Not everyone visits Las Vegas for debauchery, gambling, and nightlife. Some of us just want to enjoy the culinary scene, find some decent beer, and enjoy the less seedy options the city and surrounding area offer. For those of us, there is actually plenty to do in and around Las Vegas, though you might have a hard time finding it anywhere. Those hidden gems are absolutely worth the effort to find.
For fans of craft beer, Las Vegas can be a bit of a shock. Shocking in how disappointing the selection is in most of the casinos. Most have only domestic lagers and the good ones might have Sam Adams. Some might have one or two at a single bar or restaurant inside. Don’t worry, after digging, I’ve found those that actually cater to the craft beer aficionado with huge selections.
There are plenty of touristy things to do in Las Vegas, but not many ways to stay active. The majority of these activities are inside of casinos so finding some outdoor options, especially those with natural sights can be tricky. Getting away from the strip is the best way to see some of the amazing natural beauty this region of the western US has to offer, since you might not even realize it exists while you’re stuck on the strip. In nearly every direction there is an amazing natural wonder to take in. If you want to balance out all the food and beer, these places make for fun and interesting exercise.
So you can actually visit Las Vegas and have a good time without breaking the bank at the tables or inside the casinos. There’s also way more to do than just the shows. This is what to do in Las Vegas and the surrounding area if you want to actually see daylight.
Touristy things to do in Las Vegas
- Walk the Venetian canals. You’ll be accompanied by singing gondoliers moving slower than you, possibly get lost in the confusing parallel world of the Palazzo which is an exact mirror of the Venetian, and confuse your inner clock with the fake sky.
- Channel your inner Ocean’s Eleven and take in the fountain shows at the Bellagio and Mirage. These run every hour and are actually pretty spectacular.
- Spend 2 hours in New York without having to hop on a plane. Take a selfie by the Statue of Liberty, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in 30 seconds, and have a Brooklyn style pizza at Grimaldi’s the famous pizza joint that’s right under the real bridge – well used to be before they moved to Hoboken.
- Head out to the Grand Canyon. Rent a car or take a sightseeing tour from the strip. A car will let you see more of the rim, including the less frequently visited North Rim, though even a quick stop to the South is spectacular for a day trip.
- On the way back, stop at the Hoover Dam. This architectural wonder doesn’t fail to impress. The world’s largest dam at the time, it’s still an awe inspiring sight. Make reservations ahead to get a tour inside including the electric generators.
Active and adventurous things to do in Las Vegas
- Go for a run or hike in Red Rock Canyon. A quick 30 minute drive from the Strip, this incredible natural sight is a great way to escape the crowds and hustle of the town. The huge red cliffs are inspiring and make for a great hike or run. Don’t underestimate the effects of the altitude on your pace and bring plenty of water; you are in the desert after all. The six mile White Rock loop makes a great trail run and is more challenging than you might expect given the distance thanks to elevation changes. On it though, you’ll go through alpine terrain into desert, all while passing under incredible views of the cliffs.
- Take a day trip to Utah’s Zion National Park. An easy 2.5 hour drive from the Strip thanks to flat and straight roads, with the exception of a unique and awe-inspiring dive through a canyon at the Utah border, Zion is possibly the most beautiful and jaw-dropping National Park. Arriving from Las Vegas you begin at the bottom of the canyon valley with lush verdant trees, a pristine blue river, and stark golden colored cliffs that punctuate the cloudless aquamarine sky. No wonder the settlers who found this valley called it Zion, or the promised land. In the winter you can drive through on your own, but other times you have to take the shuttle. Make time for a few hikes to really explore the scenery, especially the canyon overlook which feels like looking down on a brand new earth from the heavens.
- Head the other way by car to California’s Death Valley National Park. Starkly different from Zion in the lack of life here, Death Valley is unique in temperature, bizarre other-worldly landscapes, and even sand dunes. A selfie by the lowest point in the US is a must. There are good hikes and trail runs here as well, but bring tons of water! Even in the winter it gets hot.
- Walk and picnic at the Valley of Fire State Park. A convenient stop on the way back from Zion, this state park doesn’t get enough love for the interesting vibrant red rocks it holds in abundance. Stay until the sun sets and you’ll be rewarded with cliffs that appear to glow blood red.
- Run the Strip. It’s not for the fainthearted or those looking for a PR due to the crowds and ceaseless stairs and escalators at every road crossing, but it’s a truly unique running experience. No matter what time you go you’ll have to play human slalom as you zigzag through people by the casinos, but go early and you’ll have less to contend with. Plus, it’s the only place you can run past the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty within a little more than a mile. If you can’t take it, head off the strip around around the campus of the university for a less frantic run.
Tasty things to do
- For an upscale but tasty take on Southwest food, try Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Caesar’s Palace. Southwestern food is way more than just green peppers, though you can get that as well. For a town without much of a personal food culture, Mesa Grill stands out as something unique and fairly local.
- Set your mouth on fire with the ghost pepper burger at Gordon Ramsay Pub in Caesar’s Palace. Then put it out with one of the two dozen or so awesome craft beers on tap. Sure, it’s a celebrity chef’s place and obviously touristy, but that’s part of Vegas. At least this one is good.
- Sink your teeth into a juicy burger at Holstein Burger in the Cosmopolitan hotel. Contrary to the upscale glitzy atmosphere of the rest of the hotel, Holstein is comfy and cozy. The burgers are juicy and flavorful with awesome fries too. There’s a pretty great craft beer selection here too, fairly unique for Las Vegas.
- Grab some Mexican food while sitting on a Venetian canal at Canyonita inside the Venetian. Where else can you get a delicious margarita and a spicy chili burrito smothered in fresh cheese while a singing gondolier floats by a few feet from your table.
- Visit Las Vegas’s best craft beer and sports bar, Yard House, located near the High Roller ferris wheel. Not only are there tons of incredible craft beers on tap with every style and sub-style you can think of represented, including many local brews, but the food, notably the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich, is great too. And you can catch pretty much any game here on the myriad of screens as well.
- Go Southern at Yardbird in the Venetian. Sample the southern comfort food menu and relax on the comfy couches with a laid back southern drink like a mint julep. Your feed need a break.
- Grab one of the awesome and varied burgers at LVB Burger. Near the entrance to the Mirage, this burger joint features a huge burger menu, decent local craft beer selection, and a huge projector screen for games.
- Get some fancy oh-la-la food at Bardot Brasserie. A classic French and Belgian menu here including awesome steak frites and mussels with frites is a great reward for an active and healthy day. Enjoy the fantastic wine menu or one of the great Belgian beers available with it.
Delicious drinks to try
- Visit the only local brewery represented on the strip, Sin City Brewing at either the Venetian location or the larger tap room further down the strip. Though a small location with a half dozen brews only, the are pretty good and much better than the other options found in most of the casinos.
- Get some wings with a microbrew at Public House. Also in the Venetian – which seems to have the majority of the good beer joints – the selection here is good, as is the food at the bar.
- Unleash your angry Patrick Swazi at Las Vegas’s best roadhouse themed dive bar, Rockhouse. Divey in a non-sketchy way, it’s the kind of place with a mechanical bull, but not one you need to wipe down with Lysol. The beer selection isn’t amazing, but it’ll do. And pain don’t hurt.
- Get a cold brew coffee that is on fire at the Cosmopolitan’s Eggslut. The egg breakfast sandwiches are good here, just maybe not to the hype level, but the cold brew iced coffee is hawt! Get one to get your day started right.
- Get beer fresh from the source at Ellis Island Brewery, the closest microbrewery to the Strip. You’ll have to head off the Strip to get there, but the fresh brewed suds are worth the departure.
- Get freaky at Tao nightclub. Possibly setting a world record for number of terracotta statuettes, Tao apparently also has drinks. There is not much in the way of beer, Goose Island IPA in bottles is the closest to craft they have, but the cocktails are delightful. Have a few and you’ll be asking, “wait, did that statue just move?”
- Party like Sia and swing from the Chandelier. Ok actually, don’t try to swing from the massive diamond chandelier at the top of the Cosmopolitan where this bar is located. Instead, grab a cocktail at this swank bar where you might actually get a glimpse of a celebrity. After all, you should experience a little sliver of the Vegas scene.
See, you can visit Las Vegas, party like a rockstar, and not spend the entire time inside the casinos of the strip. There’s plenty to do, see, and partake in on the Strip too, but to really enjoy the area, it’s good to get out of the city. The surrounding area has some of the most beautiful and serene natural beauty in the country, and it’s a crime to miss it. Maybe instead of your going out shoes, you should pack your sneakers for a run or hike in one of the great parks nearby. It’ll make consuming delicious food and great drinks all the less guilt-inducing. You can enjoy Las Vegas without ever seeing the sun, but why would you want to with these great options available?