By Abigail Cattell
There’s more to Las Vegas than deserts and casinos! Read on to discover some of the alternative attractions that brought more than 37 million holidaymakers to this desert city last year.
Animal lovers can get up close and personal with a variety of weird and wonderful beasts in Las Vegas. Head to the MGM Grand’s free ‘Lion Habitat’ to see lions from a totally unique perspective. Walk below a thick, transparent tunnel and look up to see lions and sometimes cubs above you! To see rare white tigers, black panther and golden tigers as well as happy, captive dolphins, head to Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage hotel. If you like your sea creatures a bit less friendly, visit Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, which is a 1.6 million gallon aquarium built to look like a sunken temple where you can view more than 15 species of shark and more than 100 species of marine animals from turtles to crocodiles. There’s also a touch tank where you can interact with various creatures.
Shop till you drop
Of course you can find all the usual stores at one of the hotel shopping malls, such as the Forum Shops at Caesars, but being Las Vegas, there are also plenty more quirky places to uncover a treasure... Barry Manilow fan? Record your own version of Copacobana in The Manilow Store inside the Las Vegas Hilton – or just watch a video and pick up some Manilow-esque clothing. Alternatively, you might see the perfect ‘showgirl’ outfit at Strings Las Vegas – great for an unusual outfit to wear at one of the infamous hotel pool parties, like Hard Rock’s Rehab! Collectors and chocoholics alike will be happy strolling around the four floors of choc-heaven that is M&Ms World (3785 S. Las Vegas Blvd, next to MGM Grand). From Swarovski crystal M&M collectables to M&M Monopoly boards, you’ll find something to buy or eat.
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is only a few miles north of Vegas’ famous strip and is home to plenty of wheel-spinning, rubber-burning, adrenaline-filled action. The Las Vegas 350, a major NASCAR event, takes place on 26 September but there are other events all year round. Stop by the entrance any time to visit the Caroll Shelby Museum, with exhibits spanning 35 years of high performance speedway cars. Car-lovers can also visit The Auto Collections at the Imperial Palace hotel on the Strip, which has more than 250 classic cars on show (and for sale) including the Cadillac driven by Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits. And of course, there’s only one way to cruise the Strip, and that’s in your own classic car, so treat yourself to a ride in a stretch limo and arrive in style.
Whether you love cheesy crooners or head-banging rock music; magic shows or circus acts, you’ll find your ideal show here in Vegas. Get the hankies out for Bette Midler at Caesars Palace (until 6 September), or don your leather jacket for Puddle of Mudd at the Hard Rock Hotel (4 September). Comedian Bill Cosby is making people laugh at TI-Treasure Island on 5 September while Lance Burton’s classic magic show has been running for 13 years at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. Mariah Carey belts out some top notes at Palms Casino Resort on 11 September, 9-10 October or head to Caesars to see Cher 3-11 October. Various Cirque du Soleil shows include KA at MGM Grand, O at Bellagio, Mystere at TI-Treasure Island or adults-only Zumanity at New York, New York.
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Abigail Cattell is a freelance travel journalist who has written for Wanderlust, The Guardian, ASOS Magazine and TTG Luxury.