Las Vegas should be about more than just casinos

The famous welcome sign in Las Vegas
The famous welcome sign in Las Vegas. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

LAS VEGAS — The typical Vegas casino is an endless row of slot machines, roulette wheels and blackjack tables.

Hundreds of opportunities await the lucky traveler to try his or her hand at just about every type of bet imaginable – from poker to blackjack to the sportsbook.

Whatever strikes one’s fancy, Vegas has it. Where else in the world can one find the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower within walking distance?

While Vegas is surreal, bizarre and over the top wrapped into one, a Las Vegas trip is whatever one makes of it.

Nevada Gov. Fred Balzar on March 19, 1931, paved the way for modern day Vegas when he signed into law a bill that allowed gambling. While the basics of Vegas have stayed the same over the years, the city has changed – the hotels today are flashier and the amount of money gambled has grown.

Vegas vaulted into legend starting in the 1940s and its stature increased as The Rat Pack, Elvis and Liberace became synonymous with the city.

From the legendary stage shows to showgirls, you can find it in Sin City. Lavish hardly begins to describe the shows – the music, the stunts and the scenery are about as over the top as the hotels themselves.

Experience the free attractions 

While Las Vegas represents about the most extreme that America has to offer, not everything on the itinerary has to carry an expense. Consider, the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.

Spend five minutes here, and it’s hard to believe this exquisite garden resides in the middle of the Las Vegas strip. More than 140 horticulturists tend to the gardens, which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The gardens change for seasons and holidays.

Outside the hotel, the Bellagio Fountains delight scores of tourists every 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the time of day. Set in the middle of a 9-acre manmade lake, the Fountains of Bellagio dance to an array of tunes – from Andrea Bocelli to Elvis Presley to Frank Sinatra.

Down the strip, Treasure Island’s Sirens of TI offers one of the more elaborate shows. The 18-minute-long production features song, dance and sword fights.

Downtown Vegas 

Today, most people think of The Strip when they think of Vegas, but, The Strip isn’t even located within the city of Las Vegas (it’s located in the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester). The original Las Vegas “gambling district” – home to famed casinos such as the Golden Nugget, Binion’s and Golden Gate – lies a few miles away.

These famous casinos reside in downtown Vegas along Fremont Street, the city’s first paved street. In 2004, the street, featured in movies and music videos, closed to make way for a new attraction: the Fremont Street Experience light show.

The street is also home to one of Las Vegas’ most recognized and enduring symbols: Vegas Vic. Located above what was once the Pioneer Club (and today a souvenir shop), the 40-foot-tall neon cowboy has graced countless postcards and delighted tourists since 1951.

While downtown, take notice of the historic neon signs around town. These signs, restored and put on display by the Neon Museum, once adorned some of Vegas’ more famous institutions of yesteryear.

Visit a Museum 

While glitz and glamour takes top billing, Las Vegas is home to a number of museums worth exploring, including:

– Atomic Testing Museum: In the years following World War II, Las Vegas was a popular destination for those wanting to see the large mushroom clouds at the nearby Nevada Test Site. The museum’s exhibits not only focused on testing on the site, but also life at the site and its impact on the surrounding communities.

– Pinball Hall of Fame: Since 2006, the Pinball Hall of Fame has featured a vast array of pinball machines – ranging from modern machines to rarer classics. The attraction is free to visit, but it costs to play pinball. Still, it’s cheaper than the craps table.

– Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum: The Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum, located inside the airport, offers a quick overview of Sin City’s aviation history. The best part is it’s free, so even those who lost everything at the Blackjack table can enjoy this attraction.

The welcome sign 

No trip to Vegas would be complete without seeing the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. Built in 1959, the sign is one of the most popular symbols of Las Vegas.

The sign, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, is located in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard, roughly a mile from Mandalay Bay on the southern end of The Strip.

See the Pawn Shop 

Located on Las Vegas Boulevard roughly halfway between The Strip and downtown is Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, the store made famous on History Channel’s Pawn Stars. The shop is real and a popular destination for people looking to either pawn or items or just see where the show is filmed.

Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 79 Articles

Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and