By: Jim Bamboulis
The first time I went to Vegas was just before Christmas 2004. I felt very overwhelmed, disoriented. All those lights, all that action, it was senses overload. And on top of that, I couldn’t figure out what time of day (or night) it was. In fact, one of my first memories of the city was courtesy a local cyclist. He rode past a group of us and yelled, “it’s Christmas time you stupid idiots. Go home to your families, God damn it!”
I realized two things that day. For one, the man had a point. And secondly, Christmas in Vegas looked like the complete opposite of what it looked like in Toronto. And I loved it.
I’ve visited Vegas a few more times since and had the chance to experience another side of Vegas, beyond the gambling and casinos. These five unique experiences continue to make Vegas an even more attractive getaway.
Peppermill Restaurant + Fireside Lounge
Ok, the buffets are famously amazing but if you head north a few miles along Las Vegas Blvd., you find a piece of old Vegas, a classic diner that dates back to the days of the Rat Pack and Elvis.
The Peppermill serves up oversized portions of some of your favourite comfort foods 24 hours a day. If you’re a ‘breakfast-is-any-time-of-day’ kind of person like I am then try the French Toast Ambrosia with cinnamon, vanilla and fresh fruit. Steaks, sandwiches, seafood and of course burgers are all available including the famous Peppermill Burger, which is a half pound, all beef patty served in a grilled Parmesan sourdough.
As for the Fireside, it’s classic 70s-style-sexy and definitely one of the most iconic bars in Vegas. Not only has it been the backdrop for many movies including Casino and Showgirls but according to locals, it has also been a refuge for many celebrities who after a show, would sneak in from the backdoor to avoid the fan chaos, chill and have a few drinks. If you want to lose track of time and have a drink in the process, I recommend the Scorpion – a massive 64oz cocktail made up with several shots from several different liquors.
Absinthe at Caesars Palace
There are shows in Vegas that cater to every taste. It comes down to how much time you’ve got and what type of show you want to see. You’ve got Cirque De Soleil, Criss Angel and Britney among others to choose from. And then you’ve got your ‘I’m gonna go see THIS instead’ kind of shows – I’m talking about X-Burlesque, Magic Mike Live (which debuts in Spring ’17) and Absinthe. This is my kind of show!
Located strip-side at Caesars Palace, Absinthe is among other things, a parody of Cirque du Soleil. An audience of 600 sit on folding chairs in a circle around a stage, which is only nine feet in diameter and watch as Artists perform incredible stunts showcasing strength, balance, danger and flexibility.
It also mocks everyone from those in the entertainment business to audience members. The acrobatics are incredible and the comedy gets x-rated with innuendos at every second. It’s a very smart and witty show best enjoyed if you’re the sarcastic and playful type. If you get offended easily or sex jokes make you uncomfortable, consider another show.
I’ve never laughed harder in my life. This show is memorable, mesmerizing and worth every penny!
Fremont Street Experience
I took one step onto downtown Vegas and a local quickly came up to me and said, “expect to see just about everything and anything here big boy”. Big boy?
She was right. No doubt the Fremont Street Experience is well, an experience with something for everyone. It’s a pedestrian walkway spanning five blocks in historic downtown Vegas and it’s loaded with dozens of restaurants, shops, bars and of course, hotels. There are three stages with live concerts and entertainment and every night of the week, Viva Vision, the world’s largest video screen puts on a free light show. The 1,500 foot long, 90 food wide-screen has 2.5 million LED lights and a 550,000-watt sound system. It’s truly a must-see!
Helicopter over the Grand Canyon
Flying over one of the most beautiful natural wonders on the planet in a helicopter is priceless.
There are several companies that offer some badass tours but I went with Papillon. Their Grand Celebration Tour offers a fly over the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead before flying over and into Grand Canyon West. It’s there, 4000 feet below the rim, that you get to enjoy a champagne picnic with some time to explore. I was speechless the entire time. All I could do was stretch out my arms in total awe.
Heads up – from your hotel pick and drop off, this experience lasts about four hours total. If you want to do the helicopter over the Canyon, book seats way before your trip to Vegas because this sells out pretty quickly.
Vegas has some of the most unique museums in the USA. Near downtown, you’ll find The Burlesque Hall of Fame is a small museum that displays burlesque costumes, photos and dancers’ personal effects, while the Mob Museum is an interactive museum that looks at the rise of the mob and how authorities responded.
Just east of the strip, The National Atomic Testing Museum is interesting because it’s associated with The Smithsonian and it has exhibits & artifacts exploring the history & impact of nuclear weapons, including the story behind Area 51. If you’re a history lover like me then this is a must-experience.
Also located east of the strip, the Pinball Hall of Fame is also interactive and has popular & rare pinball, arcade & amusement games dating back to the 1950s. While, the Neon Museum takes you back to vintage Vegas with classic signage from some of the most famous landmarks dating back to the 1930s. Pretty cool stuff!
Blowing your budget in Vegas is about as easy as blowing your waistline at Christmas. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Plan your trip with Vegas.com. And as an added bonus, score some incredible discounts on hotels, events, shows and experiences by visiting their Deals page. Now you can do everything you want, for less!
I spent 15 years in the broadcast media world before starting up Travel Mammal, a site dedicated to travel, food and cultural experiences.
Travel Mammal isn’t about the selfie or checking things off a list. It’s about experiencing both the journey and the destination. To breathe, learn and really absorb what’s around you, in the moment and experiencing in a way that is both memorable and meaningful.
Cheers and happy travels!