5 Things That Totally Surprised Me About Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

This past weekend Audrey and I had the opportunity to explore Las Vegas. Personally, it was my first time to visit and I had serious reservations as to whether or not I would actually enjoy the experience. In many ways, I’ve always assumed Vegas was unabashedly cheesy and equally parts sleazy; essentially, nothing more than a Disneyland for adults.

5 Things That Totally Surprised Me About Las Vegas: Las Vegas Strip at night

5 Things That Totally Shocked Me About Las Vegas

What shocked me is that it didn’t take me long to change my mind about the place. Yes, it is a bit tacky and sleazy in some regards; however, it is an undeniably fun place to be. The energy and excitement swept me up and believe me when I say I don’t exactly need an excuse to get over-the-moon thrilled about temporarily escaping the shackles of teacher’s college.

I desperately needed a temporary escape from reality and Las Vegas provided that in spades. There are many aspects of Las Vegas that totally surprised me. Here are the top five:

Red Rock Canyon as seen from the perspective of a cactus

Adventure playground for outdoor enthusiasts

I had absolutely no idea how many day trip opportunities exist for those seeking outdoor adventures. Red Rock Canyon, a national park that seems lifted straight from Northern Argentina, is within short driving distance. Lake Mead is only a few minutes drive from The Strip. If you’ve got a few more hours to spare the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon are quite accessible. In theory, one could come to Las Vegas and engage in absolutely none of the nightlife, gambling, eating, shopping and entertainment and still not even scratch the surface of rugged outdoors adventures over the course of a weekend (or even a full week in the city). When I return to Vegas in the future I’m definitely hoping to stay longer and use the city as a launch pad for escaping it all.

Salmon sashimi lunch special in Las Vegas

Value for all budgets

Las Vegas is a destination for people of all budgets. You can live it up like an A-lister by gormandizing at only the most posh restaurants, drinking at the most exclusive nightclubs and sipping on nothing but the finest of drinks; however, if you’re not filthy rich and/or famous it’s a place where value is everywhere. There are plenty of free shows and entertainment (the Bellagio water show being one of my favorites) and most hotels and casinos welcome you with open arms even if you’re merely people watching. You can go for a $10 buffet or gobble down a burger with single digit greenbacks. Personally, I had the opportunity to do both. I ate the $50 steak and watched the Cirque du Soleil performance and I also indulged in many free attractions and wolfed down the otherworldly tasty Shake Shack burger.

Las Vegas Strip during the day

Distances are not what they seem

“It’s only five minutes on foot,” I proclaimed to Audrey gauging the distance of the hotel we wanted to visit. Five minutes later it didn’t appear to be any closer. Ten minutes later it still looked just about the same: “Okay, maybe it’ll take us over a half an hour.” This is a frequent conversation we had numerous times during our weekend in Vegas. The desert plays tricks on your eyes; nothing is what it seems. We learned, given the extreme time scarcity we had, that taking a cab wasn’t a bad idea when we wanted to jam activities into a few hours.

People gambling at a casino in Las Vegas

You can enjoy Vegas without Gambling

I remember reading recently that over 80% of people who visit Las Vegas gamble during their visit. This is obviously understandable. Vegas without gambling is like a tuna fish sandwich sans the tuna. For those adverse to gambling – or simply disinterested – it is totally feasible to enjoy your experience in Sin City without rolling dice, pulling the lever on a slot machine or placing a bet. There is simply so much one can do both on and off The Strip that gambling is entirely optional; however, you will notice people in hotels/casinos that are ONLY in Vegas to do just that. If you’re observant enough, you start to spot familiar faces in familiar places at all hours of the day.

A photo of Nomadic Samuel wearing a newsboy cap while filming in Las Vegas

You can rock any style and get away with it

Are you up to date with the latest fashion from New York City? Total hipster? Cowboy? Retro? Redneck? Regular? Or anything in between? Whatever it is that you do (or don’t) sport, you’ll fit right in when you come to Vegas. I saw everything from staggering cowboys from Texas to pasty white sun deprived Canadians looking like they belonged here. It doesn’t matter if you’re dressed to the nines or looking like you just went on a hunting expedition. It’s all just fine and dandy over here.

The unofficial sixth surprise is that I’d be more than willing to come back. I had a grand old time in Vegas and I tried my best to sample as many different aspects of the city and the surrounding nearby areas as I possibly could. I left wishing I had a few more days to linger when I thought initially I’d be thrilled to eventually leave. Vegas, I’m hooked – the biggest surprise of all.

Las Vegas at night with views of the city from a far away vantage point

10 More Unique Things About Las Vegas That May Surprise You

Las Vegas, the glittering gem of Nevada, is a city that exudes extravagance and uniqueness. The city is a masterclass in indulgence, from its iconic casinos to its flamboyant hotels and themed wedding chapels. Let’s delve deep into the most captivating and extraordinary aspects of this fascinating city.

The Strip, or Las Vegas Boulevard, is a prominent and identifiable feature of Las Vegas. It is a 4.2-mile-long stretch of road that is home to some of the world’s most luxurious and eccentric hotels, casinos, and attractions. From the enchanting fountain show at the Bellagio to the Eiffel Tower replica at Paris Las Vegas, The Strip provides visitors with a chance to experience some of the most famous landmarks in the world. Additionally, one can stroll down the street to witness replicas of the Colosseum, the Statue of Liberty, and even the canals of Venice, all situated within close proximity to each other.

For a truly unique and fascinating museum experience, the Neon Museum is a must-visit destination. The museum houses an extensive collection of retired neon signs from some of the city’s most iconic hotels and casinos, offering visitors a glimpse into the city’s illustrious past. The museum is a kaleidoscope of colorful vintage signs advertising hotels and motels, and neon lights from iconic casinos such as the Stardust and the Moulin Rouge, showcasing the city’s history in a captivating way.

Las Vegas is renowned for its many wedding chapels, offering couples a quick and effortless way to tie the knot. These chapels offer themed weddings, some of which include the Elvis Presley-themed ceremony, complete with an Elvis impersonator, and Star Trek-themed weddings, where couples can exchange vows in front of a replica of the Starship Enterprise. Las Vegas has a wedding chapel to cater to every taste, whether traditional or unconventional.

The city is famous for its ubiquitous slot machines, providing visitors with an opportunity to test their luck and potentially hit the jackpot. With over 200,000 slot machines scattered throughout the city, they can be found in hotels, casinos, and even grocery stores, providing visitors with ample opportunities to win big.

The High Roller is an attraction not to be missed, providing a bird’s-eye view of the city. The colossal Ferris wheel stands at a towering height of 550 feet, making it the tallest observation wheel globally, offering incredible views of the city and the surrounding desert landscape. The High Roller provides a unique experience for visitors, offering private cabin rentals for a romantic night out or a party with friends.

Although not situated in Las Vegas, the enigmatic military base known as Area 51 is located just a few hours away. This secretive and heavily guarded base has long been associated with UFO sightings and conspiracy theories, drawing in UFO enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists to the nearby town of Rachel, Nevada.

Las Vegas is famous for its all-you-can-eat buffets, offering a wide range of cuisines, often featuring unlimited food and drinks. From sumptuous seafood and juicy steaks to tantalizing sushi and decadent desserts, the buffets cater to all palates. Although the quality of food may differ from one buffet to the next, they offer a unique dining experience that is not to be missed.

For those interested in the city’s history of organized crime, the Mob Museum is a must-visit attraction. Situated in downtown Las Vegas, the museum tells the story of organized crime in the United States, with a particular focus on the city’s history of mob activity. The museum features exhibits on infamous mobsters, their lives and crimes, providing visitors with an in-depth and captivating look at the dark side of Las Vegas’s past.

Entering Area 51 sign with mountain views in Nevada

10 Strange Facts About Nevada

As a state full of eccentricities and offbeat attractions, Nevada is a fascinating destination for travelers who want to explore the weird and wonderful. Here are 10 of the strangest things about Nevada that every traveler should experience.

  1. The Extraterrestrial Highway – Located in the middle of the Nevada desert, this highway is a must-visit for UFO enthusiasts who are searching for signs of alien life. Along the way, visitors can stop at the small town of Rachel, which has a few quirky attractions related to the topic.
  2. Area 51 – Known for its mysterious past and alleged government secrets, Area 51 is a restricted area in the Nevada desert that has fascinated conspiracy theorists and sci-fi fans for decades.
  3. The Neon Museum – Located in Las Vegas, this museum is home to a collection of vintage neon signs that once adorned the city’s casinos and hotels. It’s a fascinating look at the city’s history and the evolution of the famous Las Vegas strip.
  4. The Clown Motel – This motel, located in the small town of Tonopah, is famous for its clown-themed decor and creepy atmosphere. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s a must-visit for those who want a truly unique experience.
  5. The International Car Forest of the Last Church – This bizarre art installation, located in the middle of the Nevada desert, features dozens of abandoned cars that have been stacked and spray-painted to create a surreal landscape.
  6. The Goldwell Open Air Museum – This outdoor sculpture park, located in the ghost town of Rhyolite, features a collection of eclectic and whimsical sculptures that are unlike anything else you’ll see in Nevada.
  7. The Haunted Virginia City – This old mining town, located just outside of Reno, is rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of its former residents. Visitors can take a ghost tour of the town and experience the paranormal for themselves.
  8. The Basque Quarter – Located in Reno, this neighborhood is a tribute to the Basque immigrants who settled in the area in the late 19th century. Visitors can enjoy traditional Basque cuisine, music, and culture in this unique and charming neighborhood.
  9. The Fly Geyser – This geothermal geyser, located on private property near Gerlach, is a stunning natural wonder that looks like it belongs on another planet. It’s only visible from a distance, but it’s worth the trip to see this strange and beautiful formation.
  10. The Alien Cathouse – This brothel, located in the middle of the Nevada desert, is one of the few legal brothels in the state. But what sets it apart is its sci-fi theme, which includes spaceship decor and alien-themed rooms.
  11. The International Banana Museum – Located in the small town of Mecca, this museum boasts the world’s largest collection of banana-related items, including banana-themed art, toys, and even a banana-shaped car.
  12. The Leaning Tower of Niles – This replica of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa is located in the town of Niles, near Reno. It’s a strange and unexpected sight in the middle of the Nevada desert.
  13. The Mizpah Hotel – Located in the historic mining town of Tonopah, this hotel is rumored to be haunted by several ghosts. It’s also home to the “Lady in Red,” a ghostly apparition that has been seen by many guests over the years.
  14. The International UFO Museum and Research Center – This museum, located in the town of Roswell, is dedicated to the infamous Roswell incident of 1947, in which a supposed UFO crashed in the area. It’s a fascinating look at the history and culture of UFO sightings and alien encounters.
  15. The Liberace Museum – Located in Las Vegas, this museum is dedicated to the flamboyant pianist and entertainer Liberace. It features a collection of his costumes, jewelry, and other memorabilia, as well as a replica of his famous piano-shaped pool.

With a shadow of doubt, Nevada is a state full of quirky and offbeat attractions that are sure to fascinate and intrigue travelers who are looking for something different. Whether you’re interested in aliens, ghosts, art, or just plain weirdness, Nevada has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and get ready to explore the strange and wonderful world of Nevada.

More to come of our weekend trip to Las Vegas with Expedia Canada.

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  1. You’re right on the money with this post (no pun intended)! You could definitely hit up Vegas for a week and never even find the time to gamble. I visited a few years ago, and had packed days walking around the strip (never tought I’d be doing so much urban hiking), taking day trips to Hoover, the desert and Lake Mead, and going on a self-guided foodie tour with the same budget spectrum you described. One of the best trips I’ve ever had.

  2. says: Cynthia

    I definitely experienced the walking distance mirage, I am so used to walking everywhere that I thought I would do the same in Vegas. It turns out that the hotels are so huge that it’s seems to take forever to walk from one to the other!

  3. I have always been against gambling. Actually my belief system does not allow it. But I dont think I will be able to resist when if I ever go to Vegas. I see inside the casinos in movies and stuff. It kinda feels like an Arcade game house to me XD.

  4. We lived in Vegas for 3 years and it was hard. A town like that with all of the distractions and the ever present places to gamble is hard, especially if you are like both of us and do like to gamble.

    Two things that we did find is you can play low limit poker for hours and hours without spending a lot of money, and you can watch a lot of sports without spending anything.

    The two best deals in Vegas.

  5. We visited Vegas and sort of had the same doubts about the town before going but thought we should visit at least once. Ended up having a great time event though we’re not really gamblers. What we liked about Vegas? The weather, people watching, food, shopping, the spectacular lights at night. Would we go back again? Yes and this time we would visit the older part of Vegas.

  6. says: Tazz

    Las Vegas Strip is the most visited place on earth and people have many misconception about this place…. people think it’s just “a Disneyland for adults” as you mentioned…
    But you post make it clear what are the other reasons Vegas is so popular…
    I personally didn’t know that there are lots of free things to see and do in there and it has something for almost everybody….

  7. says: John @ TravelerLife

    Vegas can be a great time as you said for anyone, no matter if you plan to gamble or not. Personally I went for my first time a year ago as a participant in a nation wide adult kickball (yes the playground sport for kids) tournament and had an absolute blast! Needless to say, it was a lot of drinking partying, gambling and juuuust a little bit of kickball. But me and one f my buddies took a day to visit Grand Canyon and a trip to lake mead as well. We also had a friend showing us all the good deals and locals hang outs away from all the super touristy stuff so that helped.

  8. says: Laura

    Haha totally agree! Vegas captures the heart in a different way to other travels, but definitely leaves you longing for more and with a pang to return at ANY time…my favourite thing about it is definitely that ANYTHING or ANYONE goes in Vegas! You can do it in whatever style you like and it’s totally accepted! Love it!

  9. says: Bob

    I agree with “Distances are not what they seem”, last time I was there I walked outside the hotel and saw a Casino I wanted to visit “next door”. I’m talking two buildings away. I swear it took 35 minutes of steady walking to get there. It’s like a maze trying to get anywhere.

  10. says: Maxime

    I never been to Vegas but it’s good to know that it good value for all budget. I’ve always associated Vegas with Gambling (which i’m not) and rich people (… which i’m not haha)

  11. I was also completely impressed at how much I was able to do when I went to Las Vegas when I was….TWELVE. Yes, the gambling and booze is off-limits, but the Freemont Street Experience is awesome, as well as hiking in the canyons, and exploring all the hotels.

  12. says: Heather

    I’ve heard that distance thing from one of my English students. I live in Detroit, and I’m so used to driving everywhere that I’m not sure I’d think t walk between two places anyway!

  13. says: Ryan

    Wow, pretty wild points to bring up and I had never thought of it that way. Once upon a time I lived and worked in Vegas, and I couldn’t stand it. Most of Vegas is slummy and shady, but the strip is really flashy. But when I revisited on my 22nd birthday, I had an incredibly fun few days. But, I didn’t do much else when it came to exploring the desert and such around.

  14. I have a friend who goes back to Vegas all the time, but not to party, to explore the outdoors. I am a bit of a poker player myself so when I finally make it there someday will get the best of both worlds: poker and nature! 🙂

  15. says: Ekner

    Been there 7 times now, love to come back here, plan for the next trip is to stay at Fremont street for a change. I can definitely recommend 1 thing to do though , it is expensive but a once in your life thing. Take the excursion that starts with a flight to the Grand Canyon, then a helicopter down into the canyon and short boat ride on the Colorado river.
    Costs between 350$ and 450$ (my gf did not want to do it (too expensive) but I persuaded her) and it was FANTASTIC.

  16. says: Mike | VagabondingMike

    I took my girlfriend to Vegas once (as she’d never been there) and gave her $10 to put in the slot machine (to teach her how gamblers rarely win). Sure enough, after one pull on the ‘one arm bandit’, she won $100.

    Talk about backfiring!

  17. says: jennifer

    I have been to Vegas approximately 893473429 times. It is such a value destination until you get to the gambling. But even gambling can be done on a budget. I played nickel Keno on my last trip and won $900 on a twenty cent bet. Anything can happen in that city and this is why I always go back.

  18. says: Robin

    I lived in Vegas for a year and people back home were always shocked when I said it was a fairly normal city once you got off the strip and that there were tons of other things to do. Where I lived, Red Rock was practically in my backyard, so not only could we go hiking often, but it was awesome to be able to see it just driving home. We also used to go to Mt Charleston a lot. My favorite thing about living there was all of the awesome hiking opportunities. The Hoover Dam (and Boulder City) are also really worth seeing.

    It can also be nice to have the Strip there to venture up occasionally for a show or dinner (see a Cirque show!) or shopping. There’s so much more to do than gambling! I only gambled once when I lived there and that wasn’t even on the Strip… it was at Red Rock Casino, which is awesome. I highly recommend the off-the-Strip Station Casinos if you actually want to gamble.

  19. says: Diann

    Nice write-up Samuel. I felt the same way as I see many others have as well. One thing that struck me was what we can do with our imagination. I love how you enjoyed the city and found Nature nearby ~

  20. says: bikeboy999

    My SO and i spent 2 weeks in vegas and did not drop a dime on gambling. There are shows to be had as well as buffets on 50% off deals. Sometimes a smile gets you a coupon for drinks or food. Made mistake of not renting car to go to Grand Canyon, if time is short go with tour bus. You can get passes for 15 day bus trips so you can get from strip to Freemont St fairly quickly. Each mall has great galleries with fine photos and art. As blog said there is something for every budget sketchy right to fabulously weathy budgets. During graduation and wedding season there are lots of revelers. Go with lots of research and you can see millions of dollars worth of cars in the Quad for free.

  21. says: Mike

    I live in Reno and have been to Vegas more times than I can possibly remember. The irony is that I’ve only gambled 3 times in the past 30 years and that was twice on the quarter machines and once at blackjack. That’s it. I find it be such a huge waste of money. You quickly found out that there are many hidden gems to enjoy in Sin City! 🙂

  22. says: Carlotta

    The same for me! I wasn’t even sure if to include it on my trip, but at the end I had lots of fun! I really liked the Fremont street area with all the retrò signs and casino. And you can find lots of good deals!

    1. Thanks Jeremy! Yeah man, definitely go there sometime if you have the chance when you’re back home. I have to admit, give my current situation, I’d just about be willing to go anywhere but Vegas is somewhere I’d return again.

  23. says: Tom Bartel

    I recommend learning to play blackjack. It can be cheap entertainment, and if you play “perfectly” you could actually get away with winning a little or only losing a little. I also recommend poker, which is how I pay for my Vegas vacations. If you play that right, you almost always win in Vegas. Or at least I do.

    1. That’s cool Manouk! We did the same as well. I’m really excited to share our helicopter video in just a few days. It’s easily one of the coolest travel experiences I’ve had in a LONG time 🙂

  24. says: budget jan

    You’ve given me hope. I’ve always thought of Vegas as slightly tacky and only good if you like gambling. Knowing it won you over has opened my eyes. I understand the escapism aspect of it too.

    1. Thanks Jan! Indeed, the escapism aspect was definitely part of the appeal. I think I still would have enjoyed my trip to Vegas had I been in full on travel mode; however, the fact that I’m stuck in one place for a while made this trip special.

  25. says: Carmen

    We didn’t like Vegas but then again we hardly had any money when we were there, and we stayed in a motel where drugs were being dealt in the parking lot! Hardly classy.

  26. Vegas is such a fun place for the first few times! I remember how starstruck I was the first time seeing the Strip. Everything is just bigger and better there. I’m sort of over Vegas now that I’ve been so many times, but I haven’t done any outdoor activities so maybe a trip to Red Rock Canyon is in my future if I go back.

    1. Thanks Katrina! I can understand where you’re coming from because I feel the same way about quite a few places myself. In particular, I’ve been to Angkor Wat five times so it just doesn’t move me the way it once did. If you do go back again be sure to check out the surrounding area.