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The High-Adrenaline Side of Las Vegas

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Maverick Aviation Group

A helicopter flies above the High Roller observation wheel and other brightly lit landmarks on the Strip. (Photo: Courtesy Maverick Aviation Group). 

Las Vegas is a bucket-list city, where adrenaline junkies can fulfill a half dozen lifelong dreams in a single weekend. Always wanted to soar in a helicopter? Jump out of a plane? Zoom around a NASCAR track? No problem. An ever-growing number of local outfits are springing up to give tourists that “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this” feeling. And most of the fun comes in bite-size chunks that have you back to your hotel in a matter of hours.

Sky’s No Limit

Aside from the workaday world of commercial airlines, few of us spend much time airborne. But the clear, wide-open skies above Nevada’s vast desert are a blank canvas for artists in flight.

Helicopter rides are a Vegas staple; hop aboard a Maverick Helicopter chopper for a short tour of the Strip (especially romantic at night, when the city glitters below) or a bird’s-eye sweep of the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. There’s nothing quite like that floating sensation as the craft lifts off like a giant dragonfly—any nervousness quickly turning to exhilaration.

Other helicopter companies include Papillon and Sundance (try a Grand Canyon picnic). A number of successful helicopter operations have been shuttling first-time tourists around for years, so this is the perfect time to cross the whirlybird off your life list.

Another way to see the Strip from high up: the Big Shot, X-Scream, and Insanity thrill rides that undulate along the Stratosphere’s 1,149-foot-tall tower (the country’s tallest freestanding observation tower). The most daring plummet straight down, bungee style, with SkyJump, the world’s highest controlled descent.


Stratosphere’s Insanity dangles riders 900 feet above the Strip and spins them at 40 mph.

Perhaps the single most pulse-racing thing I can imagine doing anyplace, ever, is Sky Combat Ace, a one-on-one ride-along with a professional pilot in a fighter plane. Thrill seekers blast through barrel rolls, combat drills, and other aerobatics—or just take a spin (upright) in a vintage plane with an open cockpit. Don’t try this after a few cocktails, folks.

Sky Combat Ace

Sky Combat Ace takes guests along on stunt-plane flights above the Nevada desert. (Photo: Courtesy Sky Combat Ace)

Test the Laws of Physics

You’re in a stock car revving a 600-hp engine, waiting for the flag to drop. And then you’re off, hitting the gas and shifting gears and letting your wheels grab the banked track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Soon you’re flying past the stands at over 100 mph—and you’ve never done anything like this before. Good thing there’s an instructor sitting next to you, telling you exactly what to do.

That’s what happens at the Richard Petty Driving Experience, one of several Vegas companies that let you put the pedal to the metal without worrying about traffic lights. Climb into the driver’s seat yourself or ride with a professional if your goal is to just experience the feeling of screaming around a track at 165 mph (none of the amateurs have gone quite that fast yet). Alternatively, Petty’s American Muscle Car Challenge lets guests drive a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, Dodge Challenger SRT8 392, or Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.

Richard Petty Driving Experience

It’s not just for NASCAR: You, too, can drive on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

Another company, Dream Racing, also lets you drive exotic cars on the same NASCAR speedway. If Lady Luck shines on you, you’ll see fighter pilots training at nearby Nellis Air Force Base. Now that’s speed.

Believe it or not, the g-force in a racecar is nothing compared to what Las Vegas’ most extreme roller coasters feel like. The newest, El Loco, zooms, corkscrews, and reverse-rolls around the Adventuredome indoor amusement park at Circus Circus (also home to the double-loop Canyon Blaster). After rides like these, hit the casino’s midway and big top to take a break while you watch other people do scary-looking things for a change.


Those with tetchy nerves and/or necks could consider something a little less stressful, maybe a zip-line ride with a gentle stop at the end: the mighty SlotZilla on Fremont Street. A new upper “zoomline” segment—114 feet above the ground and 1,700 feet long—just opened in April. You can book advance tickets online or, for a spur-of-the-moment screamfest above the crowds, just look for the giant slot machine towering in the middle of the sidewalk.

One of the more notable Vegas crazes of late: high-powered gun ranges, where firearm fans (and the merely curious) have the chance to shoot munitions you can't get at home. Each of the half-dozen or so ranges in town has its own focus. Gun Garage’s just-opened 12-lane indoor range is just off the Strip, which means you can wake up late, head over for a quick afternoon ballistics volley and be back in time for happy hour. Other options, like the military-style Battlefield Vegas, are more involved.

Be Surprised

The most intriguing new adrenaline-filled idea in town is Las Vegas: The Game. Basically, imagine a “Hangover”-style bachelor party—with your own friend as the bachelor. Working as an accomplice with Justin Oswald and Chad Hardy, the brains behind this operation, you can plan a night of complete surprises for your unsuspecting victim. Or the company will draw up a behind-the-scenes plan and keep you in the dark, too.

Possibilities range from hiring a stranger to test your friend's flirting resolve to playing along with a series of elaborate charades that build on each other for an entire night. The evening could include anything from a monkey to a showgirl—or both! You’re limited only by your tolerance for shock and how good a friend you are (and whether you still want to be invited to the wedding).


Las Vegas by Day

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Neon Museum

The Neon Museum preserves classic Las Vegas signs.

Las Vegas could be the ultimate night town, with shows and clubs and bars hopping nonstop into the wee hours. But there's still a lot of daylight. When you've tanned enough by the pool, the city has plenty of daytime diversions to keep you entertained until the next round of excitement.

Best Museums

On a recent flight to Las Vegas, I chatted with a frequent visitor. “My wife and her sister come here all the time,” he said, “and they never gamble.” Instead, he said, they come almost entirely to visit museums. From lowbrow to high culture, Las Vegas is full of exhibitions, historical artifacts and installations.

The Mob Museum is a vast repository in a striking 1930s-era neoclassical former federal building, the site of the 1950-51 Kefauver Committee hearings on organized crime (the restored courtroom is part of the tour). It tells the story of those who broke the law and those who enforced it, highlighting the big personalities on both sides.

The history of Vegas is written in neon, and the Neon Museum has been a local favorite since it opened in late 2012. Set near Downtown, a jumble of colorful curves poking up behind the gates give a hint of the nostalgic treasures to come. The nonprofit museum’s best feature: its hour-long story-filled guided tour. And at $18 for daytime admission, this is bargain entertainment (advance purchase is recommended). Bring a hat and water because everything is outside.

One of my airplane friend’s favorites: the Pinball Hall of Fame, a bit off the Strip on Tropicana. As the website explains, it’s “pinball and nothing but pinball for 10,000 square feet.” And yes, you can play the games. 

Aside from the permanent (or as permanent as things get in Vegas) museums, the city hosts an ever-changing carousel of exhibitions. Options this summer include "Da Vinci: The Exhibition" at The Venetian, where some of the original Renaissance man’s drawings are on display—and others have come to life as three-dimensional models. 

Da Vinci: The Exhibition

Models of Leonardo Da Vinci’s military machines are on display this summer, part of “Da Vinci: The Exhibition” at The Venetian.

The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art is showing “Painting Women: Works from the Museum of Fine Art, Boston,” an exhibition of women as both as painters and subjects. Enjoy the air conditioning as you take in brushstrokes of artists including Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Berthe Morisot—the gallery itself has a hushed atmosphere that’s a welcome break from the bustle outside. 

Retail Therapy

From souvenir dice to designer handbags, retail in Las Vegas runs the gamut. 

The LINQ, nestled between the Quad Resort & Casino and Flamingo Las Vegas, is the city’s newest ode to the joy of shopping. Among its novelties: the first Polaroid Fotobar outside Florida, which lets tourists print and frame their camera or phone photos on the spot, and Nevada's first Sprinkles, which brings a delectable reward (cupcakes and ice cream) for all that walking up and down the Strip. An enormous industrial-chic Brooklyn Bowl features bowling by day and live music on many nights. 

Of course, the LINQ's most notable (and visible) feature is the High Roller, the world’s tallest observation wheel, where clear pods affixed to the outside of a giant wheel give unbeatable views of the city from 550 feet up.  

High Roller

The High Roller observation wheel anchors The LINQ, a new shopping, dining and entertainment area in the middle of the Strip.

Town Square, at the south end of the Strip (and accessible via a free shuttle), is not just about shopping. The open-air mall with a California vibe has the usual trappings, but in true Vegas style, it doesn’t shut down at sundown. Stoney's Rockin' Country is a western-wear store by day and a 19,000-foot saloon by night where you can take country-dance lessons, listen to live music, or ride the mechanical bull. Or head to the Baobab Stage Theatre for anything from African dance to burlesque.

Town Square

The open-air Town Square has familiar shops in a pleasant setting.

Bargain hunters can scour outlet malls, with deals on everything from Armani to Zales, just off both the north and south ends of the Strip. And as for that shop made famous by “Pawn Stars”: a handful of tour buses will take you there on their route, or you can find your own way to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop via the city's Deuce bus (it has a stop a block away).

Premium Outlets South

Las Vegas Premium Outlets South includes designers such as Michael Kors and Coach.

One of the city’s most surprising shopping options: the new Downtown 3rd Farmers Market, held every Friday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in a covered lot next to the Mob Museum. Grab fresh local goodies from some of the same growers who supply the city’s top restaurants. 

And for cutting-edge original souvenirs unlike anything anyone else is taking home, check out the blossoming 18b Arts District between Downtown and the Strip. You’ll find everything from mixed-media sculpture at the Arts Factory to vintage furniture at Rick’s Restorations. Easiest way to find it: take the super-convenient Deuce or SDX buses to the Arts District stop at Charleston Boulevard.  


There’s a reason Las Vegas is often called a playground for adults. The whole place is like an amusement park—on a giant scale.

Speaking of giant, one of the Vegas activities on TripAdvisor is Dig This!, which lets grown-up kids play with the construction equipment they had toy versions of when they were little. The Nevada desert replaces the backyard sandbox, as you climb into Caterpillar cockpits and bulldoze to your heart’s content. If you think this is just for the guys, you’d be wrong—many of the construction fans are women.

In the midst of an urban renewal, Downtown is a less expensive and more intimate alternative to the Strip. One of the latest additions: Downtown Container Park, named for the shipping containers stacked atop each other to create a boutique shopping and dining area a couple blocks southeast of the Fremont Street Experience. The architecture alone is worth a visit, but even better is the outdoor play park, complete with a 33-foot slide, that welcomes both kids and adults.

Container Park

Container Park’s whimsical touches include a praying mantis that shoots fire.


Vegas Weekend: Fall Out Boy, ZZ Top, Al Pacino & more

Hoo-ah! Legendary actor Al Pacino brings his One Night Only show to The Mirage this weekend, part of a super summer weekend lineup that also includes Fall Out Boy, ZZ Top, Ginuwine and more. Celebrate Vegas Season all weekend long - for a complete show rundown, see our full weekend lineup here.

Fall Out Boy

Friday, August 15




ZZ Top

Saturday, August 16





Sunday, August 17




Book rooms and get show tickets, club passes and more at!

Ten hot spots for Vegas nightlfe

No place compares to Las Vegas when the sun sets. The city's unrivaled nightlife provides a multitude of options, from relaxing lounges to high-energy clubs featuring the world's top DJs.

Be sure to look through our complete list of nightlife options to find the perfect place to let loose, but here's a quick look at 10 popular Vegas hot spots, in no particular order:

Light Nightclub

1. LIGHT NIGHTCLUB at MANDALAY BAY: The visionaires behind Cirque du Soleil create an open lab or experimentation nightly.

TAO Nightclub

2. TAO NIGHTCLUB AT THE VENETIAN: Be sure to step out on the 40-foot terrace with stunning views of the Strip. 


3. GHOSTBAR at PALMS: This swanky club on the 55th floor is decked out with Murano-style chandeliers, plush banquettes and porcelain tile flooring.

Drai's Nightclub

4. DRAI'S NIGHTCLUB at THE CROMWELL: Luxe design, LED lighting and modern technology systems fuse to create the sensual club’s social, multi-sensory experience.


5. MARQUEE at THE COSMOPOLITAN: This 60,000 square-foot venue transitions nightclub patrons between three lavish rooms and variant musical experiences.

XS Nightclub

6. XS NIGHTCLUB at ENCORE AT WYNN LAS VEGAS: With 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, guests have the opportunity to sit at one of the 95 indoor VIP tables or enjoy their bottle service poolside in one of the 30 VIP cabanas.

Body English

7. BODY ENGLISH at HARD ROCK HOTEL: This two-floor nightclub is laden with opulence. The upper level features leather booths, walls covered in dark woods and an intimate bar and the roomy bottom level boasts mirrored walls, dazzling crystal chandeliers and a massive dance floor. 

Gold Diggers

8. GOLD DIGGERS at GOLDEN NUGGET: Dance the night away with live music, DJs and great balcony views overlooking the Fremont Street Experience.


9. HAKKASAN at MGM GRAND: 80,000-square-feet across five levels - need we say more? It's one of the biggest and most extravagant club experiences you'll find anywhere in the world.

VooDoo Rooftop Lounge

10. VOODOO ROOFTOP LOUNGE at RIO: The sky is the limit! Enjoy spectacular views and tasty libations at the outdoor bar with live DJs or head inside where live bands perform.

It's all part of the incredible nightlife you'll only find in Vegas!

Vegas Weekend: Gaga, Aerosmith, Weezer, Journey, Queensryche, Goo Goo Dolls and more!

Kick off your August with a little Vegas Season and enjoy some of the biggest concerts of the summer! You'll also find great comedy, production shows, celebrity sightings and the top music producers spinning at Vegas' nightlife hot spots. Here's a rundown - for a complete show rundown, see our full weekend lineup here.


Friday, August 1




Saturday, August 2





Sunday, August 3




Book rooms and get show tickets, club passes and more at!

Vegas Weekend: Hip-hop star Iggy Azalea, classic rockers Boston, Cheap Trick, Styx & Foreigner descend on Vegas

Vegas Season means great concerts from every musical genre, side-splitting comedy, lavish production shows, celebrity appearances and the top music producers rockin' the club scene! Here's who you'll find performing this weekend - for a complete show rundown, see our full weekend lineup here.

Styx & Foreigner

Friday, July 25




Saturday, July 26





Sunday, July 27




Book rooms and get show tickets, club passes and more at!

This football season, catch every big play in Las Vegas

Football season is back and there's no better place to catch every big play than Las Vegas, where you can enjoy all of the exciting gridiron action just the way you like it. Here's a look at the some of the city's best places to kick off your season:


1. SPORTS BOOKS: Huge TVs. Comfortable seats. And lots of fans cheering on their favorite team. Not to mention that Las Vegas' spacious and luxurious sports books offer you the chance to get it on the action.


2. LAGASSE'S STADIUM: This Palazzo venue features Emeril Lagasse's signature cuisine, combined with more than 100 HD TVs including 9ft x 16ft main TV, luxury boxes, plush stadium-style seating, billiard tables, and an outdoor patio just steps from the Strip. Game on!

3. THE AINSWORTH: Head over the Hard Rock and enjoy mouthwatering food and cocktail menu fit for both game-day champions and other enthusiasts who prefer the upscale bar and lounge atmosphere.

4. FOOTBALL CENTRAL at the Westgate Las Vegas: An entire theater devoted to football viewing every weekend, including concessions, giveaways and more. Need we say more?

5. TAP SPORTS BAR: Soak in all the sports action in real time inside the MGM Grand, while reminiscing on the greatest athletes in history with authentic sports memorabilia covering the walls of TAP. And when all that cheering makes you hungry we’ve got a great line-up of apps such as Little Phillys cheese steak sliders, sourdough pretzels with cheese, and a selection of craft burgers and sandwiches.

6. UMAMI BURGER, BEER GARDEN and SPORTS BOOK: The newest place to watch sports is at the SLS Las Vegas. Enjoy Umami Burger’s signature patties with craft beer on an outdoor beer garden.

7. BROOKLYN BOWL: Roll a few games, enjoy a great meal and then kick back and watch the games ... Brooklyn Bowl provides a great day for any sports fan.

Touch down at any of these awesome sports-viewing venues in Vegas all season long!


Vegas Weekend: Let your Little Monster out!

Little Monsters, it's time to run wild in Las Vegas this weekend as Lady Gaga brings the Artpop Ball Tour to the MGM Grand on Saturday night. It's just another reason why it's Vegas Season! Here's who you'll find performing this weekend - for a complete show rundown, see our full weekend lineup here.

Bill Cosby

Friday, July 18




Lady Gaga

Saturday, July 19





Sunday, July 20




Book rooms and get show tickets, club passes and more at!

Vegas Weekend: Vegas Season rolls on

Pool parties, concerts, celebrity appearances and more - Vegas Season is in full swing! Here's who you'll find performing this weekend - for a complete show rundown, see our full weekend lineup here.

Wendy Williams

Friday, July 11





Saturday, July 12





Sunday, July 13




Book rooms and get show tickets, club passes and more at!

Make your reservation for Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week

Bring your appetite and make your reservation for Las Vegas Restaurant Week Aug. 22-28.

Some of Las Vegas' most popular dining hot spots are participating in the eighth annual benefit event, where you'll have the chance to check out their fabulous fare with special prix fixe menus. With every meal, you'll be donating to hunger-relief charities.

Since 2007, more than over 2.5 million meals have been provided for those in need through Restaurant Week. All proceeds from Restaurant Week help Three Square food bank in its fight to end hunger in Southern Nevada.

Grab your seat at the table! Full menus will be available Aug. 8. For more info, visit


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