Vegas is a weird place. We all know that. It’s a metropolis in the middle of an unforgiving desert. It’s surrounded by hundreds of miles of desert that is not a natural home for humans, to be honest.
It has drawn some of society’s outcasts. It now has a booming economy, mega-casinos, and where ordinary people go to let loose. It brings out the quirkier side of people.
Vegas is chock-full of weird and exciting things to do. I have been finding myself yearning for something different when I visit Sin City.
So, here, I’m sharing a list of seven strange activities to do on your next trip to Vegas.
1 – The Mantis
I’m just going to ahead and jump right into the weird. Have you heard of the Mantis?
The Mantis is located at the Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas’ Fremont Street area. The 40-foot-tall Mantis is the welcoming committee for the park.
I should clarify, the Container Park is a shopping and dining area that gives visitors something a little different. It an open-air shopping area with off-the-wall free attractions. Make sure and check out the whole area.
Okay, back to this 40-foot praying mantis. The builder, aerospace engineer Kirk Jellum, built this 150:1 scale of a female praying mantis he found in a field. It was built as a first wedding anniversary gift to his wife.
The Mantis spews fire from its antenna as it blares music from its 4,000-watt sound system. The Mantis is also well-educated. She apparently speaks 20 different languages.
As you can probably guess, this massive metallic beast was built for and debuted at the famed Burning Man Festival. Burning Man is an off-the-grid, pop city that celebrates alternative lifestyles and music.
Burning Man is held annually in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The Mantis is mobile and can be moved from location to location. Make sure you see the Mantis wake from her slumber. The Mantis awakens at sunset to a ceremonial drum circle. Once the drum circle is over, she starts to perform her flame display.
2 – The Last Remaining Sigma Derby Machines
The Sigma Derby machine is a Vegas icon. The machines were built by Sigma Gaming Inc. They started to appear in Vegas casinos in the 1980s.
The game is a fun spin on a slot machine. Players bet quarters on little horses that race around a miniature track.
The games were so popular that Caesars Palace had their Sigma Derby games with chariots instead of just horses. The Luxor followed suit and had a customized version with camels.
The cult following of this game is a diehard group. When you go, be prepared to wait because there will most likely be a crowd wanting to play, too. Pro tip: Bring actual quarters because this is one of the last games in Vegas that only takes coins.
3 – Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (RRCNCA) is managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its National Landscape Conservation System.
This stunning natural area is less than a 30-minute drive from the Strip. Red Rock Canyon is made up of sandstone structures that reach thousands of feet into the desert sky.
The rock formations have been dyed red because of iron oxide over the centuries, and it gives visitors a sense of something bigger than themselves. I was quiet almost the entire time the first time we visited Red Rock Canyon.
The 3,000-foot-high rock formations are strewn with petroglyphs and ancient artifacts. This has become an archeologist’s dream dig site.
Red Rock Canyon is a much-welcomed change from the man-made frenzy of man-made Vegas casinos. The area has killer hiking trails, a visitor center, and even a road that makes a loop through the reserve for visitors that don’t want to step out into the desert heat but still want to witness its beauty.
There a couple things to be aware of when you visit Red Rock Canyon:
- Don’t feed the wild horses or burros (donkeys). Not only is it illegal, but the animals have also been known to bite the hands that try to feed them. And you’ll get a fine if you do.
- The entry fees are $7 for cars and $3 for pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicycles. National Park Pass owners get free entry.
4 – Atomic Liquors
Maybe you’re looking for something a little bit less outdoorsy? Welp, you’re in Vegas. The choices are almost limitless. You didn’t come to Vegas to be one with nature. You came to Vegas to be one with your wild side!
There’s no watering hole that best represents the essence of Old Vegas more so than Atomic Liquors. It opened in 1954 and was owned by a couple, Joe and Stella Sobchik.
The Sobchiks had previously owned a café that they had grown tired of. Joe didn’t want to flip burgers for the rest of his life. His solution was to open a liquor store that was also a bar.
They received the first tavern license in Vegas. Only in Vegas are the liquor laws lax enough to allow a business to sell take out, booze, and have a bar all under one roof.
The Sobchiks’ bar was a hot spot for the burgeoning Vegas nightlife scene. It drew celebrities like the Rat Pack and Elvis.
The tavern blossomed as a family-owned business until recently. The family sold the bar and liquor store to a private owner who has restored Atomic Liquors to its former glory. This will continue Atomic Liquor’s 66-year-old history.
They even left the rooftop deck that was built for viewing the atomic bomb explosions. Obviously, this is not suggested for your health. However, you can still order an atomic cocktail at the oldest free-standing bar in Vegas.
5 – National Atomic Testing Museum
Let’s stay on the topic of atomic testing. Vegas has another part of its history that has nothing to do with hedonism or the Mafia.
Vegas is in the middle of nowhere in the desert. This made it a prime sport to start testing atomic bombs during the cold war era.
The National Atomic Testing Museum houses artifacts from one of America’s most mysterious and controversial eras in history. Not much is widely known about the atomic and nuclear testing age of this country.
The museum educates visitors to the how, the when, and the why behind this period. It even highlights how the nuclear bomb became part of American pop culture.
It creepy, it’s weird, and it’s an interesting look into an exciting time in American history. Not to mention, it’s only a short drive from any of the casinos on the Strip.
6 – Dig This
Have you even been to one of those wreck rooms? You know, the ones where you can pay money to let out your aggression on an old couch or car? Yeah… Me neither, I’m asking for a friend.
Dig This is one of the newest adult entertainment venues in Vegas. It’s not an overpriced night club. It’s not a new celebrity chef restaurant. Oh, and it’s not a museum.
Dig This is the brainchild of Ed Mumm, a native to New Zealand. He was building a house in Steamboat Springs, CO, when he was first allowed to drive an excavator. He instantly fell in love. He felt like all his boyhood dreams came true the second he started operating the equipment.
Adults (18 years or older) can go play around with these massive machines. Want to dig a big hole in the ground? Done. Want to move a lot of dirt? Your wish is granted. The theme park is around five acres of construction fun.
Packages aren’t cheap. Individual dig sessions start at $269. Seems steep, but it includes a 30-minute training session and insurance. The insurance has got to be astronomical for a venue of this magnitude.
7 – The Golden Steer
This is Old Vegas at its best. The Golden Steer is the city’s oldest steakhouse and a part of Las Vegas history. It’s dark, it has a lot of wood decor, and it’s a celebrity favorite!
Frank Sinatra was often seen at the restaurant. And it was a favorite of Elvis’s and many other retro Vegas icons. The menu is classic Vegas, including steaks and shrimp cocktail. This is the opportune time to bust out your most beautiful clothes and dine like a 1950s Vegas high roller.
The steaks are prime cuts, of course, and have been said to be some of the best in the world. I personally get mine, “Oscar Style.” This is any steak of your choice with the addition of lump crab meat, asparagus, and hollandaise sauce. It’s a ‘50s gem.
I don’t really think you can call yourself a Vegas aficionado without having visited this historic steakhouse. Be sure to make a reservation because they fill up their dining room almost every night.
The restaurant is located on Sahara Avenue, about a five-minute drive from the Strip’s center. I would recommend taking a cab or rideshare to enjoy your meal, as well as a glass or two of bourbon or wine.
I hope you now have even more places to visit the next time you’re in Sin City. I’m always looking for something a little less touristy when I’m in this gambling mecca.
Sometimes, it’s a nice change of pace to get off the Vegas Strip and see something unexpected, or even just plain strange. All these attractions are something you can only see or do in Vegas.