I am no stranger to Las Vegas. And to be quite honest, I wasn’t necessarily aching for a return visit. But being the travel addict I am, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity for a free hotel room in Sin City. Tom had a work conference to attend, and since I can work from anywhere I joined him for a little change of scenery.
Although I do enjoy a little blackjack on occasion, I didn’t partake in any gambling during the trip. What can I say? I have to save all my money for food and travel. I didn’t toss a single chip, but I managed to keep myself well entertained during our three-day stay in the desert. Here is everything I did in Las Vegas that didn’t involve the casino.
What To Do In Vegas Instead of Gambling
I had grand plans of leaving city limits and exploring some of the area’s natural wonders, but turns out that Nevada in July isn’t exactly conducive for outdoor activities – who knew? Instead, I set out to find fun things to do that wouldn’t result in heat stroke.
Wander Through the Glitzy Hotels + Catch Some Live Music
If Vegas does one thing well, it’s glitz and glamour. When you’ve got money to blow, there are plenty of high-end restaurants and luxury shops. When you’re on a budget, window shopping is as good as it gets. Luckily, there are a lot of pretty things to look at for free. We stayed in the Luxor, which to be honest is a bit past its prime, so I headed to the Cosmopolitan on my first free night to wander around while Tom had a business dinner.
The cab video on our drive from the airport informed us that this hotel is apparently one of the most Instagrammed in the world. Walking around, it’s easy to see why. Plus, it houses some of the hippest restaurants on the strip. I treated myself to dinner at Momofuku (more on that later) before taking in the sights and doing a bit of people watching.
I met up with Tom later in the evening to catch some live music at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. Speaking of which, live music is another non-gambling must in Vegas. While we didn’t see any of the big shows while we were in town, we caught three live bands in three days. Two of them were at Tom’s work events, one at the House of Blues and another in a crazy suite at the Hard Rock. Surprisingly enough, the cybersecurity crowd really knows how to party.
So, yeah, the real reason I went on this trip was for the food. Are you even surprised? Vegas is brimming with first-class restaurants from some of the world’s best and most famous chefs. While we avoided the over-the-top options, we still ate very well. Other than our awesome lunch at Chow., here are some more food recommendations.
Light Dinner at Katsuya in the SLS Casino
I had never heard of the SLS Casino, but when I saw that it was home to The Bazaar by José Andrés I took notice. Sadly, The Bazaar was a little out of our price range, but we found another great option at the SLS in Katsuya. We loved the presentation of the gyoza, which at first glance resembled a pancake, covered in a crispy shell and filled with heritage Berkshire pork. The rainbow roll was incredibly fresh and wonderful. The crispy rice with spicy tuna, listed as the most flavorful dish on the menu, didn’t quite live up to its description but still quite tasty.
Lunch at The Veranda in the Four Seasons
Dining options at The Luxor aren’t all that great, but The Luxor is connected to the Mandalay Bay, which is connected to the Four Seasons. Tom’s conference was split between the Mandalay Bay and the Four Seasons, so we were able to enjoy a lovely and sophisticated lunch at The Veranda one afternoon. We typically avoid seafood in landlocked states, but nice restaurants in Vegas have fish as fresh as that on the coast. Tom enjoyed a beautiful crab and avocado salad, while I feasted on fish tacos with avocado cream and broccoli slaw. While you shouldn’t necessarily go out of your way to dine here, if you do find yourself on this end of the strip I’d say it’s one of the best options.
Solo Dinner at the Momofuku Bar
For some reason I have yet to visit the Momofuku in DC, but made a beeline to the Las Vegas location for a date with myself one evening. I had a nice glass of overpriced wine, chatted with fellow diners and had a few great bites of food. The really sad thing about eating alone isn’t the being alone part, it’s not having anyone to help you eat all of the delicious things you want to order. Knowing my limits, I stuck to the famous oh-so-pillowy pork belly bun with a side of spicy cucumbers.
Steak Dinner at Triple George Grill
A steak dinner is a must in Las Vegas. Most places charge astronomical prices for a tiny cut of meat and extra for sides. We had a better idea. At the end of a long day exploring downtown, we headed to Triple George Grill for a traditional steak dinner and it really hit the spot. This perfectly cooked nine-ounce filet mignon cost a mere $38.95 sides included, which we split. If that’s not winning, I don’t know what is. Even if you’re not in the mood for steak, Triple George should still make your list. It’s got an awesome Old Vegas atmosphere, without looking tired or tacky.
Hang Out at the Pool
I’ve been to Vegas three times before this trip, but somehow never made it to a pool. For some reason, I thought they all cost money and were basically a club scene from morning to night. Fortunately, I had a view of the Oasis Pool at the Luxor from our room and could see that it was actually fairly laid back with plenty of free chairs. When it was quitting time in DC, we hit the pool for a little relaxation and a few drinks. It was the perfect way to beat the heat.
Explore Downtown Vegas
After two days on The Strip, we were more than ready to escape the crowds and high prices for something a little more low-key. My Dad actually introduced me to the wonders of downtown Vegas on my first trip for my 21st birthday. On that maiden voyage, we gambled at the iconic Golden Nugget, had 99 cent shrimp cocktails and, of course, watched the Fremont Experience light show.
Sadly, the light show seems to have taken a turn for the worse and become completely monetized. But everything else was exactly as I remembered it. Only hotter.
After our lunch at Chow. we decided to walk over to The Mob Museum. At home, we walk everywhere. Even if it’s hot, we’ll walk an hour to the farmer’s market. So although the temps were well over 100 degrees, we thought a 15 minute walk would be easy enough. Um, no. Within five minutes we were out of breath, at ten minutes we were panting and seeing stars. Clearly, we are not cut out for the desert heat. I do not know how locals do it without passing out on the regular. We did pass some great street art, and wished we’d had more time to explore the area.
One near death experience later, we made it to the museum. This was the one thing I had on my must-do list while in Vegas. I used to be downright obsessed with the Mafia, and had read so many good things about the Mob Museum.
I’ll be honest in that it didn’t quite rock my socks off. But it’s definitely a well done museum and, perhaps most importantly, wonderfully air-conditioned. We ended our night in downtown wandering down Fremont Street and grabbing drinks at a couple of cute watering holes.
While we were more than ready to leave the next morning, overall we had a great time in Sin City. And we did it without committing any major sins or losing any money. Winning!