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Beyond the Strip: Las Vegas by Day

Eternally known for wild nightlife, live entertainment, and, of course, gambling and boozing away at casinos that never close, Las Vegas will always own the night. Seriously, that great Vegas slogan ("what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas") is not referring to the daytime. But should you hit the Strip, you may want to reconsider sleeping in. There is a myriad of attractions during the day just as commanding as those at night, all of which will serve up great memories, even if there’s no alcohol (or gambling or strippers) involved. We rounded up the best attractions that keep visitors busy during the day in Sin City—no sin involved.


Ziplining on Fremont

Ten years ago, downtown Las Vegas was a shady area where you only ventured in the hope to find a fake ID. Now, it’s completely revitalized with outdoor cafes, vintage barber and beauty shops, and quirky souvenir vendors. Oh, and you can zipline over it all. Launched two years ago, Flightlinez offers adrenaline junkies ziplining through the Fremont entertainment/shopping complex. Four lines run for 800 feet under the canopy’s $70 million video screen of glimmering lights. The ride is quick (less than 15 seconds) and speeds are only up to 30 mph but it’s a thrilling way to see downtown (and the crowds looking up at you) from an aerial perspective.

Ride: $15 before 6 pm; $20 after 6 pm.

Insider’s Tip: Over too soon? Riders can re-ride for $5.


Neon Museum

A fascinating attraction for those who like things bright and big is the Neon Boneyard at the Neon Museum. This dedicated, two-acre outdoor museum space exhibits vintage neon Vegas signs dating back to the 1930s. There are more than 150 signs to take you back through time, from old-school motels to high-profile casino resorts. Expect to see signage from Moulin Rouge Hotel, Desert Inn, and Ceasar’s Palace. The museum is open 24/7, 7 days a week. The museum finally unveiled their visitor center last month, a terrific transformation of the La Concha Motel lobby. Reservations are necessary, and visitors must book in advance and join a guided tour for the boneyard.

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Insider’s Tip: Nine restored signs can be found at the Downtown Gallery on Fremont, including Aladdin’s Lamp.


Spa at Mandarin Oriental

You’ll quickly see why the spa at the relatively new Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas (opened 2011) is often touted as one of the best spas in the world. Encompassing two floors, visit the spa to either reinvigorate for an upcoming night on the town or for detoxing from the night before. There are 17 treatment rooms (including seven private couple’s suites), a Chinese Foot spa, men’s and women’s lounges with views of the Strip, beauty salon, and spa boutique. Arrive early—at least an hour—for the heat and water circuit experience, which includes steam rooms, a hammam, a laconium, vitality pool, experience showers, sauna, and ice fountain. (Yes, ice fountain.)

Insider’s Tip: Book the new Good Karma treatment (90 minutes, $280 weekends/$240 weekdays), just in time for the new year to start fresh with your karma. The treatment includes full-body massage with jade stones and foot treatment.


Valley of Fire

Just an hour’s drive into the desert canyon, Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park. But don’t expect a leisurely desert stroll looking at hot sand and mirages. The park has 3,000-year-old Native American petroglyphs within ancient rock formations. These finds are worth the drive alone. The landscape is also quite commanding, thanks to limestone rock and red sandstone formations. Star Trek fans will remember the scene when Captain Kirk unfortunately fell to his death, which was filmed here.

Insider’s Tip: Check out the number of cool, Native American shops selling hand-made jewelry and dreamcatchers. 


Mob Museum

Recently opened in downtown Las Vegas, and housed in a National Historic Building, the Mob Museum is an exciting, interactive way to learn the history of mob culture. The museum is (appropriately?) run by former FBI agents and police officers along with help from key historians and experts. Visitors can expect cool artifacts like wiretaps, surveillance photos from the government, and the actual St. Valentines Massacre wall (300 collected bricks) made famous by Al Capone. The third floor is dedicated to criminals throughout American history, and visitors learn facts through interactive features and exhibits, like a casino slot machine.

Insider’s Tip: The restored federal courthouse—a room that’s often overlooked—offers special mob-centric events lead by experts in their field.

Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat

Inside the Mirage, the animals of Siegfried & Roy are alive and well. It’s not a well-known fact that both Siegfried and Roy were advocates for protecting endangered animals, and this casino resort serves as a home to some precious creatures, including tigers, panthers, leopards, and dolphins. In the Secret Garden, there are six different displays of lions, tigers, and leopards in lush settings, raising awareness of rare breeds. Expect the likes of pure white tigers. The Dolphin Habitat is actually a research facility that houses bottlenose dolphins and more in 2.5 million gallons of water.

Insider’s Tip: Visitors can be a trainer for a day at the Dolphin Habitat, getting up-close and personal in wet suits and accompany actual staff in the waters.

Jimmy Im is a freelance travel writer based in NYC. He’s hosted programs on the Travel Channel and LOGO, and makes regular appearances on morning news shows as a "travel expert." He teaches travel writing courses and is also cofounder of Follow him on Twitter @dieselmad.

Photo credit: Neon Museum courtesy of Flickr/dbking; Fremont Street via Shutterstock; Valley of Fire via Shutterstock; Mandarin Oriental Spa courtesy of Mandarin Oriental

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