Lost Girl’s Guide to Las Vegas

City Travel, Featured, Nevada — By on April 26, 2012 at 8:36 pm
By Becky Johnson
Special to Lost Girls

With nicknames such as “Sin City,” “The City that Never Sleeps,” and “The Entertainment Capital of the World” Las Vegas has much to live up to. Yet many visitors to this oasis in the desert never venture far past the infamous Las Vegas Strip, which is not even in the city limits. Those who are open to exploring off the beaten path attractions should check out some of these local gems. Your wallets will thank you.

Things to Do

Just north of most strip hotels, in the heart of downtown Las Vegas, is historic Fremont Street, where Las Vegas began over 100 years ago. Now covered by a dome with millions of neon lights, the Fremont Street Experience features free nightly canopy shows from dusk to midnight, free concerts, and a zip line for the adventurous. Buy a foot-long cocktail at one of the street-side bars, snack on a 99 cent shrimp cocktail at the Golden Gate or Binion’s snack bars, or play penny slots while indulging in free drinks at one of the many casinos that line the street. This is also the best place in Vegas for people watching.

While not well known for its museums, Las Vegas has its fair share of unique culture. Check out the Atomic Testing Museum – part of the Smithsonian Institution – which traces the history of the nuclear arms race and its significance to Las Vegas history. Just off the Strip near the Fashion Show Mall, visit the Erotic Heritage Museum, which pays homage to the sexual revolution. You cannot deny the history of Las Vegas at the Mob Museum, recently opened in downtown Vegas.

Due to its remote location in the Mojave Desert, one doesn’t have to drive far outside Las Vegas to be surrounded by nature. Depending on the time of year, hiking in a nearby park is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. During spring or fall, head to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, with its sandstone cliffs and pre-historic rock art. Valley of Fire State Park, off I-15 and 40 minutes northeast of Las Vegas, is a popular destination in winter. If the sweltering summer temperatures get to you, Mount Charleston, one hour north on US-95, has dozens of options for high altitude hikingWhere to Eat

Positioned on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street Mickie Finnz Fish House & Bar is great for happy hour munchies, tacos, jumbo cocktails and people watching. For $2 you can try your luck at the arcade-style “lobster catch.” If luck prevails, they’ll cook your catch for dinner.

Serving Las Vegas since 1969, Doña Maria’s in the downtown district sells over 4 million tamales each year. Patrons can choose from red pork tamales in a mild sauce, green chicken in a spicy sauce, cheese and green chiles or dessert tamales with pineapples and raisins. Their full menu features standard Mexican fare and delicious margaritas.

For one of the best happy hours in town, head over to Ra Sushi inside the Fashion Show Mall. From 3 – 7 PM every Monday – Saturday choose from a diverse menu of sushi and Asian-inspired tapas, priced from $2 – $7. The $2 sake is hard to beat and the $5 saketinis are generous on the alcohol.

Serving Italian food in Las Vegas for over 30 years, Battista’s Hole in the Wall’s all-inclusive meals feature soup or salad, complimentary house wine, garlic bread, hearty main dishes, pasta sides and homemade cappuccino. Listen to the sounds of live accordion music while enjoy a filling 3-course meal for $20 – $40.

Where to Drink

As former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman once said, “It’s great that the people living here can walk out of their homes, have a martini and then go to the entertainment district.” (The mayor is also remembered for telling a group of fourth graders that his favorite hobby is drinking gin). With a bar or liquor store on almost every corner, one doesn’t have to travel far to relax and enjoy a drink with friends.

Located on East Fremont Street the girl-friendly Beauty Bar is open nightly from 9 pm – 2 am. Sip a drink in a beauty parlor-style atmosphere. Regular events include Monday karaoke, Tuesday nickel beer night and weekend dance parties.

If you’re in town on the third Thursday of the month, sign up for the Thirsty Thursdays Pub Crawl in downtown Las Vegas. For $20, enjoy 6 drinks at 6 different bars, one ½ off entrée, one ½ off appetizer and live music.

Near the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), the Freakin Frog is a popular hangout for the college crowd. Their Whisky Attic features over 600 types of whisky, and the bar is a popular spot for up-and-coming local musicians to perform.

Just north of Charleston and I-15 is Frankie’s Tiki Room. Indulge in a tropical-inspired signature cocktail in a unique souvenir mug while playing video poker or chatting it up with locals at the bar. If you’re lucky, one of their featured artists will be onsite carving a tiki statue. Raffle tickets may be purchased for your chance to win a tiki statue, and it’s up to you to figure out how to bring that back on the plane.

Where to Shop

While it claims to be the largest vintage clothing shop in the world, the Attic on South Main Street in downtown Vegas is well worth a visit. With a huge selection of vintage clothing for men and women from the 1940s to 1980s, the Attic specializes in retro fashions and custom-design orders. Alterations are done day of purchase.

With three locations in the Las Vegas Valley Patty’s Closet Fashion Boutique is the best place in town to buy a party dress. Most items are reasonably priced at under $40, and be sure to pick up a clutch purse and pair of earrings to complement your dress for a night on the town.

No visit to Las Vegas is complete without a stop at the World’s Largest Gift Shop, on the northwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue. Where else can you find deals on dice clocks, Elvis bobbleheads and shot glasses?

Where to Stay

With rooms starting from $47 a night in non-peak times, a stay at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street is worth it for access to the hotel’s $30 million pool complex, complete with shark tank, three-story water slide and swim-up bar. Poolside chairs and private cabanas may be rented by the day at an additional cost.

On Las Vegas Boulevard, the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino, Circus Circus and Excalibur are your most cost-friendly options. Tod Hostel and Motel, an affiliate of Hostelling International, features dorm accommodation from $15 per night and private rooms from $40 per night. Included in the price of accommodation are all-you-can-eat pancakes each morning, free coffee all day and free poolside barbecues each week.

Just 2 miles west of Las Vegas Boulevard on Tropicana Avenue, at the Orleans Hotel & Casino you’re more likely to find low-cost deluxe hotel rooms than in the heart of the tourist district. Be sure to check out the graveyard specials and breakfast specials at the 24-hour Courtyard Café, and if you’re tired of gambling there’s also a bowling alley and 18-screen cinema on site.

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  • Kellye Schkade says:

    Great blog! Sorry to get off subject, but since Nashville is a big up and coming city, I’m looking for a great Nashville sushi restaurant or Japanese restaurant. Have you heard of any good ones? There’s a new one called Nomzilla Sushi Et Cetera, but I’ve only seen a few reviews. Here’s the address of this new Nashville Sushi Restaurant , 1201 Villa Place, Suite 101 Nashville, TN 37212 – (615) 268-1424. Thoughts? Thanks!

  • Nicole says:

    Don’t forget all the shows to see (even locals partake). Most impressive is Le Reve at The Wynn. Super cool.

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