Look at these lesser known venues and events, and enjoy “fabulous Las Vegas” the way the locals do. Sure there’s no shortage of fun to be had in “Sin City.” From the moment you arrive, you’re bombarded with ads for shows, bars, restaurants, shopping, and attractions. Go ahead — ride the High Roller, ascend the Eiffel Tower, go to a Cirque show, and feast like royalty. Then, when you want to dial things back a little – not to mention save a few dollars – consider these ideas.
1. Ron DeCar’s Event Center
For years Ron DeCar enthralled audiences as principal singer and host of the Folies Bergère at the Tropicana. Now the owner of the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, he recently decided to bring back the ambiance of old Vegas by opening a glamorous new venue for live music and comedy. Listen to Strip headliners, visiting artists, and local performers for a nominal cover charge, and enjoy a full restaurant and bar along with the show.
2. Pinball Hall of Fame
This unique establishment is often described as a museum, but it’s also a working arcade that draws fans of all ages from all over the world. Hundreds of fully functional machines dating back to the dawn of pinball fill its 10,000 square feet, and the charge to play is only a quarter or two. Run by pinball collector and restorer Tim Arnold, who got his start in the arcade business back in the Pacman era, the PHoF is just a few blocks east of the Strip and open from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day. Another fun fact: After the Hall of Fame covers all its expenses each month, it donates all other revenue to charity.
3. The Bootlegger Italian Bistro
This venerable Italian restaurant on the south side of town is owned by Lorraine Hunt, former lieutenant governor of Nevada. Also a well-known lounge singer, she keeps vintage Vegas alive by providing live entertainment several nights a week. Especially popular is Monday’s Open Mic night – you never know which Strip headliners might show up to jam.
Las Vegas is home to a growing number of unique museums. The Mob Museum downtown offers an inside look at the history of organized crime in Las Vegas and the world. Also downtown, the Neon Museum houses a glittery “boneyard” of iconic neon signs from bygone casinos. In Henderson, the Clark County Museum features a street lined with restored houses and businesses illustrating each decade of Vegas valley history. There’s also a ghost town, a steam locomotive, and a preserved wedding chapel.
5. Cruise on Lake Mead
Check out Hoover Dam in style aboard a Mississippi-style riverboat. The scenery surrounding Lake Mead includes an extinct volcano, other-worldly landscapes, and of course, the 726-foot dam itself. The basic sightseeing cruise is a great way to see this world wonder and the spectacular terrain around it. Enhance your experience by choosing a dinner or champagne brunch cruise.
6. First Friday
Join the locals for a celebration of art and music on the first Friday evening of every month. The festivities take place in Las Vegas’s lively Arts District downtown. Tour galleries, enjoy live music, and choose from the eclectic and tantalizing offerings of a long line of food trucks. The fun starts at dusk on Charleston Boulevard near Main Street.
7. Red Rock Loop & Visitor Center
Just outside of town to the west lies one of the most beautiful red rock canyons in the Southwest. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area attracts hikers and rock climbers from around the globe, but you don’t have to be an outdoorsman to enjoy its splendor. A 13-mile one-way loop takes you past breathtaking vistas and scenic rock formations in the comfort of your own car. Stop in at the Visitor Center to learn about the flora, fauna, and geology of this area, and to admire the reptilian residents of the center’s desert tortoise habitat.