The traditional Las Vegas get-away usually consists of a stay at a casino-resort, a big-budget show, and evenings of table games.
But like all cities, Las Vegas has hidden gems and unique activities that appeal to local residents.
Whether this is your 12th trip to Vegas or you’re looking for a low-key adventure, doing as the locals do is always a good maxim to follow.
Interestingly what passes for ‘touristy’ elsewhere can seem non-conventional in Las Vegas. Here are seven non-touristy things to do in Las Vegas.
1 – Stay Local
With the advent of the internet age, local residents across the country rent out their homes through online vacation marketplaces. The average stay for a Las Vegas trip is a casino-resort. Since you’re looking for a non-traditional Vegas experience, why not stay in a comfortable neighborhood setting.
Like most cities hosting on vacation marketplaces, Las Vegas has homes that range from illustrious to more frugal accommodations. Sites such as AirBnB and Turnkey provide ratings for locations and areas to give you an idea of what to expect. Neighborhood guides can be found online for vacationers curious about the area of Vegas they choose to stay in.
If you were looking for a more curated stay, sites such as Homestay provide accommodations with a completely hosted experience. Much like a traditional bed and breakfast, a hosted experience includes interactions with local residents as part of the appeal.
2 – Eat Local
There are many great resort-specific and chain restaurants across Las Vegas casinos. During an average resort stay, guests don’t have to leave their hotel to experience a variety of dining options. Everything from affordable to 5-star dining can be found in Las Vegas casinos.
Of course, there are numerous dining guides for your online perusal. Choose one with an emphasis on local and farm-to-table options for the most non-touristy experience.
3 – Shop Local
Las Vegas resorts are known for having higher-end retailers of apparel and accessories. Modern casinos have become shopping destinations in themselves. But what type of shops do locals own and what type of crafts are local artisans producing?
Visiting small businesses is a great way to see what the people of Las Vegas are like. Instead of visiting a large salon at a resort spa try visiting a local boutique. The result can often be more affordable and colorful.
Purchasing local folk art may seem commonplace elsewhere but not in Vegas. At Las Vegas resorts, art can be purchased at upscale galleries for thousands of dollars and collectable items can be bought at casino gift shops. Find a local artisan, visit local galleries, and purchase a unique work of art.
4 – Visit Old Downtown
Although still a destination for tourists and visitors, Downtown Las Vegas is frequented by locals for its approachability and affordability. Lacking the modern veneer of the Strip, Downtown hosts many casinos and resorts highlighting the Las Vegas of yesterday.
Visit Fremont Street classics like Binion’s, Golden Nugget, and the aptly named The Fremont Hotel & Casino. Accommodations have been updated over the years, but the lights and lobbies maintain a nostalgic feel on old-Vegas.
Downtown is also the destination for gamblers on a budget or if gambling is secondary to your adventure. Lower cost table games and slot machines can be more approachable to travelers. Fremont Street is also home to 24-hour meal deals and classic Vegas-style buffets.
5 – Golden Gate Casino and Hotel
Like most major cities, Vegas has many historical buildings and landmarks. Las Vegas has homes and businesses on the National Registry of Historic Places. Make a day out of visiting the many landmarks and historical markers of Las Vegas.
Aside from the history of the property, the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino was known for decades for their shrimp cocktails. It was estimated that before 1991 the casino lost over $300,000 a year on the discounted attraction. For those who are wondering, the current price of the small salad shrimp served in a sundae glass hovers around $3.99.
6 – Lakes and National Parks
Only 24 miles from Las Vegas is Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Also known as Lake Mohave, Lake Mead stretches into Arizona and is the largest reservoir in the United States. One of the best free attractions near the city is the colossal Hoover Dam.
Fun fact, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress is on the National Register of Historic Places after crashing and sinking to the bottom of Lake Mead in 1948.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is located 15 miles from Las Vegas. The park is known for its large red sandstone formations. Red Rock is a popular destination for mountain climbers and hikers.
Valley of Fire State Park is a popular destination for campers located 50 miles from Las Vegas. The site contains many examples of Anasazi petroglyphs and is a recognizable shooting location for many films. It’s a little further than Red Rock and Lake Mead but definitely worth the trip.
7 – Local Events and Attractions
Las Vegas is known as a convention destination for professionals across the country. With all the event space its no wonder Vegas has festivals and attractions year-round. If a particular event doesn’t bring you to Sin City you can find many online lists of festivals and their schedules.
The Electric Daisy Carnival held in Las Vegas is the largest electronic music festival outside of Europe. The event draws international acts and has been held over three days at Las Vegas Motor Speedway since 2011. The festival is known for its incredible visual displays, interactive art pieces, and 24-hour music.
For listings of many smaller festivals and events in the area I find that local news sites can act as a good guide. Also, follow the official social media pages of cities and event spaces to have listings sent directly to you.
So, do you feel like a local yet? Take a break from the standard Vegas vacation and do something decidedly non-touristy. What passes for a tourist activity in other parts of the country can be somewhat unconventional in Las Vegas.
One thing is for certain, there are plenty unique attractions in Vegas besides the traditional resort stay and gambling excursions. Like any modern vacation destination, Las Vegas has something everybody. Think outside the box to see a different side of Las Vegas most tourists don’t get to experience.