Sin City – Skip The Gambling and Have Fun by Maureen C. Bruschi

If you love gambling, you can’t beat Las Vegas. Over 68,000 slots and video machines and 2,400 gaming tables flood the Las Vegas Strip. However, if you want to see the “other side” of Las Vegas and your time is limited skip the gambling and head for these twelve activities you won’t want to miss.

My husband and I roamed the Las Vegas Strip with my sister and her friend who travel frequently to Las Vegas. They knew exactly where to go. We witnessed a volcano and a pirate battle, wandered through The Fremont Street
Experience, viewed Las Vegas from 1,149 feet, explored a tropical rainforest full of deadly predators, and enjoyed a rock ‘n roll tribute to America’s top performers. In between all the activities, we ate in a number of fabulous restaurants and experienced a touch of Paris, Venice and Rome, all in the span of 2 ½ days.

If you’ve never been to Las Vegas before, you’ll probably react the same way my husband and I did. Your eyes will be clued to all the blinking lightsand razzle-dazzle of the “the strip.” The Mirage, where we stayed, was equally spectacular. When we strolled through the front door, a lush rainforest along with palm trees towering above cascading waterfalls surrounded us. Bars and lounges, shops and restaurants, and of course slots, video
machines, and gaming tables decorated the immense lobby.

After we checked in, we stopped at the hotel’s BLT Burger located near the casino for a late night snack. Here burgers definitely rule. You can get anything from the classic burger to a lamb, veggie, salmon, and pork and
shrimp burger. My husband ordered the Atlantic Salmon Burger and wasn’t disappointed.
Our hearty meal gave us a second wind as we headed out to the front of the hotel to catch the spectacular Mirage Volcano ( <; erupting. Imagine a mountain rising about 50 feet out of a
lagoon surrounded by palms. During the day all is quiet as water cascades down the sides of the volcano. But once it’s dark, the fun begins. At 15-minute intervals, steamy smoke rises, the crater transforms into a fiery image, and flames leap into the air.

Next to the Mirage you’ll find the Treasure Island Hotel and the Sirens of TI <; Witness a music and dance extravaganza filled with aerial stunts including risky high dives off the ships, sword fights and acrobatics as the Sirens of TI battle a band of renegade pirates. Flames and fireworks light up Sirens Cove as one ship tries to take over the other. The performance takes place four times a
night. Make sure you check for start times and get there early since the free outdoor show always draws a crowd.

The next morning we crossed the strip to the Imperial Palace where we discovered an assortment of antique, famous and infamous cars at The Auto Collections ( <; The world’s largest classic car showroom houses over 300 cars, including the 1939 Chrysler Royal Sedan, the car in which Johnny Carson learned to drive.
Next we hopped on The Deuce, a bus that travels up and down the strip, and headed for the Fremont Street Experience ( <; If you visit at night you’ll enjoy an amazing light show under the Viva Vision canopy (90 feet above the ground and the length of 5 football fields).

After lunch at the Main Street Station’s Triple 7 Restaurant and Microbrewery (;,
we climbed back aboard The Deuce for a short trip to the Stratosphere Tower
(;, the tallest
freestanding observation tower in the United States. Here we discovered the best views of the Las Vegas Strip and enjoyed American Superstars, a rock ‘n
roll tribute to Michael Jackson, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood and others.

After the show we completed the night with dinner at the Stratosphere’s Courtyard Buffet. The buffet has something for everyone. You can gobble up all-American favorites (think fried chicken, turkey and mashed potatoes) or try their international favorites such as Swedish meatballs, fish and chips and Chow Mein. There’s also a carving station, a full salad bar, a drink station and a dessert table. Right outside the Stratosphere Towers, we caught The Deuce that took us back to our hotel.
On our second day, we scrambled back on The Deuce for a quick stop at MGM Grand Hotel’s Lion Habitat ( <; Across the strip at New York-New York Hotel
(<;, you’ll see a façade that re-creates the Manhattan skyline and its most famous landmarks.
Next stop on The Deuce was Mandalay Bay’s incredible adventure through Shark Reef Aquarium
(<;, home to more than 2,000 animals from around the world. The self-guided tour took us into a sunken shipwreck where Sandtiger sharks lie in wait; through a jungle
environment, home to the endangered Komodo Dragons; and finally into an ancient temple where the lionfish lurks.

After lunch at Mandalay Bay’s Red White and Blue, we headed back downtown and stopped at another themed Vegas hotel, Paris Las Vegas (<; The inside of the hotel captures all the details of Paris, including a ceiling painted blue with clouds, cobblestone sidewalks and alleys decorated with brass lamps, and fine French restaurants and cafes.
We crossed over the strip and took a quick peek at the Bellagio (<; In the lobby’s ceiling, you’ll see the hotel’s landmark piece, Dale Chihuly’s 2,000 vibrant hand-blown glass flowers. Continue straight ahead and you’ll come to the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. When we were there we enjoyed the look of autumn, including babbling brooks, a mythical tree made of paper and wood, and a 13-foot-tall scarecrow.

Next to the Bellagio you’ll find Caesars Palace (<; As you step into the lobby, replicas of ancient Roman fountains and statues surround you. Home to The Colosseum, you may also find a bevy of talented entertainers performing, including Cher, Jerry Seinfeld and Bette Midler.

For dinner we trekked from the Mirage across the strip to The Venetian Hotel ( <; The Venice themed hotel includes frescoes on arched ceilings, and strolling performers and living statues at St. Mark’s Square. We devoured authentic Italian pastas at Trattoria Reggiano, a tiny sidewalk café tucked away in the Venetian Grand Canal Shoppes. After dinner, we couldn’t resist the Gondola Ride through
the canals of Venice as our gondolier serenaded us with several Italian ballads.

There you have it. We were a little tired but thrilled that we had the chance to experience the top sights and sounds of Vegas during our short stay. And we didn’t lose a cent gambling.

Getting Around: We bought a pass for The Deuce, the city’s bus that travels up and down The Strip. The Deuce costs $7 per person and is good for 24 hours.

Travelers’ Tips:
Grabbing a cab at the airport – If your hotel is located on the Las Vegas Strip, make sure you tell the cab driver to take the quickest route as opposed to driving down the entire length of the traffic-jammed strip. Our driver went down a side road parallel to the strip, and made much better time (and saved us money).

Sense of Direction on The Strip – Remember that when you’re heading downtown you’re traveling north; uptown is south; a little confusing at first.

Research Packaged Deals Before You Go- We had a Stratosphere Towers package that included The American Superstars Show, a trip to the observation decks and the buffet, all for $51.25 plus tax per person.