Although shows, restaurants and shopping give gambling a serious run for its poker chips, it still draws its share of luck chasers and James Bond wannabes. From the penny slots almost anywhere to high-stakes poker in Bellagio’s Bobby’s Room ($20,000 minimum to play), there’s a game for every player.
Casinos on the Strip typically require higher minimum bets ($10 blackjack tables can be hard to find) than off-Strip gaming halls. While Vegas’ more than 100,000 slot machines may be fun, most just devour money. There’s often a low table or two, so wheelchair users can play.
Ways to save: Gamble downtown or at locals’ favorites, such as South Point, Ellis Island and various Station Casinos. Look for the penny slots to make your money last a bit longer. Use your players card every time you play to rack up freebies. Get free alcoholic beverages, water or soft drinks by hailing a cocktail server (and don’t forget to tip). Play on weekdays so you’ll pay less for table games and poker tournaments.
In this over-the-top party town, the fun is endless. Rev a Ferrari on a racetrack at Exotics Racing or ride with a pro via the NASCAR Racing Experience, both at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Watch sharks and other sea life glide by at the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay resort (those 65-plus save $2). Take a swing from a climate-controlled hitting bay at the four-story Topgolf entertainment venue. Or play Bob the Builder at the controls of a bulldozer or excavator at Dig This Las Vegas.
If you’re a nature lover, hike amid stunning rock formations in nearby Red Rock Canyon or among pinyon and ponderosa pines at Mount Charleston. Cruise Lake Mead on the Desert Princess, a Mississippi-style paddle wheeler, or tour the legendary Hoover Dam, about 30 miles southeast of the city.
Ways to save: Strip spectacles, such as the flower-filled Bellagio Conservatory, the Instagram-worthy Welcome to Las Vegas sign and the iconic Fountains of Bellagio, are free. So are downtown’s nightly light-and-music extravaganzas at the Fremont Street Experience.
First-timers are gobsmacked by the variety and quality of productions. Just try to spot a mistake in Cirque du Soleil’s half-dozen acrobatic spectacles, including its top-grossing O water extravaganza or its revamped The Beatles LOVE. Headliners have flocked to Vegas for residencies since the age of Elvis Presley, and nowadays these long-running shows include contemporary pop and country stars such as Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Shania Twain, Keith Urban and Usher as well as timeless performers like Cher, Reba McEntire, Lionel Richie and Rod Stewart. The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, the Park Theater (inside the Park MGM), T-Mobile Arena and Resorts World Theater are among the venues featuring top entertainers. Shows offer seating areas for the disabled; some have sign-language interpreters.
The acoustically impressive $150 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts, near downtown, hosts the local symphony, touring Broadway shows and other entertainment.
Vegas doesn’t have the Met (yet), but it does have a Smithsonian. Those fascinated by the area’s explosive history will appreciate the Smithsonian-affiliated National Atomic Testing Museum (62 and older save $4). Fans of The Godfather can take a trip through the history of organized crime in the U.S. at the Mob Museum (discounts for those 65 and older). Book a tour of the Neon Museum, a quirky graveyard for more than 200 vintage Vegas signs (with printed handouts for the hard of hearing). Springs Preserve, near downtown, features 180 acres of botanical gardens, museums, traveling exhibits and trails. Downtown’s Discovery Children’s Museum provides hours of fun and adventure for little ones. To peruse artistic masterpieces, head to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art or check out the hundreds of public art pieces inside and outside resorts across the Strip.
Shopaholics: Bring an empty suitcase (or two). If you can afford Gucci and Louis Vuitton, head to the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace and the Shops at Crystals in CityCenter. Or scour the moderately priced Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Bargain hunters make a beeline to Las Vegas North Premium Outlets to stock up on Armani, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana and other designer steals. Fans of TV’s Pawn Stars hit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop for antiques, silver and collectibles. Stores at the Downtown Container Park feature an array of local vendors and artisans.
Both the NFL and the NHL have found lifelong fans in Las Vegas. The 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium houses the Las Vegas Raiders football team, while the Las Vegas Golden Knights hockey team hits the ice at the T-Mobile Arena. Both arenas offer plenty of wheelchair-accessible seating. Score!