This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2017. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.
Gambling, drinking, and partying have always been the major drawcards for Sin City.
Let’s face it – there’s no better place to consume sugar-laden cocktails from oversize plastic vessels and lose large sums of your hard-earned cash than in the casinos of The Strip.
Yes, it’s trashy and expensive. Here’s the thing, though: Even though I don’t really care for gambling and I’m not one to spend my evenings getting drunk at a noisy club, I still really like Vegas.
Somehow, the novelty of this crazy city has me coming back again and again, and with 3 visits to Vegas now under my belt, I’ve been able to discover some activities that are not casino related.
The following activities are fun, cheap (all under $20), and will fill those chunks of time during the day when Vegas isn’t looking so glitzy and glamorous like its evening persona. Here are 5 things to do in Vegas besides casinos!
Where to stay in Las Vegas:
Rob and I based our stay at The Palms, which is a hotel and casino about 5 minutes drive from The Strip. We used Airbnb to book a private condo in the Palms Place tower (which is like the hotel part of the complex), but you can also get a room there through online booking websites.
Our room had a balcony with the most phenomenal view! The lights of Vegas were spread out in front of us. Watching the sun set and the city light up at night was just amazing.
I also appreciated that this hotel was separated from the center of Vegas. I know most people will want to stay on The Strip, but seeing as I’m not really a party person, I found it nice to come back to this quiet hotel after a night out. Uber is super affordable in Vegas so we ended up getting a ride back to the hotel in the evenings.
Things to do in Las Vegas:
1. Neon Museum
I was fascinated by the retro signage found in the Neon Museum. This downtown gem has a collection of large-scale retired signage from past casinos and local businesses, many of which display the flashy neon lights that Vegas is so well known for.
Not all of the signs are in good condition, but some have been repaired to look like they did back in their heyday. The Neon Museum is a not-for-profit, so much of the money raised from ticket sales goes into repairing the signs to display in their open-air lot.
To visit the Neon Museum, you must book a 1-hour tour. There are daytime tours which are around $19 per adult, and evening tours which are slightly more expensive at around $26 per adult.
I ended up visiting the website fairly early in the morning, and was lucky to find 4 spots for my group on the 6PM tour (though I’d advise that you book the day before your tour if possible). This was the last daytime tour of the day, but as the sun set at 6:30PM, it ended up feeling like an evening tour anyway.
Sunset was the perfect time to be there as we got to experience the museum while the light was changing at dusk. Having some of the signs light up during our tour was absolutely perfect.
2. Botanical Cactus Garden
Succulents and cacti are my favourite type of plants. I absolutely love them (possibly because I have very little success in keeping indoor greenery alive, and succulents are the only plants that have lived past a few months in my apartment), so when I heard about the Botanical Cactus Garden in Vegas, I knew I had to check it out.
The garden had winding paths which took us through beds filled with succulent plants from all over the world. It was such a peaceful way to spend an afternoon in an otherwise hectic city.
The other great thing about this place is that the garden is right next to Ethel M Chocolates. This shop has a chocolate factory tour, chocolate tastings, a gift store, and a cafe. We may have gone a little overboard ordering a decadent hot chocolate and a large box of truffles. I regret nothing.
3. Pinball Hall of Fame
Now I’ve visited a few amazing arcades in my time, but the Pinball Hall of Fame stands out as the biggest and one of the best.
The machines are mostly from the golden era of arcade – the 1970s and 80s. The owner is a collector, and has added hand-written signage to some of the machines to let you know about their history.
Most of the collection is pinball machines, but there are also other arcade machines and games. I had a great time challenging my friends in air hockey – a table sport that my brother and I played to waste many hours of our childhood.
I found this attraction to be not particularly touristy, however, the official website says that the Pinball Hall of Fame moved to a new location on The Strip in 2021 which no doubt means that it’ll be more popular than it was when I visited. I’m sure it’s still lots of fun, though!
4. Hoover Dam
I know, I know – Hoover Dam is a fairly generic tourist attraction. Most of us would have seen it featured in National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation and thought that the guided tour looked rather lame.
I wasn’t expecting much from Hoover Dam, but to be honest, I actually thought it was pretty cool. The dam is huge, and when you stick your head out over the edge to look down at the water below, you feel the wind whip against your cheeks as it moves up the wall.
We didn’t do any of the tours or even the visitor center as it cost $10 per person to enter (the outrage!), so if you want to do Hoover Dam on the cheap, all you have to do is pay for parking (also $10) when you get there. If you’re actually interested in a tour and transport, you can book a Hoover Dam experience from Las Vegas.
5. Seven Magic Mountains
This art installation is situated just outside of the city, about 25 mins drive from The Strip. I found Seven Magic Mountains to be a perfect stop on our way between Vegas and Los Angeles. Alternatively you can see it on a California Desert tour from Las Vegas.
Seven Magic Mountains is a collection of giant, brightly painted rocks stacked into large columns. The rock towers are over 30 feet high and are positioned in the middle of the dry, barren landscape, making them stand out vibrantly against their backdrop.
As a huge fan of public installation art, I loved this spot. The area was fairly busy with Angeleno Instagrammers trying to get the perfect shot of themselves with the rock towers, but luckily it didn’t feel overcrowded. The desert had plenty of space for everyone.