Must-See Attractions in and Around Las Vegas

From an observation deck, to a Roller Coaster and Red Rocks Canyon see all that Las Vegas has to offer on and off the Strip.

Don’t let the name “Sin City” fool you; Las Vegas offers far more than slot machines and blackjack tables. From hair-raising roller coasters and dancing water fountains to faux volcanoes launching fireballs into the desert night, you’ll discover mountains of fun in this desert town. Many of the city’s attractions won’t bust your budget, either. And, if you’re looking for adventure beyond the city lights, hit the road for a daytrip to the stunning Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

How to Get There

Fly into Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, which sits about 10 miles southeast of the Strip. Upon arrival, hop aboard an Alamo shuttle bound for the off-site McCarran Rent-a-Car Center; the Alamo desk is to the left of the entrance.

Must-See Attractions

Las Vegas With a View

View the glittery Las Vegas Strip from above. The replica Eiffel Tower at the Paris Las Vegas hotel has a caged observation deck atop its 460-foot spire. Nearby at The LINQ shopping and dining complex, treat the family to a spin on the 550-foot-tall High Roller, the world’s highest observation wheel. From an air-conditioned pod, the panoramic views stretch to the Spring Mountains about 20 miles west.

High Roller Sit atop the glowing, purple High Roller to take in sights on, and beyond, the Las Vegas Strip. Photo courtesy of kennejima, Flickr.

Rising over the Las Vegas skyline and resembling a much larger version of Seattle’s famed Space Needle, the soaring 1,149-foot Stratosphere tower pushes your senses to the limit — whether you stroll the observation deck, dine at the Top of the World restaurant, or brave one of the dizzying, thrilling tower-top rides.

Stratosphere Though the Stratosphere in Las Vegas may resemble Seattle’s Space Needle, it’s actually twice the height.

With the Kids

Treat the family to an ocean of fun in the desert: The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay features more than 2,000 creatures — from graceful rays to toothy sharks —in a facility with an Indiana Jones-style adventure theme.

Later, pump up the adrenaline with the New York-New York Hotel’s roller coaster, or the exciting rides at the Circus Circus Adventuredome theme park. Alternatively, opt for Circus Circus casino’s midway arcade, where trapeze artists, acrobats and jugglers perform free shows every half-hour.

The Great (Mostly) Outdoors

Outdoors on the Strip, the Mirage resort pioneered the free Vegas sidewalk spectacle with its erupting volcano. Rising from a palm-fringed lagoon, the 50-foot volcano puts on a pyrotechnic, eye-popping display two to three times per night.

Located three-quarters of a mile south of the Mirage on the Strip, fronting the Bellagio, is the hotel’s dazzling Fountains of Bellagio. Choreographed to songs like Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady,” more than 1,200 water launchers create a mesmerizing ballet that draws shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Venture inside the hotel into a blooming playground that is also gratis for visitors. Here the meticulously manicured Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden features whimsical themes that change with the seasons.

When Hunger Strikes

Take a break and go for gourmet burgers at Gordon Ramsay BurGR in the Planet Hollywood resort. Or head next door to the Strip-front patio tables at the Paris hotel’s casual HEXX Kitchen + Bar, where you can grab a meal and appease your sweet tooth at the adjoining chocolate and ice cream shop.

Downtown & Off-Strip

The original neon heart of Las Vegas glows downtown on Fremont Street, about a 10-minute drive north of the Strip. You’ll find several pay parking lots in the area, like the ones at the Plaza Hotel or Golden Nugget, where 24-hour rates typically top out at $12.

Venture on foot to the Fremont Street Experience to check out old-school casinos like Binion’s and the Golden Gate. Overhead, a canopy equipped with 12.5 million LED modules and an impressive sound system presents free “Viva Vision” light shows choreographed to music from rock bands like Heart and The Doors. A handful of outdoor stages also feature live music, including a top-notch Elvis impersonator performing most nights on the stage next to Binion’s casino.

Fremont Street Experience Walk beneath millions of illuminated LED lights and enjoy the entire Fremont Street Experience. Photo courtesy of Holiday Point, modified from original, Flickr.

Or see Fremont Street like a superhero on the SlotZilla zip line, where you can zoom over “Glitter Gulch,” arms outstretched like Superman. If you have young kids in tow, be aware they must weigh at least 60 pounds to ride.

At the funky Downtown Container Park, a dining and shopping complex made up of creatively repurposed shipping containers, families can enjoy a free children’s play area with a climbable treehouse and a 33-foot slide. Prying your little one away will be no small feat.

Hungry? Fast-food stands selling pizza slices, jumbo corn dogs and deep-fried Oreos rule on Fremont Street. Or if you’d prefer to go the Vegas buffet route, try the tasty, affordable spread at the Main Street Station casino’s Garden Court Buffet.         

Plan a Daytrip: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Escape from the flashing lights and pinging slot machines to the gorgeous and serene Red Rock Canyon. Roughly 13 miles northwest of the Strip, this desert wonderland soothes the soul with peaceful hiking trails among jumbled red rocks, backed by dramatic mountain peaks.

Red Rock Canyon Hike, relax and enjoy the stunning red rock surroundings just outside Las Vegas at Red Rock Canyon.

Go on the park’s 13-mile scenic drive, which is $7 per vehicle and includes access to the visitor center. Or hike the moderate, 2.5-mile round-trip Calico Tanks Trail, which takes about two hours — or longer if you include a picnic lunch and extracurricular rock scrambling.

Looking for more adventure in and around Las Vegas? Check out our travel guides including how to plan  family trip to Las Vegas, tour Kingman, Arizona and Route 66 like a local and other amazing drives and southwest day trips.

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About the Author

Eli Ellison is a travel writer who specializes in the American Southwest. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Los Angeles Times, and