Las Vegas has earned its reputation as the gambling capital of the world, but you don’t have to be a gambler to have fun there. Trust us, there are a zillion things to do, and the city never sleeps.
So skip the slots and spend your money on fine food, fast cars, art, spas and adventures instead — the options are almost endless. Here are our recommendations for a winning Vegas weekend.
8:00 a.m.: Dig the construction equipment at Dig This
Dig right into your alternative Vegas experience by helming your own excavator or bulldozer. Experienced instructors will guide you in the mechanics of steering, scooping and dumping, and lead you through a surprisingly meditative series of focused activities, like digging trenches, building mounds and pushing stacks of tires. You’ll stay clean and dry in the air-conditioned machines as you frolic in Dig This’ gigantic adult sandbox.
10:00 a.m.: Enjoy a guided tour of the Neon Museum
Unofficially known as the Neon Boneyard, this outdoor museum is dedicated to preserving Las Vegas’ famed signs. It’s worth a visit for the photo-ops alone: gigantic vintage signs tell the story of Vegas’ various design periods, from the cowboy motifs of the early days to the Hollywood glamour and space-age sentiment of the mid-20th century. But it’s also worth listening to your well-versed guide, whose stories include all the gangsters, celebrities, bootleggers, true crime and hutzpah you’d expect from a city so brazenly dedicated to good times.
11:00 a.m.: Devour brunch at Bardot Brasserie
Vegas’ varied dining options are reason enough to visit, but as far as we know, Bardot Brasserie is the only brunch place in town offering unlimited rosé. At $20 a pop, the French wine is the perfect accompaniment to an array of Gallic treats, including a hunter’s waffle topped with duck confit, poached egg and sauce maltaise, and the restaurant’s famed French toast, an airy cube of egg-dipped brioche garnished with vanilla mascarpone, almond brittle and orgeat syrup.
1:00 p.m.: Take a self-guided tour of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’s art holdings
Spend 15 minutes walking off your meal with a quick trip to the nearby Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. From artist Roark Gourley’s famed oversized stilettos (go ahead and climb in for a photo) to the immersive P3 Studio, where artists-in-residence lead participants through rotating art experiences, to photo exhibits from the Las Vegas News Bureau archives, The Cosmo is an art lover’s playground. Be sure your tour includes a stop in the parking lot, where you’ll discover murals by famed street artist Shepard Fairey, and the lobby, where large columns mesmerize with an ever-changing selection of digital images.
2:00 p.m.: Vibe out at the James Turrell Akhob exhibit
Housed in the Louis Vuitton store at the The Shops at Crystals, James Turrell’s Akhob exhibit is a must-see. It won’t cost you any money, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get a spot in this exclusive, immersive art experience, so be sure to call 702-730-3150 and book a tour as early as possible. It’s hard to explain this Ganzfeld room light exhibit without referring to psychedelics, but know this: Akhob is a drug-free, mind-bending sensory journey of changing colours and perspectives, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that every traveller to Vegas should experience. Seriously. If you do nothing else on this list, visit Akhob.
4:00 p.m.: Wander the 18b Arts District
The 18b Arts District is all about galleries, vintage boutiques and art installations. Antique aficionados will be tempted to unload their wallets in the area’s top-notch collectibles shops, which feature everything from old-school Vegas tchotchkes to rare art deco and Hollywood Regency furniture.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Vegas on the first Friday of the month, then make like a local and let the First Friday Las Vegas arts and culture festival be your final destination for the day. The outdoor event runs from 5 p.m. – 11 p.m., and highlights local artists, artisans, craft, food and drink trucks (yes, Nevada laws let you carry your local brew with you as you peruse the festival). Browse the many adjacent galleries, or pop into the Cockroach Theatre and enjoy a 10-minute play for $2. Wander the festival and decide for yourself whether the shopping, food, music or art is the best part — then be sure to let us know, because we can’t choose!
7:00 p.m.: Feast at La Comida
Don’t worry if it’s not the first Friday of the month – there’s still lots to enjoy in downtown Las Vegas, including authentic Mexican food at La Comida, a local fave. Recommended: the Queso fundido, a melted mess of Oaxaca cheese and roasted poblano peppers, and the margaritas, which come in inventive flavours like prickly pear, tamarind and passion fruit.
9:00 p.m.: Explore the Downtown Container Park
If the 18b Arts District hasn’t already convinced you, the Downtown Container Park proves that people actually live in Las Vegas, and that the city is far more than its touristy strip. The Downtown Container Park’s boutiques are built from cleverly arranged shipping containers, placed around an outdoor courtyard. In the centre, a giant playground entertains kids, while bars and an outdoor stage ensure this whimsical community gathering spot is fit for grown-ups, too.
8:00 a.m.: Burn it off with the Aria art hike
Today’s menu is chock-full of spa lounging and buffet gluttony; eliminate future guilt with a gruelling indoor hike. Bonus: this calorie-busting activity is also a great way to enjoy the Aria’s extensive art holdings, including pieces by Henry Moore, Maya Lin, Jenny Holzer and Claes Oldenburg. But if squatting and crunching between art stops sounds too punishing, skip the trainer and go your own speed on a self-guided art tour, courtesy of the Aria Fine Art Collection app from iTunes. And don’t forget to pick up a dessert crepe or smoothie at Jean Phillipe Patisserie on the Aria casino floor before you leave.
9:25 a.m.: Catch a ride at The Shops at Crystals
Be sure you arrive at The Shops at Crystals 35 minutes before your scheduled Dream Racing experience at 10 a.m. Your driver will meet you next to the red Ferrari.
10:00 a.m.: Experience the fast lane at Dream Racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a Formula One racer — or just riding in a really, really fast car — now’s your chance. Dream Racing offers ridealongs with experienced drivers, or the chance to take the driver’s seat. Choose from a range of cars and packages, including laps in a Ferrari F430GT, Lamborghini Super Trofeo or Porsche GT. All packages include lessons in a race simulator.
12:30 p.m.: Lunch at Lago
Enjoy a leisurely lunch of nouveau Italian small plates at Lago, helmed by Michelin-decorated Chef Julian Serrano. Try snagging a seat on the terrace overlooking the Bellagio’s famed fountain and pair your gastronomic experience with an unforgettable visual spectacle.
2:30 p.m.: Soak the day away at Caesar’s Palace Qua Baths and Spa
Whether you book a treatment or not, you’re sure to leave Qua’s extensive facilities relaxed and clean. Don’t forget to alternate your soak and steam sessions with a trip to the Artic Ice Room — because this is Vegas, it features falling snow. Yes, indoors.
5:30 p.m.: Dinner at Bacchanal Buffet
When we polled Las Vegas locals, they consistently named Caesar’s Palace Bacchanal Buffet as their go-to buffet. Don’t let the sophisticated dining room fool you: this is a buffet, and it’s serious. Piles of king crab legs and fresh oysters wait on ice, while a parade of international delicacies — from Wagyu sliders to fresh pho to bespoke crepes to oak-grilled lamb chops, dumplings, pizza, chicken and waffles, macarons, gelato and more — make choosing your treats the only difficult part of this dining experience. Well, that, and walking away from the table.
8:00 p.m.: Catch a show at The Smith Center
Show times vary, but it’s a good idea to arrive early to enjoy The Smith Center’s impressive art deco architecture. Walk off your dinner and take in the lovely views of downtown Vegas in the adjacent Symphony Park before catching a touring Broadway show or performances by the Nevada Ballet Theatre or Las Vegas Philharmonic. For a more intimate evening, try the Cabaret Jazz club, where three-time Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year Award-winner Clint Holmes croons on the regular.
11:00 p.m.: Cap off the weekend with cocktails at The LINQ
You’ve made it! Celebrate a winning weekend with a stroll along The Strip’s newest avenue. The LINQ is an open-air retail, dining and entertainment district, anchored by the world’s tallest observation wheel, the High Roller. Take a ride on the big wheel, browse the quirky shops for souvenirs, or stop by one of the area’s many hotspots and enjoy the novelty of ordering your cocktail to go.
The fine print:
Many of the activities listed require advance booking — see the links above for more information.
This schedule assumes that the money you saved on gambling went to car rentals (complete with designated driver, of course) taxis or a driver and allows time for transportation between activities.