What happens in Vegas…
We rounded up these nine reasons proving Sin City’s a worthy destination, both off the strip and out of the casino
1 Because the 13-mile scenic drive through Red Rock Canyon will have you considering a move to the Mojave.
Sixty-five million years ago, the earth, in all its not-content-to-lie-around turbulence, bumped around enough beneath what’s now the Mojave Desert to send two plates colliding, creating the geologic phenomenon that’s at the heart of this national conservation area 17 miles west of the Strip. The resulting 3,000-foot-high sandstone walls are popular with climbers and hikers, but—if we’re being honest—they’re just as appreciate-able from the air-conditioned comfort of your rented Camry, thanks to the meandering scenic drive that cuts through the canyon. (Read: It’s. Hot.) OK, so you might not want to move to the Mojave, but you’ll definitely want to come back. (redrockcanyonlv.org)
2 Because yoga’s best done 550 feet in the air.
As lovers of a good pun (perhaps you’ve noticed?), we’ll freely admit that what first drew us to Vegas’ newest blow-your-mind attraction, aka the world’s tallest observation wheel, was the name: High Roller. (Jackpot!) But we soon learned that there’s more to this valley-vista-yielding monstrosity than what’s offered at face value. Like the fact that they offer personalized hour-long yoga sessions aboard the spherical, glass-enclosed cabins. Looks like they really upped the ante there. (Sorry, couldn’t resist. You could say it’s an addiction.) (caesars.com/linq/highroller)
3 Because The Cosmopolitan is more “contemporary art gallery” than “casino.”
Ever wondered how many folks touchdown in Vegas in a given year? Forty-two million. It’s safe to say, then, that there’s really no typical Las Vegas traveler, even though the likes of The Hangover and National Lampoon have provided no shortage of examples. And while there are plenty of places that cater to (and, y’know, enable) those folks, The Cosmopolitan is tailored toward a different clientele, one that they’ve deemed “the curious class.” We suppose that’s code for “art nerds,” as the stunning casino-hotel is chock-a-block with art experiences, from the 65-foot HD screens projecting digital art shorts onto the building’s facade to the Art-o-mat vending machines in the lobby. (cosmopolitanlasvegas.com)
4 Because Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the U.S.—for now.
Remember when you were little, and your parents marked your growth with a pencil on the door frame? That same thing’s happening at Lake Mead, only it’s kiiiinda the opposite. A telltale “bathtub ring”—a wide swath of white stone running along the shoreline, left behind by mineral deposits where the blue-green water once lapped—grows larger by the year, due largely to the drought that’s been plaguing the Southwest for the past decade and a half. Formed by the Hoover Dam in the ’30s, the lake—which, at capacity, is twice the size of Rhode Island—has long been a sight to behold (and a breathtakingly gorgeous one at that). But in the not too distant future, it’s a sight that might disappear. (nps.gov/lake/)
5 Because Ugo Rondione’s art installation Seven Magic Mountains is as magical as it sounds.
This past spring, 10 miles south of town, a Swiss artist stacked Day-Glo boulders into a septuplet of towers in the otherwise-barren Ivanpah Valley, smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Which sounds pretty crazy until you find yourself standing in front of it, taking in the poetry palpable in the meeting of the man-made and the monumental, the clash of synthetic color against the muted tonality of the desolate landscape. In other words: It’s spellbinding. (And only on view until spring of 2018.) (sevenmagicmountains.com)
6 Because the Valley of Fire’s 35,000 acres of blazing red sandstone are only an hour’s drive from The Strip.
You know those scenes in films like Total Recall where actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger are running amok on Mars? Yeah, that’s not really Mars. Though it feels downright Red Planet-y, what with its crimson-tinged towers of sandstone and all, that’s actually the Valley of Fire, just 58 miles outside Vegas proper. Formed some 150 million years ago by shifting sands, active faults and, you know, eons of erosion, the valley’s barren-but-beautiful landscape often falls victim to 120-plus-degree days. Too hot for you? Cool off six miles east in the waters of Lake Mead (see number 4). (parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire-state-park/)
7 Because The Neon Museum gives Old Vegas castoffs a new lease on life.
Those legendary Vegas lights may seem eternal, but eventually, the lights come down and depart for that big neon strip in the sky. But watt (sic) of their final resting place? It’s actually just a 10-minute drive down the Strip at The Neon Museum’s two-acre “boneyard,” where more than 200 historic signs—glittering midcentury-mod marquees bearing names like “Stardust” and “Golden Nugget”—are living out their years. Tours are given all day long, but—in case this wasn’t already obvious—make sure you go after nightfall, when the signs flicker to life, illuminating a side of Vegas that’s been all but lost elsewhere. PS: Be sure to book your tour in advance as slots tend to go fast. (neonmuseum.org)
8 Because you can still throw back an Old Fashioned the old-fashioned, Rat-Pack way.
We’ll give it to you straight: If you’re after a glass (or three) of see-and-be-seen bubbly, chichi clubs are a dime a dozen in Sin City. But there’s only one place to go if you’re wanting a true taste of Old Vegas: Atomic Liquors, the oldest freestanding bar in town. Founded in 1952, this downtown drinking hole dates back to a time when imbibers could sip a whiskey sour while watching blasts erupt over the nearby Atomic Test Site. And while you can no longer get your martini with a side of mushroom cloud like Frank, Humphrey and the boys used to do, the neon from the original ’50s sign still casts a red glow over the sidewalk out front. (atomicvegas.com)
9 Because the Mandarin Oriental is the antithesis of what you’d expect from a hotel on The Strip.
For starters, there’s no casino. No puffs of piped-in coconut air freshener, no clanging slot machines, no blinking marquee, no velvet ropes. And it’s small—at least by Las Vegas standards (392 rooms compared to Caesars’ 3,960). But this is Vegas, after all, so one shouldn’t confuse “diminutive” with “understated.” Which is why you’ll still find a 27,000-square-foot spa, ample poolside cabanas, suites bigger than most four-bedroom houses and a “skybridge” to The Shops at Crystals, where names like Tom Ford and Stella McCartney mingle in an impeccably designed temple to the ritziest of retail. (mandarinoriental.com/lasvegas)