Don’t fret if you’re not into gambling–Las Vegas has all sorts of entertainment options for families, kids, couples, groups of friends, that does not require gambling at a casino. You could spend your entire day sightseeing and experiencing much of Las Vegas’ history without spending a penny. However, many of the more impressive offerings are going to require an entrance fee or ticket.
During our Neon Musuem tour (which is on this list below), our tour guide informed us Las Vegas’s board a few decades ago had a big push for marketing towards families. Even though the board later retracted their full effort in this push, there are still remnants of that era, but also many great new attractions to get you into Las Vegas.
Read on to discover the best things to do on the Las Vegas strip if you aren’t into gambling, in no particular order.
Dine at all the amazing restaurants
Las Vegas is a massive dining destination, so I live to eat when I’m in town. There are endless options for fine dining if you’re into that.
But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat well here either. I love the casual and fast-casual options on the strip like Temaki or Tekka for handrolls, Eataly for all things Italian, Bardot at Aria for a French Brasserie.
Also I’m quite shocked to see all of the options we have in southern California that have made it out to Las Vegas including: Eggslut (egg sandwiches), Tacos El Gordo, Lamill Coffee (beans served at Aria’s cafe), Milk Bar (desserts), Din Tai Fung, and many more.
Visit Shark Reef Aquarium at The Mandalay Bay Resort
The Shark Reef Aquarium at The Mandalay Bay Resort is an excellent attraction for both kids and adults. The huge aquarium is a series of walkways – decorated in a jungle setting (even the interior climate shifts to warm and slightly humid) – with exhibits of over 2,000 species of fish and reptiles.
One of my favorite exhibits is the piranha pool, where about 100 piranha swim and hover, seemingly smacking their lips at you from the other side of the glass. The piranha are fed twice a day, and their caretaker is extremely knowledgeable about their habits. Another popular attraction is the stingray pool, where you can touch the stingrays.
All of the tanks are enormous, but the primary reason for going to Shark Reef is to walk through the two glass tunnels, Ocean Explorer and Shipwreck. The Ocean Explorer tunnel is 100 feet long and teems with rare fish and small sharks that swim overhead.
The 75-foot Shipwreck tunnel is the largest in North America, holding 1.3 million gallons of seawater. This tank houses a replication of a shipwreck, which allows the vast and diverse marine life inside to swim through and around. Here you’ll find the larger sharks and two beautiful sea turtles.
Admission is $29 for adults and $24 for kids. It’s definitely worth the experience.
See old-time Las Vegas at the Neon Museum
The Neon Museum is open in the afternoon, but the time to really take a tour is at night. The Neon Museum is a sort of graveyard for the great neon signs of casinos and other Las Vegas icons of the past. The outdoor museum is divided into two sections: the Neon Boneyard Main Collection and the Neon Boneyard North Gallery.
In the Main Collection, you’ll see beautiful restored neon sights for the Sahara, the Stardust, the Riviera, the Moulin Rouge, and Hard Rock Cafe. The North Gallery has unrestored signs that are illuminated at night.
A recent addition is the Brilliant! Show that uses 3D light and sound to illuminate 40 iconic signs – like the Stardust casino and the Flamingo casino – and recreate what they looked like in their mid-century heyday.
The La Concha Visitors Center is also worth seeing. It’s housed in the Space Age-style La Concha Motel that was moved to and restored by the Neon Museum. Ticket prices vary depending on which tour you sign up for. The Brilliant! Show is an add-on of $17.
Side note: this venue is a non-profit, and they severely limit the taking of photographs with professional cameras there for commercial use unless you pay upwards of $600 for a special session. Otherwise photos taken with your phone are fine, not for commercial use. That said, I was only able to publish this photo of their sign from outside the museum!
Visit the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace
The classy shops and environment at the Venetian pale in comparison to the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, probably the most over-the-top shopping experiences you’ll ever have. As with many of the shopping plazas in Las Vegas, the luxury stores at the Forum Shops can easily set you back a few grand. Occasionally you’ll find a bargain in the back of a store, but you’ll need to hunt for it.
The gaudy ambiance of the Forum Shops is free, and it’s ideal for window-shopping and gawking at the enormity of the Italianate architecture, fountains, and statues – even a life-size replica of Michaelangelo’s David in Florence.
Similar to the shops at the Venetian, the Forum Shops are partially below street level. As you walk along the shopping boulevard, you’ll see replicas of Rome’s piazzas under a vaulted ceiling of pristine blue skies.
In the main circular piazza, you’ll see a magnificent display of Roman ruins adorned with Roman gods. Every hour on the hour, from 12 pm-8 pm, Thursday-Monday, the display comes to vivid life in The Fall of Atlantis show, in which the 9-foot statues come to life and relate the destruction of the fabled island-kingdom. Using fire, water fountains, and animatronics, this free 9-minute show is not to be missed.
See a magic show
Las Vegas is home to many magic shows, featuring the finest magicians in the world. One of the most famous is, of course, David Copperfield at the MGM Grand. Copperfield has been performing this same show for years, and these days, he’s just going through the motions. However, since he is the richest magician in the world, his show is filled with pricey, high-tech illusions that you’ll see nowhere else.
If you’re a fan of the “Penn & Teller Fool Us” TV show, you can catch them live at the Rio. Their entertaining show combines excellent magic with their trademark humor. The best family-friendly magic show is Mac King’s show at the Excalibur. His loopy personality and gentle humor are great for kids. He performs two matinee shows at 1 pm and 3 pm Tuesday-Saturday.
The 2018 winner of “America’s Got Talent” Shin Lim performs his show “Limitless” at The Mirage. He demonstrates his amazing card skills while telling his life story. Co-star Colin Cloud, though, steals the show with his phenomenal mind-reading routines.
Mentalism is finally getting respect in Vegas with three shows. Banachek is one of the foremost mentalists in the world, and his show “Mind Games” at the STRAT, demonstrates why he’s so influential in magic.
Gerry McCambridge is another veteran mentalist (he was the consultant for the television show “The Mentalist”), and his entertaining show is at Planet Hollywood. Newcomer Frederic Da Silva is also wowing audiences in “Paranormal,” playing daily at 4 pm at Horseshoe Las Vegas.
Visit a local favorite: The Peppermill Restaurant
If you don’t want to spend a fortune at one of the upscale casino restaurants, then head over to The Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge for delicious meals, large portions, and very reasonable prices. The Peppermill is at the far end of the Strip, but every Uber driver knows how to get there because he/she probably eats there too.
The Peppermill opened in 1972, and since then has served as the backdrop for several movies and television shows. It’s also a major hangout for famous magicians – like Penn and Teller, and Cris Angel — who drop in after their shows on the Strip.
You could spend your whole night at the restaurant’s famous Fireside Lounge, decorated in neon orange and purple velvet. You can sit around the firepit or in the comfy booths on the perimeter and enjoy vintage cocktails and appetizers.
The large restaurant is decorated with huge cherry trees and blue and teal booths. The menu has a multitude of breakfast items (served all day), soups, salads, sandwiches, steaks, pastas, and Peppermill specialty entrees. Most dinner items are in the $20s, and the most expensive item on the menu is the porterhouse steak for only $46.
Take a gondola ride at The Venetian
The Venetian is one of the most beautiful casino-resorts on the strip. Its lower level is a marvelous replica of Venice with arched bridges and a canal that wends its way through the shops and restaurants. You could easily while away the afternoon strolling along the canal and wonder how the sky 100 feet above you constantly shifts with clouds and light patterns.
The big attraction is the indoor/outdoor gondola ride. The gondolas were made in Italy, and most of the rowers are also Italian, who share stories of their beloved country and, of course, sing a few romantic Italian songs. The ride takes you through the underground canal and then – weather permitting – to the outside canal, where you’ll glide past the resort’s recreation of St Mark’s Square and Venice’s Bridge of Sighs.
The gondola ride is relatively brief – between 10 and 20 minutes – and costs $34 per person on weekdays and $39 per person on weekends.
See the Bellagio water fountain show
One of the most beautiful – and free! – attractions in Las Vegas are the Fountains of Bellagio in front of the Bellagio casino and resort. The Fountains have appeared in a number of films, including “Sharknado The 4th Awakens” and are considered an iconic landmark of Las Vegas.
The Fountains are built into a man-made lake, measuring 1,000’ by 600’ and is filled with 22 million gallons of water. With more than 1,000 fountains, the spectacular light and music show repeats every 30 minutes during the day, and every 15 minutes from 7 pm to midnight. During the show, the water jets and multi-colored lights are choreographed to classical and contemporary music.
There are several ways to view the Fountains shows. You could simply stand on the sidewalk or the pedestrian overpass bridge that links the Paris casino to the Bellagio. The Bellagio restaurants offer table-side dining where you watch the Fountains from behind.
My favorite way is to request a table across the street at Mon Ami Gabi, the Paris’s exquisite – and affordable – French bistro. You get a view of the entire Fountains while dining on the best French cuisine outside of France.
Ride to the top of the STRAT tower
At 1,149 feet, the tower at the STRAT Hotel and Casino is the tallest free-standing observation deck in the U.S. At the top of the tower is the Skypod, which has an observation deck, restaurants, a wedding chapel, and a specially designed area for taking selfies with all of Las Vegas as your backdrop.
For the thrill seekers, the Big Shot ride catapults 16 strapped-in passengers from the 921’ high platform up to the tower’s mast at 1,081’ high. The X Scream is another experience for extreme daredevils. It’s a roller-coaster type ride that shoots passengers out 27 feet, dangling over the edge, then pulls them in and propels them out again.
For the truly insane, on the Skyjump, you’re strapped into a harness, and then you jump out over the tower edge to a platform 160 feet below. Skyjump is a separate admission at $130 with wristcam or photo add-ons at an additional cost.
Admission to the tower and one ride is $40. You can add a second ride for $5. If you want to dine at the revolving Top of the World restaurant, it’s $25 per person to get a window seat.
Go to a rock concert at The Sphere
The latest attraction that’s rocking the Vegas night skyline is The Sphere, the enormous spherical concert space near The Venetian. With over 17,000 seats, The Sphere is large enough to fit the Statue of Liberty inside. The Sphere is covered with 580,000 square feet of LEDs that are programmed to project startling images across its surface. The images can display fireworks or oceans or transform The Sphere into a giant basketball, a glowing jack-o-lantern, or a disturbingly real blinking eyeball.
Beginning September 29, U2 will be in residence until mid-December. During the day or nights when U2 isn’t performing, you can explore The Sphere Experience, featuring “Postcard From Earth,” an interactive film experience created by Oscar-nominated film director Darren Aronofsky.
Inside The Sphere Experience, you’ll be guided by five actual humanoid robots through human history and its effect on science and art. Aronofsky’s film is projected in 360 degrees on the world’s largest high-definition screen and reimagines life on earth as if it were a sci-fi movie.
Take a spin on the High Roller Observation Wheel
At 550 feet high, the High Roller Observation Wheel at the LINQ is the second tallest ferris wheel in the world. It has 28 cabins that can hold 40 people at a time, and it takes 30 minutes to make a full revolution (moving at one foot per second). At the top, the view of Las Vegas is amazing, and you can see the entire Strip and the surrounding desert landscape and mountains. It’s even better at night when the Strip is lit up.
The High Roller is certainly fun – if a little pricey for a 30-minute ride – for families during the day. But adults might want to try the Happy Hour on the High Roller, beginning at 4 pm and going to midnight (12 pm to 12 am on weekends). For $60, you share the cabin with no more than 15 people, and a private bartender fixes drinks. And it’s an open bar, which is a pretty good deal for Vegas.
Immerse in an interactive experience at Area 15
Locals steer clear of the Strip and head over to Area 15 for fun, food, and cocktails. A few minutes drive from the Strip, Area 15 is a 40,000 square foot complex that houses art installations, interactive experiences, restaurants, bars, and high-tech arcades. You can easily spend an entire day exploring, and you probably still won’t have enough time to see everything.
One of the most popular and surreal installations is Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart. What appears at first to be a strange food market transforms into a series of hidden portals, which lead to trippy art installations created by local and international artists.
Area 15 has several virtual reality rooms where you can blast off into outer space, fly like a bird, or drive a Grand Prix race car. Illuminarium combines high-tech cinema, total surround sound, scents, floor vibrations, and other special effects that transport you out to the universe or on a safari expedition. At night, the Illuminarium turns into an adults-only bar.
You’ll also find several restaurants and bars, decorated in otherworldly colors and lights. Ticketing can get a bit tricky. A free entry pass gains you access inside (you’ll need to schedule the date and time of arrival). You can purchase individual tickets for a single experience or a bundle for admission to several events.
Take selfies with the stars at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum
Adjacent to The Venetian is Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, where you can spend a fun afternoon taking selfies with rock stars (and The Rock) and the stars who made Las Vegas famous. Even in London, where Madame Tussaud first established her museum of macabre curiosities, there’s a bit of a “cheese” factor.
But just as the London location needed to update its stable of waxy stars by adding, for example, Harry Styles, the Las Vegas venue now appeals to a younger crowd. Newest additions are Tupac, Lizzo, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, and Miley Cyrus perched on a wrecking ball. (For a ticket add-on, you can ride a wrecking ball with Miley!)
You’ll also get to interact with many of the Marvel superheroes as depicted in the Avengers films. The museum has several levels of ticket prices, depending on what you want to add on, for example, a 4D movie starring the Marvel gang, or a ride in one of the Venetian’s gondolas.
If you’re really feeling out there, meet Snoop and take a ride on his marijuana seesaw! Madame Tussaud’s is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm, and tickets start at $40.99.
Visit historic Hoover Dam
Forty-five minutes outside of Las Vegas is Hoover Dam and definitely worth the scenic drive. Constructed during the Depression, Hoover Dam is still considered to be an architectural wonder and is designated a National Historic Landmark. Standing at 726’ high, 1,244’ long, with walls that are 660’ thick, Hoover Dam controls flooding of the Colorado River and provides water to over 16 million people.
When touring the dam, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the Colorado River and Lake Mead, the man-made lake created by the dam. Hoover Dam was built in the Art Deco style, and beautiful sculptures and tile work decorate its interior.
If you’re not afraid of heights, you can traverse across the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the world’s tallest concrete arch bridge. Spanning over 1900 feet and arching 880’ over Hoover Dam, it’s an amazing spot for photographs.
A full guided tour of Hoover Dam is $30 per person, and tours are given daily from 9 am-5 pm. There is separate admission for tours of the power plant. Tickets can be purchased at the Visitors Center.
See a Cirque du Soleil Show
The world-renown French-Canadian production company Cirque du Soleil has six shows permanently headquartered in Las Vegas. I recently saw one of its most famous and long-running shows “O”, and the spectacular stage at the Bellagio is worth the price of admission. The stage is hydraulic and throughout the show, it lowers, fills with water, and transforms into a deep pool into which performers dive from 100-feet high.
Other Cirque du Soleil shows are “Michael Jackson ONE” at Mandalay Bay, an acrobatic and dance show built around Jackson’s hits, “The Beatles LOVE” at The Mirage, with aerial acrobats, trampoline and roller skate acts, and a psychedelic light show, choreographed to The Beatles hits.
“Mad Apple” at New York New York is a crazy, out-of-control circus-themed show, headlined by the outrageous comedy magician Harrison Greenbaum. “Ka” at MGM Grand is a technological spectacle of moving stage pieces and aerial acrobatics.
One of the most popular and long-running shows is “Mystere” at Treasure Island. It features an international cast performing Cirque du Soleil’s trademark story-telling through acrobatics.
Visit The Mob Museum
A former courthouse now holds a unique collection of mob-related artifacts at The Mob Museum. Also called the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, the museum attempts to educate patrons about the history of organized crime and its effect on society.
The collection’s focus is on the bootlegger mobsters during Prohibition. On display you’ll see guns, rifles, flasks, a still, even a flapper dress, all from the 1920s. For the macabre-minded, the entire blood-stained wall of the garage where the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred is also a major attraction.
The museum has fascinating displays of mob bosses and what their gangs used to make “hits” on rival gangs.You’ll also walk through the history of how the mob got started in Las Vegas, and how they made millions by skimming cash from casinos.
The museum also emphasizes law and order, so you’ll get to see an execution chair from Nevada’s gas chamber, where mobsters met their end. The museum’s website has a fun mob name generator, in which you plug in a few details, and you get the name you would’ve been called by mobsters.
The Mob Museum is open daily from 9 am to 9 pm, and general admission is $29.95.
Visit the Titanic Artifacts Exhibition at the Luxor
The awe-inspiring Titanic Artifacts Exhibition houses over 350 artifacts recovered from the wreck of the Titanic, ranging from the ship’s fittings, furniture, and china to the personal effects of passengers found in the wreck’s debris field.
When you enter, you’ll have your photo taken on the TItanic’s bow, where Jack and Rose (of the 1997 film “Titanic”) famously “flew”. (Warning, you’ll have to pay for the photo when you exit.) Inside you’ll be given a ticket to the Titanic with a passenger name, and at the end of the exhibit, you’ll find out whether the passenger lived or died.
You’ll tour through rooms recreated from the Titanic’s steerage, 2nd class and 1st class levels and watch videos of actors portraying passengers from each class. (They’re a bit cheesy but informative.) The famous Grand Staircase has been meticulously recreated, and, for a fee, you can have your photo taken on it.
As you tour, you’ll see cases filled with incredible artifacts, all curated with photos of where they were on the ship and where they were found in the wreck. The personal belongings are the most emotionally devastating, especially when you learn of the fate of the passengers.
The star attraction, though, is a 15-ton piece of the Titanic, the largest ever recovered. Measuring 26.6’ by 12.6’, the piece was on the starboard side of Titanic at 1st class suites C-79 – C-81.
Tickets are $32 for adults, and $24 for kids. The exhibition sells out, so book tickets ahead online.