The Best Things To Do In Las Vegas That Have Nothing To Do With Gambling
Take A Break is your ultimate guide to the perfect trips to recharge, rediscover yourself and your relationships and reengage with the world. We’ll cover shopping stops, great bars, restaurants worth your money, photo opportunities, memorable experiences and other important details you need before you book.
As the first-ever Las Vegas Grand Prix fast approaches, the global spotlight is on Sin City. The Formula One event is expected to attract more than 100,000 racing fans from around the world, with plans to keep them coming back year after year for at least the next decade.
The new annual event is part of the city’s continued foray into the sports world, which has seen the arrival of major NFL, NHL and WNBA franchises, and the proposed relocation of an MLB team. This rebranding of Vegas as a sports destination is sending a message to would-be visitors: The Gambling Capital of the World has so much more to offer beyond gambling.
Indeed, while I’ve enjoyed spending time at the blackjack tables during my six trips to the tourist hotspot, I find my favorite experiences tend to take place outside the casino floor.
To help you plan a non-gambling focused Vegas vacation, I’ve compiled some favorite restaurants, attractions and more highlights from Sin City.
Where To Stay
The hotel options in Las Vegas feel infinite. In fact, the city has about 150,000 hotel rooms.
My favorite hotel on the Strip is the Bellagio. It’s hard to beat the classic Vegas “Ocean’s Eleven” vibes, the epic flower displays, the Chihuly ceiling art and of course, the famous fountain show out front.
I’ve had the opportunity to stay at the Cosmopolitan, where you can also enjoy views of the fountain show from certain rooms (and, as I learned from my vacation workout, certain treadmills at the fitness center). Another highlight of this hotel is the food hall, which boasts culinary delights like Tekka Bar handrolls, Lardo sandwiches, and a unique take on street meat from David Chang at Bāng Bar by Momofuku.
If you’re looking to really splash out, the Wynn and Encore are many Vegas fans’ go-to spots for luxury ― there’s even a golf course on site. For something newer, the massive Resorts World property opened in 2021.
What To Eat
In addition to the classic all-you-can-eat casino buffets (shout out to the top-notch ones at the Wynn, Caesars Palace and Cosmopolitan), Las Vegas features an ever-changing lineup of glitzy and more casual restaurants. But there are also some mainstays.
Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge is an iconic diner that’s been around for more than 50 years. The neon lights and big trees scream over-the-top Vegas cheesiness in the best way, and the food is genuinely good.
On my last visit, I went to Retro by Voltaggio, a new concept from Michael Voltaggio and Bryan Voltaggio that’s dripping with nostalgia. Think SpaghettiOs, pot roast and playful decor straight out of the ’80s and ’90s. I also tried Martha Stewart’s restaurant, The Bedford, which transports you to her New York farmhouse, and I got a taste of NYC with brunch at Sadelle’s.
Earlier this year, my family scored a coveted reservation to Delilah, a buzzy lounge and supper club experience with live entertainment and a strict no-photo policy. For more casual sports bar vibes, I’ve also had a nice time at Flanker, which serves elevated game day food.
What To Drink
Of course, Vegas is famous for nightclubs like XS, Omnia and Marquee. But if you’re not the clubbing type, there are still tons of great places to grab a drink and enjoy a night out.
Sin City is home to many speakeasy-style bars, several of which are inside the Cosmopolitan. Ghost Donkey is located in the food hall, and specializes in tequila and mezcal, while The Barbershop Cuts & Cocktails is actually located behind a functioning barbershop.
My two favorite places for cocktails in Las Vegas are in the Arts District. Velveteen Rabbit has a cozy atmosphere with mismatched antique furniture and dim lighting, as well as a nice patio outside. Conveniently located across the street is ReBAR, which is a kitschy dive bar that doubles as a vintage store.
For those who prefer to engage in an activity while they drink, Flight Club offers its “Social Darts” experience with a modern take on traditional bar darts and lots of sharable bites to sample with your drinks.
What To Do
When you think of Las Vegas tourism, museums are probably not the first thing to come to mind, but there are some genuinely fun ones to explore.
The Punk Rock Museum just opened in April and offers guided tours led by some of the artists themselves. Grant Lawrence from The Smugglers and KJ Jansen from Chixdiggit shepherded my group through rooms of old posters, instruments, outfits and other memorabilia.
Like many Americans, I’m very interested in the British royals, so I loved the Princess Diana exhibit in the Shops at Crystals. The collection of her gowns, along with the miniature displays of more of her outfits, were particularly enjoyable. On my next trip, I’d like to see the Neon Museum and Mob Museum as well.
For a taste of old Vegas history, it’s interesting to venture over to Fremont Street and stroll around. Park on Fremont provides a nice oasis from the typical Vegas chaos with its cute butterfly-themed brunch in the garden.
Many tourists like to drive out into the desert to see the Seven Magic Mountains art installation or Hoover Dam. A closer photo opp would be the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign, or the indoor and outdoor gondola rides at the Venetian.
No Vegas visit is complete without seeing a show. Cirque du Soleil is always a classic, and I’ve had the chance to see Blue Man Group, plus concerts from Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift in the past.
With the opening of the massive new Sphere venue, we can probably expect some innovative new shows in the future. And of course there are the increasing numbers of sports teams and one-off events moving to the desert.
On a smaller scale, I had a blast at The Magician’s Study, an intimate magic show in a secret location that requires a special codeword to attend. I’d describe the experience as part magic and part comedy show.
Needless to say, you don’t have to spend hours on a casino floor to have an action-packed trip to Las Vegas.