Neon lights. Slot machines. Prostitutes. Hangovers.
These are the images that come to mind when I think of Las Vegas and I can’t say I find them very compelling. Ok, ok, so maybe there’s nothing wrong with a few bright lights here and there, but overall, there’s nothing really calling me to Vegas. If I’m going to spend the money to fly somewhere for a long weekend, why would I want to go to a place with the notorious reputation of being Sin City? Why would I want to blow all my money gambling when I could invest it in the stock market or use it to travel someplace nicer than Vegas?
But I’ve been told I’m too quick to judge. I’ve been told there are plenty of things to do in Vegas other than gambling and that an outdoor adventure seeker like me would actually have a blast … if I would only give the place a chance.
A few months ago, those who responded to our reader survey requested we cover more locations in the United States. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to share our personal experiences from the U.S. since we’re currently living in China.
But I thought perhaps this was the perfect opportunity to take a look at several destinations throughout the U.S. that have never really been near the top of my “must see” list in an effort to gain a fresh perspective on my own country to help us start planning new adventures for when we return home — and of course to share with you all the reasons why you should get out and explore the United States!
I decided to start with Las Vegas as it is one of the cities that has historically been of least interest to me. As it turns out, if you’re looking for a sensory-stimulating place to escape for your next three-day weekend, there are more than enough things to do in Las Vegas (beyond the casino!) to keep you entertained, without blowing your money at the slot machine!
Here’s how to spend 3 days in Las Vegas:
Day One: Spend the day at the museum
Escape the hustle and bustle of the Vegas Strip and head inside to one (or more!) of these three great museums:
Las Vegas Natural History Museum. Dinosaurs, Orcas, and Mummies. Children and adults will have a blast learning about diverse species, cultures, and more through the educational and interactive exhibits on display here. Visitors will also learn about the natural history of Nevada and study species that are indigenous to the region.
Las Vegas Art Museum. Although I myself am not too excited by art museums, it’s the first thing my dad looks for whenever he visits a big city. This museum focuses on contemporary art and highlights the work of local artists.
The Neon Museum of Las Vegas. Ever wonder where the famed neon signs of Las Vegas go after they bite the dust? To the Neon Museum, of course! This unique non-profit organization preserves an important part of the city’s history by displaying discarded neon signs across its two acre outdoor display area. Known as the Neon Boneyard, it boasts over 150 signs dating back to the 1930s.
In the evening:
After the sun goes down, head to the Bellagio for the fabulous fountain and light display. Not only is the show spectacular, but it’s also free! Designed to “romance your senses,” this choreographed display of light, water, and sound will prove a climactic end to your first day in Vegas. After that, treat yourself to a gigantic, 10,000 calorie burger at the notorious Heart Attack Grill. A once in a lifetime experience, for sure! Well, hopefully only once!
Day Two: Visit a Natural Wonder
Take a day trip to the Grand Canyon. I visited the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in high school and it was truly one of my most memorable travel experiences. There are plenty of day trips that will take you from Vegas to the Canyon’s less-crowded North Rim. If you’re willing to get up early, this is one excursion you certainly won’t regret.
Or there’s always Red Rock Canyon. This National Conservation Area is location just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. With over 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing and mountain biking opportunities, and even a relaxing 13-mile drive through the scenic park, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking to get active and dirty or you prefer to stay behind the wheel and simply admire the view.
Check out the Shark Reef and Aquarium at Mandalay Bay. If a long day trip or multi-day outdoor adventure is not your thing, then stick around town, stay inside, and visit the impressive 1.6 million gallon aquarium. Although there are over 2,000 species of marine life on display (including sea turtles, jellyfish, and even a golden crocodile!), the 30+ species of sharks are definitely the main attraction. If you’re up for a real adventure, you can even dive with the sharks! I have to admit, after swimming with sharks in Belize last summer, this sounds like my kind of adventure!
Day Three: Rock Star or Race Car? Live out your dreams in Vegas!
Attend the Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy Camp and be a rock star for a day. Located at the MGM Grand, this unique experience matches you and your musical abilities with touring professional musicians and gives you the opportunity to perform right alongside them, honing your musical skills and giving you a taste of life as a rock star.
Head to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Experience life behind the wheel of a NASCAR driver at speeds up to 155 mph! Whether you’re interested in driving a car or just riding along, the Speedway offers an experience for all interests, ages, and abilities. Check out your options here and be sure to make reservations in advance if you want to do more than just a ride-along! Nothing like a day at the track to conclude your Vegas experience.
In the evening:
After a day spent on stage or behind the wheel, it’s time for you to relax and let someone else perform. Head to one of Las Vegas’s dozens of sensational shows. My choice would be Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles: LOVE” at the Mirage Hotel and Casino, featuring a unique twist on some of the greatest hits from the British pop icons.
Phew! That’s quite an intense three days! All I can say is Vegas had me sold at hiking canyons and swimming with sharks. Who needs the casinos? There’s plenty to keep me entertained in Vegas!
Have you been to Las Vegas? Share your suggestions below!
Three-day weekends are our specialty! Find out more about how we make the most of our limited time to travel here!
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