Las Vegas To Do

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"DISNEYLAND FOR GROWN-UPS"

Las Vegas offers a TON of things to do besides gambling. Skydiving, riding in a helicopter, driving race cars at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and horseback riding in Red Rock Canyon are just a few.

This list is your "all-in-one" reference for a lot of the attractions and activities in and around Las Vegas, including days and times and whether they are free or a fee is involved.

The list is divided into those attractions and activities available at the various resorts (sorted by resort name) and those located elsewhere.

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AN AWESOME RIDE

A tandem skydive is the most AWESOME experience I've ever had during any of my Vegas trips. With a tandem jump you're strapped to a jumpmaster and just "going along for the ride" so there's no lengthy training sessions involved. You'll likely be back at your hotel within three hours. There are a couple places that offer tandem skydives. Both are actually about 20 miles outside of Las Vegas but they both have a shuttle service (and you can see the Strip resorts from both drop zones). They also both offer a package which includes a video tape and still photographs of your jump.

If you plan to get a video of your jump, Vegas Extreme uses the more traditional method of having another skydiver with video and still cameras mounted on their helmet jump along with you. Skydive Las Vegas uses "wrist-cams" to video your jump. This is where the jumpmaster you're jumping with has a small camera strapped to their wrist. The benefit of a wrist-cam is that the canopy ride portion of your jump is also videoed (and audioed). The downside is having a camera two feet from your face when it is being pushed out of shape by the wind of a 120-mph free-fall (a look only a mother could love - maybe). If how you look on your video is important to you, then you may want to go with Vegas Extreme.

There's also an outfit called Fly Away Indoor Skydiving which is an indoor vertical wind tunnel where you can simulate a free-fall. However, it can't simulate the canopy ride which is the greatest part of a skydive in my opinion. You fell like a bird soaring around under that chute and your jumpmaster will likely let you steer it around if you'd like. If you want to know more about what it's like (along with a couple free-fall pictures), check out my Vegas Tandem Skydive page.

 Weekends tend to be busier than weekdays so if your stay in Las Vegas includes a weekday you may want to make your reservation then rather than on a Saturday or Sunday. You won't have as long of a wait for ride up.

Be sure to call ahead and make reservations.
  Skydive Las Vegas
800-U-SKYDIV
Vegas Extreme Skydiving
866-EXT-JUMP
Fly Away Indoor Skydiving
877-545-8093
Location Boulder City, NV
East of Las Vegas
Jean, NV
South of Las Vegas
Just east of
the Stardust
Strip Shuttle Included
South Strip pick-up
AM only during the week
Included
North/South Strip pick-ups
N/A
Advantage View of Hoover Dam &
Lake Mead during jump
(but tandem jumps only)
Separate skydiver
for video/photos
(Experienced skydivers welcome)
Not really skydiving
(for those who don't want
to jump out of a plane)


 Scheduling a jump in the morning is better as winds tend to pick up in the afternoon. Higher winds cannot only increase the chance that your jump will be cancelled, but it kicks up dust which can reduce visibility of the distant scenary.

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FANTASTIC FLIGHTS

Heli USA offers FANTASTIC night-time helicopter rides up and down the Strip. They pick you up at your hotel, give you free champagne while you're waiting to go to the flight line, and drop you off at your hotel after your flight. Cost is $75 per person (worth EVERY penny) but they often have a coupon in What's On magazine.

 Cameras with a built-in flash are not allowed on night flights because the flash will mess up the pilot's night vision. Use a camera without a flash that can take high-speed (ASA 800 or 1000) film, or a low-lux camcorder.

They also offer a variety of day-time air tours of the Grand Canyon (which is the best way to see the Grand Canyon in my opinion). The Chariot of Fire is their basic Grand Canyon tour costing about $300 and takes less than four hours pick-up to drop-off (flight time is about 1.5 hours departing from McCarran Airport). If you're considering a less traditional wedding, you can get married during your own night flight or at the Grand Canyon. Full details are available on their Website or you can call them at 800-359-8727 (or 736-8787 in Las Vegas).

 On the home page of their Website click on the "Cheap Flights" link and then on the "Next Special" link until the "Apollo Night Flight" page is displayed for a $20 discount ($57 total) for flights Sunday through Thursday nights. Conversely, there's a $20 discount for the Chariot of Fire Grand Canyon tour on Saturday and Sunday.

A less time-consuming option is the night-time Strip ride given by Las Vegas Helicopters. Their helipad is behind a strip mall located right on the Strip across from the Aladdin. The ride isn't as long as Heli-USA's (doesn't cover the south end of the Strip), goes west of the Strip looping around the Rio, and you pay a little more ($79) for the convenient location, but if time is tight you can go for a fun ride and be back walking down the Strip in as little as 15 minutes.

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HORSEBACK CANYON RIDE

Second only to skydiving, this is one of the neatest experiences I've had in Vegas. If you don't think a desert can be beautiful, take a break from the hustle and bustle of the Strip and spend a leisurely two hours horseback riding in the desert around Red Rock Canyon. Cowboy Trail Rides offers a free Strip shuttle that picks you up and drops you off at the tour lobby in the "Rear Rotunda" of the Excalibur. (Look around the tour bus parking area for a white bus with the "Cowboy Trailrides" sign in the window or a white van with red lettering.) Spectacular views riding along a canyon rim may even include wild burros and other desert wildlife. What struck me is that this is not a "tourist trap" operation. These people care about the land and their horses and they enjoy sharing them with visitors. I also liked the fact that they offer a waiver option that allows you to opt out of wearing a riding helmet.

They offer an $129 morning "Canyon Rim" ride (8:00 am pickup) and a $189 "Sunset BBQ" ride (pickup times vary throughout the year) which includes a steak dinner with all the fixin's cooked on a large outdoor BBQ grill after your ride. If you go to Vegas more than once you may want to do both rides because they take different trails with the Sunset ride going to the top of ridge that overlooks Las Vegas valley and the lights of the Strip. Both tours are offered Tuesday through Sunday but reservations are required at 702-387-2457. Long pants (no shorts) and closed-toe shoes (no sandles) are also required.

 Because there are a limited number of horses and "wranglers" (guides) these rides do fill up. You may want to phone in your reservation before you leave for Vegas and let them know if you'll be needing the Strip shuttle service.

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SOUVENIRS

If you need to pick up souvenirs for the folks back home there are numerous small shops all along the Strip that specialize in selling low-cost Las Vegas-logoed items and clothing.

In addition, most resorts have "signature shops" that sell items with their logo on them. My all-time favorite is the Caesars Exclusively signature shop at the Forum Shops (location is shown on the Caesars Palace/Forum Shops diagram available on the Diagrams page). Some very classy items with a good portion of them, such as chocolates, coffee mugs, glasses, etc., being under $15. If you really want to impress the souvenir recipient, get them one of the Caesars "Greek Key" terry-cloth robes with their fancy trimming and gold crest. They cost around $90 but are so plush it's difficult to pack them so you may have to carry it back on the plane with you. The cart vendors in the mall of the Forum Shops also sell Caesars signature items, including T-shirts, at reasonable prices.

 If you don't get all of your souvenir shopping done before it's time to leave, fear not. Most of the major resorts have signature shops in the center area of Terminal 1 at the airport but they close at 11 pm.

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BUFFETS

Most of the major hotel/casinos on the Strip and downtown have three daily buffets. They used to be a cost to the casinos as a means of bringing people into their establishments, but with the corporate takeover of the resorts they've become a profit point and prices have risen dramatically in recent years. I've tried a lot of the buffets along the Strip and those that deserve mention, good or bad, are listed here and in the Not Impressed section below. You may notice that I only address dinner buffets here. I don't eat breakfast or lunch so you're on your own when it comes to those buffets.

Buffet prices change. The prices shown here are from a given point in time and are given for the sake of comparison. In addition, local taxes will raise the price by $1 to $3 more than what is

 Lines can be quite long at some buffets, especially on weekends, so be prepared for a wait. The busiest period is from 5 pm to 7 pm. Most dinner buffets start at 4 pm or 4:30 pm and go until at least 9 pm so going a little earlier or later may reduce your wait time. In addition, if you've been playing at one of the resort's casino tables for an hour or more prior to heading to the buffet, you can ask the floor man or pit boss if you qualify for a "buffet line pass" as a comp. This line pass will allow you to go directly to the front of the line, bypassing the wait.
The classic Las Vegas "cheap buffet" (dinner) is getting harder to find these days. The center-Strip Imperial Palace has the "Emperor's Buffet" is $9.50. The north end of the Strip has Circus Circus ($10) and Sahara ($8 but $10 on Saturdays), and downtown has Gaughan's Plaza ($9).

This is not a buffet tip but a cheap food tip. If your funds are getting low, head up to Slots-A-Fun (next to Circus-Circus) where they serve a foot-long, 1/2-pound hot dog for 99 cents 24-hours-a-day every day. Pile on the fixin's and you've got a meal for two.

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GOOD SHOWS

There are two types of shows to be aware of. "Continuous-run" (also called "indefinite") shows feature performers that are under contract with the resort for long periods of time. These can run from major acts, such as Lance Burton at the Monte Carlo and Cher at Caesars Palace, to small lounge acts. Then there are the "limited-engagement" shows, like Ricky Martin doing one night at Mandalay Bay or Howie Mandel doing a week at the MGM Grand. Every resort has at least one continuous-run show, and many have several of them. Not all have the venue for large limited-engagement shows though. The places that routinely offer big-name limited-engagement acts are the Hilton, Mandalay Bay (including boxing matches), Paris, and the MGM Grand.

The resorts sell advance tickets for their continuous-run shows anywhere from three days to three months before the show date. Some resorts sell these tickets on their Website, holding them for you to pick up at the box office when you arrive in town. A lot of the shows do sell out so figure out which show(s) you'd like to see and buy the tickets ahead of time instead of waiting for the day of the performance. However, tickets for limited-engagement shows will typically be sold well in advance of the show date(s), and are available from the resort's box office, and may be available from places like TicketMaster.

I'm not much of a "show person" but friends who's opinions I respect highly say the following continuous-run shows are worth the $60 to $100 ticket prices: The Tropicana (AirPlay), Stratosphere (Viva Las Vegas), and Flamingo (Bottoms Up adult show) have "free" afternoon shows where admission is the price of an expensive drink (around $4 to $6) with some requiring a coupon or as part of a lunch buffet package. Any available coupons can typically be found in What's On magazine (covered on the Tips page). If you can't find a coupon try checking with the hotel's concierge.

Harrah's has an open-air lounge in the shape of a Merry-Go-Round that features live muscial entertainment from the early afternoon until around midnight. It's located between Harrah's and the Imperial Palace and, because it's outdoors, you don't actually need to go into the lounge to enjoy the music. There are also numerous cart vendors near the lounge selling a variety of souvenir items.

Note:  Most of the continuous-run shows (as well as some of the attractions) are "dark" for a week in early to mid-December. However, this helps to make it one of the cheapest times of year to visit there. Note also that, while it is cheaper to stay in Las Vegas during the middle of the week, many limited-engagement shows only have performances on Friday and Saturday nights.

Many of the resorts have lower-priced shows (in the $20 to $40 range) of all sorts including adult entertainment, comedy, magic, musical, or combinations of these. For a complete list and schedule of shows, including ticket prices and comments and ratings from those who have seen the shows, visit the Las Vegas On-Line Website (www.lvol.com) or pick up a copy of What's On magazine when you hit town.

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NOT IMPRESSED
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