Amid Las Vegas’ vast oceans of neon lights, tucked away in the corners of colossal resorts or outside away from the hustle and din of the casinos there are any number of fascinating and exciting attractions to explore that don’t require you to pump coins into a hungry machine, roll dice or groan aloud as a silver ball lands in the wrong slot of a roulette wheel for the umpteenth time.
For Las Vegas thrills of a different kind, here are our recommendations for seven of the best attractions in Las Vegas that don’t involve losing your shirt.
1. Stratosphere, Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas takes everything to extremes, and that goes for the collection of white-knuckle rides that sit atop the Stratosphere Resort’s nine-hundred-foot high observation tower: the tallest freestanding observation tower in America. Providing the very best views over the Strip, the four theme park rides here – X-Scream, Skyjump, Insanity and Big Shot are absolutely not for the faint-hearted, but if you have the sheer guts to dangle over Las Vegas without the aid of a safety net then Stratosphere guarantees an unforgettable experience.
2. Clark County Wetlands Park, off East Tropicana Avenue
Enjoy the contrast: away from the Strip the Clark County Wetlands Park is a peaceful haven of natural beauty. Hiking trails lead through 2,900 acres of unspoilt grassland and marsh with the majestic Frenchman mountain range as a backdrop. Perfect for bird watchers, the park provides a habitat for the Great Blue Heron, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Spotted Towhee, Red-winged Blackbird, Wood Duck, Northern Saw-Whet Owl and others whilst lizards, ground squirrels and even coyotes freely roam the area.
3. The Atomic Testing Museum, East Flamingo Road
Perhaps the worst-kept ‘secret’ in American history, during the 1950’s the extensive testing of nuclear weaponry took place on a Nuclear Test Site (NTS) close to Las Vegas; folk would travel to the city just to witness the mushroom clouds rising over the desert. Just a mile from the Strip, the Atomic Testing Museum presents a fascinating history of the development of the nuclear arms race, retaining many of the artefacts from the NTS and also illustrating the way in which the ‘exciting’ nuclear age was embraced by the popular culture of the time. A museum tour culminates in the Ground Zero Theatre, where you can experience for yourself (on video!) the deafening reality, vibrations and heat wave that result from a nuclear explosion.
4. Pole Position Raceway, South Arville Street
Kids and ‘adult kids’ who feel the need for speed will be in there element at this huge indoor go-karting arena. The tracks are modelled on Formula One circuits and the karts travel at speeds up to a hair-raising maximum of 45 miles per hour. With no need to pre-book you can just ‘arrive and drive’, tearing up the track in competition with a host of other like-minded speed freaks.
5. Las Vegas Springs Preserve, South Valley View Boulevard
Often referred to as the birthplace of Las Vegas, this 180-acre site was once a desert oasis of natural springs which provided the water that enabled the construction and early survival of the city. The springs dried up in 1962 but today the Preserve provides a fascinating insight into Las Vegas’ history and a focus upon conservation to ensure the city’s future. Galleries and exhibitions cover topics ranging from the lifestyle of the Native Americans who once inhabited the area to environmental sustainability, and there is an 8-acre garden containing many different species of desert-dwelling cacti, plants and flowers.
6. Dig This, South Rancho Road
Dig This could only really exist in Las Vegas… but for anyone who’s ever seen those enormous yellow mechanical excavators or bulldozers tearing up huge chunks of ground for road works, foundation laying etc. and wished they could have a go – well, Dig This makes your wish a reality. In a giant real-world sandpit you’ll be at the controls of your own heavy plant machinery, free to dig holes, bulldoze earth, stack giant tractor tyres and just generally live out your childhood fantasies of driving heavy equipment like Bob the Builder.
7. Vegas Indoor Skydiving, Convention Centre Drive
Dreams come true in Las Vegas, and who doesn’t dream about being able to fly unaided? Vegas Indoor Skydiving gives you the next best experience to true skydiving without you having to jump out of a plane. In a vertical wind tunnel you hover freely in the air, suspended on the updraft from a huge fan below. Safe at all times if you’ve ever wondered what it might feel like to float in the air or you just want a dry-run in preparation for a real skydive, Vegas Indoor Skydiving is the place to find the wind beneath your wings.