Tin Dity

...or "That place that has both everything and nothing"

So recently some of my friends are planning a trip to Las Vegas and it made me realize I have been there quite often (6 times in the last 4.5 years). Now for those of you that know me the fact that this is incredibly ironic is not that much of a surprise (I am not much of a "color outside the lines" person). Also 2 of the 6 trips were business related, and another 2 were driving trips (where I drove in and out without flying). Still though, there are several places there I have been now and wanted to just write somewhat of a summary post regarding where I would go if I had to do a top to bottom visit again for whatever reason.

I'll classify this post into different areas: Strip, Off Strip, Burbs, and Region since each area has enough to mention. However, I will go in reverse order since what I feel is most interesting is in the surrounding area. (also numbers are by approximate distance and not by order of recommendation, "*" denotes special recommendation)


I should mention that what I will call Region, could actually mean within 300mi (at least that's the farthest I will mention since that's about a 4 and a half hour drive). But I will leave it up to the reader to decide.

1. The Barringer Meteor Crater - 4000ft diameter, 570ft deep. This crater is just under 300mi from Vegas and at the farthest I will mention is about 4.5 hours (faster probably if you like to speed). Or if you want the experience without the drive, here is a 3D pano I took when I was there (activex required). Or a normal picture here and here. I wrote about that trip as well here: My Southwestern Vacation.

2*. The Grand Canyon - This probably needs no explanation. Its closer than the crater, but will take probably just as long driving since the traffic on US-180 is pretty bad. I HIGHLY recommend timing the trip such that you are there for sunset, and take some LARGE memory sticks. You will take a LOT of pictures. A warning though is that being there for sunset will mean probably arriving back at LV after midnight. I think when I did it I got to my hotel around 12:30. If you are not as fiscally challenged and short on time, you can also get there by helicopter. I know some friends which did this, but can't speak to it myself.

3. Death Valley National Park - This one I have not been to personally, however I HAVE driven through death valley. Its rather sparse (that's the attraction for me). Of course you can read more about it on their website. Its just under 2 hours from Vegas. Make sure to fill your tank before leaving the interstate.

4*. Zion National Park - This park (aside from Arches NP & Grand Canyon) offers some of the best views I have experienced in a national park. Its one of those parks where the REALLY good views are only found via long hikes, but you can also get some great views just driving as well. Its just under 3 hours away from Las Vegas. I recommend stopping in Mesquite, NV on the way back for at the "Best Buffet in Mesquite" (Actually it really was good, and I think I won 20$ on slots there as well). Also, here is my Flikr Set with more pictures from the park.

5. Edwards Air Force Base / Mojave Spaceport - Ok, this one is a bit more geeky than the others, but whether its test flights by "Space Ship One" or the upcoming "Space Ship Two," or just an open house to see some of the coolest government planes, These two destinations (depending on when you are there) may be a destination to consider. Check the Edwards site for when their 2008 open house is going to be and/or just keep an ear open for when the next space ship test flights will be. You may also recognize the Mojave from SEVERAL movies/television shows as well. This is the plane yard which Mythbusters and SmashLab usually go to. They are each about 16 miles apart (on the same road) and about 3 hours away from Las Vegas.


1. Lake Mead - While having one of the worst URLs, if you are in LV while its warm enough out and like water recreation, Lake Mead is nearby and offers boat rentals, camping, and I think a beach somewhere. It's 40 min to the east of Las Vegas.

2*. Hoover Dam - This national landmark is simply awesome to behold. The history is just as interesting as well, but honestly my favorite part was just standing next to, on top of, and inside it. Hoover Dam is just east of Las Vegas and is just under 40 min away. I HIGHLY recommend going early in the morning, as traffic can get to be horrible going over the dam until the bypass is complete. (I also don't recommend asking many questions around electricity...they get annoyed at that as they maintain that controlling water is the ONLY purpose of the dam.)

3. Red Rock Canyon (official) - Try to go on a nice day as the views of the   Bluffs are   just amazing. There is a scenic loop around the canyon with various stops along the way. The entrance is about 18 mi west of Las Vegas (or about 26 min).

Off Strip

1. Pinball Hall of Fame - Holding the world pinball championship as well as a hell of a lot of pinball machines. If you like pinball, you will probably like it. Its about 5.6 miles north of the strip.

2*. Fremont Street Experience - The location of some of the more classic looking hotels/casinos, but also home to a GIANT LED screen (12.5 million LEDs) / light show. In general Fremont street is a fun time and closed to cars, so you are not crammed on to the sidewalk. (I have a video of the LEDs at 9:50 in this video.) Fremont street is in downtown Las Vegas, which is 7 minutes north of the strip.

3. Neon Museum - If you are a fan of the OLD Las Vegas, this museum has many of the old neon signs of years past (and has also been in some tv shows). The Neon museum is 6 miles north of the strip on Las Vegas Blvd.

4. Nevada Test Site Atomic Testing Museum - Its a bit over the top, but has a lot of interesting information as well as exhibits from actual atomic weapons tests performed at the Nevada Test Site (official). It should really be interesting for engineering/science geeks.

5. Stratosphere - So I am putting stratosphere in this category simply because in addition to taking the monorail to the Sahara, you then also have to walk a few blocks to get there. There are some pretty fun rides at the top as well. I also recommend this one for sunset on a nice day as well. The views from the top are great as well.


So in this section, I am going to work my way from the North to the South covering various items along the way, not in as much detail as the previous sections though.

The Sahara has two good attractions. It has a roller coaster which is an electromagneticly accelerated coaster. Its expensive, but fun. The last time I was there, they also had an attraction called "The Drive" by GM. For 10$ you got to drive two of their new cars on either a track or off-road course (depending on the car). This was also fun as you get to either floor a brand new Corvette, or you get to Take a Hummer up a steep dirt hill.

It costs a little bit, but I highly recommend the monorail. You can get all the way from Sahara to MGM fairly quickly and without ruining your shoes/feet.

Go to the Wynn, and have a drink out on the patio in front of the water fall at the Terrace Pointe Cafe. Its a nice place to take a break during the day. (Not to mention see the Wynn.) Afterwards make sure to walk through / see the gardens. While I have never been in it, there is also a Mall across from the Wynn.

Apparently the Palazzo is now open. It was under construction the last time I was there. New hotels are always interesting to go see.

There is a Pirate Show at Treasure Island which could be interesting depending on if you are around there at the time. (It was also under repair last time I was there :().

The Venetian is also interesting. The front of the hotel is supposed to make you think you are in Italy. They also have Singing Gondola "pilots"(?) as well.

The Mirage across the street has a volcano light show which is interesting to see at night.

Ceasars Palace is now quite large. They have a ton of shops (and also attractions inside the shopping area such as two different robotics / light shows which I recommend). If you want a "swank" sort of bar (small though) which isn't the same sort of experience as the REALLY upscale clubs that Vegas has, then Ceasers has one called Shadow Bar. Its rather small and thus crowded, but its not like your "local" bar, and also not like the high priced exclusive clubs either. (I am sure there are MANY more of these as well, but I just am not as familiar.) Ceasars also has a nice courtyard area on the south side as well with a nice daiquiri bar with a bunch of different flavors. If its hot, the bar normally has water misters as well that you can sit/stand under. (Also cross here to go through Flamingo to get to the monorail, I don't like the Bally's station as you have to walk through the entire casino to get there.)

Next up is Bellagio. SEE THE FOUNTAINS. Preferably at night as well. Bellagio has a very nice sports book as well with a bar attached which is a nice place to relax during the day as well regardless whether you like sports or not. Make sure to also go see the Arboretum on the south west end of the Bellagio. Its pretty relaxing and also has some interesting arrangements as well.

Across the street is the Paris. It has a good pastry shop in the back on the south east end as well as a rather decent "normal" dining area as well. It also has a restaurant in the tower as well if you are interested. DO NOT attempt to go back their for breakfast though. Its not all that good and its very crowded then as well. During the day (or late at night) is probably better. That area is near the convention center in the hotel, so in the morning conference goers pack that area.

Next is Planet Hollywood, which used to be Aladdin. They also have a lot of shops as well. If you stay there, there is Hollywood memorabilia in the rooms supposedly. They were still working on parts of it while I was there, so I don't know of anything great to do there.

Just after that is where I stayed the last time which is called Pollo Towers. Its run by Marriott and is condos/timeshares. (though may function as a hotel as well)

Across the street though is the Monte Carlo which has probably one of the best hidden places (for me at least) in Vegas. Its a brew pub, which apparently is now called Monte Carlo Brew Pub (it has had a few other names). Its the closest thing I could find to a normal Bar&Grill there in Vegas. Monte Carlo also has a new Restaurant/Bar/Club called Diablo's. Its rather pricey, but ok I suppose if you like the theme.

Catty Corner from that is a movie theater / M&M shop / Coke Shop and Food Court (which is probably one of the cheapest meals on the strip you can find). I didn't like those shops, but if you like either M&M's branded items or Coke branded items, then you will love it.

Next up is MGM Grand. Its the furthest south on the Monorail that you can go. Inside is a lion exhibit, Rainforest Cafe, Ka (which I VERY Highly recommend; Its expensive but worth it), also a nice sports book, a lot of nice restaurants to choose from, and an interesting bar/club on the southwest side which is right as you enter from NYNY (the one in the shape of a circle). MGM is one of the two hotels I would probably recommend for upscale restaurants. (The other is Mandalay Bay.)

Across from MGM is New York, New York. Here is one of the other 3 roller coasters as well as a gambling floor meant to resemble the different Boroughs of New York. There is also a famous dueling piano bar inside as well, but its often very busy. NYNY is also where Coyote Ugly is as well. Try and get a room in one of the "buildings" if you stay here, its an interesting view (also can be moderately priced). NYNY is also where you cross to get to the second Monorail which serves Luxor and Mandalay Bay. (Make sure you realize which one you are on, one goes only to Mandalay Bay, the other stops at Luxor first.)

I don't recommend Excalibur.

Luxor is an interesting walk-through on the inside, but thats about it. The shape is not as glamorous from the inside. The elevators move at an angle, but you have to be a guest to get on, and there are no windows in them either.

Mandalay Bay is the next/last stop on the monorail. It's also an interesting hotel. It's rather low key, but has good food/drink. If you stay there, it has one of the best pool areas with BOTH a wave pool / beach as well as a lazy river. They also have a VERY upscale attachment called THEHotel (which IS very nice inside). In addition to Ceasars / Paris / Sands / and Hilton, this is one of the other major conference Venues as well.

Well, that's about it. That is my quick summary of Las Vegas and the Surrounding area. Of all the things I liked, I think I liked the locations around vegas better, but no matter what its always nice to just get away and do something special sometimes.


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