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.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
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

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'