“Why would anyone visit Las Vegas without gambling?”
You’ve probably heard that line a few times if you’re
planning a non-gambling trip to Sin City.
Whatever your reason for choosing to avoid the casinos,
you’re not alone. The crowds of people (and piles of tourist
dollars) that flow into Las Vegas these days have less to do
with roulette wheels and blackjack tables than ever before.
These days, just 36% of all income on the Strip comes from
gambling. Compare that to the mid-80s, when bets made up 60% or
more of total Strip revenue.
The city is doing well, in spite of the reduced cash-flow at
the casinos. Home prices are up – surprising news for a city hit
hard by the burst of the housing bubble less than a decade ago.
Unemployment is down – another surprise, especially considering
casinos haven’t been in a hiring mood. The New York Times
reported on this phenomenon last year.
Have we reached peak Vegas? It looks like the city is
becoming less of a gambling hotspot and more of a plain old
tourist destination. Of the 40 million visitors last year, a
significant portion are said to have avoided casinos altogether.
According to the city, 1 in 4 visitors were in town for a
conference, meeting, or other work or school-related event, and
spent not one penny at a casino.
On this page are some tips to help you pick a non-gambling
activities. We’ve also included a list of gambling-free activities
that we recommend to Vegas visitors. These are divided into the
four categories you can see below. If you’d like to go straight
to any of these categories, you can just click on the relevant
Any visitor to the city will have to decide whether they’re
going to gamble or not at some point. You’ve already made that
decision, so picking something to do won’t be hard. The good
news is, an entire tourist industry has popped up in Las Vegas
to entertain and serve guests who don’t want to gamble.
Las Vegas is a metropolis with all the trappings of a great
city. It has a burgeoning art and music scene, its home to
several semi-professional sports teams, and the city’s built-in
tourist draw in the forms of casinos also brings entertainers,
musicians, and live shows all year long. If you don’t want to
gamble but you complain that there’s nothing to do in Las Vegas,
you’re just not doing it right.
When it’s time to pick something to do in town that’s not in
a casino, start by answering the questions below. You’ll be able
to narrow down all your choices to just a few based on your
What time of year is it?
How many people are involved?
What’s the age range of your group?
What’s your budget?
What’s the purpose of your activities?
Now let’s look at how the answers to these questions can help
you decide what to do.
Time of Year
The part of Nevada where Bugsy Siegel and his cronies chose
to construct a gambling haven is not exactly an easy place to
live. Vegas is miserably hot for six months of the year, and
since this is the desert, it can get annoyingly-cold in the
winter, or even in the evenings in the summer.
Once you start considering all the ins and outs of the timing
of your trip, from the weather to the crowds to the availability
of certain activities , you’ll realize how important this step
Depending on the weather, you may prefer an indoor activities
or one that’s (at least partially) outside. The Spring Mountains
and Carpenter Canyon nearby are a great retreat from the city
for outdoors types, but not if it’s 112 degrees or below
freezing. At the same time, if you’re in Vegas on one of those
rare perfect desert days, with clear, dry air and a bright blue
sky, it’d be a shame to sit inside all day.
We usually choose to visit the city between the months of
March-May (average high 78 degrees) or October-November (average
low 52 degrees). That gives us twenty weeks out of the year when
we can expect weather that’s at least bearable. Why do we shy
away during the winter? Believe it or not, more tourists visit
between December and February than any other month, and we find
activities a lot more enjoyable when they’re not over-crowded.
Number of People
The facelifts that saved Las Vegas tourism in the 80s and 90s
went a long way to turning a once-seedy gambling town into a
family vacation spot. But Vegas is also a natural setting for
romance, so lots of activities for couples are available, too.
Then again, you may be alone, at a boring sales conference or
team-building weekend, looking for something to do by yourself
to kill time.
For example, a stroll down the Strip to see the sights and do
some people-watching is a great couple’s activities, and it can
even work with a small group of friends. We wouldn’t recommend
that a group of fifteen school children and their five
chaperones attempt it, though. Vegas is crowded and you’ll spend
more time trying to keep your group together than enjoying the
Knowing the exact size of the group that’s taking part in an
activity is more than just good planning – you’ll probably need
to know it when making reservations or buying tickets anyway.
There are plenty of things to do in Vegas that don’t involve
gambling, but it’s still a tourist town, so prepare to pay by
the head for certain activities.
Whether you’re one person looking to kill a few hours between
meetings or a large multi-family reunion touring the town
together, it’s important to consider activities appropriate for
the people in your group, and one way to consider that is by
Though exceptions exist for every rule, grandma is probably
not going to enjoy the same activities as a teenager. A newlywed
couple is unlikely to appreciate the finer points of the birding
tour favored by an elderly couple. And almost none of them would
appreciate the same kind of entertainment as a toddler.
One trick to get around this problem is to look for
activities that are enjoyable for a wide range of different
ages. A day at Lake Mead could include a variety of activities
to suit every person in your group. An evening playing in a
video game arcade, on the other hand, would only be of interest
to kids, unless there was an activities nearby that would interest
Obviously you’ll need to prepare a budget for your trip,
whether that’s $1 million or $1,000. Sticking to your budget is
easier when you don’t involve gambling, but trust me, you can
still spend a ton of cash on non-gaming activities in Sin City.
Vegas is a luxury-oriented city, so you’ll find plenty of
high-dollar activities that cater to guests with deep pockets.
But thanks to increased visitation by families with kids, the
city is also great for families who don’t have high roller
budgets. Believe it or not, you can even find plenty of free
activities, thanks to the growing native population and local
support for the arts.
Yes, this is the home of the $1,000 martini and the
$40,000-per-night hotel suite, but it’s also the home of the
free Bellagio Conservatory and the $4 shrimp cocktail. Given a
little planning and an understanding of your budget, you can
plan an amazing non-gaming adventure in Las Vegas without
breaking the bank.
Purpose of Activities
This one’s important. Different people are looking for Vegas
activities for different reasons. Are you killing time? Do you
want to find an educational activities for the kids? Just looking
for some classic Las Vegas entertainment? We can think of a
million reasons why a person would be looking for something to
do besides gambling, and probably a million different activities that are perfect for it.
Let’s say we’re looking for activities for a group of high
school students in town for a science fair. Clearly they’re
looking for an experience that’s at least a little bit
educational. Sending them to Brooklyn Bowl would be a popular
but ridiculous choice – we’d probably suggest they check out the
Mob Museum instead. Still fun, still educational, and still in
line with the purpose of their visit.
Armed with the answers to the above questions, look through
the rest of this page and find out which non-gaming activities
we regularly recommend to tourists who visit the city. Decide
which activities might be right for you, based on the size and
makeup of your group, the time of year, your budget, and your
purpose for the activities.
Best Luxury Activities
We’ll offer some budget-friendly recommendations later, but
we want to get the ritzy stuff out of the way. Let’s face it, a
ton of people visit Vegas for a little taste of the high-roller
lifestyle. The activities below have nothing to do with gaming,
and everything to do with experiencing the best of the best.
Though these activities aren’t budget-friendly, they will likely
lead to some excellent vacation memories.
OMNIA is the hottest club in Vegas – it just opened (to rave reviews)
so it still has that sheen of novelty that Vegas visitors love, and it
features live and sometimes interactive performances by the biggest DJs
in the EDM scene. If you want to rent one of the venue’s booths for the
night, the least you’ll pay is $2,000, plus another couple of thousand
for bottle service and liquor. The 20k price tag for booths at the top-end
is all about prestige – from your booth perch you can see and be seen in
the hottest dance spot in the country.
At Sweet Surrender they serve a very special cupcake, called
Decadence D’Or. It’s one of the most expensive pastries in the
world, at $750 each. Why so expensive? It’s chock full of fancy
ingredients, like century-old Louis XIII de Remy Martin cognac,
a special single-estate chocolate that’s unavailable in the
United States, French butter with a name we can’t pronounce, oh,
and don’t forget the gold flakes and ultra-rare Tahitian Gold
Vanilla Bean caviar. We’ve seen the thing in person before –
it’s good for two or three bites total, perfect for sharing on a
luxurious date night.
Throw Beachfront Barbecue at Mandalay Bay ($15,000)
This one’s way over-the-top. Not only can you rent Mandalay
Beach for yourself and your friends, but when you shell out
$15,000, the hotel will cook you a barbecue dinner and project
the movie of your choice in an outdoor cinema. If you want to
get totally nuts, you can book a pop star to serenade you during
the festivities – we read that Bruno Mars did one last year for
$100,000. One song by an A-list performer, one awesome barbecue
with your friends, and a whole beach (in Las Vegas?) to yourself
– that could be the definition of luxury.
Key Information: Address: 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South Phone: (877) 632-7900 Website:
Get Married on the High Roller Wheel ($7,000)
The High Roller Wheel at Caesar’s is the world’s tallest
observation wheel. The wheel tops out at 550 feet, and each pod
contains room for forty people. Since it takes a half-hour for
one revolution of the wheel, you have just enough time for a
memorable Vegas wedding. Packages available through Caesar’s
range from about $900 up to $7,000. The latter price includes a
reception and dance party (with a live DJ) that goes on all
night as the wheel spins.
The company’s tagline is: “Be in a band with rock stars.” You
can spend three nights and four days getting lessons from
world-class musicians and jamming with A-list rock stars. During
your stay, you’ll write, perform, and record an original song
written with your celebrity bandmates. Recent counselors include
David Crosby, Ginger Baker, and Roger Daltrey. If you think
about it, five grand is a pretty fair price for the chance to
write and record a song with a rock legend.
Key Information: Address: 3485 West Harmon Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89103 Phone: (888) 762-2263 Website:
Best Activities for Couples
It’s easy to get married in Las Vegas. Unlike other states,
Nevada doesn’t require a blood test or a waiting period. City
laws in Las Vegas make the process even easier – you fill out a
form, pay $60 cash, show your ID, and within minutes you can get
married. This led to a huge wedding industry in the city, one
which tourists have fueled ever since.
But it’s not just newlyweds who hit the city together –
people have glommed on to the idea of the city as a hotspot for
romance. Romantic activities abound. Here are some of my
New York New York is the home of Zumanity, Cirque du Soleil’s
adults-only Las Vegas show. The show’s website says you should
expect “sensual acts, sexual humor, and sultry acrobatics,” but
trust me, there’s plenty of humor in the show, too. The tickets
are $70 each, but during the Valentine’s Day season they’re
known to run lots of specials. Call ahead to see if you can get
a reduced rate during the week.
Located on the ground of the JW Marriott Resort, Aquae Sulis
is a 50,000 square foot fitness center, sauna, and pool and spa
complex. The venue includes a co-ed area, a water therapy pool,
hot and cold fitness and relaxation pools, and full-service spa
treatments. Aquae Sulis is one of the newest spa properties in
Las Vegas and has tons of packages perfect for couples.
Could there be anything more romantic than a trip down the
hotel’s Grand Canal on an authentic Venetian gondola? A private
two-person gondola trip (including pictures) will set you back
about $100, but it’s a classic Vegas couple’s thing-to-do, and
the photos will be part of your memories for years to come.
Pro-tip: come during the spring or summer months and your trip
will be even longer, as the gondola heads outdoors to take in
the warm air and sunshine.
The largest and most accurate recreation of the Eiffel Tower
is at Paris casino – it’s tough to miss the monstrous tower from
anywhere near the Strip or Las Vegas Boulevard. Here’s a tip
that most tourists don’t know – there’s an amazing and cozy
little French bistro halfway up the Vegas version of the Tower
that does couple specials and offers totally intimate dining, at
about the same price as you’d pay elsewhere in town. Be sure to
ask for one of their couples tables, all of which have awesome
views of the Strip.
Planet Hollywood is home to the Sugar Factory, the premiere
candy and sweets shop in all of Nevada. This place is stocked
floor to ceiling with classic and artisan candies – but the big
draw for couples should be the Sugar Factory Café, where they
can share a handmade milkshake or decadent chocolate dessert for
very little scratch.
Key Information: Address: 3663 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV 89109 Phone: (702) 866-0777 Website:
Best Activities for Families
It’s never been easier to find activities for the whole
family in Las Vegas than it is these days. Thanks to changes in
the demographics of visitors to the city, you can spend a week
in the city with your family without even realizing that legal
gambling is going on. Here are some awesome family-friendly
activities to consider on your next non-gambling trip.
This unique comedy-magic show starring household pets and
other animals has been running inside the Aladdin since the
mid-90s. It was one of the first major family-friendly (read:
Kid-friendly) shows in Las Vegas, and it’s still going strong.
We can’t describe the show to you without ruining it – imagine
an upbeat magic show aimed at both toddlers and adults but with
dogs, cats, and other critters performing the roles of the
magician’s helpers and volunteers. It’s weird, it’s unique to
Vegas, and it’s fun for kids of all ages.
Key Information: Address: V Theater at the Aladdin Resort Phone: (702) 260-7200 Website:
Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History
The Barrick Museum is probably not as stuffy of a trip as you
think. You can actually access six different art, science, and
photography galleries as well as the entire natural history
museum at this site, located on the campus of UNLV. Three
restaurants (and a bar at night) serve food and drinks all day.
Besides the ancient artifacts of the Southwest, you and your
family or friends can take in an IMAX film. One day per month,
the museum offers free entrance.
Built during the 1930s, the Hoover Dam is a marvel of modern
construction, and a major historic site. The dam provides power
for much of the surrounding area, and created Lake Mead, itself
a major recreation spot. Visiting the Hoover Dam is sort of a
rite of passage for Americans, especially those fond of road
trips. Fun fact: the dam is built of 4.5 million cubic yards of
concrete, enough to fill 11,000 Olympic-size pools to the brim.
Inside the larger Town Square commercial center is Children’s
Park, a little-known gem for kids in the middle of Sin City.
This is a huge playground, including a mini-water park and a ton
of different cool places for kids to play. It’s known for being
spacious, clean, and safe. Your kids can play in a giant tree
house, a hedge maze, a whole complex of slides and other fun
Families with kids may want to skip the “swimming with live
sharks” feature at this amazing aquarium experience – but then
again, maybe your kids are into near-death experiences! Kidding
aside, Shark Reef is more than just another casino aquarium.
Shark Reef is an immersive aquarium, with exotic animals and the
opportunity for all sorts of encounters and sensory experiences.
Don’t miss the 1.3 million-gallon shipwreck exhibit, featuring
more than 2,000 types of marine life, including vicious sharks
and gigantic rays.
You don’t have to be broke to look for a free activities. The
suggestions below are great time-killers, but many of them are
also classic tourist sites that are on our personal “can’t-miss”
list. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good time
in Las Vegas – in fact, you don’t have to spend any at all.
Don’t knock this totally-obvious Vegas activities. Not only is
it free, the shows are set to music, so it’s a complete audio
and visual experience. If you’re lucky, you’ll walk up just as
Frank Sinatra kicks off one of his hits. But no matter the
accompaniment, the visual spectacle of explosive water features
hundreds of feet in the air is a great way to kill time without
spending money AND entertain your friends and family. You can
expect a new show every fifteen minutes during the evenings.
Red Rock Canyon is just twenty minutes from the Strip by car.
You’ll need decent hiking clothes, a supply of water, and the
right shoes, but other than that, this activity is totally-free.
If you visit in the mornings or late afternoons, you’ll avoid
the worst of the desert heat. Sunsets in Red Rock Canyon aren’t
just free, they’re romantic. Your date won’t even realize that
you’re a cheapskate. Don’t overlook the fact that you’re getting
an up-close look at Nevada’s oldest conservation site for no
People-watching on Fremont St. is an experience all on its
own. But if you want to extend a few minutes’ diversion into an
evening of fun, wander to the Fremont Street Experience to take
in the amazing Viva Vision LED light show under a 1,500
foot-long canopy. Most nights, you’ll hear local bands,
comedians, and other performers on one of three free stages. You
may even luck out and catch a headlining act, especially during
the summer. Sure, you can spend money on Fremont St., but you
don’t have to.
On the first Friday of every month in Las Vegas Downtown Arts
District, locals come out to share music, art, food, and fun
with anyone who wanders by. You may need a little scratch to buy
a snack or a souvenir, but you can get away with just wandering
through. It’s basically a big open-air bazaar, and it will give
you an insider’s look at the real Las Vegas, not the tourist’s
Key Information: Address: Along Casino Center Blvd. between Colorado St. and California St.
Take a Picture with the Las Vegas Sign
This is another must-do activities that won’t cost you a dime.
Located just south of the Strip, the sign is the perfect
opportunity for a selfie or (even better) a group photo. This
25-foot tall pole is an icon, listed on the register of historic
places, and a symbol of Las Vegas for six decades. To pass up
the opportunity to take a (free) photo with this beautiful sign
is a huge Vegas no-no.
Key Information: Address: 5200 Las Vegas Blvd South Paradise, Nevada, 89119
Some Final Words
Las Vegas has become a hotspot for trade meetings,
conferences, concerts, and school trips. Sure, legal gambling is
huge business in the metro area, and in the state of Nevada, but
it’s becoming less and less important to the local economy.
As the city changes to meet the needs of travelers, the
availability of non-gambling activities increases. These days,
you can plan any sort of trip you’d like, from an educational
family visit to a museum all the way to high-dollar
entertainment and spa services. The kind of activity you take
part in while visiting Las Vegas depends on the needs of the
group you’re in. We hope the tips above have helped you find
something sin-free to do on your stay in Sin City.
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