10 Things To Do In Las Vegas (Other Than Gamble)1
By Jojo Balogh
10 Things To Do In Las Vegas (Other Than Gamble)
Vegas, baby. Sin City. Lost Wages. The city that never sleeps. Whatever you call it, this mecca in the middle of the desert is undeniably one of the most exciting cities in the world. The moment you step off the plane you can hear the ka-ching of the slot machines. In 2009, more than 36 million people visited Las Vegas and more than 19,000 conventions were held. Whether you are here for business or pleasure, there is never a dearth of things to do and see.
The majority of visitors visit for drinking, gambling and some wicked debauchery. The city is a bachelor party 24/7 – just check out A3 Nightlife for a taste of what you might find.
That said, it’s almost equally well known for its world-class hotels, restaurants, shopping and non-frat entertainment. Nearby, Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam offer beautiful scenery and touristy getaways. On the strip, you can see dancing fountains, pirate ships, and exotic animals.
Need a break from vice and immorality while in Sin City? Here are ten things you might want to check out. Even if you‘re a regular visitor, there may be a few surprises here that you didn’t know about.
A3 Nightlife – Bad Boy Billy Don’t Stop
1. Visit the Pinball Hall of Fame
If you like to play games but don’t want to blow your wad doing it, this place might be for you. With over 100 playable tables from the 1950’s to the 1990’s spread over 10,000 square feet, the museum is a shrine to the pre-technology world of gaming and is the world’s largest collection of pinball machines. Just a hop, skip and a jump from the strip, entrance is free, and it’s open until 11 p.m. weeknights, midnight on weekends.
2. Take the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Garden Tour
Only in Vegas would you find this odd pairing. When Forrest Mars, Sr., founder of the Mars candy empire and inventor of M&M’s, retired to suburban Las Vegas, he decided to honor his mother by creating a line of gourmet chocolates. Now the Ethel M factory draws more than 700,000 visitors a year with its series of pipes, conveyer belts and tanks that hold 20,000 and 35,000 gallons of chocolate. When finished, you’ll need to feed your chocolate jones. Mosey over to Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge for samples, as well as other creative chocolate concoctions.
Turns out that sweets weren’t Forrest Mars only passion. He also loved gardening, particularly cactus. Mars’ three acre garden has more than 300 species of plants. Visitors during the winter holidays get to see a spectacular display including lights, caroling, and visits from Santa! Best of all? Admission is free.
3. Tour the Zappos.com Headquarters
If you’ve been living under a rock and aren’t familiar with Zappos, it is the number one online retailer of shoes (they sell clothing, too) that is hugely successful, because of the company culture and core values. Founded in 1999, Zappos grossed over one billion dollars in 2009. Rated among Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, their commitment to both happy customers and employees has become a business model for others – spawning a New York Times best selling book from the CEO, appropriately titled “Delivering Happiness.” The tours are offered four times a day, four days a week and highlight the themed cubicles, free food and massages, cowbells, noisemakers, masks, a selection of mullet wigs, and a photo op taken of you sitting in the royalty chair. Unbelievably, they offer free pickup in a company van, and the basic tour is free as well!
4. Have an Exotic Driving Experience
Have you ever dreamed of having an ultimate driving experience behind the wheel of a Porsche, Lamborghini, or Ferrari? Well, duh, who hasn’t? At the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Exotics Racing School provides professional classroom instruction covering proper driving position and techniques as well as educating you about safety. They’ll then ride along for your once-in-a-lifetime five-lap experience. Pushing the limits of performance doesn’t come cheap as packages start at $199.
5. Go for a Roller Coaster Ride
If you like a cheaper thrill, there are other awesome rides in Vegas. New York, New York Hotel and Casino’s coaster lifts you up 203 feet and drops you down by 144 while going 67 mph. Not enough numbers for you? How about a 180 degree turn?
The Stratosphere Hotel and Tower, at more than 1,100 feet, is the tallest building west of the Mississippi and the fifth tallest building in the United States, and at the top of this is the world’s highest coaster. The even greater thrill here, though, is the Big Shot, a reverse bungee jump which shoots you 160 feet in the air at 45 mph, and then sends you back down.
6. Try Indoor Skydiving
If you’re the type who might have an accident in your pants from jumping thousands of feet from an airplane, this might be a better option. After brief instructions are given and a two-page waiver stating the risks is signed, you’ll don oversized flight suits, ear-plugs, goggles and helmets. Then you’ll enter a 12 feet wide, 22 feet high padded tunnel. A DC-3 propeller at the base of the wind tunnel generates winds up to 120 mph. If it’s your first time, the instructor will guide you through the first dives, as mastering this is not something you’ll do on the first try. Warning: you’re going to want to come back for more!
7. Play Basketball in Your Hotel Room
For some, just the experience of staying in a cool, luxury hotel room is an adventure, and that is never truer than at the Palms-Las Vegas. The Hardwood Suite is 10,000 square feet of b-ball heaven, complete with a real half-court, pro locker rooms and a scoreboard. If that’s not enough, there is a pool table, Jacuzzi, and several 42” plasma TV’s. Sorry, cheerleaders not included.
The Palms offers Fantasy Suites to please other tastes as well. You can stay in the Real World Suite (where the Las Vegas cast lived), the Kingpin with full size bowling lanes, or the Barbie suite (the ultimate bachelorette pad).
8. Visit the CBS Television City Research Center
I know some of you are armchair network television executives, sitting at home watching mind-numbing shows while thinking you could do a better job of choosing what gets to air. At the MGM Grand, you can put your skills to good use. Five minutes prior to the screenings, you’ll be led into a studio to watch the latest offerings from CBS, MTV and Nickelodeon. After viewing, you’ll be asked to complete a survey via touch screen test pads. The attraction also offers testing for commercials, websites and technology-based products such as Nintendo Wii, XBox 360, Apple iPhone and Dell notebook computers. Regardless of what you’ve screened, TV junkies, gamers and couch potatoes will be glad to have their opinions asked for and counted. Have fun with it!
9. Visit Rick, Big Hoss, Chumlee and The Old Man
The highest rated show on the History Channel, Pawn Stars, is filmed at the family owned Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in downtown Las Vegas. The likeable (above mentioned) cast of characters is good reason to watch, but the histories of the items that people bring and the process of determining the value are the real stars of the show. It is not unusual for the 15,000 square feet shop, that is open 24 hours a day, to draw over a thousand visitors a day. If you think you have something the boys would be interested in, throw it in your suitcase on your next trip to Vegas and make Gold and Silver a must-see stop.
10. Relieve Yourself on the Berlin Wall
As we’ve determined, Las Vegas is known for the unusual and offbeat, and I’ve saved the best for last. The first floor men’s room at downtown’s Main Street Station Casino has the urinals mounted on a chunk of the historic Berlin Wall. Above the Wall are historic photos and Berlin Wall specs: 12 ft. high, 18 in. thick, 27.5 miles long. Worth the visit just to say you did!
A3 Nightlife – LMFAO Live in Las Vegas
A3 Nightlife – Markus Schulz Live at The Palms
Jojo Balogh is something of a pop culture legend in her own mind, and those of her friends. She was number one on their lists of people to use as phone-a-friends on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. In addition to her now defunct personal blog, she also wrote training materials for recruiters and headhunters, as well as love letters, and emails to school teachers and administrators regarding her teenage son in an effort to encourage them not to charge him with truancy.