Casinos. Nightclubs. Limos. Live DJs, boozy buffets, and yard-long frozen cocktails. Welcome to Las Vegas—Sin City, and a destination ideal for the 21+ party crowd.
Or is it? In fact, Las Vegas has much more to offer than cocktails and craps tables—and one of the best ways to visit this city is to avoid the casinos, clubs, and bars altogether. Whether you’re visiting with family, for a romantic weekend, or just want to avoid the constant untz of EDM and ka-ching of slot machines, this is the best way to spend 48 hours in Las Vegas—no ID required.
Delano Las Vegas
Within the CityCenter complex and adjacent to the popular Cosmopolitan Las Vegas are three of The Strip’s best-kept secrets: the Vdara Hotel & Spa, ARIA Resort and Casino, and Mandarin Oriental. All five-star and non-smoking, the Vdara and Mandarin Oriental are non-gaming, while ARIA offers a small casino on site. The Vdara, an all-suite property with kitchenettes in every room, is especially ideal for families or groups seeking an all-ages (or simply low-key) Vegas experience.
Without the need for the visible facades and bright lights of streetside advertising, many of Las Vegas’ top non-gaming and non-smoking facilities are actually located within (or on the property of) more commercial properties. For those looking to stay in the center of all the action without the disruptions—or, more likely, distractions—of casino tables and onsite nightclubs, The Signature is an all-suite, non-gaming, and non-smoking alternative connected to the MGM Grand by a covered pathway. But in many ways, Mandalay Bay has the Las Vegas market cornered in terms of speakeasy-style hotels; both the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas—a five-star property occupying the top floors—and the Delano (an adults-only building) cater to tourists and business travelers looking less for luck and more for luxury.
Of course, five-star hotel rooms aren’t always childproof—and when it comes to visiting Las Vegas with kids, it may be worth staying at a property known for its family-friendly amenities. Though most provide onsite casinos, immersive themed hotels—including Excalibur, Treasure Island, and New York New York—offer plenty of entertainment for little ones. Families hoping to leave the sounds of slot machines and electronic dance music behind will feel most comfortable at Las Vegas’ non-smoking and non-gaming resort-style properties, including the Wyndham Grand Desert and Hilton Grand Vacations.
Towering milkshakes, stacked fried chicken sandwiches, and cookie shots—Las Vegas’ most Instagrammable restaurants have it all, including the ability to induce some serious vacation envy in your followers back home. Foodie favorites include Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer—known for over-the-top (literally) milkshakes in flavors like Cotton Candy—as well as fried chicken purveyor Blue Ribbon and sweet tooth-satisfying Sugar Factory. Of course, the Instagram opportunities don’t end at Las Vegas Boulevard; off-The-Strip spots worthy of your newsfeed include Creamberry, known for cookie shots and ice cream rolls, and the Truffles N Bacon Cafe, home of the Belly Of The Beast—as featured on Food Network’s Ginormous Food Show.
To the surprise of no Food Network viewers, celebrity chefs seem to feel right at home amongst the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas. Between Lagasse’s Stadium at The Palazzo, Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at MGM Grand, and Delmonico Steakhouse at The Grand Canal Shoppes, Emeril Lagasse has long been a culinary king of The Strip—but he faces more competition than ever as other celebrity chefs move in. Early this year, Gordon Ramsay opened his hotly anticipated Hell’s Kitchen restaurant—an experiential homage to the popular cooking show, complete with blue and red uniforms—to immediate success; the restaurant received 12,000 reservations in just 10 days. In fact, 2018 could be the best year yet for celebrity chefs in Las Vegas, as Giada De Laurentiis is set to open her second Las Vegas concept—Pronto by Giada—early this year in Caesars Palace, to be followed by Roy Choi’s expansive concept in Park MGM.
While Food Network stars deliver in performance and ambiance, discerning eaters may prefer to dine under the auspices of world-renowned greats like José Andrés, Michael Mina, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Rainer Beck. Beloved restaurateur, chef, and philanthropist José Andrés has four separate concepts in Las Vegas: Bazaar Meat by José Andrés (a steakhouse within the SLS Hotel), as well as Jaleo, China Poblano, and é by José Andrés (all located with The Cosmopolitan). Meanwhile, in Caesars Palace, Nobu Restaurant serves up signature dishes including the Black Cod Miso and Rock Shrimp Tempura; in Bellagio, Michael Mina covers seafood and seasonal New American tasting menus. The newest famed restaurant to land in Las Vegas is Zuma; Rainer Beck’s first West Coast location brought the brand’s signature Japanese izakaya to The Cosmopolitan in 2017.
GET YOUR THRILLS
Looking for an adrenaline rush without risking your life savings? Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get your thrills in Las Vegas outside of the casino. On The Strip, adventure seekers should be directed towards the New York-New York Hotel and Casino—and The Big Apple Coaster, which overlooks the corner of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. Those hoping to take in more views and let out fewer screams may prefer the High Roller, the world’s tallest Ferris wheel located at the center of The LINQ entertainment complex. Further North in the Downtown Las Vegas area is The Stratosphere, where guests can pick their poison from attractions including an observation deck, three death-defying carnival rides, and SkyJump—an open-air bungee jump from 829 feet above Las Vegas.
SEE A SHOW
Of course, Las Vegas is known for its entertainment offerings—and we’re not just talking about Magic Mike (though if that’s your jam, you do you). In fact, many of the best live shows—including Blue Man Group (Luxor) and the Jabbawockeez (MGM Grand)—are ideal for all-ages and should be a go-to whether you’re with the whole family or visiting for a romantic weekend. But perhaps the most memorable live shows come from Cirque du Soleil; the theatrical entertainment company has operated in Las Vegas for more than 20 years and currently runs six signature shows at hotels on The Strip, including famed O (Bellagio), Mystère (Treasure Island), and The Beatles LOVE (The Mirage).
These days, some of the most exciting things happening in Las Vegas aren’t even located on The Strip—instead, restaurateurs, entertainers, and (perhaps most importantly) developers are turning their attention to the Downtown Las Vegas area centered on Fremont Street. The original city center and gambling district of Las Vegas, the downtown area is rich with history and is experiencing a serious renaissance—over the past few years, the once-forgotten (and locals-only) section has been transformed by new openings, events, and large-scale art installations. Perhaps most notable is the Fremont Street Experience, a 24-hour mall complete with an indoor zip line, LED light shows, and the popular Neon Museum.
ARRIVE IN STYLE
Dreading the somewhere-between-four-and-seven-hour drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and not interested in a flight that charges for your carry-on? Instead of suffering through airport delays and hungover traffic jams, make getting there part of the fun with alternative travel options. The vacation starts immediately with JetsuiteX, a public charter airline that operates between Burbank and Las Vegas; fliers are treated to a private terminal, luxurious private jet transport, complimentary WiFi and snacks, and (maybe best of all) the freedom to show up just 15-20 minutes before your scheduled flight. Those traveling with others may instead prefer to sit back and let a hired chauffeur do the work—Host Cars LA offers a flat rate between LA and Las Vegas for between three to seven passengers.
SING YOUR HEART OUT
Those looking to catch live entertainment without stepping foot in a Las Vegas nightclub should check out local music festivals, including Life Is Beautiful and iHeart Radio—both open to all ages and held in September. Taking over Downtown Las Vegas with culinary, art, learning, and music programming, Life Is Beautiful appeals to the Coachella crowd with multiple stages and competitive headliners; the 2017 lineup featured Chance the Rapper, Muse, Gorillaz, Lorde, Kaskade, Wiz Khalifa, and more. Top 40 listeners will likely prefer the more mainstream (and younger-leaning) iHeartRadio Music Festival held at T-Mobile Arena, for which the 2017 lineup included Miley Cyrus, DJ Khaled, Coldplay, The Weeknd, and P!NK.
RETURN TO THE CLASSICS
When all else fails, go back to the OG non-gambling activities—those which were the first to open up Las Vegas’ appeal beyond casinos and nightclubs. Ideal for children but entertaining for the whole family, classics including The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, M&M’S World Las Vegas, and the Tournament of Kings at Excalibur are mainstays unlikely to go out of style.