With a nickname like Sin City, Las Vegas isn’t for the faint of heart. Towering mega resorts that seem to stretch for miles and the constant casino jingle-jangle make the destination seem like an over-the-top oasis in the desert. But beyond the glitz of the Strip, outdoor adventure awaits. From day trips to the Grand Canyon to rides through the Mojave, Las Vegas is a city of contrasts.
And while many do head to Vegas to sidle up to a slot machine for the entire stay, there are also other entertaining options including extravagant shows, shopping, and fine dining. To help you experience the best of the city, here’s my itinerary for first-time Las Vegas visitors.
Pack for sweltering summers and relatively mild winters. Prioritize hydration in the dry climate.
If you only have time for one thing, make it people-watching on the Las Vegas Strip.
Put on your walking shoes and get acquainted with the Las Vegas Strip, a dazzling, often crowded 4.2-mile (6.8-kilometer) stretch that’s lined with the city’s top hotels and casinos including mainstays such as Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, and the Bellagio (don't miss the fountains). See the Sphinx replica outside the Egypt-themed Luxor. Gawk at the Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel. And take a gondola ride inside the Venetian.
In addition to dinner and a show, try seeing the sights of Vegas on a nighttime helicopter tour or hop aboard a double-decker bus to watch the Strip whiz by.
Today, explore the Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall in downtown Vegas that’s home to two iconic casinos—The Four Queens and Golden Nugget. Here, you can check out attractions like the Neon Museum and Mob Museum, plus experience a slot machine-inspired zipline and enjoy free nightly concerts.
Area15—an experiential complex with immersive activations, art installations, shops, bars, and eateries—is located minutes from the Strip. (To grab a cab, head to any hotel entrance; you can't hail one on the Strip itself.) It’s the latest addition to Vegas’ thrilling attractions, which include the High Roller observation wheel and Fly LINQ Zipline.
On your final day, leave Las Vegas and head to the Grand Canyon—the West Rim is about a 2.5-hour drive. Once there, dare to stroll across the Skywalk, a glass bridge suspended 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) above the canyon floor. While most tours to the Grand Canyon include a stop at the Hoover Dam, you can also book a trip to just the dam.
Alternately, cruise through Red Rock Canyon in Nevada’s Mojave Desert on a bike tour. Travel past petroglyphs, sandstone formations, and Joshua tree forests in this area, a 30-minute drive from the Strip.