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The Urbanist’s Las Vegas: What to Do

The Spectacle Spectrum
Lion-training, yoga with dolphins, and other completely over-the-top, only-in-Vegas experiences.


Rock out to ’80s hair-metal videos, “spun” by VJs, at the Bourbon Room in the Venetian. No cover;

Order a grilled cheese at the mirrored-to-the-hilt, acid-trippy Peppermill diner. 2985 S. Las Vegas Blvd.;

Play 18 holes of KISS-themed Monster Mini Golf. $12;

Go souvenir hunting at Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, star of Pawn Stars. 713 S. Las Vegas Blvd.;

Sip a cocktail onboard Cleopatra’s Barge, a floating bar inside Caesars Palace. No cover;

See “Jubilee,” the showgirl/boy spectacular at Bally’s. There’s a sinking Titanic. From $63;

Load up on gas masks, machetes, and other survival gear at the Zombie Apocalypse Store. 3420 Spring Mtn. Rd.;


Ride El Loco, the face-scrambling coaster at Circus Circus’s indoor Adventuredome. $10;

Drop 10 g’s on the Ono cocktail at Wynn’s XS nightclub. It comes with a diamond necklace. $10,000;

Zoom a Camaro ZL1 around a racetrack at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. $124;

SkyJump off the 108th floor of the Stratosphere. $120;

Zip down a waterslide that cuts through a shark tank at the Golden Nugget pool. From $25 for a day pass;


Strike a warrior pose at Yoga With the Dolphins, in the Mirage Hotel & Casino. From $28;

Operate a bulldozer at “heavy-equipment playground” Dig This. From $249;

Hire the Game to stage a Hangover-style prank on your friends. From $500;

Learn to tame fierce beasts at Lion Habitat Ranch’s trainer-for-a-day program. $800;

Left: Atomic Liquors, right: Container Park.  

Party in a Shipping Container

Fremont East, downtown’s formerly seedy main drag located just north of the Strip, is now considered one of the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods. Kristy Totten, editor of Best of Las Vegas magazine, explains its kitschy-cool appeal—via late-night bar crawl.

Start here: “Called DCR by locals, Downtown Cocktail Room (111 S. Las Vegas Blvd.; 702-880-3696) serves seasonal cocktails ranked by approachability. Something with vodka and watermelon would be a 1—easy to drink—while something with strong, bitter liquors would be higher. It has a lounge vibe, and people always comment on the restrooms, because the stalls are made of one-way mirrors.”

Stop 2: “The Griffin (511 Fremont St.; 702-382-0577), which has an L.A. counterpart, has always been an East Fremont staple. It carries great beers, the jukebox is badass, and it often has live music or DJs in the back room. Plus, with vaulted brick ceilings and fireplaces, it looks like a medieval dungeon.”

Stops 3 and 4: “Outside seating is hard to come by here, but Park on Fremont (506 Fremont St.; 702-445-6400) has a beautiful backyard with a hidden seesaw. Commonwealth (525 Fremont St.; 702-445-6400) has a rootfop with a great view. For custom cocktails, I’ll go to the Laundry Room, the speakeasy hidden within that can only be accessed by texting the ‘secret’ reservation number.” [Ed. Just Google it.]

Stop 5: “Further down Fremont is Container Park (707 Fremont St.; 702-637-4244), an outdoor mall made of shipping containers. The entrance is manned by a massive fire-spewing praying mantis originally made for Burning Man. Inside, there is a Swiss Family Robinson–like tree house, which adults can play on at night. Order the charcuterie at wine bar Bin 702.”

Last stop: “Another block down is Atomic Liquors (917 Fremont St.; 702-982-3000), which holds Vegas’s oldest liquor license. It was closed for a few years but recently renovated and reopened. It got its name because in the 1950s, patrons would stand on the roof, cocktail in hand, and watch atomic-bomb tests. There’s still outdoor seating.”

The De-Stimulation Tour
Three ways to shake off that casino smell.

Boulder City
30 minutes southeast of Vegas

Founded in the ’30s for workers building the Hoover Dam, this Rockwellian town is a beloved escape for Las Vegans. Browse antique shops (Back in Thyme, a local favorite, specializes in antique pedal cars), pig out on fudge and ice cream in old-fashioned parlors like Grandma Daisy’s, or take a boat tour of Lake Mead. Just don’t come here to gamble; gaming is illegal here.

Two hours northwest

The ghost town at the edge of Death Valley was abandoned nearly a century ago. Among Rhyolite’s structurally intact ruins are a bank, a jailhouse, and an adobe façade studded with thousands of antique liquor bottles. The Goldwell Open Air Museum, a 24/7 sculpture park founded by a collective of Belgian artists, is less than three miles away.

Red Rock Canyon
20 minutes west

Comprising some 195,000 acres and surrounded by jagged cliffs, this Mojave Desert conservation area is a haven for hikers and mountain bikers. Diversions abound, but the Keyhole and Arrow Canyons are full of Native American petroglyphs. And don’t be surprised if you encounter a massive desert tortoise or wild donkey along your trek.