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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.

Yes, Las Vegas has a reputation for gambling, excess booze, and other more illicit activities (they don’t call it Sin City for nothing!). But what if betting it all on black isn’t exactly your bag? To the surprise of perhaps none, the entertainment capital has so much more to offer. Look beyond smoky slots to find your new favorite activities. Whether it’s educational, adventurous, or just straight up fun—we’ve got you covered.

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Explore a neon boneyard

A slice of Sin City’s history at the Neon Museum. Credit: Bark.

Vegas without its signature neon would be a very dark place indeed. It turns out those swirling signs you see along the Las Vegas Strip tell a larger story. Visit The Neon Museum for an unstuffy (and outdoor!) look at how The Beatles, Elvis, and even Tim Burton (yes!) play into the history of “The Entertainment Capital of The World.” They’re open all day—but for the best photos, schedule a tour of the Neon Boneyard at dusk. (Book well in advance.)

Get weird at Omega Mart

Omega Mart at Area15 | Photo: Joshua Mellin jdmellin@gmail.com, @joshuamellin.jpg

Part of the Meow Wolf collection of fully immersive art installations, Omega Mart, located within the equally whimsical AREA15 entertainment complex, tells the story of a mysterious superstore. Is it being taken over by aliens? Can you buy a refreshing carton of mammal liquid? Will they allow you to hang out as long as you want, search every corner, touch every button, have a drink at the secret speakeasy, and take the perfect #Selfie? Yes, yes, and absolutely yes.

Catch free entertainment

Mirage Las Vegas | Photo: Joshua Mellin jdmellin@gmail.com, @joshuamellin.jpg

Okay, so maybe you maxed out your budget just flying out. No worries, like everything else in this city, Vegas does free entertainment bigger and better than just about anywhere else in the world. Start at Circus Circus, where, as the hotel name would imply, jugglers, acrobats, and trapeze artists regularly flaunt their big top skills along the Midway. Swing by the Silverton Hotel to awe at their 117,000-gallon aquarium, home to tropical fish, stingrays, and mermaids. (Yes really!) Finally, you absolutely can’t go wrong with Strip classics: The dancing fountains outside of Bellagio, and the epic volcano erupting multiple times nightly outside of the Mirage.

See a breathtaking show

As you’ve probably gathered, Vegas is not short on entertainment. But if you’re planning to shell out for a performance, consider a Cirque du Soleil show. With five different shows blending humor, special effects, and breathtaking athleticism, the French-Canadian troop has become a Vegas-mainstay for good reason. From the unusual diving creatures of O, to a twisted high wire act where performers swing over the crowd at Mystère, this is artistry in its highest form. Looking for an outrageous Cirque alternative? Absinthe by Spiegelworld has been the toast of the town for a decade now and recently spun off two completely different shows including Opium and Atomic Saloon with a fourth slated for 2022. Think Cirque, but more intimate and much more bawdy and over the top!

Hit up a music festival

Life is Beautiful Music Festival | Photo: Joshua Mellin jdmellin@gmail.com, @joshuamellin.jpg

Music festivals are back. For your favorite band with a side of glamour, keep an eye on Vegas’ upcoming schedule, which includes a slate of hip hop icons like Kendrick Lamar at Day N Vegas, yearly EDM highlight Electric Daisy Carnival, and Life is Beautiful, which takes over blocks of the downtown area and features high profile pop acts like Billie Eilish and St. Vincent.

Fly above the crowd

Downtown Las Vegas’ Fremont Street, aka “The Old Strip,” still functions as a vibrant entertainment hub where there’s still plenty going on. Get a bird’s-eye view of it all by zip lining over the top of it all aboard Slotzilla. For between $39-$59 (depending on the length of your ride, day of the week, and whether you want to cruise sitting up or “Superhero style”), you can get the ultimate adrenaline ride. Be sure to keep your eyes open so you can appreciate the Viva Vision ceiling light shows as you cruise by.

Get soaking wet

Thanks to the recently shuttered Hard Rock Hotel (now the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas; see below), Sin City is officially the place to get wet in summer. Its Rehab (2004–2018) popularized the Vegas pool party and made the city an it destination for young travelers. Many imitators followed and today parties like WET Republic at MGM Grand, Drais Beach Club at the Cromwell, and countless others guarantee a sun-soaked, booze-fueled, and DJ-driven day of hi-jinks under the desert sun. Pace yourself and drink water!

Stay comfortably away from the action

Exploring Vegas can be a high-energy, frenetic good time. Which is why it’s worth booking a hotel slightly off the beaten path. Just a 20-minute walk from The Strip, The Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is the perfect place to recharge between adventures. Grab a drink at their relatively peaceful pool/beach resort, after treating yourself to an elaborate spa treatment. Grab some ice cream after your soak at Afters, or slide directly into dinner without leaving the property at Night + Market Thai. And if you’re ready for more action, you can always catch a concert before falling into one of their lux beds.

Featured image courtesy of Josh Melin.

Tagged: Las Vegas

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