Heading east on I-15, you strike out from Los Angeles. Past Barstow, a seemingly endless desert. Crossing the Nevada state line you wonder if the sand and cacti will ever end. Then it happens. First a twinkle in the distance. A shining spot on the horizon as Las Vegas appears like a mirage. You see bright lights on the strip as someone plays a Tom Jones album two cars over. Your mind fills with images of Sinatra hanging with the Rat Pack, or maybe De Niro casually drawing a smoke at the end of the bar as he waits for Don Rickles to arrive. These are the indelible images of a town simply called Vegas. What are the top-10 things to do in “Sin City” you ask? Well not to worry because we’ve got you covered.
Las Vegas is a town with something for everyone. Amazing natural landscapes in Red Rock Canyon. Monumental engineering at the Hoover Dam. How about big name stars performing nightly in Las Vegas shows? And of course, the glitz and glamor of the world’s swankiest casinos. Are you ready to let it all ride? We’re going to double-down and place our bets that you’ll find each of these sights every bit as memorable as we did. Here are the top-10 Las Vegas attractions for 2019.
1. Las Vegas Strip
South Las Vegas Boulevard, known locally as The Strip, is a roughly 7 km thoroughfare and where you’ll find all the best casinos and entertainment in Las Vegas. Everyone is going to spend at least some time along the Strip. Where you start will likely depend on where you’re staying; but if you want to see where it begins, head for the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign” near the Bali Hai Golf Club. The iconic sign is a throwback to the classic freeway marker that long heralded one’s arrival in Las Vegas. Past the sign and things really get going. Casinos line both sides of the boulevard as you head north. Snap some photos of the Luxor Pyramid and maybe check out Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. Afterwards make for the Statue of Liberty at New York-New York and ride the roller coaster. ARIA has luxury shopping or you can visit the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas. Across the Strip are the famed Fountains of Bellagio, which dazzle onlookers with their synchronized ballet and powerful jets. Follow the Strip towards the Venetian where you can float in a gondola through the canals and marvel at the luxuries in the Palazzo. The buffet at the Wynn is top-notch and neighboring Encore is a great spot to game. Yep, it’s hard to go wrong on the Strip so enjoy yourself and watch out for cars.
2. Fremont Street Experience
Las Vegas Boulevard is the epicenter of modern Las Vegas; however, this wasn’t always the case. During its heyday, Downtown Las Vegas was where the action happened. Today, you kind still experience this legacy at the Fremont Street Experience. Once known as Glitter Gulch, this is where classic casinos like the Golden Nugget and the Horseshoe resided. Following extensive redevelopment, Fremont Street is now a popular performance and entertainment venue. Under a barrel vault canopy, visitors can take a ride on the zip line or hunt for souvenirs. Plenty of bars and restaurants are serving up food and drinks all hours day and night. Classic facades from old casinos have been preserved along with the copious amounts of neon lighting, harkening back to those glory days in the 1970s. Concert stages along the pedestrian mall provide live music and the entire canopy overhead becomes a gigantic projection screen with rolling visual displays. After dark the energy picks up and Fremont comes alive. This is where you will want to wander after getting your fill up on the Strip. The pedestrian areas free from vehicular traffic are a welcome reprieve. There’s certainly much to enjoy at the Fremont Street Experience, which is why it’s one of the best Las Vegas attractions.
3. Red Rock Canyon
Okay let’s face it. There’s only so much time you can spend in a casino listening to the monotonous chirping of slot machines and the thump-thump of people shuffling poker chips. Luckily, Las Vegas is smack in the middle of some of the most incredible natural landscapes in the entire United States. Failing explore these is borderline criminal. You don’t even have to go far to see some stunning scenery. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is only about 24 km west of the city, easily reachable by car or one of the tour providers in town. The park features bicycling and hiking trails, in addition to the 21 km one-way loop road that winds through the park and past stunning vistas. The rock formations throughout the park are part of a large sandstone formation. Over millions of years, large rock lections have turned red due to the oxidation of iron minerals and other deposits found in the stone. Some of the best examples are located in and around the Calico Hill area. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy rock climbing and bouldering routes at various spots in the park. There are also myriad trails and guided hiking tours. Do yourself a favor and make the trip out to Red Rock Canyon. You’ll agree this is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas.
4. Hoover Dam
When it comes to engineering marvels, few are as well-known and beloved as Hoover Dam. Situated along the Colorado River a mere 50 km from downtown Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region. Constructed in the early 1930s during the depths of the Great Depression, Hoover Dam is an elegant structural marvel. Visitors can tour the dam and learn about its history and importance as the prime source for the electricity that powers Las Vegas. The dam sits on the border between Nevada and Arizona. Curiously these two states are in different time zones. In winter when Nevada reverts back to Pacific Standard Time, the clocks on the dam’s twin intake towers show different times. The roads around the dam offer a series of lookout points where you can stop and take photos. In 2010, the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge opened to help divert vehicular traffic off of Hoover Dam. The bridge provides pedestrian access from where you can snap some of the best photos of the dam and surrounding canyons. Tour operators offer a variety of transportation and tour packages from Las Vegas out to Hoover Dam. These often include hotel pickup and drop off, making it quite convenient to see one of the best attractions around.
5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Lake Mead is an enormous reservoir directly upstream from Hoover Dam. It is in fact the largest reservoir in the United States by overall capacity. The lake itself and surrounding shore areas constitute the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Sport fishing is a highly popular activity with the waters here considered some of the best fishing grounds in the entire US. Largemouth bass, striped bass, crappie, rainbow trout, and more are prevalent. Boating tours and charter fishing tours are possible to arrange from Las Vegas. Various hiking trails snake through the hills and canyons around Lake Mead, attracting outdoor and rock climbing enthusiasts to the area. The contrast between the blue lake waters and surrounding desert scenery make for truly phenomenal pictures. After you’ve been bombarded by the sensory overload in Las Vegas, Lake Mead is the perfect place to recuperate in the dry air and magnificent desolation so characteristic of the American Southwest. Consider doing some kayaking or canoeing or spending a night on one of the so-called “floatels” or floating hotels. Hikers will enjoy the Railroad Tunnels Trail, which will take you through some of the abandoned railroad tunnels built when steam locomotives hauled freight to Los Angeles. Once you come out to explore Lake Mead, you will quickly recognize why this is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas.
6. Grand Canyon National Park
Further east up the Colorado River from Lake Mead is Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon needs no introduction. Known as one of the most spectacular erosion gullies in the world, the Grand Canyon is breathtaking. Standing on the canyon rim and seeing how the sunlight casts shadows along the rock, how vegetation seems to grow at all angles from impossibly small ledges, and how time itself appears to stand still, you can’t help but appreciate the enormity and majesty of the Grand Canyon. Tour operators are easy to find in Las Vegas. One thing to consider is that the canyon areas are large split into several sections. The national park itself is a roughly 4.5 hour drive from Las Vegas. Your best bet is to camp or stay there at least one night before returning. Be sure to see the park’s well-known scenic areas such as Mather Point and other spots around the Visitor Center. Collectively this section is known as the South Rim and you will want to verify with tour operators that they travel here. The West Rim Skywalk is not located in Grand Canyon National Park. Rather it is part of Grand Canyon West and operated by Hualapai Indian Tribe. Tours companies also arrange visits to this section of the canyon, so you can easily decide where you want to go and what you want to see. If you’re traveling to Las Vegas, find some time for the Grand Canyon, it’s easily one of the best things to do.
7. National Atomic Testing Museum
Back in Las Vegas proper, we’re headed for a curious museum that harkens back to when the United States tested nuclear weapons at the Nevada Test Site in the 1950s. The test range was so close, only 160 km away, that it was possible to see mushroom clouds in Las Vegas and to feel the seismic shocks created when the bombs detonated. The National Atomic Testing Museum documents the history of US nuclear testing in an effort to educate people on the legacy of nuclear deterrence and geo-political history. Visitors can learn about how the Nevada Test Site came to be, what sorts of nuclear tests were conducted there, and view a replica of the control room where the countdown for each test was conducted. In the museum theater, you can experience a simulated nuclear test to understand what it was like for the men and women tasked with carrying them out. There are exhibits on radiation tracking and monitoring as well as ones exploring how nuclear tests were eventually moved underground to contain and prevent atmospheric fallout. The National Atomic Testing Museum does a great job highlighting the history and legacy of US nuclear testing in the Nevada desert. It is a fun and educational attraction that definitely ranks among the best things to do in Las Vegas.
8. Bellagio Hotel and Casino
Along the Strip there is no shortage of things to see; however, you have to make a point to visit the famed Bellagio Hotel and Casino. There is where you will find the spectacular Fountains of Bellagio, a vast and choreographed water fountain set to light and music. At regular intervals throughout the day and into the night, the fountains send great jets of water skyward in magnificent arching displays as they sway and tilt in unison to a range of classic and contemporary music. Make sure to visit at night when the lights are easier to see and make for a more romantic feeling. Couples will pause in their walks along Las Vegas Boulevard to embrace during the performance as the soaring music and balletic water dance captivates onlookers. Afterwards head inside where you can explore the luxury shopping levels and massive gaming floor. The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens host a rotating display of flowers curated to celebrate major holidays and festivals throughout the year. Stop into the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art to see an impressive range of artwork on loan from museums around the world. Adding to the luxury in other parts of the hotel and casino, this impressive gallery is well worth a look. Among all the hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, the Bellagio is well-regarded and favored by gamers. Stopping here is a must.
9. The Mirage
North of Bellagio on Las Vegas Boulevard is the Mirage. With a range of entertainment, gaming, and dining, the Mirage is easily one of the best attractions on the Strip. A great thing to do is to see the casino’s famous Volcano. Erupting several times each night, this attraction is hot…literally! Fire shoots at various angles and is accompanied by a powerful soundtrack featuring legendary Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. Once you’re warmed up, head inside where you can see the acclaimed performance of The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil. If you’re feeling like you need a dip, make for the Mirage pool where you can relax, swim under the waterfalls, or just allow your worries to float away. At Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat you can get up close and personal with white tigers, bottlenose dolphins, and other exotic animals. This is something that’s fun for the whole family to do. Throughout the Mirage’s gaming floors you can enjoy fine dining and upscale shopping. The casino is popular and always lively. Come find out why the Mirage is so highly-rated and discover why this is one of the best things to do in Las Vegas.
10. Las Vegas Shows
Las Vegas is an entertainment town. Lounge acts have long been a staple affair with the likes of Tom Jones, Celine Dion, the Rat Pack, and Liberace all performing here at one time or another. As casinos have improved their entertainment options and incorporated the latest in digital projection technology, lighting, and sound effects, Vegas shows have become enormous visual spectacles that will leave you simply in awe. In 2019, headline performers include Cher, Aerosmith, Lady Gaga, Rod Stewart, and more. Big touring acts will typically play a very limited run so plan ahead and see who will be in town when you arrive. There are also a number of Cirque du Soleil shows and other regular performances running at the different casino resorts. If you’ve never been to a Cirque performance, do you yourself a favor a book a ticket. This is amazing entertainment and one of the absolute best things to do in Las Vegas. Attending a Las Vegas Show is a fantastic way to spice up an already action-packed vacation. Performers tend to pull out all the stops to wow the crowds in Vegas. This is where entertainers dream to perform and where you will certainly get your money’s worth!
Las Vegas is America’s playground. Sin City has long captivated the imagination. Bright lights, the allure of fortune and glory, action and adventure…all of this and more is waiting for you. Come discover what makes Las Vegas such a popular destination. You will have much to choose from so we’ve helped narrow things down with this guide of the top-10 best things to do in Las Vegas for 2019. Don’t confine yourself just to the strip. There’s plenty to see beyond Las Vegas Boulevard. If you’re waiting to take that vacation and just aren’t sure want to do, give Las Vegas a try. You’ll be glad you did.