Episode 5: A little mini-series on what to do in Las Vegas besides gambling – and there’s a lot!
To complete my little mini-series on non-gambling-related things to do in Las Vegas, I invite you come along with me on a short tour of eight places (plus a bonus!) that might fit in with your plans for a Vegas visit and perhaps provide a little break from the ruckus that can be found in the casinos and at The Strip. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
- Check out the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort at the north end of downtown. It is now a Nevada state park and is home to the oldest non-native building in Nevada. The old fort was built in 1855 by a group of 30 Mormons who were intending to use it as a waystation for Mormon settlers traveling from Salt Lake City to Southern California. They ended up abandoning the settlement in 1857 and over the next 50 years or so, it belonged to various landowners, including Helen Stewart, who made quite a name for herself for the kindness with which she treated the local natives. The ranch was eventually named Las Vegas (meaning “the meadows”) and includes artifacts recovered during the reconstruction of the fort walls and other out-buildings. Admission is only a dollar! Children under 12 are free.
- About 20 miles east, out in Boulder City, you can take a ride on the train at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. And yes, you, too, can ride in the cab of the train and pretend you’re the engineer! The ride is about 40 minutes long. Also on the museum grounds are a number of engines and train cars that are open to explore either before or after your train ride. The train runs on the weekends (closed in January). Click here to check out the website for times, location and ticket prices.
- To me, one of the more fascinating museums in Las Vegas is the Mob Museum. Maybe it’s our “glamorization” of the Mob via movies and such that made this place come alive for me or maybe it’s the true story of what the history of the Mob is in the States, but I found this museum to be well worth the time to visit. It’s a very comprehensive history and as such, one could probably spend an entire day if one were to read all the informational boards and look at every single exhibit. Plan on taking some time if you visit this museum so you can truly experience as much as it has to offer as possible. It’s interesting and well-displayed with interactive exhibits as well as a multitude of photos and “artifacts.” Click here for location, hours, ticket prices.
- Located at the north end of downtown Las Vegas, the Neon Museum is “dedicated to collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic and cultural enrichment.” The sign collection includes the Neon Museum visitors’ center located inside the former La Concha Motel lobby, the Neon Boneyard, and the Urban Gallery which is a section of Las Vegas Boulevard, between Sahara Avenue and Washington Avenue (which has been designated a National Scenic Byway) where neon signs from the past have been installed along the roadway. The Neon Boneyard tickets sell out during the busy tourist season so if you want to see this museum, either buy your tickets early or plan on visiting during the off-season. Click here for tickets, tour times, etc.
- Having grown up in the Fifties, a time of Cold War paranoia and atomic bomb testing near where I was born, this museum provided answers to questions I didn’t even realize I had, let alone knew enough to ask. Among other things, the exhibits explore how the first atomic bomb was made, how radiation is tracked, and the hows and whys of underground nuclear testing. The National Atomic Testing Museum just east of The Strip on Flamingo will take you to a world seemingly far away from Vegas into a world where atomic bombs existed and where we as kids were taught in school how to duck and cover in case of an atomic blast near our homes. Click here for location, hours, ticket prices (Note: I have no interest in pursuing a discussion on whether or not this kind of thing should take place on Planet Earth so please don’t attempt to start a conversation with me in your comments. Thank you – I appreciate this museum for providing the science and information behind a reality that we live with every day, and have lived with for many years, and I appreciate you, too, for reading my blog.)
- If old, I mean classic, cars are your thing, this collection bills itself as the World’s Largest and Finest Classic Car Showroom, and while I haven’t been all over the world to attest to the accuracy of that statement, I can tell you the collection is not to be missed if you enjoy a good classic car. The Auto Collections at the LINQ Hotel and Casino (formerly known as the Imperial Palace) is near the north end of The Strip; admission is free – such a deal – and is a welcome respite from the jangling noise of a casino gaming floor. There may not be a huge number of cars to see but what is there is worth a stop on your itinerary if you’re a classic car fan. Click here to see the cars currently on display. They even have cars for sale so you might be driving one home instead of flying back.
- The only place on this list that I haven’t actually been to yet, the Pinball Hall of Fame has always sounded like a place I’d like to visit so I’m including it here. It’s a relatively new museum, having opened in 2009, and all the machines belong to one member of the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club, Tim Arnold. It’s a non-profit organization and all funds above and beyond the operating costs go to local charities. (Sounds like a win-win to me.) All machines are available to play, as well as to look at, and include machines from the 1960s to the 1990s – the older games are just 25 cents to play and the newer ones are 50 cents. With over 200 games in the collection, including pinball and arcade games, one is certain to find something to put a quarter into and to have a good time playing – click here to see a list of all the machines available. If you go, play a game of Centipede for me 😀
- And one last little place to visit: a side trip to an old-time casino. If you’re looking for the longest operating casino in the country, it’s just a few miles east of downtown Las Vegas at Railroad Pass between Boulder City and Vegas. My grandparents, who lived in Boulder City, used to bring me here for lunch. Of course, it’s changed a lot since those days but for a long time, I think it was the only place one could get a decent meal. Don’t forget to visit the museum while you’re there!
+ a bonus for the adventuresome among us: Indoor skydiving! If jumping out of a plane doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps doing something that will give you the feel of freefall without a parachute attached to your back will be just the ticket you need for your next adventure. Try a little indoor skydiving! (I’ll warn you, though, it can be highly addicting and you might find yourself planning all your future vacations around where the next indoor wind tunnel is located so you can get your freefall fix!) Check out Vegas Indoor Skydiving to see what all the fun is about. (Disclaimer: I haven’t been to this location but I have been wind-tunneling and it truly can be addicting.)
I haven’t included Hoover Dam in my little mini-series because it’s on every tourist list of sites to see, along with gobs of information about it. By all means, go see the dam. Take a tour. Walk from Nevada to Arizona across the top of the dam. Walk up the access to the bypass bridge and read as many of the informational kiosks as you can possibly take in. Take a photograph of the dam from the bridge. Have someone else take your picture with the dam in the background. Check out how low the water currently is. Hoover Dam is an engineering feat not to be missed. But other tourist lists have already told you that; with this little mini-series, I wanted to give you information about places you might not come across on those other lists.
These are just a few of the places you can visit where you’ll get a breather from the glamor and glitz (and noise and smoke) of the Strip casinos; there are many more, including zip lines, real skydiving, red rock canyons, snow skiing in winter, and old time saloons in nearby old time mining towns with cheeseburgers and fries to die for. If you’ve never considered a trip to Las Vegas because you’re not a gambler, maybe this will give you ideas of things to do if you don’t even want to go near the Strip. Above all, have fun!
It’s always an adventure!