Leaving Las Vegas's strip

In this week's Lonely Planet 'Great Escape', why not gamble on experiencing something different from the usual slot machines and blackjack tables in Nevada's fabled desert city?

You know you want to. Anyone who had a  sandpit as a child would want to; anyone who’s driven past a building site and peered  inside would want to. And now here you are perched up in the cabin of a proper bulldozer, about to push some earth around. Serious earth, too – tons of it. Press a few buttons, pull a few levers. The big engine revs, the Caterpillar tracks start moving, the shovel digs into  the soil…

They say you can do just about anything  in Las Vegas, although when they say that they’re probably thinking more along the  lines of gambling and strippers than building a big mound of earth and then driving over it. But it takes all kinds in this place, and it’s only once you get away from that famous neon-lit Strip that you realise just how much there is  to do in Vegas. Forget the gambling and postpone the Elton John show. There’s work to  be done.

The bulldozer is part of Dig This, which has to be about the most bizarrely great attraction in Vegas. The idea is simple: drive a real bulldozer or excavator, and do all the work those big machines normally do. Dig trenches, move huge tyres around and drive over large mounds of dirt. It’s brilliant in its simplicity and the perfect salt-of-the-earth antidote to the glitzy fakery of the Strip.

It’s also just the beginning. Once you’re done playing in your giant sandpit, there’s plenty of amusement awaiting in Vegas that doesn’t involve cards and chips. Take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and combine it with dinner and wine-tasting at a vineyard. Play 3D dodgeball on trampolines. Race go-karts. Eat at Michelin-starred restaurants. Party in a pool. Drink at a dive bar.

And don’t gamble a cent.

The perfect getaway

Away from the Strip, away from the lure of all those neon lights and singing slot machines, there’s plenty to keep visitors to Las Vegas occupied. Dig This, the earth-moving theme park, is one of the more inventive attractions, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park is another place popular with overgrown children, where you can bounce around doing somersaults and try to avoid being hit by squishy balls. Makes a change  from blackjack.

Meanwhile, those who’ve hit the jackpot should get high with a helicopter joy-flight. Some tours soar over the Grand Canyon,  others take in the Hoover Dam and still  others go further afield, taking guests out to Pahrump Valley Winery, near the California state line. Have a meal, some wine and then fly back to Vegas.

Take in a little of the town’s history at the Boneyard. The Las Vegas Neon Museum’s  huge yard is strewn with old neon signs and billboards dating back as far as the 1930s, a monument to a city that outgrew itself several times over.

Another Vegas institution, and a must-visit for anyone jaded by all the glitz, is Double Down Saloon, a dive bar that’s proud to call itself as such. Dark and dingy, the bar is patronised by Vegas’s more interesting characters, and the live music borders on “experimental”, but the drinks are cheap.

Want to slow down? Pay a visit to the Mob Museum to learn about Vegas’s past. Want to speed things up? Leap into a go-kart at Pole Position Raceway. Finally, don’t miss Vegas’s famous pool parties. Be it Wet Republic, Encore or Rehab, the formula is basically the same: get thousands of partygoers in the pool, add a DJ, some drinks and see what happens. You’ve probably got a fair idea of the results.

Plan it

Summer is when Vegas is busiest, but attractions are open year-round. Accommodation in Las Vegas is relatively cheap; the casinos know they’ll recoup those losses. How much you decide to give back is up to you.

Detour

There’s no way you’ll stay clear of the Strip forever. So where to go and what to do? Top of the list has to be watching the fountains at the Bellagio hotel and casino, which is spectacular, crowded and doesn’t cost a cent.

Next up, wander the canals of Venice – or, at least, the canals of the Venetian Casino. Then step back a little further into fake Italian history with a stroll through the Roman-themed Caesars Palace. It’s all tropical-island dreaming over at the Mirage, while the Wynn is just pure luxury. Finish up with drinks at New York-New York, the casino that never sleeps (actually, that goes for all of them).

This is an extract from ‘Great Escapes’,  published by Lonely Planet (£29.99). To order a copy, go to shop.lonelyplanet.com.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map