Last Updated on December 20, 2023

Once a gaming and entertainment Mecca for solely for adults, Las Vegas has grown up. Huge resorts, Broadway and production shows and big-name stars, and quality restaurants have replaced the aging hotel/casinos, specialty acts, and all-you-can-eat buffets.

For years Las Vegas was the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the United States with more than 6,000 residents moving in monthly, and the population grew from a little more than half of a million people in 1987 to 2.2 million people—and growing—today.

And, as the population continues to grow, so do the offerings for residents and visitors alike.  No longer a city just for those into gaming, Las Vegas today offers something for everyone, and you might want to check out these activities the next time you head our way.

1. The Neon Museum (aka The Boneyard)

Retired signs come to life during Brilliant at the Neon Museum. ©Neon Museum

What happens to those iconic neon signs once their lights permanently dim? They head to the Neon Museum, an organization that collects, preserves, and exhibits those signs because they are part of the history of Las Vegas. Like the buildings they once adorned, the signs are a view into the people who made them and made Las Vegas shine.

Check out this night helicopter ride with Neon Museum admission

The signs also present a look at how lighting technology has evolved since the 1930s. In 2018, the Neon Museum debuted Brilliant, a multi-media experience in which the signs come to life and take visitors on a tour of Vegas through the years.

If you are lucky enough to visit the museum before April 12, 2020, you can tour Lost Vegas, sculptural and digital installations by director Tim Burton in celebration of Mars Attacks (the director’s movie in which aliens attack gamblers, casino workers, and Tom Jones).

2. The Mob Museum

The Mob Museum. ©The Mob Museum

Las Vegas’s original U.S. Post Office and Federal Courthouse today serves as the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, a.k.a. The Mob Museum

Take this walking tour with Mob Museum admission

The Mob Museum offers visitors an interactive journey through the history of the mob from its early years to today by visiting everything from a distillery to the Kefauver Hearings to a firearm training simulator to a crime lab and more. The museum recently opened a speakeasy where visitors can “raise a glass to the past” while enjoying drinks and snacks of the era.

3. Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. ©Christine Cutler

Tired of the hustle and crowds on the Strip? Head to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area just 12 miles west of Las Vegas Boulevard (via Charleston Avenue).

There are some fun options for exploring Red Rock Canyon:

Part of the Southern Nevada Conservancy, Red Rock offers hikes, environmental education programs, outreach programs, artist-in-residence programs and more to help visitors discover, understand, appreciate, and enjoy the area. The 195,000-acre park features 26 numbered hiking trails, a 13-mile scenic drive, an interpretive center, camping, and more. 

4. Discovery Children’s Museum

Children explore the Youth Art Exhibit. ©The Discover Children’s Museum

If you happen to bring your children to Las Vegas, you’ll find a place just for them at the Discovery Children’s Museum. Nine-themed exhibition halls feature interactive exhibits, and the 5000-square foot exhibition gallery hosts traveling exhibits from other museums.

Permanent exhibits teach kids everything from the power of water to the benefits of an eco-friendly city to the challenges involved in creating video games.

The Summit, one of the museum’s most popular exhibits, is a 70-foot tower that spans three stories, has 12 levels, and features intellectual and physical exhibits throughout. The SCM proudly belongs to Museums for All program.

5. Springs Preserve

Fox at Springs Preserve. ©The Springs Preserve

Set in the middle of Las Vegas, the Springs Preserve offers 180 acres of adventures that include an eight-acre outdoor botanical garden. Located near an artesian spring that dried up almost 60 years ago, the Preserve’s land has remained virtually untouched. Today, it offers visitors a look at native plants and wildlife.

The Preserve offers hiking and biking trails (bike rentals are available), the Desert Tortoise Habitat, the Little Spring House, an archeological dig, and the Butterfly Habitat. There is even a restaurant, the Divine Cafe, where you can eat while enjoying views of the Strip and Springs property.

6. The Pinball Hall of Fame

Less than two miles from the bright lights and high-stakes games of the Las Vegas Strip, the machines ping and lights flash in the 10,000-square-foot Pinball Hall of Fame (PHoF).  You can spend a few hours playing everything from the classic pinball to arcade games like Mario Brothers.

Admission is free, but you’ll play 50 cents to one dollar to enjoy the games. The Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club has plans to move into an even larger space on the south end of the Strip.

7. Hoover Dam

View from Hoover Dam. ©Christine Cutler

It’s an oldie but a goodie. Located about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is the largest concrete dam in the United States. While its primary purposes are to provide power, flood control, and irrigation, the dam is a major sightseeing destination.

Book a mini tour of the Hoover Dam

Walk across the dam itself and cross from Nevada to Arizona in one step midway. Enjoy a view of the dam from the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the world’s tallest concrete arch bridge.

The most interesting experiences, however, are the Hoover Dam Tour and the Powerplant Tour, both of which include admission to the visitor center. The guided Dam Tour lasts one hour and includes visits through the passages below the dam, the powerplant, and interactive displays.

8. The High Roller

High Roller ©GetStencil

If you don’t have a fear of heights, check out the High Roller, the world’s tallest observation wheel. Offering 360-degree views of the Strip and the Las Vegas Valley, the high roller has 28 cabins and takes about 30 minutes to complete one revolution.

Enjoy more than just a spin above the city, too. In addition to customizable packages (Think birthday parties, family reunions, hen parties, and more.), you can enjoy the Happy Half Hour (Enjoy one rotation in a cabin complete with bartender and open bar); wedding (Get married high above the Strip); Yoga (Spend one hour calming your body and mind); Chocolate Experience (Experience a chocolate tasting with a chocolatier ambassador from Ethel M Chocolates); and more.

9. Boulder City

Originally home to the workers who built Hoover Dam, Boulder City preserves many of its Depression-area buildings, homes, and laws. Gambling is still not legal in Boulder City, but you can still find much to do.

Take a tour of Boulder City, Nelson Ghost Town, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and Seven Magic Mountains

Built in 1933, the Boulder Dam Hotel is listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places and is still a full-service hotel. There is a museum on the ground floor. Not far away is the Historic Boulder Theatre, home to the Boulder City Ballet Company and the annual Dam Short Film Festival. The historic town offers a variety of locally owned shops and cafes in a throw-back to the town’s origins.

Boulder City is full of outdoor activities that include fishing on Lake Mead, canoeing and kayaking through Black Canyon, and hiking the recreation areas that surround the town. Hemenway Park provides a quiet respite from all of the activity, and don’t be surprised if a desert bighorn sheep—Nevada’s state animal—snoozes a few feet from you.

10. The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden

Display at Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden. ©Christine Cutler

If you are staying on the Strip and want something to get away from the machines and games, make sure to visit the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Garden. Probably the most popular FREE attraction in Las Vegas, between 12,000 and 15,000 people stream through the huge conservatory daily to admire the displays and thousands of flowers, plants and trees.

The Bellagio has more than 120 horticulturalists that work 24 hours/day, 365 days/year to maintain the 14,000-square-foot conservatory. Believe it or not, they hand-water the more than 10,000 potted flowers and plants, pluck the wilted and dying blooms, and change the flowers out every two weeks.

They don’t throw out the old plants, by the way. The Bellagio recycles 90 percent of the plants by using them in other places and in other ways, including as mulch for the outdoor landscaping.

The conservatory is open 24 hours per day almost every day of the year except for five days between exhibits to give the staff time to do its magic.

11. Sports. Sports. Sports.

Aviators play at Las Vegas Ballpark. ©Mike Cutler

From soccer to baseball, basketball to Nascar, and hockey to football, sports have made Las Vegas a major league city. Take in a Las Vegas Aviators baseball game at the minor league team’s new stadium in Downtown Summerlin, or kick back and enjoy the Las Vegas Lights soccer games at Cashman Field downtown.

More into hoops? You can watch the Las Vegas Aces dunk their way to WNBA history or join the party at any number of tournaments in town throughout the year. Are you a speed junkie? Check out any number of Nascar, NHRA, dirt racing, and more at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Most people don’t realize that the NHL has been part of Las Vegas sports history since the LA Kings and New York Rangers played an exhibition game outside of Caesar’s Palace in 1991. In 2017, the Las Vegas Golden Knights held their inaugural season and went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. You can watch them at T-Mobile Arena.

And, coming in the fall, cheer for the Las Vegas Raiders as they kickoff in their new home in Allegiant Stadium, a 1.75 million-square-foot, state-of-the-art domed stadium west of the Las Vegas Strip.

Where to Stay in Vegas

There’s a hotel for just about any vibe you’re looking for in Las Vegas. Our managing editor Michael Kompanik recommends the Marriott Grand Chateau.

Check out the options for your dates below.

Booking.com

Is Vegas Worth Visiting?

Las Vegas may be internationally known for its gaming, nightlife, and entertainment, but there is much more to the city than meets the eye. There are activities and experiences to stimulate and satisfy, inspire and interest every member of the family.

Author

  • Christine Cutler

    Christine Cutler is a travel, non-fiction, and memoir writer; photographer, and editor whose work has appeared in various publications. In addition, she has taught Spanish, English, and memoir, grammar, and business writing. A dual Italian-American citizen, she spends as much time as she can exploring Italy.