Vegas off the Strip

Vegas is always fun! When a good friend of ours moved there, I decided that we should see what else Vegas has to offer besides nightclubs and Fat Tuesdays drinks on the strip. Believe me, there’s a ton of fun things to do that don’t involve paying $50 for admission, or paying $20+ per drink. If you’re not into that, or want a change of pace from the nightlife scene, there’s so many cool things to do in Vegas that aren’t on the strip. Here’s my guide to a cheaper, alternative Las Vegas.

Fremont Street

Freemont street was a very cool experience. During the day you can really appreciate the giant vintage signs and buildings. When people talk about the original Las Vegas, this was it. This is what Las Vegas was before the Strip was a thing. It’s a fun, Vegas party atmosphere, with crazy street performers, but without the high end night clubs and expensive drinks. They also have a lot of shows and concerts here right on the street.

I actually enjoyed Fremont during the day more than  at night. One of the street performers was “Pick my pose” and he had a box for tips and then people could position him however they wanted. It was pretty entertaining, I’m not gonna lie. The streets surrounding Fremont also have a lot of cool street art! It was fun to just walk around stumbling upon different murals.

At night they have the Fremont experience which runs every hour on the hour and it’s where they have a giant light show on the screen above the street. It’s sort of like a fun show with DJ playing to the lights on the whole street. It’s worth finding yourself on the street on the hour at some point while you’re there. They also have ziplining across Fremont street. It started at $25 a person and went up from there depending on the height level and time of day. We saw people zipping all day and during the late hours of the night.

Container Park

I almost feel like I shouldn’t tell anyone about this place, because it was awesome to be able to get a rooftop table at any bar at 10-11pm on Cinco De Mayo! Container Park is awesome! It was built of old shipping containers that they transformed into shops and restaurants. It’s fun during the day and at night. During the day, it’s a great, family friendly spot with a giant play tree house in the center, restaurants and shops. It’s still good for day drinking because there’s 5 solid rooftop bars.

It was super fun at night too! It was happening, but not so crowded that you couldn’t get a drink or table. They have a lot of events and live music there too. They even have a giant praying mantis that shoots fire from his antennae every so often, that I’m sure was once at Burning Man.

If you go, just be aware of where you’re getting drinks. Like, don’t order margaritas from the wine bar like I did. The Mexican food place that’s just to the left when you walk in is AMAZING! One of our local uber drivers said it was his favorite Mexican food, and as a native Arizonan, I thought it was great too. And they had yummy blood orange margaritas!

Olive & Ivy was the whisky bar and by far had the best cocktails of anywhere we went to in the area. Bin was sort of a wine bar. They had charcuterie trays that were decent and a shelf of board games on the bottom floor. No matter where you decide to go, there’s a strong chance you can get a rooftop table and you’re bound to have fun at Container Park!

First Friday

First Friday is an event that happens in the art district of Downtown Las Vegas. It’s sort of like a street fair with art, music and food.

Now, coming from Phoenix where First Friday is a true celebration of art and culture, this First Friday was busier and more touristy than I’d expected, but it was still a fun time and an alternative to being on the strip (and much cheaper). There are some art displays, street artists and booths with art, goods and jewelry for purchase.

There’s also no shortage of food trucks and interesting people!

Neon Museum

This is something you can not miss! How have I come to Vegas for so many years and never been here?! I thought it would just be a great photo op, but the tour was so much more than that. It was awesome to hear the history of the signs and the times and places they represented and to hear about how those places have changed. Also, almost every sign you see on the strip is LED, since it’s newer techolology and cheaper than neon. So if you want to see some real neon sign, here it is.

This sign originally spelled Moulin Rouge. When it was taken down, the artist Betty Willis, one of the only female sign designers in Vegas, rearranged the letters to spell ‘In Love’ and she wanted this to be a symbol of Las Vegas and she succeeded because it is now recognized all over the world, and it’s pretty cool to see in person.

This Stardust sign was from the Stardust hotel. The hotel was built during the Space Race of when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and the hotel was space and future themed.

Pro tip: This place does book up. You should make a reservation ahead of time, especially if you want to see it at night. At night they light up a lot of the signs. We went at 6 pm in May (sunset around 7:30pm), and it was just slightly too early to have that golden hour sunlight. I think 7 pm would be the ideal time. The day time tours cost $18 per person and the night tours cost $28 per person. If you know you want to do this, book your tickets ahead of time. For the night tours, they were all full the few days before hand.

Their gift shop is awesome too. I’d recommend taking the tour before purchasing something. After hearing the history in the tour, some of the signs have a lot more meaning!

Pinball Hall of Fame

If you love pinball or arcade games, I don’t need to say much more. This place has rows and rows of pinball machines and vintage arcade games that you can play from 25 cents-$1 per play. If you want to play the original Donkey Kong or Pacman, or play one of the classic pinball games, this is your place. They also have a lot of modern, more recent pinball games like Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones.

My personal favorite is Attack from Mars. You get to shoot your pinball into a space ship to try to save the Eiffel tower, statue of liberty and leaning tower of Pisa from being destroyed by aliens. Okay, maybe it’s a little nerdy. Maybe I love it because my dad and sister would go play this exact game when I was growing up. But I think your $50 will go a lot further here than at the craps table (if you like pinball like me). I loved this place so much, we went twice in the 4 days we visited.

Cactus Garden & Chocolate Shop

I love all things chocolate, and I have to admit, the chocolate factory was a little bit underwhelming. To be fair, there was no chocolate production occurring when we visited. It was neat to see the giant machines that they use to make the chocolate. Definitely would have been better if we got to see it in action. Otherwise, the chocolate was a little bit overpriced and their chocolate tasting was $15 to eat white, dark and milk chocolate and hear the history of the cocoa bean..

What was a surprise and COMPLETELY worth the visit was the cactus garden that is part of the shop. I may be a sucker for cactus gardens because of my desert roots, but either way, this place was awesome! They had a great collection and it was well laid out and absolutely stunning to walk through. Plus, if you haven’t stood next to a Joshua tree before, you really need to.

Other things on my Las Vegas Bucket List:

  • Valley of Fire
  • Hiking at Mount Charleston
  • Hiking the red rocks area
  • Colorful room above Louis Vuitton
  • Atomic Bar
  • Mob Museum

What other off-the-beaten path things have you tried in Las Vegas?

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