Sally’s Las Vegas Hit List – Just For the Fun of It

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As I gear up for another funtastic weekend in Las Vegas, this time to see Celine Dion in concert at the spectacular Caesars Palace, I decided to compile a list of cool, Las Vegas-y attractions and happenings. Once I completed and fact-checked the information, I decided this might just be too good NOT to share. I did not include restaurants, entertainment shows or clubs, as I feel that they should have their own list(s). These are just fun, mostly budget-friendly activities that everyone should try at least once while visiting Sin City. Please note that the information below could change at any time, so please contact them directly to confirm details.

NOW, without any further ado… (in no particular order)

Pinball Hall of Fame:  This “living” museum is packed with a crazy cool collection of vintage pinball and video games that are only $.25 each to play with all proceeds going to local charities! Open 11am to 11pm daily.

Circus Circus Hotel Circus:  Be amazed by a wild assortment of world-class circus acts inside the casino throughout the day. 11am until midnight daily. Free!

High Roller (Ferris wheel):  Bird’s eye view of the Strip and surrounding area from observation pods 550 feet up in the air. 30 minutes to complete a full rotation. Adult beverages are sold and allowed on the ride. Free under 12 years old. $26.95 per adult during the day and $36.95 per adult at night. Open until 2am.

Hershey’s Chocolate World:  Free tours, samples to taste and fun activities for kids! Be sure to check out the 800 lb milk chocolate sculpture of the Statue of Liberty as well as customizing your own chocolate bars! Open 9am daily to 11pm/midnight on weekends.

Downtown Container Park:  Funky, cool and environmentally friendly open-air shopping mall. Boutiques, dining, playground and live entertainment stage all made out of repurposed shipping containers and locally manufactured Xtreme Cubes! DO NOT MISS THE 50 FOOT TALL, FIRE SHOOTING PRAYING MANTIS OUT FRONT. Open 11am daily to 11pm/1am on weekends.

Viva Vision Light Show:  Free nightly light shows on the hour starting at dark. Experience the intensity of the 550,000-watt, concert-quality sound system and the 1500′ x 90′ Viva Vision canopy screen that’s made up of 12.5 million energy-efficient LED lamps. Triptacular! For the adventurous crowd, set yourself up with a Slotzilla zipline ride high above the Fremont Street crowd.

Fremont Street:  Be sure to spend some time downtown and take in the energy that is Fremont Street. Live music, street performers and dance bands that perform nightly, not to mention eating, drinking and gambling in the city’s fabulously old school casinos that line the street. Neon alert! Get your cameras ready!

Bellagio Fountains:  Treat yourself to the breathtaking choreography of the dancing waters and light show at the Bellagio Lake. Free shows Monday through Friday every ½ hour 3pm to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday noon to 8pm.

Bellagio Botanic Garden:  Walk inside this magnificent casino and feast your eyes on the Chihuly created glass flower ceiling as well as the whimsical, seasonally themed fresh flower botanic garden just past the lobby. Sensational! Grab a tasty coffee drink and pastry at Jean Philippe Chocolates and Pastries while you’re at it. Lobby open 24 hours.

Neon Boneyard:  Retrolicious collection of Las Vegas’ finest neon signs from glory days past, dating back to the 1930s.Tours only. Visitor center with a gift shop and interactive learning center is neatly housed inside of the old La Concha Hotel lobby building. Too cool! $18 per tour or $30 Mob Museum combo tickets also sold.

Shark Tank Tours at Golden Nugget:  Take an educational tour of this spectacular 200,000 gallon shark tank ($30, Wednesdays only) or take a swim in the pool next to the shark tank for $25 or even just take a free walk by after 8pm daily.

Mirage Volcano:  Catch the new and improved Mirage iconic volcano explosions set to the music of The Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart and Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain. Sunday through Thursday 8 and 9pm. Friday and Saturday 8,9 and 10pm.

Mandalay Bay:  Shark Reef – A mind blowing 1.3 million gallon (main) tank in this ginormous aquarium. Complete with sharks and a shark tunnel, rays, countless fish, and many other marine life as well. Be sure to say hello to all the other creatures featured here such as snakes, dragons and crocodiles. You can even pay to dive WITH the sharks. $20. Open daily 9:30am to 7 pm/9pm on weekends.

Luxor:  Ongoing educational exhibits the Titanic Artifacts and Bodies both $32. Opens at 10am daily with last entrance at 9pm.

Mob Museum:  Aka National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. This incredibly well thought-out and interactive museum dedicatd to the history of organized crime in the US, famous gangsters & Las Vegas-specific history. Housed in the former Las Vegas Courthouse and Post Office. NOT TO BE MISSED. Allow at least 2-4 hours. Day passes are good for same day re-entry. Snacks and drinks are sold on site. Fantastic gift shop. Due to mature/violent content, please leave children under 12 at home. Open 10am to 7pm. $19.95.

Caesars Palace:  Fall of Atlantis – Before dropping from shopping, take a much needed break while at the Forum Shops and watch this mesmerizing spectacle of fire, water and 9 foot animatronic statues who recount the myth of Atlantis. Free shows daily 11am to 11pm, on the hour every hour.

Grand Canal Shoppes Venetian:  Experience Streetmosphere! Among the hustle and bustle of the shoppes you will watch street entertainers, Italian folk musicians, jugglers on stilts, livings statues and live opera – all free performances in St. Mark’s Square 10am to 10pm daily. Be sure to visit the magnificent Palazzo Waterfall Atrium and Gardens while you’re there as well. Open 24 hours.

Bally’s:  Swarovski Starburst – Every night is New Year’s Eve at Bally’s! Nightly at 9pm and midnight this sparkling crystal-bedazzled starburst drops 55 feet from above the Grand Bazaar Shops in a magical light display. Just like a fairytale. 

Flamingo:  Wildlife Habitat – Displayed on 15 acres of lush gardens and waterfalls, the delicate Chilean flamingos, parrots, ducks, swans turtles, koi and two rescued brown pelicans are cared for lovingly and here for your viewing pleasure. Two live feedings every day. Free and open daily 8am to 8pm.

Mirage:  The world famous Siegfried and Roy Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. Weekdays 11am to 5pm and weekends 10am to 5pm. Come face-to-face with some of nature’s most exotic and majestic creatures. You can paint or practice yoga with the bottlenose dolphins, be a trainer for a day, or just visit and admire the white tigers, white lions and leopards in a lush and serene environment. Be sure to see the two new babies! $22 for adults.

Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah:  See how the other 1% live in this hidden world of opulence that is Wayne Newton’s home. You never know when he might pop out and say HI! Just recently opened to the public in September 2015. Gold ($35), Platinum ($49) and Diamond ($95) tours ranging from 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours in length. Located 4 miles off the Strip.

Westgate:  Graceland Presents Elvis! – Elvis never really did leave the building apparently. This exhibit is housed in the Westgate, formerly known as the International, where Elvis had his long standing residency. The man, the legend, the King. The first, permanent Elvis exhibition featuring hundreds of artifacts from life in Tupelo to Hollywood to Las Vegas, that have never before been displayed outside of Graceland. Daily 10am to 9pm. Located in the Northtower and tickets are $26.

Welcome to Las Vegas Sign:  Who wouldn’t want to have their photo taken next to this iconic 1959 neon sign? Just south of Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip and a 12-car parking lot for your ease and convenience.

Well boys and girls, cats and kittens, there you have it. Las Vegas. One of the most exciting cities in the world. Always buzzing, evolving, expanding, creating and certainly never dull. Something for everyone. I hope this list sheds a little light on all the wonders and fun to be had in Sin City. 

Now get out and enjoy yourselves! 

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Penn and Teller: A Night of Mind Bending Fun and Magic in Las Vegas

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When I told people I was going to see Penn and Teller last Saturday night at the Rio in Las Vegas most were very positive saying I would have a great time. Of course, as always, there are the weirdos and haters out there who will tell you why they don’t make the cut or how this trick was fake and that one was fixed. Come on people, lighten up… this is a fantastic show! It is what it is. Entertainment, humor, wit, mind benders, jokes, and some super cool illusions and tricks.

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I LOVED all the audience involvement and never knew what was going to happen next. What about the CELL FISH? Or Teller inside the helium balloon? I totally lucked out and was chosen to be a part of one of the tricks and I was SO PSYCHED. And I am NOT a “plant”, I assure you. My friend and I were completely absorbed and having a blast.
What a pair these two guys are and they sure know how to keep a crowd engaged for their 90-minute show. They have been performing together as business partners since the late 1970’s and their on stage presence is very well orchestrated. While Penn is the host and raconteur, Teller “speaks” volumes in an almost mime-like fashion. Brilliant! How about Teller the Little Teapot? That was ADORABLE and HILARIOUS! Sawing the girl in half was totally scream-worthy and the bullet act was even better through binoculars!  I am not a fan of trying to ruin the fun by figuring out the tricks. Don’t ruin your own night by being one of those people. Just go with the flow, enjoy dinner before the show and have a cocktail or two (we ate dinner at the Royal India Bistro inside the Rio and it was DELICIOUS!), then watch Penn and Teller put on a sensational show and enjoy your evening! They aim to amuse you and they do a damn good job of it!

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How many performers are cool enough to come out after the show and host a meet and greet selfie party for every single person who wants one? Every single person?? I am really pleased that their network show “Fool Us,” has brought about a resurgence of interest in them and magic as well. And now of course, next time I’m near Hollylwood Boulevard, I will be searching for their well deserved star on the Walk of Fame!
I would DEFINITELY recommend seeing this show and would see it again without hesitation!

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Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: Fresh Air is Nature’s Best Cure for a Hangover

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Sunday afternoon, January 25 2015 in Las Vegas. 68 degrees and deep blue skies without one whisper of a cloud. I’m pretty sure today is a perfect day for taking in some natural beauty, don’t you? Well apparently many other people had that exact same thought, but thankfully, 306 square miles was more than enough space to comfortably accommodate all of us… and then some! Just 17 miles west of The Strip near the area of Summerlin, you enter into a completely different world of the Mojave Desert, untouched. One of fresh air, open space and spell bounding rock formations where you can walk, hike, picnic, bike, bird watch, photograph, meditate, horseback ride, rock climb, or anything else (legal) you so desire. Very well marked hiking trails of varying degrees of distance and difficulty are all laid out on the handy dandy brochure you get when you pay a nominal $7 entrance fee to enter the park. The road running through the park is a 13-mile scenic drive with a leisurely speed limit of 35 mph in order to let everyone enjoy the beauty around them sans road rage. An utterly picture perfect few hours were spent here and my dog Elliott was loving every minute of it. Smelling every single rock and clump of dirt.

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Just feels SO GOOD to take a deep breath in and just CHILL OUT once in a while. But to do that surrounded by nature makes that deep breath all the better. LIsten to the birds chirping and the light breeze blowing through your hair. So cleansing for the body, mind and soul. I think that a visit to Red Rock Canyon is the ideal balancing activity for whatever you may have indulged in the night before across town. Absolutely lovely.

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The Mob Museum: They’ll Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse

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Compliments to the Las Vegas City Planning and Redevelopment Department for all their efforts (and funding!) to revitalize the treasure trove that is classic Sin City with establishments such as the Mob Museum. Be prepared for a criminally good time at this educational and entertaining mecca of all things Mob. This museum is chock full of historical artifacts, video clips, evidence, and weapons that bring to life the dark underworld past of Las Vegas. Housed in the beautiful and historic Las Vegas Federal Courthouse and Post Office building (1933), this is an incredibly well preserved building.

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You get to be a part of a line up, (remember to have someone take your picture!), watch a movie clip on the St. Valentine’s Day massacre which is played on a screen that when retracted reveals a section of THE ACTUAL BRICK WALL, sit IN the SAME courtroom as the infamous Kefauver trials, shoot a gun at an oncoming perp, blast away on a machine gun just to name a few of the interactive learning tools.

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Insider tip: Due to graphic nature and mature themes, it might be best to leave the kiddies with a babysitter. No need to traumatize them nor distract other patrons with crying children and double-wide strollers.

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But one thing is for sure, this museum is INCREDIBLY FASCINATING and you will want to spend hours here reading and learning about the Mob, its key players and Law Enforcement’s achievements and struggles in the fight against organized crime.

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In fact, as long as you keep your wristband on, you are allowed (and even encouraged) to leave and take a break and come back for more! So I did just that! I stepped out and strolled up and down Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, checking out the shops, restaurants, casinos, Container Park and even the giant fire shooting preying mantis. Mind boggling! Then came back refreshed and ready for more Mafia 101! I was so completely impressed by this museum, its contents, layout and friendly employees, I ended up spending over 3 1/2 hours there and bought a membership! Of course I had to stop by the gift shop and pick up a few magnets, handcuffs, books and DVDs to share with friends and spread the word about this outta sight museum. With a convenient location just off Fremont Street and effortless low cost parking, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from visiting the Mob Museum on your next journey to Las Vegas.

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As Lefty Rosenthal used to say,  “The American Dream is great wealth with no work.”

The Neon Boneyard Museum: Let Your Inner Neon Shine

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As I continue on with my explorations of Las Vegas, I learned about a place called the Neon Boneyard. An enchanting collection of old classic neon signs from the glory days of Sin City, with a store front that is housed in the actual lobby of the former Las Vegas Strip motel, La Concha. What an absolutely brilliant repurposing of a delicious piece of Las Vegas history. Opened to the public in 2012, with over 150 signs that have been loaned and donated to the museum for your viewing pleasure on day and night docent led tours.

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Just a quick drive from The Strip with free and plentiful parking, the logistics are easy breezy. I absolutely LOVED my visit to the Neon Boneyard! We were totally mesmerized by all the colorful and imaginative signs from the 1930’s to the present, and the related facts and anecdotes of each. Such priceless reminders of a town that has always intrigued and lured visitors with hopes and dreams of “hitting it big”. Even the sign ITSELF is a blend of letters from old casino signs!

N = Golden Nugget

E = Caesars Palace

O = Binion’s Horseshoe

N = Desert Inn

I soaked up every single word from our tour guide like a sponge! My Mom and Dad took their Honeymoon at the Desert Inn back in 1962 and she was beyond thrilled to be able to take a photo standing in front of the sign of the now defunct casino (may it R.I.P.).

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The tales our guide shared were entertaining and captivating… his theatrical and animated personality made them all the more fun to listen to! I would love to see this museum find a way to somehow expand their space, so they can display the signs without having to stack some in front of each other, but WOW what a gold mine!!

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Be sure to call ahead and confirm tour times. Tours are approximately 45 minutes and make sure to leave time to peruse the gift shop before leaving! There are also incredibly cool interactive motion-sensing video fact screens in the Visitor Center. Definitely check them out while you’re waiting for your tour to start! Jam packed with cool tidbits of information. The City of Las Vegas actually donated the land to the museum in a 50-year lease at $1 USD per year. So excellent! Sidenote: Please do not bring small children with you on the tour. They will not enjoy it and their boredom may lead to potentially distracting behaviors, lessening the experience of others, as they throw their tantrums, which was the unfortunate case on our tour.
The Neon Boneyard is a DAZZLING work of art and history that should be applauded for their efforts to preserve the rich and juicy history of Glitter Gulch. Add this to your Must See List. You will LOVE IT!

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Bellagio Fountains: Dancing Waters from Heaven

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With everything going on around you in Las Vegas, have you ever really stopped to watch a whole performance of the Bellagio Fountains? If not, you must do yourself this favor and if so, you already know it’s worth watching over and over again, so be sure to make time for it. I first fell in love with the fountains to Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye”, it gave me chills that I will always remember and I have been hooked ever since. The creative genius and engineering behind this water, music and light spectacle have made it one of the top attractions in Vegas to be admired and enjoyed for free by all, day or night. The song choices change up occasionally, this time it was “Luck Be a Lady,” and the sound system will blow you away regardless of which tune they play. The carefully choreographed streams of water dance elegantly and gracefully, swaying from side to side and also powerfully as they shoot up with full force into the sky, in an interpretive dance of sorts against the unforgettable backdrop of the Las Vegas Strip.

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You can view it up close and personal right from the street in front, simply step outside the lobby of the Bellagio after shopping, dining, drinking, gambling or admiring the breathtaking Chihuly sculptures or perhaps you are lucky enough to have a room at the Paris that is facing the Bellagio, then you can peer out your window from the comfort of your own hotel room! Every 30 minutes in the afternoons and every 15 minutes at night, you have no excuse for missing a performance or two. From the moment it starts until the moment it ends you are mesmerized by the overwhelming beauty. Truly a stunning sensory experience! Pure magic and class! Only in Vegas! LOVE IT!

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Pinball Hall of Fame Las Vegas: A Real Life Pinball Nirvana

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Ahhh pinball. The lights, the sounds, the music all set to countless movie, entertainment, sports and cartoon themes. Slipping your coin in the slot, pulling back the plunger, watching the ball cruise up the alleyway through the tunnels and up the ramps, hitting the bells, bouncing off the bumpers, falling into hidden bonus holes leading to extra bonus worlds, using your flippers to save those near misses, the frustration of TILT, the dreaded “drain” and the victory of winning a Replay! This game has got it all! Play solo or compete against others, but either way, you’re going to have a screaming good time. It’s no wonder I love all the sensory stimulation of Las Vegas casinos. I grew up with a Dad who was THE Original Pinball Wizard and can remember playing pinball and skeeball (ohhh skeeball) in arcades as young as probably 5 years of age!

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Earliest versions of this beloved arcade game date back to the mid-1600’s, with electrification and bumpers added in 1933 and flippers coming on to the scene in 1947, as the first official pinball game as we know it, Humpty Dumpty made its debut. This game has a long, lovely history around the world with manufacturers such as Gottlieb, Midway, Sega and Bally. Why oh why did the days of pinball ever fade? So, on a scorching day on a recent trip to Vegas, it came to me as a huge and welcomed surprise to learn that there is a Pinball Hall of Fame right off The Strip in Las Vegas! Yes! There really is! And what better way to spend a sweltering afternoon in Sin City?

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I was lucky enough to run into and chat for a few minutes with volunteer Manager and pinball aficionado, Mike. What an overflowing fountain of information he was! Some tidbits I picked up: Owner Tim and his brother bought Pinball Pete’s arcades in Michigan in 1971 and made a killing as the arcade fad skyrocketed. Sadly, when pinball began falling by the wayside due to the new up and coming era of video games, Pete took all of his pinball machines with him when he sold the arcades for a pretty penny and moved to Las Vegas. He actually has an entire OTHER warehouse FULL of games that simply won’t fit in the current building, which they’ve been in for 5 years now. Tim just wants people to enjoy his collection (he owns over 90% of all the games here), so he only charges $.25 per game. A QUARTER?? I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot! The best part is walking around, admiring all the different games and finding all the really old ones, dating back to 1948, and reading their “bios” on the handwritten cards attached to the machine. Like a treasure hunt through the past. Mike grew up on the Jersey Shore, absolutely loved pinball and finally bought his first machine in 1954. He is still so proud of that machine. I love pinball! Love this place!

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Bring a roll or two of quarters and you can have fun for hours! Convenient location near The Strip, no charge for parking in their large lot, and long operating hours. With an average of 20,000 visitors per month and ALL PROCEEDS going to charities including the Salvation Army and a local animal shelter…yes, a Not For Profit pinball arcade. What could be more fun…and affordable?? I HIGHLY recommend this place to kids of all ages. PS..not only do they have pinball machines more or less organized by decade, but over on the far wall they even have Asteroids, Space Invaders Galaga, Ms. Pac Man, Qbert and…. CENTIPEDE!!! My all time favorite when I was a kid. It brought me right back to the days when I would go with my Dad to the Safeway grocery store and while he shopped I would hone my hand-eye coordination skills, often times getting my name on the Top Players list. And guess what? This girl’s STILL GOT IT. I managed to get the #2 slot!! I was one squealing happy girl, even thought I left with two extremely arthritic forearms! Carpel Tunnel Syndrome be damned! This was a fantastic day!

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