The Anti-Vegas VacationUSA MAINLAND — By Nicole Bassett on May 2, 2014 at 01:11
I (sort of) remember visiting Las Vegas as a college student. The glitz and glamour was all too welcoming for a kid who wasn’t even old enough to rent a car. When you’re full of energy and youthful exuberance, what better place to be?
Years later I returned to Sin City but things were different. The lights were too bright. The sounds too noisy. The streets too crowded. The excitement was still there but gone was my desire to bask in it. There was so much trouble to be had and I wanted no part of it. I felt old, boring and out of place. What would I do here? What am I doing here?
But then I discovered a whole different side to the city. If you look past all the noisy distractions, there’s a world full of culture, nature, knowledge and wildlife. Yes, wildlife.
So just because you’re not 22 anymore, don’t write off Las Vegas. You can enjoy a quiet, relaxing, frugal, sin-free vacation in Vegas and here’s five ways to get you started.
There’s more than just desert outside the city. The Hoover Dam is only an hour away and is complete with tours and a museum. Red Rock Canyon National Preservation Area is but a few miles from the Strip and offers hiking, climbing, mountain biking, picnicking and camping. See depictions of early man at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada’s oldest and largest state park. This barely scratches the surface though; there are dozens of more things to do outside.
Visit a Museum
The Mob Museum, located downtown, offers up an authentic look at how organized crime impacted the history of Las Vegas and beyond. Learn about American Indians and desert life at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History. Have a taste for the arts? Check out the Las Vegas Art Museum, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art or The Arts Factory. Or maybe you have a taste for something sweeter? The Ethel M. Chocolate Factory, the M&M Museum and the Coca-Cola Store will keep you satisfied. Check out this list of museums in Las Vegas for these and more.
See Some Wildlife
The massive hotels of the Strip are more than casinos and cheap buffets. The Flamingo has a wildlife habitat; Atlantis has an aquarium; Mandalay Bay has a shark reef. Go to MGM and see lions or head over to the Mirage for dolphins and the famous white tigers of Siegfried and Roy. The Silverton is home to more than 4,000 tropical fish and the Bellagio boasts a conservatory and botanical garden. Want to see wildlife in a more natural habitat? Check out the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge.
Play Some Poker
I know, I know. This is supposed to be the anti-Vegas Vegas vacation. But believe it or not, you can enjoy a relaxing game of cards without the Vegas feel. Venture just a couple blocks from the Strip and you’ll find low-key hotels with their own small casino. These typically have a laid back, unintimidating atmosphere with mostly low-wager tables, welcoming dealers and other inexperienced players who are looking to play just for the fun and not the money. Brush up on your poker skills with the tutorial hosted over at Betfair’s poker site and get a friendly game going with the rest of your travel party. Just make sure to keep it light.
Take in a Show
Blue Man Group and Cirque de Soleil are the two hottest shows in Las Vegas but the selection offers something for everyone. There are plays, musicals, comedy shows, tribute shows, magic and hypnosis shows, concerts and more. The show guide at Vegas.com is a good place to get started.
If you just look hard enough, we old folks can have our fun in Vegas too.