Mentioning Las Vegas usually conjures up images of spinning roulette wheels and stone-faced poker players. If you’re looking for things to do along those lines, you’ll want to make a beeline for the casinos lining the neon-lit Strip. But for lower-stakes gambling in a throwback Vegas atmosphere, head downtown to Fremont Street. Vintage signs and showgirls crowned with headdresses recall the days of Sinatra and Martin, but this Glitter Gulch burns much brighter today than it did in the Rat Pack era: beginning at dusk, a canopy of more than 12 million LED lights erupts in a psychedelic light and music show every hour.
The Mob Museum serves as a potent reminder that Sin City didn’t earn its nickname from such harmless festivities. Exhibits profile legendary Mafiosi from Capone to Gotti, and mob artifacts include the bloodstained, bullet-pocked brick wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Within the former federal courthouse, you can fire a Tommy gun simulator, participate in a police lineup, or explore an actual courtroom where the Kefauver Committee held hearings on organized crime in 1950.
Thankfully, you don’t have to fight crime to experience thrills in Vegas. You can just ride the X-Scream, a thrill ride perched 866 feet above the Strip on the Stratosphere Tower. The ride is sort of like an oversized teeter totter, only as one side rises and the other falls, a roller-coaster car rushes from one end to the other, creating the sensation that riders are about to fly off the edge of the tallest hotel and casino in the state. The views are impossible to beat, if you can keep your eyes open.
For a steadier view of the Strip at night, head to LAVO at The Palazzo. At this Italian restaurant and nightclub, an outdoor terrace affords a panorama of the palm tree-lined Las Vegas Boulevard. Of course, your senses might be otherwise engaged by elegantly plated dishes such as baked clams oregatana or by a crowded dance floor awash in blood-orange lighting.
Recover in time from dancing into the early morning and you may want to check out some attractions that operate at more normal hours, such as the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History. Located on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus, this treasure trove of ancient artifacts hosts figurines, winter moccasins, and knife blades handcrafted by Hopi and Paiute Indians. Kids may like the museum’s collection of native lizards, which includes an open-air habitat for desert tortoises.
Those tortoises would feel right at home at The Spa at Green Valley Ranch, where life moves at a slower, more serene pace. The 40,000-square-foot oasis is renowned for its green tea wrap, which infuses skin with seaweed, ginger root, and grape seeds from California’s Napa Valley. Romance ensues in the spa’s two couple’s rooms, both of which feature a hydrotherapy tub and outdoor cabana.