By Bill Bradley
Las Vegas is a bi-polar city. The Strip has one personality. The rest of the city has another personality. It’s kind of like Phoenix with a gambling district.
If you want to see what rest of the city before, during or after the 2023 APSE conference (July 9-12), then there’s more than enough to keep you occupied. From downtown to the Red Rocks on the west side to chocolate on the east side, take a ride and enjoy the scenery.
Here’s 11 ways to do it.
1. Find the best sportsbook: So you haven’t strayed too much from the Strip, but you can enter the local debate: Is it Westgate or Circa? The Westgate has been around for decades and is coming off an awe-inspiring renovation with TV’s about the size of your house? Or is it Circa, which opened just two years ago downtown with the mission of dethroning Westgate with a theater for a sportsbook and viewing swimming stadium adjacent.
2. Fremont Street Experience (above): Downtown on Fremont Street you’ll find a video experience like none other with a mile-long video canopy that connects the downtown casinos. The video boards were recently updated so it’s an HD experience. Or maybe try riding Slotzilla (you’ll see it when you get there).
3. Container Park: Amid the colorful murals and the electric restaurants downtown, there’s Container Park, which is a collective of small businesses created from shipping containers. What makes it a must-see is the 40-foot fire-breathing metal praying mantis sculpture, which was moved there from Burning Man about eight years ago.
4. Springs Preserve: It’s the city’s nature preserve showing off all of the things about desert habitat you never knew. It’s an early morning treat to walk amid the cactus and wildlife. If you go at lunchtime, the café is a hidden gem with a creative menu.
5. Gold & Silver Pawn Shop: If you’ve ever watched the History Channel, then you know that this is the home of “Pawn Stars.” You might not see Rick Harrison on Chumlee, but it’s free to tour the famous shop and you can always bring in your own rare finds.
6. Hoover Dam: The famed water and power facility again is open to tourists, as is the Boulder Dam Museum. It’s one of those sights that is worth making the half-hour drive south.
7. Ethel M Chocolate Factory: In Henderson, the famous chocolate maker offers self-guided tours of the facility. If you come back during Christmas, the grounds offer a kid-friendly lighted holiday walk.
8. Mob Museum: Named one of the top 25 U.S. museums, this ode the mob is a greatly detailed history and links it all to Las Vegas. The artifacts are fascinating. You’ll want to take a photo in the electric chair, but you need to visit the hidden speakeasy in the basement. And, yes, this venue will host our opening ceremony.
9. Neon Museum: While tourists love the Mob Museum, the locals love the Neon Museum. Full-size neon sculptures of past Las Vegas resort signs are displayed on the “boneyard” grounds. It’s fascinating to see a Sahara or Aladdin sign and know that you’re seeing a huge piece of the city’s history. You’ll know you are near when you see the gigantic Hard Rock Café guitar.
10. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: Drive past the city’s western edge you will find some of the most interesting rock formations, hiking trails and rock climbing areas in the West. Stay on Highway 159 to see the red mountains or drive into the Conservation Area for a closer view at the breath-taking scenery.
11. One more thing – the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign: Oh, go ahead and do it. Find time, whether it’s 3 p.m. or 3 a.m. Drive just south of Mandalay Bay on Las Vegas Blvd. and get your picture taken beneath the famous sign. It’s kitschy but you know you want to do it.