall observation tower about 10 minutes off the Strip. It’s the tallest freestanding tower of its kind in the U.S. and for those afraid of heights, just taking the elevator up to the Skypod revolving restaurant may be enough of a challenge. True thrill-seekers will continue to the top levels where they can get their adrenaline rush on the Big Shot that launches riders 160 feet up the tower. Or there’s X-Scream, a roller coaster ride at height that shoots you 27 feet over the edge of the tower before slamming to a halt.
If that isn’t terrifying enough, there’s Insanity, a cantilevered arm that hangs out over the edge, spinning at 3Gs. But for the ultimate in high adventure, the Strat offers SkyJump, an open-air leap where you plummet 829 feet to the ground using a ‘controlled decelerator’. Think of it as a bungee jump with a brake. (A hard no for me!)
7. Mike O’Callahan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
Speaking of heights… many people may not know that there is a pedestrian walkway on this impressive arch bridge that spans the Colorado River 1500 feet downstream of the Hoover Dam. Completed in 2010, the bridge has the widest concrete arch in the western hemisphere, and is the second highest bridge in the U.S.
More importantly, the bridge offers the BEST bird’s-eye view of the Hoover Dam that you can get from its pedestrian sidewalk, provided you’re not afraid of heights, of course.
TIP: For details on how to access the bridge and its walkway, visit the Hoover Dam Traveler’s Guide.
FOR THE ARCHITECTURE AFICIONADO:
8. Hoover Dam
Once you’ve seen the Hoover Dam from the walkway on the bridge, you’ll want to know more about this engineering and architectural wonder by getting closer to it. Even though security has been ramped up considerably in the last decade, you can still visit the dam both outside and inside.
Outside, art and architecture enthusiasts will appreciate the modernist Art Deco style of the Intake Towers, as well as the 30-foot bronze Winged Figures of the Republic by Oskar Hansen that stand guard at the dam’s entrance.
Aesthetics aside, the main attraction is still the sloping wall of the Dam itself and looking down its vertigo-inducing concrete face is impressive, regardless of whether you are an artist, an engineer, or just a humble human.
TIP: It’s definitely worth taking a tour inside the Hoover Dam, if only to see the decorative details in the terrazzo floors like the Art Deco ‘star map’, and Native American-inspired designs reflecting Acoma bowls and Pima baskets. The tour also takes you to the generator room 600 feet below the road, where just hearing the thrum of those giant turbines will make you appreciate the power being produced here.
FOR THE ARTS & CULTURE VULTURE:
9. Neon Museum
Some people may argue that Las Vegas has no authentic culture of its own, but the very neon that gives Vegas its glitz has become an indisputable part of the city’s identity. Which is why it’s worth checking out the Neon Museum, a non-profit organization that collects, curates and refurbishes some of the city’s iconic neon signs. Some examples of these refurbished vintage pieces are installed as public art around the city as a free open-air open museum, but there is also the museum proper. Here you’ll find a couple of exhibition spaces, including the outdoor Neon Boneyard which houses more rescued signs. Love them or leave them, these neon pieces chronicle the story of Sin City since the 1930s and if that isn’t culture, what is?
TIP: Cameras and tripods aren’t allowed on regular tours of the Neon Boneyard, but photography enthusiasts can book a Photo Walk during which they are permitted to bring this equipment.
Note: Architecture lovers will also appreciate the Neon Museum Visitor Centre which is housed inside the mid-century modern lobby of the former La Concha Motel. The structure was saved from demolition and moved to the Museum in 2005.
10. Las Vegas Arts District
Some locals, never mind visitors, may not even be familiar with the Las Vegas Artist District, an 18-block neighbourhood south of downtown Las Vegas that in recent years has seen a cultural revitalization. Former rundown commercial buildings are now home to new galleries, antique shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes, and there are eclectic urban living spaces and luxury condos going up. This ‘18b’ Arts District is also where the First Friday monthly arts and culture festival takes place that celebrates local culture, creativity and community. This is definitely Las Vegas off the Strip, and a little off the beaten path, too.
11. Meow Wolf‘s Area 15
For those who might not be familiar with Meow Wolf, this is an arts and entertainment group that began in Santa Fe, developing immersive, interactive arts experiences for the community. Following its success there, Meow Wolf is expanding with the recent opening of Area 15 in Las Vegas, a new destination ten minutes off the Strip that is part art exhibit (Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience), part playground (VR, video and indoor games) and part boutique emporium. Anyone who has been to a Meow Wolf experience will say it’s unlike anything they’ve seen before.
FOR THE PENNY-PINCHER:
12. Fremont Street Experience
While the attractions and activities listed above will still cost you money to visit, there are a surprising number of free things to do in Las Vegas for non-gamblers too, and the Fremont Street Experience is definitely one that puts the FREE in Fremont. Located in what’s referred to as ‘old Vegas’ or ‘downtown Vegas’, Fremont Street is actually a street that has been converted into a covered pedestrian-only galleria. It’s one of the best places in Las Vegas to enjoy free live music and nightly sound and light shows on its overhead canopy, billed as the ‘world’s largest video screen’. And with a $32 million recent upgrade, these Viva Vision free shows are even better than ever.
Off the Beaten Strip Has Its Rewards
Las Vegas may be the ultimate playground for grownups, but it’s not only because of its casinos and creative cocktails. Look beyond Las Vegas Boulevard and you’ll discover plenty of other grownup diversions that ‘Las Vegas off the Strip’ offers, from beautiful desert parks to famous historical landmarks. None of which involves gambling.
But fair warning for the photography buff: bring lots of memory cards and batteries for your camera, because one thing you don’t want to risk is missing even one of the amazing photo opportunities that Las Vegas offers – off or on the Strip.
*Advisory: We acknowledge that this may not be the right time for travel for everyone. For those who are travelling at this time, follow all necessary protocols and regulations to help keep everyone safe: wear a mask, bring sanitizer and wash your hands often. Also check destinations and businesses for the latest updates on policies and closures. And be sure to book hotels that offer free cancellation in case you need to change your plans.