A Vegas Itinerary for the Anti-Vegas Visitor

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It’s sometimes hard for me to believe, but there are people out there who really don’t like Las Vegas. I know, shocking, right? I know people who won’t even try Las Vegas because of the perception they have about what Las Vegas is all about. They don’t like gambling, they don’t like drinking, they hate anything that is kitschy or tacky, so they are absolutely convinced they would hate everything about Las Vegas. In fact, I’m sure there are people who think I have a gambling problem because I keep returning year after year; they just can’t wrap their heads around the idea that Las Vegas offers so much more than gambling and other vices. Does this sound like someone you know?

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Even Las Vegas has its moments of serenity

It’s my belief that almost anyone can have a good time in Las Vegas, as long as they do their research ahead of time and plan their trip around activities they would enjoy in an environment of their choosing. I think people who come to Las Vegas and hate it just didn’t “do Las Vegas” in a way that would have worked for them. To prove that, I’d like to kick off a little game here with you. It’s called “Vegas for the Anti-Vegas Visitor”.

If you could convince a Vegas skeptic to spend 48 hours in Las Vegas, with the idea that their itinerary would focus on things that are the antithesis of what they think Las Vegas is all about, what activities, hotels, and restaurants would you recommend?

I’ll kick it off with a few items on my list for Day One:

  • So that they can see that they don’t even have to stay at a hotel with a casino, I’d recommend they stay at Vdara or the Signature at MGM Grand. (These are also non-smoking hotels, so they can’t complain about all the cigarette smoke, either.)
  • With all the excellent spas available in Las Vegas, I’d recommend they spend a morning at one of the nicer spas nearby or in their hotel. Or if they’re on a budget, they could laze around the pool all morning reading a good book.
  • After some upscale shopping in Caesars Forum Shops (or budget shopping at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets), I’d recommend afternoon tea in the Tea Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental. How could they possibly complain about such a civilized activity?
  • If that seems a little too “girlie,” I’d recommend a day exploring the desert outside the Vegas center, perhaps Death Valley or Red Rock Canyon.
  • Dinner reservations would be at a restaurant overlooking the Bellagio Fountains – Prime Steakhouse, Olives, or Picasso. What kind of a vacation would it be if they didn’t splurge just a little?
  • I’d suggest they round off their day with a performance at the new Smith Center, or perhaps one of the Cirque shows.

Okay, Vegas experts. Now it’s your turn: What Las Vegas hotels, restaurants and activities would you recommend for the anti-Vegas visitor?

20 thoughts on “A Vegas Itinerary for the Anti-Vegas Visitor

  1. Nate

    Totally agree with you – Vegas really does have something for just about everyone. One of the most common complaints I hear from people is that they think Vegas has no real excitement if you don’t like gambling or nightclubs. For those people, I’d recommend a trip to the Stratosphere for all the near-death experiences they could possibly want. Especially the SkyJump, an 850-foot freefall that makes the Fremont Zip Line look like a merry-go-round. (I swore to myself that I would try this during my last trip, but chickened out at the last minute and just did the Indoor Skydiving instead. Maybe next time.)

    Or if they’d rather not risk their lives just for some excitement, a good friend of mine swears by the Vegas Supercar Tours. For a nominal fee, you get the keys to a Ferrari, Lamborghini, and a Bentley, driving all three on a round-trip tour through Red Rock Canyon or Hoover Dam. If the speed and the sound of the engine doesn’t get your adrenaline going, the fact that you’re financially responsible for a $300,000 piece of equipment almost certainly will.

    For those who want excitement but don’t want to risk life, limb, and/or financial security, they can ride roller coasters at both New York New York and Circus Circus, or do the aforementioned Indoor Skydiving, or (if they can wait until May and have plenty of cash to burn) they can tag along with astronauts for Zero-G training inside a Boeing 727.

    Point being, there’s always something to do in Vegas besides drinking and gambling.

  2. Hetz

    I’d also suggest a tour of the Bellagio Art Gallery which currently is hosting a collection by Claude Monet. Another terrific outdoor spot is the Springs Preserve just west of town. They have something for just about everyone.

  3. Gray

    Nate, you crack me up! You’re absolutely right–there’s a lot of adrenaline-rushing activities in Las Vegas that have nothing to do with gambling, drinking, or nightclubs. But yes, quite a few death-defying ones.

    Also nice ideas, Hetz. How could anyone sneer at Monet? I keep wanting to check out Springs Preserve. Maybe next trip!

  4. Craig H

    As a Vegas veteran of many years I am constantly being asked for itinerary ideas by people I know or even their co-workers and friends.

    Depending on the time of year, you could go hiking or skiing in any number of places just outside the city. Mount Charleston (official name: Charleston Peak) area is nice to have a look around also.
    There is even a year round ice skating facility – Las Vegas Ice Center, for those that are into that sort of thing. Skate Rental is only $9 for adults.
    I imagine that place is packed in July and August when temps are hitting 115 F. 🙂
    Hoover Dam isn’t far though the traffic can be insane sometimes.
    Grand Canyon tours are available for those that want to spend a full day doing something like that.
    There are gun ranges for people that want to try their hand at shooting off some rounds.
    I always take time during my own trips to just take a stroll through the lobby of some of my favourite resorts. I always visit the Bellagio Conservatory a few times too.
    Both Miracle Mile Shops and The Forum Shops have great restaurants at reasonable prices which are great for anyone.

    The suggestions made by the other posters are all great ideas too.

  5. Gray

    Great ideas, too, Craig! I think people underestimate how outdoorsy the Las Vegas region is. Thanks for adding to the suggestions.

  6. Abby

    I love this! I hear all the time “I don’t like Vegas.” I always think to myself, “then you must not be any fun!” I understand if a weekend in Vegas isn’t how you’d choose to spend a vacation over say a beach or something. But if you go, you always have FUN! For me, I always hear from people who think (rightly so, judging from the Vegas commercials) that the Strip is only nightlife and gambling. Like you say here, there are spas, shows and five-star dining!! This place is heaven for foodies or show geeks; I count myself as both!

  7. JoAnn

    As I was reading this the first three things that popped in my head were Hoover Dam, roller coasters and Cirque shows. As I continued reading, these were already mentioned (great minds think alike).

    Some other suggesions are Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, Freemont Street Experience, Neon Sign Museum, Auto Collections and ascending the Eiffel Tower without leaving the country.

  8. Gray

    You got it, Abby! When I think of the fine dining alone in Las Vegas, I think “I can’t imagine any foodie not wanting to come here.” The number of excellent restaurants is just amazing.

    Ooh, JoAnn, I forgot about that one–the auto collection at Imperial Palace is a great choice for car lovers! I don’t know a lot about cars, but even I loved being able to see all those old cars in such mint condition.

  9. Sere

    Haha Gray you are going to cringe and hate me but I am one of those dislikers of Vegas because I don’t gamble or really drink all that much. I have been out to Vegas once and actually regretted not actually getting out of the city for anything. So I love that you(and your other readers) have come up with these ideas. I had heard about the Vegas Supercar Tours and would LOVE to do that! Next time I head out that direction I will have to check out some of these ideas. Death Valley, Hoover Dam, and Valley of Fire all sound fascinating. I would love to be able to meet up with everybody over Labor Day this year, but I have too many other travel commitments this year so I can’t. But I hope you keep doing it and one year I will make it out there :). Thanks for the information!

  10. Cella

    My first thoughts were Lawry’s, the Pinball Museum and the Bellagio Conservatory. I, personally, enjoy just riding around on the LV Monorail.

  11. Gray

    LOL, at least you’ll admit it, Sere. But see, now you know: There IS more to Las Vegas than drinking, gambling, and clubbing. I hope you can make it to the meetup one of these years!

  12. Cheryl Stoy

    My Vegas Top 15 (Non-Gambling)

    1. Prior to leaving, I always check out what trade shows are in town and if they are open to the public. A lot are and alot of them are free. I have gotten more free goodies and great food than I can even remember at thees things. I have caught a coffee and tea show, a specialty foods show, a sci fi show and a lingerie show for examples.

    2. Grab a sandwich and something to drink at Battista’s Hole in the Wall (old Rat Pack fave that’s still operating and still good) and then head over and park your carcass at the Bellagio Fountains. Watch the exquisite show and then just sit and people watch…priceless.Check for show times before leaving

    3. Now head into The Bellagio and hit the Conservatory…beautiful!

    4.Try the Arts Factory downtown, especially for the First Fridays that begin in April ( the city provides free trolley service around the arts district and the Fremont Experience). It’s free to explore the galleries, local artists selling their stuff, street vendors, lots of live bands, out door exhibitions and the best Vegas Food Trucks!

    Some vendors are cash only so make sure you have funds! (there are ATM’s but I’m not sure about the fees) The Bistro Bar in the Factroy is usually packed but if you can get in its worth it. Check the website for more details.

    5. Check out the downtown “Fremont Street Experience” where there is usually something free or cheap happeing in the mall plaza depending on when you go…outdoor BBQ, casino performer auditions, bands etc…and you catch the free laser show at night.

    6.Hoover Dam…worth the entry fee and the traffic…see if you can find a reasonable tour and not drive. There’s also the Grand Canyon trips but I don’t do helicopters.

    7. See a classic Vegas show…plenty to choose from. Check before you leave home to see which celebrities and groups will be performing in Vegas while you are there.

    8. Buy a ticket and ride the monorail. Then hit the “Miracle Mile Mall” attached to Planet Hollywood but DO NOT EAT AT PLANET HOLLYWOOD! Eat at the Cantina or another spot or grab a hotdog from Pinks (import of the classic hot dog place in LA.)

    9. Hit up Caesar’s and browse the Forum shops and watch the classic fountain gods performance. Hit up Cleopatra’s Barge for a relaxing drink. At night it gets packed so be forewarned!

    10. Party like a rock star at HardRock-hang at the bar and don’t worry about its clubs…great place to hangout and people watch.

    11. If you aren’t from southern California, then make sure you do In-And-Out Burger and Albertos Tacos before you leave.

    12. Eat at the Venetian if you can….Noodle Asia & I forget the Dim Sum place’s name. Double Helix Wine & Whiskey Bar…great small plates. Cafe Presse for java and good pastries. Do a gondola ride, browse the fancy stores.

    13. Wherever you are staying check out the pool & gym.

    14.And definitely check out the free lounge show or 2…some are so bad there good and some have a heck of lot of talent happening.

    15.Catch the free “The Show in the Sky” at Rio’s Masquerade Village. Check for show times before leaving.

  13. Gray

    Wow, Cheryl, there are some great ideas, here. It has never for even a nanosecond entered my mind to check to see what trade shows are free and open to the public while I’m in Vegas. I’m doing that next time! Thanks for taking the time to share all this!

  14. Jason

    Check out the animals! There are great exhibits at places like Mandalay, the Mirage, and the Flamingo, among others.

  15. JoAnna

    Another great suggestion for a non-gaming hotel is Trump, which is super classy and set off from the Strip just a bit but close enough if you want to walk or take a taxi. Some other off-the-Strip ideas are visiting Ethel M’s chocolate factory, heading down to the Hoover Dam, exploring Valley of Fire and renting some form of watercraft to toodle around Lake Mead.

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