A lot of people think that all there is to Vegas is The Fabulous Las Vegas Strip (well and the heat). This town has got so much going on and SURPRISE the best stuff isn’t even on The Strip!
As a tour guide and former Rideshare driver finding out the scoop on all this town has to offer has pretty much become my job. So if you’re overwhelmed by the choices and don’t know where to start, have no fear.
Here is my rundown of the places that I insist on showing off to my own friends and family when they come for a visit and want to try a new place off the Vegas strip.
The Neon Museum
What’s more Vegas than the veil of colorful neon lights beckoning you inside everything from casinos to drug stores?
Like the Drink Me potion in Wonderland, the lights that bathe this town in glittery decadence have proven irresistible to road-weary travelers since the 1930s. For years the city had the reputation for imploding its history without a care, but as we enter an era of preservation and appreciation for the intriguing history of our dusty little hamlet, we find that all is not lost. Many of the signs of the past live on at the Neon Museum.
Located on Las Vegas Blvd. just about one mile north of Fremont Street, the Neon Museum is home to many of the brilliant giants of the town’s past. From The Sahara signage to the Hard Rock Guitar you will be awed by the sheer size of these masterpieces.
Additionally, their main entrance is situated inside the lobby of the La Concha Motel which sat on the North part of The Strip from 1964- 2004. Mid-Century Modern fans will find this stunning example of Googie architecture (a.k.a Jetson’s inspired) worth the trip alone. There are several options for visiting including a self-guided day tour. My advice though is to schedule one of the guided evening tours THEN follow it with the not to be missed “BRILLIANT”. This fantastic light show gives you a 360-degree experience of many of these old signs come to life choreographed to music. Hello Instagram!
You can find more information on tickets and tour times on their website https://www.neonmuseum.org
Let me put it bluntly, Dino’s is a dive. It also happens to be one of the oldest and coolest neighborhood bars in Vegas. Located on LV Blvd between the Strip and Downtown, Dinos has been slinging cold ones since 1962. While you can settle down for a cheap brew and a shot 24 hours a day, the time you really want to go is during their famous karaoke.
Wed-Sat nights from 10pm-2am you will find not only the best free entertainment in town but also the best people watching money can buy. Locals and tourists from every walk of life flock to Dino’s and boogie down under the art paneled ceiling to everything from the smooth sounds of Sinatra crooned by an octogenarian regular to the slurred strains of metalheads letting out their inner Britney. Whether you love or hate singing in front of strangers, you will LOVE the party happening at Dino’s.
Visit their Facebook Page
The Springs Preserve
If you want to see what this town is about aside from the partying then get yourself to The Springs Preserve.
The Springs are an architecturally stunning campus of museums, gardens, desert exhibits, and walking trails spanning 180 acres, but most importantly, it is where this little town in this big dusty desert began.
Located about a 10 min ride from Downtown The Preserve stands on the site where there were once the underground springs that drew people here as they crossed the unforgiving desert. The springs themselves have long since dried up, but on this site protected by the National Historic Registry, you can spend a relaxing day learning about everything from our frontier beginnings, natural wildlife, and how we get water to supply the millions of visitors who come here each year.
See their page here: https://www.springspreserve.org
The Golden Tiki
In an unassuming strip mall in Chinatown, step through the massive wooden door and into a magical otherworld. Here you can don your kitschiest tiki outfit, live out your childhood dreams of being on an adventure with the Pirates of the Caribbean, or just feel nostalgic for those trips to Disneyland back in the day (or last week) sucking down Dole Whips.
This place is a treasure trove of tiki wonders, complete with a thoughtfully executed menu of top-notch tiki concoctions, boozed-up dole-whips and pin-up girls serving up your cocktails. You can also catch great DJ’s serving up classic surf music or live bands and dine on tiki delicacies by Vegas gem Chef Sheridan Su who’s bao will make you slap your mama and then buy her a shot. (She’ll love the Golden Tiki too!)
Visit their page here: https://www.thegoldentiki.com
Pinball Hall of Fame
Throwing your money into a slot machine all day and getting nothing in return can really get you down. So when you’re almost out of cash, get yourself to the Pinball Hall of Fame for the best bang for your buck in town.
Step through the door and back to the arcade days where the welcoming rings of over 200 pinball machines and vintage arcade games dating back to the 1940s will be music to your ears. To complete the scene, there’s also soda pop AND popcorn machines and old gumball machines filled with candy. All you need is a $5 bill for the change machine and you’ve got a pocketful of fun.
Visit their page here: http://pinballmuseum.org
The Art District/ Main Street
Want to see a part of Vegas that is a true taste of local culture? Then head on down to Main Street and it’s surrounding area to experience our Arts District. Located just a few blocks west of LV Blvd between The Strip and the Fremont Street Experience, Main Street is an area that has undergone extensive revitalization in the last few years to become a hot spot for locals.
For years, Main Street has been a mecca of vintage and antique shops with tons of treasure hunting for Mid-Century enthusiasts. However, as the art scene has grown to include a bevy of artists taking up residence in the galleries inside Art Square and the Arts Factory across Charleston, so has the need for places to congregate. Aside from the galleries and vintage shops, you can also enjoy popping into the growing selection of eateries and bars popping up along Main Street.
Maker’s and Finders is one of the hippest coffee joints in town, The Velveteen Rabbit serves up a seasonal menu of mind-blowing conceptual cocktails with the most laid back of vibes, ReBar is refreshing mix of vintage store and neighborhood bar with $3 mystery beers and around the corner you’ll find my favorite restaurant in town, Esther’s Kitchen. Serving up modern Italian and fresh made pasta that’s the best this former New Yorker has ever tasted at a totally non-New York price point.
Finally, the last place you CAN NOT miss is Fremont Street! A lot of people refer to Fremont as “the old Strip” but what it REALLY is, is our original Main St, USA. In existence since the town’s conception in 1905, Fremont Street has over 100 years of history from our frontier beginnings, to the Mob Era, to the glamor of those old neon spectaculars wrapping the casinos that have stood the test of time and put those little old lights on the Strip to shame.
These days it also happens to be bananas for people watching, bar hopping, gambling, walking the sea of murals decorating the buildings from artists the world over, and eating from all the awesome little local eateries that you just can’t find on the Strip. There’s a lot to see and I know a lot of people can get totally overwhelmed, so this where I would recommend hiring a pro to show you the way.
Booking a Taste Buzz Food Tour is probably the best way you’re going to make sure that you see and taste the best that Fremont has to offer. You won’t just fill up on amazing grub from local restaurants, but you’ll get a serious side of fun Las Vegas history and see some secrets even a lot of locals don’t know about.
Have fun off the Vegas strip and see ya around campus!
April hosts both the Downtown Delights Foodie Tour and the Evening Foodie Tour on the Las Vegas Strip. She has a true passion for just about everything quirky, unique, and different that makes Vegas, well…Vegas! Originally from New York, April decided to make Las Vegas her home since 2015 and has been writing about all of her favorite Las Vegas local gems in her blog titled Beyond the Lights. Join her on one of our daily food tours where she’ll show you some of the local favorite and smaller eateries on the Strip and Downtown that many visitors never get a chance to explore.