Vegas for people who hate Vegas: What to do in Vegas besides The Strip

Ah yes, the holidays. Do you have a friend throwing a Vegas bachelorette party, in-laws skipping Christmas cooking and checking into the Bellagio, or a winter work conference in Vegas? It seems that people can think of just about a billion reasons to show up here in the winter. I, as a new Vegas resident, have to level with you: I have never enjoyed coming to Las Vegas on vacation. If you, too, don’t gamble or enjoy partying past 10 PM, you might be wondering: What can I do in Vegas that is off The Strip? Here’s my suggested itinerary–whether you have a few hours, half a day, or a full weekend to spare.

Half day:

Ok, you have a work conference in Vegas, and with their off time your coworkers have insisted they’re going to see Cirque du Soleil. Here’s what I would do instead–go to China Town!

China Town is 1) a misnomer (especially if you’ve been to one anywhere else) because it’s actually just a collection of strip malls in Vegas but 2) once you get past that, is very close to The Strip with half the tourists and 100 times the amazing food options.

May I suggest: China Mama (the dumplings are amazing) and finishing off whatever meal you get with a visit to The Golden Tiki?

Yeah, it’s tacky, and no, it’s not a real secret, but the alcoholic Dole Whip is great.

Full day:

Ok, you’ve done China Town or you’re planning to go for lunch or dinner. Two other options you can add to the agenda if you have a full day–

If you like outdoor time: Springs Preserve. This is more of a path than a mountain hike but it’s on a cool property that holds the Nevada State Museum and a cafe, so it can entertain you for a few hours. Plus, it’s only an uber ride away from the strip. Plus plus, you can walk around the desert while looking at the Stratosphere, which is just weird and cool.

If you like shopping: The arts district in Las Vegas is just off the strip. It’s not hugely built up but it has a few excellent vintage stores. I suggest ubering to Priscilla Fowler art gallery and making your way up the street from there. Patina, next door, has really cool vintage clothes. The Buffalo Exchange down the street is my treasure trove. And you can get hipster coffee at Vesta or a meal and Makers and Finders. Both are aesthetically pleasing.

You can also go browse at Ferguson’s, just a few blocks away. It’s an old motel converted into small shops with a lovely coffee shop in the middle.

Two days:

If you have a second day in Vegas I suggest a rental car–from there you can drive to Red Rocks. Red Rocks is entirely unexpected compared to the strip and has many easy hiking trails. It is a driving loop and you pull off the side to start whatever hike you prefer. Bring gym shoes. I saw some people scrambling up rocks in flip flops for the ‘gram and it looked risky. Cost is $15 per vehicle.

My friends actually won’t let me leave the strip:

I’m hesitant to even share this with you, but there is a secret art installation at the Louis Vuitton store on the strip. It’s free to visit but you need to call to make a reservation. And you can’t take photos of it. Join the secret society of those in the know.

Good luck. Drink water. Bring flat shoes.

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