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14 SPECTACULAR SIGHTS TO WRAP YOUR EYEBALLS AROUND IN LAS VEGAS

It’s not ALL gambling and partying (though there’s plenty of that) in Sin City. Check out these booze and gambling-free experiences of a lifetime.

Las Vegas deservedly has a reputation as one of the world's most raucous party destinations, but there's plenty to see for those who'd rather steer clear - or at least have a day or two off - from the gambling and boozing that are synonymous with 'Sin City.'


In fact, we're going to put it out there: You can have the weekend of your life in Vegas without ever touching a drop of alcohol or sitting down at a poker table. The lights, the beautiful desert views, and the world's wildest hotels make for a trip you'll never forget. Here are 14 spectacular sights you can enjoy with the family - give them a shot and create a trip you are allowed to talk about when you get back.




MSG SPHERE

Just look at that thing! It’s as ridiculous as it is incredible. You’re leaving a nightclub after a few too many shandies and there, in the sweltering desert night, is a gigantic eyeball bogging right at you. Absolutely terrifying. Thankfully it’s not just a big ol’ peeper giving you the hard stare while you’re going about your business - there's a whole creative studio based in LA set up specifically to create the videos that will play on the 16K resolution screen. So far, displays have included planets, the Moon, a huge basketball and an ever-changing July 4 celebration that saw patterns and fireworks dancing around the world's largest LED screen.

Inside the MSG Sphere is an entertainment complex owned by the Madison Square Garden Company, which seats 18,600 people (20,000 standing) and will host gigs, sports events and the like. There'll be a VIP nightclub in the basement (is it even possible to own a venue in Vegas and not have a nightclub inside?) and nine levels in total, which will also feature 23 suites for a VIP viewing experience.

Although it’s already lighting up the Vegas sky, it’s not actually open yet - in September, U2 will begin a 25-show residency at the new venue as its first ever performers.

Officially the biggest spherical building in the world, the eye has certainly garnered a lot of attention, though not all of it positive. It’s become a bit of a pain for golfers at the Wynn Golf Club next door (one of America’s most expensive courses), who now have to concentrate on their short game while a blinking eyeball stares back at them.

If you can’t get to Vegas, you might still be able to check out a gargantuan sphere - an identical London version is planned for Stratford and has been scheduled to be completed this year.

MSG Sphere at The Venetian, 255 Sands Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89169



BELLAGIO FOUNTAINS

The Fountains of Bellagio have been dancing for tourists for nearly 30 years, and they’re still one of Vegas’ most loved attractions. Combining water that ‘dances’ to music and videos projected onto the walls of water, the fountains also recently evolved to incorporate fire as part of a Game of Thrones inspired show.

Most visitors stroll up the Vegas strip to the pavement outside the Bellagio, where the show is visible to anybody passing, but there’s also a terrace overlooking the fountains that provides a brilliant viewing platform.

The show takes place every half an hour, so if you’re spending a weekend in Sin City you’d be hard pushed not to catch a glimpse of the fountains in action. That being said, finding yourself a good vantage point and watching the whole show from start to finish is well worth 30 minutes of your time.

The Fountains at The Bellagio, 3600 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, United States




LUXOR HOTEL

Built in the early ‘90s, Luxor might no longer be the most luxurious hotel on the strip, but it’s undoubtedly still one of the most impressive. Named after an Egyptian city, Luxor does what Vegas does best - big, brash and culturally insensitive fun.

A great Sphinx looks out across the strip and behind her, a glimmering, 30-storey glass pyramid and two, Ziggurat Towers complete the hotel. Remarkably, when it was finished in 1993, the pyramid was the tallest building on the strip, though it was surpassed 11 days later by Treasure Island and is now dwarfed by the many skyscrapers in the city. It's definitely 'Vegas-size', though -the Sphinx is bigger than the famous landmark it was based upon, and the pyramid is the third largest in the world, only beaten by two of the Gisa pyramids in Egypt. And engineers in Vegas encountered problems the Ancient Egyptians never imagined, such as how to install a lift into a triangular shaped building. Rather than go right up the middle, like normal people, the builders created an engineering marvel of their own - lifts that go up at a 39 degree angle.

Wherever you are on the strip, you’ll always be able to find Luxor Hotel, thanks to its incredible Sky Beam - a shaft of light that shoots from the pyramid whenever dark falls over the strip. At 42.3 billion candela, it’s the strongest beam of light in the world and can be seen from Los Angeles.

The light creates so much heat that it has its own ecosystem - moths and bats are attracted to its warmth and other predatory animals follow suit.

Save up to 50% at Luxor Hotel, 3900 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89119, United States


THE STRAT OBSERVATION DECK

At 1,149-foot-tall, the Strat Observation Deck is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the USA and it features slanting windows that offer the finest views over Las Vegas. There's an outdoor viewing platform where you can breathe In the desert air while pretending your legs haven't turned to jelly at the sight of The Strat's vom-inducing thrill rides that have become the stuff of Vegas legend.

There are a few to choose from and each sounds as terrifying as the last. Big Shot fires you 160 feet in the air at 45mph and then lets you plummet back to the viewing platform with nothing but a harness to keep you in place; X-Scream drops you over the edge of the platform, just enough for you to wonder if your car has sailed off the end of the tracks, before dragging you back to safety; and Sky Jump? Well, that just chucks you off the edge with just a bungee rope for company.

If you prefer your views without the threat of a heart attack, the indoor viewing platform is much more serene, and there are cafes, bars and even a plush steakhouse all offering incredible views, so head on up and check out Vegas from the sky.

The Strat Observation Decks, 2000 Las Vegas Blvd. S, Las Vegas, NV 89104



THE GRAND CANYON

Vegas prides itself on being a larger-than-life, man-made spectacle, but perhaps the most awe-inspiring attraction of all is entirely natural and pre-dates Sin City by a good 10 million years.

The Grand Canyon is around a 2.5hr drive from Las Vegas, but plenty of tour operators offer helicopter trips for those on a tight schedule. And believe us when we say it's worth it.

The closest point to Vegas is the West Rim, which is owned by the Hualapai Indian Tribe and features the Skywalk Gas Bridge which lets you walk out over the canyon's edge on a glass walkway. Thrillseekers can also jump aboard a whitewater rafting expedition along the Colorado River

You might be forgiven for thinking you've seen every inch of the Grand Canyon in photographs, but nothing can prepare you for your first glimpse of this natural wonder. It's no secret that it's pretty big, but the true of the Canyon is almost impossible to describe, especially to us Brits.

Driving from the North Rim Visitor Centre to the South Rim Visitor Centre will take about four hours and various different ecosystems exist within the Canyon. It's also home to animals that can't be seen anywhere else (though you'd struggle to see them here, too...). A pink rattlesnake is thought to only live inside the Canyon and has evolved to camouflage with the reddish rock.

If you're thinking of taking a hike, there are plenty of guided and non-guided routes, but you'll need to be realistic - more people have walked on the moon than have trekked a continuous length-wise hike through the Grand Canyon. Did we mention it's pretty big?

Grand Canyon West Rim, 5001 E Diamond Bar Rd, Peach Springs, AZ 86434, United States



HOOVER DAM

If you're taking a car out to the Canyon, there's plenty to break up the drive, including the Hoover Dam. Stopping to gawp at a Hydroelectric Power Plant might not sound like a sure-fire winner, but over a million people visit the dam every year, and they can't all be wrong. And the Hoover Dam has become a landmark of such national importance that it's a regular backdrop for Hollywood movies, including Superman, Transformers, Viva Las Vegas and Lost in America.

The 726 foot structure impounds the Colorado River to create Lake Mead - the USA's largest reservoir - and provides power to more than a million people in California, Nevada and Arizona. And when you consider how much power the Vegas strip uses on any given day, that's a pretty important part of your holiday.

Visitors can head for the observation deck, spillway and power plant, or just stop at any of the viewing spots along the highway and bask in the sheer size of it all.

Hoover Dam, Nevada 89005, United States



NEON MUSEUM

Neon lights have become synonymous with Las Vegas, and for good reason - we reckon it's physically impossible to take a photo here without a neon sign in it. But the Neon Museum celebrates the signs that have been cast aside by the city's relentless reinvention. It is, for want of a better word, a beautiful, neon graveyard.

It started as a storage site for old signs, but evolved into a tourist attraction thanks to the huge public interest in these glorious old signs, many of which are genuine landmarks in the history of Sin City. There are, as you'd expect, plenty of old signs from hotels and motels that have long been swallowed up by the billion dollar hospitality industry in Las Vegas, all of which showcase the old charm of the city that has perhaps been lost to the clamour for bigger, better and more luxurious venues.

The best example of this is the restored cowboy on a horse from the Hacienda Hotel, which opened in 1956. The Hacienda was the first resort to be seen by tourists driving from California. At the time, the Hacienda was built away from the main city spread and separated from the rest of the strip by desert. The neon sign was a clever marketing ploy to ensure most stopped to enjoy the Hacienda's huge pool and didn't bother to travel any further into the city.

It may not have been the first neon light in Vegas, but for 40 years it was the one that welcomed visitors to the city and is drenched in the warm glow of nostalgia.

The Neon Museum, 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North, Las Vegas, NV 89101


EXCALIBUR HOTEL

Opened in 1990, The Excalibur won't win any awards for the flashiest or most luxurious hotel on the strip, but that won't matter to your Disney-loving kids, because it's a gargantuan fairytale castle with so many turrets it'd take Prince Charming all weekend just to find his princess.

The hotel owners went in hard on their theme, and nightly shows include the Tournament of Kings, which sees knights on horseback whack the BeJesus out of each other while guests chomp down on chicken and bang their tankards with glee.

It's a cost-saver, too - the show takes place in a dirt arena and diners aren't even given utensils, so the washing up bill has been decimated thanks to a celebration of Medieval filth.

For three years after its opening, Excalibur was the largest hotel in the world with over 3,000 rooms, two swimming pools and a list of restaurants inside and while it's firmly in the shadow of its bigger, more luxurious rivals, there's a nostalgic charm about the place that's well worth experiencing.

Save up to 50% at Excalibur Hotel, 3850 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, United States


NEW YORK NEW YORK HOTEL

You know the problem with the real New York? All that walking. Honestly, why couldn't they just build the Empire State Building right next to the Statue of Liberty? Well, that's exactly what they did at New York New York Hotel, and they didn't stop there. A replica of the Brooklyn Bridge runs along the sidewalk, the Chrysler Building sits behind and there are homages to The New Yorker Hotel, CBS Building, 550 Madison Avenue, Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Ellis Island and even Grand Central Station.

Take a walk inside and there's even more: The casino resembles Central Park with a facade of the New York Stock Exchange and a high-stakes gaming area looks like the Rockefeller Centre promenade. There's even a food court made to look like Manhattan's Little Italy.

Critics have called it "the most ridiculous building imaginable," and said it "has the look and feel of a giant toy." For those reasons and many, many more, it's imperative that you head to New York New York and bask in the silliness of it all.


FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE

It might seem as though Vegas is all about the Strip, but many of the images you see in movies or magazines are actually of Fremont, a street with so much neon it should come with a health warning - or a free pair of sunglasses.

Many of the city's most famous casinos are based here. Over the years it's been home to the Golden Nugget, Four Queens, The Mint, Golden Gate Hotel and Casino and the Pioneer Club, with its iconic neon cowboy sign affectionately called Vegas Vic. Its history is as long and storied as the city in which it sits - the street dates back to 1905, when Vegas was founded, and was the first paved street in Sin City. It also had the city's first traffic light in 1931 and hosted one of the first six casinos to be granted a license in Nevada.

Known as Glitter Gulch for its brash, over-the-top styling, Fremont has had a modern-day makeover and the Fremont Street Experience was created on a three-block section of the road. Since 1996, the area has been pedestrianised and a huge LED 'roof' built over the walkway, which projects everything from blue skies and clouds to nighttime shows that pay homage to Vegas, Area 51 and the good ol' United States of America in hourly bursts.

You'll probably have seen videos of guests flying like Superman over the crowds on Fremont's Slotzilla Zip Line - choose to drop from 77ft or 114ft and let your Clark Kent fantasies run wild.

Fremont Street Experience, 425 E Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101, United States



PARIS LAS VEGAS

Paris, New York and Vegas in one weekend? That's some real high-flyer behaviour, right there. But when you've finished in New York, you really can stroll down the strip and find yourself in Paris. The magic of Vegas!

Just like the Big Apple version up the road, Paris Las Vegas features scaled down replicas of the French capital's most famous landmarks including the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Paris Opera House and Musée d'Orsay.

At night, an hourly light shows bathes the Eiffel Tower in red, white and blue and inside there's restaurants galore, including plenty of French offerings and some celeb eateries - Gordon Ramsay, Lisa Vanderpump and Martha Stewart all have restaurants at Paris Las Vegas.

Get the best deals at Paris Las Vegas, 3655 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, United States



RED ROCK CANYON

Red Rock Canyon offers a long list of hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty, which are perfect for cleansing your lungs (and soul) after a few days in the city.

For the less active visitors, a roughly 30 minute hike will take you out to a cliff face covered in 800-year-old rock art. For those with a little more energy, the Calico Tanks trail is just short of 4km in total and offers beautiful views across the valley. Boasting rights go to anyone who takes on the three-and-half hour Turtlehead Peak Trail. You'll cover 7.4km in the desert here but will be rewarded with views back across Vegas and the whole of the Red Rock Canyon skyline.

There's also a 13-mile driving or cycling route and activities including climbing and off-road driving can be enjoyed in the park.

If you fancy spending the night under the stars, a camp site is located two miles east of the visitors centre.

Red Rock Canyon Visitor Centre, 1000 Scenic Loop Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89161, United States


THE VENETIAN

The Venetian is a masterpiece of an over-the-top, lavish theme-hotel that shows just how far Vegas builders can go when money is no object.

As you'd expect from a hotel based on Venice, the focal point is water - a lot of water. In total, 843,000 gallons flow through the hotel's 'canal' system and over half a million guests enjoy a trip on the ornate gondolas every year.

One beautiful feature about the Venetian is the hand-painted ceiling, which depicts blue skies and clouds and brilliantly makes inside feel like outside when you're strolling the corridors of the hotel or browsing the shops along the canal.

Subtlety isn't in high demand at this hotel (or, let's be honest, in this city), but there are little touches at The Venetian that are easy to miss. It replaced the Sands Hotel, which the owners decided had become too dated to compete with its rivals and decided to knock it down and build the Venetian in its place. But the Sands had a few notable guests over the years - chiefly, the Rat Pack, who performed a residency there. By the main entrance to the Venetian, there are five sets of footprints, marking the spot where Sinatra and co. posed for a famous photograph outside the Sands back in the day.

Bookmarking their shifts ferrying visitors around, the Gondoliers perform twice a day - marching and singing as they make their way to their boats. Check them out at 9:50am and 4:20pm every day.

Save up to 50% at The Venetian, 3355 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, United States



THE VEGAS SIGN

Is there a more famous sign in the whole world than the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas neon? Instantly recognisable, it's appeared on everything from mugs to keyring, t-shirts, caps, posters... in fact, it might be easier to list merchandise that hasn't been made featuring that famous light.

There's a rarely seen 'other side' to the sign, too - the rear, which is visible when leaving Las Vegas, says 'Drive Carefully. Come back soon' - though that's not as exciting as the world famous text that greets arrivals to the city.

The sign was built by Western Neon in 1959 and its designer, Betty White was an employee of the company and a Nevada resident. She never copyrighted the design and even declared it a gift to the city, saying: "If I had copyrighted the sign, it probably wouldn't have been used as much and wouldn't be as famous. But, it would be nice to have a dime for every time it's been used." Betty wasn't forgotten, though. After her death aged 91 in 2015, Clark County declared May 5 "Betty Willis Day."

She lived long enough to see her sign listed on the the National Register of Historic Places, which puts it up there with the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District, Mount Rushmore and The Whitehouse. Not bad for a sign.

One thing that often surprises first time visitors (including us!) is the location of the sign. Positioned in the centre of a busy, two-lane Boulevard and up until 2008, visitors had to dash through traffic to get up close for a photo.

Improvements have since been made, which include a small parking lot and a walkway to the central reservation.

Don't be fooled by the imposters, by the way. A similar sign was erected on Boulder Highway and all around the city there are homages such as a "Married in Fabulous Las Vegas" sign at the Chapel of the Flowers and a "Welcome to Downtown Las Vegas" sign at Fremont Street Experience. Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South Paradise, Nevada, U.S.89119




* Heading to Vegas? Get dinner and a show ticket for under $100 or if dinner's already covered, bag a show ticket for $50 or less


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