What Happens in Vegas… Is a Whole Lot

The number of attractions and things to do in Las Vegas is more than could fit in one article. From world-class dining to thrill-seeking rides to star-studded entertainment, the city truly has something for everyone—and all budgets. While most people associate a trip to Vegas with action on the Strip, the downtown and surrounding areas offer activities outside of the glamorous shows and gambling. Here are some top attractions in all three areas that will ensure what happens in Vegas… you share with all your friends:
 
The Strip
The lights… the sounds… the chance to win (or more likely lose) big money  at the opulent casinos. The Strip is classic Las Vegas with its grouping of mega-hotels housing everything from Celine Dion to entire ecosystems. With a nearly overwhelming number of things to do, here are some selections that will help you appreciate Vegas while not draining your wallet as fast as a blackjack table.
  • Cirque Du Soleil. Las Vegas became Cirque’s unofficial home after it opened eight shows at the various hotels. Featuring extremely flexible performers contort in mind-bending ways, Cirque de Soleil comes in a spectrum of themes (and levels of risqué), from a Beatles-themed “Love” to the nearly-bearing-it-all “Zumanity.” From $69. www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/destinations/las-vegas/
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  • Rides on The Stratosphere. For Annual Meeting attendees looking to get their adrenaline pumping, three vertigo-inducing rides sit atop the 800-foot Stratosphere Hotel on the north end of the Strip. X-Scream is a giant teeter-totter that propels riders over the edge of the building. Big Shot propels people 160 feet straight up for a magnificent 1,000-foot view of the Strip. And Insanity, the Ride, takes the idea of the carnival-favorite scrambler to a new extreme, spinning riders off the edge of the building. Sightseers can enjoy the view from the top without rides, as well. Tower Admission: $18 adult. Rides: $15 each, $34 tower admission plus all-day unlimited Rides, $33 tower admission plus three rides, $28 tower admission plus two rides, $23 tower admission plus one ride. www.stratospherehotel.com/Tower
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  • Sights outside hotels. Even if the prospect of walking around Las
    The Paris Las Vegas Hotel
    Vegas in the August heat doesn’t seem particularly appealing, visitors might want to check out the free shows in front of several hotels. The volcano in front of The Mirage erupts every hour. The Bellagio’s 8.5-acre lake rockets jets of water 460 feet up, choreographed to Sinatra classics, every half-hour between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and every 15 minutes from then to midnight. Fans of replicated landmarks will want to stop by the half-scale Eiffel Tower in front of Paris Las Vegas. Free to look, $11.50 to go up.
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  • Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. Have you seen the famous photograph of wild-eyed children with their families walking through a giant underwater glass tube surrounded by sharks? You could be those people. $16. www.mandalaybay.com/shark-reef/
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  • Various museums. Unsurprisingly, Vegas is home to several Vegas-centric museums. Even though the Liberace Museum is on indefinite hiatus, Annual Meeting attendees can still visit The Mob Museum (themobmuseum.org), the Auto Collections at The Quad (www.thequadlv.com/shows/the-auto-collections.html) and hold one-way conversations with their favorite celebrities at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (www.madametussauds.com).
Downtown
For a glimpse of Las Vegas before all the glitz and glam, spend some time downtown a couple miles north of the Strip. Care to gamble? You might want to check out the downtown casinos, as they’re known for lower table limits and better odds than hotels on the Strip.
  • Fremont Street Experience. Five blocks of Fremont are covered with a mammoth canopy where visitors to the pedestrian mall can watch neon vignettes. And if watching the world’s biggest screen isn’t enough, the newly installed zip lines running down the street should be operating. www.vegasexperience.com
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  • Golden Nugget. For gambling, regular variety acts and a front-row seat to Fremont Street, check out the Golden Nugget. As a nod to the city’s mining roots, patrons can see some of the world’s largest golden nuggets. www.goldennugget.com/lasvegas/ 
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  • Bonanza Gifts. On the southern edge of downtown, Bonanza Gifts, dubbed “the world’s largest gift shop,” provides more tchotchkes than you could shake a rainstick at. Whoever thought that fuzzy dice come in more than 200 varieties? www.worldslargestgiftshop.com
 
Surrounding area
While nature lovers might not enjoy Las Vegas’ manufactured outdoor options, they can find plenty to do just outside the city and enjoy the arid beauty of the desert.
​Red Rock Canyon
  • Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. The park’s geologic features, plants and animals represent some of the best examples of the Mojave Desert. The area features a 13-mile scenic drive, more than 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas and nature observing. www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/lvfo/blm_programs/blm_special_areas/red_rock_nca.html
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  • Kayak the Colorado River. Should you ford the river or caulk the wagon and float it across? Relive all your Oregon Trail memories, but this time in real life and with modern amenities. Enjoy the wildlife of the Mojave while floating along. From $129. www.kayaklasvegas.com
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  • Dig This. Still technically an outdoor activity, Dig This allows our inner sandbox-loving 5-year-olds to come out and play, putting visitors in control of real construction equipment. Strap yourself into a backhoe and play in the dirt for an afternoon. From $249. www.digthisvegas.com
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General websites
Plan your own Las Vegas experience with these visitors sites.
  • www.lasvegas.com – The official site for Las Vegas. Search and book various tours, attractions and dining options.  
  • www.vegas.com – The official Vegas travel site, so it may not be as useful to AANA guests already in the city, but it still lists all the shows and goings-on in Vegas. It also lists some shows on sale.
  • www.goldstar.com/las-vegas – Find deals—often up to half off—on some of the popular shows in town.