There are plenty of sure bets in Las Vegas that don’t involve risking next year's school fees or your retirement nest egg. Of course there are the lavish shows and over-the-top attractions attached to the casinos – many of these are required viewing – but Vegas is so much more.
The wow factor
The competitive one-upmanship that exists between the hotels, casinos and resorts has created a rolling continuum of ingenious, incredible and often kitschy sights. Dancing fountains, gondolas, Madame Tussauds, an Eiffel Tower, light-beam-emitting pyramid, sand-and-surf beach and multiple hotel-top thrill rides are just a sample – and obvious places to start.
Las Vegas is one of the most exciting foodie cities in the world and an organised tasting tour is a great way to sample some of the highlights. Savors of the Strip is a three-hour culinary walking tour that takes in five restaurants and six signature dishes, while Afternoon Culinary Adventure is a similar experience that leaves your evening free for adventure.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Drive a Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini and other high-performance supercars with Exotics Racing or get behind the wheel of a 600HP NASCAR race car or American muscle car at Richard Petty Driving Experience, just 15 minutes north of the Strip.
Going to the chapel
Tie the knot or renew your vows at one of the dozens of the faux-romantic wedding chapels, including the one that started the whole Elvis wedding phenomenon, Graceland Wedding Chapel. If you’re lonesome tonight, try one of their Elvis packages, like ‘Loving You’, featuring a walk down the aisle with the King and three songs.
This is an offer you can’t refuse. Join the line-up for a mugshot selfie, take the blood oath and learn the vernacular, which includes more than 20 words for "kill". Exhibits include a section of the actual bullet-strewn wall from the St Valentine’s Day massacre plus artefacts, photos, videos, documents and dioramas that lay out the whole fascinating saga, from Sicily to Hollywood.
Grand Canyon (and beyond)
You can explore perhaps the greatest natural wonder on the planet by helicopter, light plane, coach, self-drive, on the water, on foot or a combination of these. The ancient canyon’ sheer immensity - 446 kilometres long, up to 29 kilometres wide and 1.6 kilometres deep – will overwhelm your senses.
Your canyon excursion should also take in the 221-metre-tall curved wall of Hoover Dam. But even further afield lie day-trip possibilities such as Lake Mead, Red Rock Canyon, the blazing red sandstone and rock art at the Valley of Fire State Park, iconic Death Valley and the colourful rock formations, waterfalls, conifer forests and wildflowers of Zion National Park.
Fremont Street Experience
The Fremont Street Experience in Downtown is a buzzing, five block pedestrian mall. The main precinct sits beneath a 27-metre high barrel vaulted ceiling where the premier attractions are the Slotzilla zipline (see our Active section) and the nightly 12 million LED light, 550,000-watt sound system Viva Vision show. An exploration of historic Fremont Street’s new hip persona and an around-the-world stroll of the Strip are just two of the alternative tours offered by the eponymous company, Las Vegas Pop Culture Tours.
Getting around Las Vegas is a breeze. McCarran International Airport is just minutes away and most of the good stuff is centred on the Strip and Downtown, linked by Las Vegas Boulevard. Buses are regular and reliable, the Strip has a monorail and many hotels operate shuttles. Hiring a stretch limo is a very Vegas thing to do or you can take a flight over the lights with Vegas Nights Helicopter Tours.