Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the top Las Vegas attractions day. Regular readers of this blog know that I have been hard at work visiting all 50 states in 5 years. Before I started this project, I decided that I was going to give each state a fair shake. It turns out that if you decide you are going to have fun in a place before you go there, your dream usually becomes reality.
Want to cut right to the chase, Internet Stranger? The best activity in Las Vegas is Cirque du Soleil with tons of five-star reviews!
Or if you want to explore all the best activities in Las Vegas, check this search engine right here to find the best deals!
But I have to admit that I wasn’t too excited about spending a top Las Vegas attractions day. I assumed it was only home to gambling addicts and showgirls with hearts of gold. I wanted to visit the new Mob Museum, but that was about all I was looking forward to.
How wrong I was! While the Strip has many delights to offer, I preferred the more subdued charms of Downtown Las Vegas. If you follow this top Las Vegas attractions day and get a little off the beaten track, I guarantee that even the most Vegas Skeptic can enjoy themselves.
top Las Vegas attractions day
Where to Stay?
Sometimes I recommend hotels that are a little obscure or off the beaten track. Today is not that day. Today, I recommend you choose the world famous Bellagio Hotel for your top Las Vegas attractions day
It has the perfect location on the Strip, there’s tons of gorgeous artwork, and it has crazy fountains that light up at night. (If they’re good enough for George Clooney and Brad Pitt in Ocean’s Eleven, they’re good enough for you.)
If you’re looking for great deals at this hotel, click here.
And if you’d rather explore great deals on other hotels in Las Vegas, click here.
If the Bellagio is out of your price range or you don’t want to stay on the strip I’m sure you can find other options for your top Las Vegas attractions day that will work for you here.
This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay during your top Las Vegas attractions day. With hundreds of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.
top Las Vegas attractions day
Morning: The Mob Museum
I am from New York City, and I feel that New Yorkers tend to identify themselves as being like the opposite of Las Vegas. We’re raw and real, they’re artificial from their replica of the Statue of Liberty to their silicone implants. But one thing New York City and Las Vegas definitely have in common is gangsters.
That’s why I was so excited to visit the Mob Museum. The museum is actually located in a former Las Vegas courthouse where some famous mob trials took place. (Much more on this later.)
I recommend buying tickets in advance online by going here.
I learned more mob facts during my top Las Vegas attractions day than you can whack a stick at. If I tell you all of them, I’ll have to go into witness protection. But at least I can reveal…
Three Fun Facts: The Mob Museum
1) Is the Mafia Really That Bad?
Short answer: yes! But not just because they committed many crimes. After all, bootlegging isn’t the worst thing in the world in many people’s eyes. However, the Mob Museum goes to great lengths to show how the Mafia’s activities led to oppression of many law-abiding Italian-American citizens.
In 1890, a police chief in New Orleans named David Hennessy was murdered, probably by members of the Mafia. In response, a mob of angry New Orleanians lynched 11 Italian-Americans. (This conflict, which did not make it into any history lesson I ever learned, almost led to war between the United States and Italy.)
Many Italian-Americans went into law enforcement and politics, in part to show that they were just as committed to stopping crime as any other ethnic group. This man pictured above was New York City police officer Joe Petrosino.
He was the first person in the NYPD to speak Italian, which is groundbreaking indeed. The techniques he used to fight the Mob are still being used today in many police forces. Officer Petrosino was assassinated while attempting to fight the mob back in Sicily.
I’ve chosen to show his picture here instead of one of the more famous gangsters. Those guys have enough movies made about them already.
Check rates and availability of this museum to learn other history tidbits right here!
2) So What’s Up With Vegas and the Mob?
A better question would be what isn’t up with Vegas and the Mob. Las Vegas has been associated with gambling and living it up since the turn of the century. The Mob Museum even has a photo of Wyatt Earp chillaxing in the famous Arizona Club in Las Vegas back in 1907. (Really, shouldn’t it have been called the Nevada Club? Am I missing something?)
But things really began to take off in Vegas, crime-wise in 1931. That’s when gambling was legalized in the state of Nevada. After World War II, the plot thickened when New York gangster Bugsy Siegel brought his act out West to Las Vegas.
As a New Yorker, does this mean I owe Las Vegas an apology for Bugsy Siegel? Am I personally responsible for everything tacky in Las Vegas? This really changes my perception of myself.
The mobsters didn’t just bring crime. They also brought some bad elements like Hollywood actors, musicians, and worst of all, magicians. I suppose the flashy shows were meant to distract the tourists from all the crime and corruption in Sin City. Nowadays, the Mafia no longer controls Las Vegas. So you can enjoy your Cirque du Soleil show in peace without worrying that you are subsidizing gangsters.
3) What About the Crime Fighters?
Many law enforcement officials who took on the Mob became celebrities in their own right. The courthouse that now houses the Mob Museum was home to one of the famous Kefauver hearings that were held to investigate organized crime in America.
Estes Kefauver was a Senator from Tennessee. He was determined to take down the Mafia by any means necessary. I didn’t think there were any gangsters in Tennessee because Dolly Parton took them all down single-handed.
Senator Kefauver was apparently quite a character. An opposite once called him a “raccoon-like Communist puppet”. Kefauver took this as a compliment and began wearing a raccoon-skin hat all the time.
As the Kefauver hearings were televised, they attracted a huge amount of attention. 30 million people tuned in to watch this odd Southern gentleman grill mobsters like Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky, and Mickey Cohen. I wonder if Kefauver didn’t accidentally do more to glamorize the Mob than he intended.
Other famous people to take on the Mob included Tom Dewey, of Dewey Defeats Truman fame, and future New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. (You can see a photo of Giuliani undercover above.) I was most interested in Eunice Carter, the first black woman on Tom Dewey’s staff. She helped take down Lucky Luciano. Where’s the movie about her, Marty Scorcese??
Check rates and availability of admission to this fun and strange museum right here!
24 Hour Treat
Please enjoy this photo of a very young future Senator Harry Reid sniffing a pencil.
Doesn’t that all sound exciting?
Don’t forget to pick up your ticket to the museum right here so you’ll be all ready to go!
top Las Vegas attractions day
Afternoon: Vintage Las Vegas Arts Tour
Las Vegas is home to over 600,000 people. That means that a lot of locals live there. But almost no tourists to Las Vegas get to see the “local” side of things, especially during one top Las Vegas attractions day. That’s why I was interested in taking a self-guided arts tour after the Mob Museum.
I would spend a couple of hours in the afternoon of your top Las Vegas attractions day getting to see the 18b neighborhood, which is populated almost entirely by Las Vegas residents. It was so exciting to explore here and meet the local entrepreneurs.
And I’ve tried to make it easy for you to find all the fun things I did with…
Approximately Top 5: Las Vegas Arts District
1) Burlesque Hall of Fame Las Vegas
Is there a better place for a burlesque museum than Las Vegas? If so, I can’t think of one. And this happens to be the only burlesque museum in the world. For those not familiar with the term, burlesque is a type of variety show aimed at adult-only audiences.
The main acts in a burlesque show would be “blue” comics and strip tease artists, aka exotic dancers. Arguably the most famous burlesque dancer of all time was Gypsy Rose Lee, who had a musical made about her.
When I enjoyed my top Las Vegas attractions day, I did get to go inside, meet the staff, and check out the gift shop. The Burlesque Hall of Fame had recently moved to this new location when I visited, so I actually got to chat with the Executive Director because he was hanging out in the lobby.
Many of the staff at the museum are burlesque dancers themselves, and they’ll be happy to answer your questions. I think I confused them by asking so many questions about Gypsy Rose Lee and by repeatedly yelling, “Sing out Louise!” But then I don’t know how many Broadway musical nerds they get in Las Vegas.
2) Vintage Shopping!
Of course one of the best things to do in Las Vegas is shop. But who wants to buy some tacky top that says My Grandma Went to Las Vegas and All She Bought Me Was This Lousy T-Shirt? That’s why we’re going to the cutest vintage shops that Las Vegas has to offer.
Have you ever wanted your home to look like something out of an episode of Mad Men? Then head on down to one of these shops. I bought a floral spring coat here and managed to convince a French lady it was Givenchy. (Spoiler alert! It was not.)
If you want something more contemporary, stop into a place like Hiptazmic Studio. All their pieces have a steampunk vibe. I make a point of collecting earrings everywhere I go, so I bought a fine pair of hearts with gears in them from the husband and wife team that owns the store. (This shop has sadly since closed, but I’m sure something similar is around.)
I always prefer to buy directly from the artist because then they have to answer all my weird questions. Like if I wanted to become a steampunk-theme burlesque dancer, would they be willing to make my costumes for me? What would a steampunk cover of “Let Me Entertain You” sound like, anyway?
3) Gallery Hopping
Of course the most obvious and cheapest thing to do in any arts district is check out the artwork. When I was in Vegas, I met an artist himself specializing in neon. This is the most Vegas form of art possible. This guy knew every single artist in the neighborhood and seemed determined to introduce me to every single one.
My favorite was a mixed media artist named Lisa Herr. After earrings, I love buying small pieces of artwork to cover up the terrible “cottage cheese” 70s era splatter that blight the walls of my apartment. This jeweled hummingbird I purchased does the job very nicely. And I think every home could use a little Vegas sparkle every once in a while.
4) Snack Time!
Of course the best form of art is the culinary arts! So I was grateful to stop for a snack and cocktail at a chic Latin American fusion kind of place. (This place has since closed, but you can get a snack at a nearby restaurant like Taverna Costera instead.)
Maybe you’ll get something as tasty as the very authentically Latin American and delicious deep fried pickles.
Now they call Las Vegas Sin City for a reason. And I assume one of those reasons is that you can’t go on an arts tour of Vegas without having at least two cocktails. Our final stop of our top Las Vegas attractions day was winding down was at the freezingly cool ReBar.
ReBar advertises itself as the only bar where everything is for sale. Meaning that for the right place, you can take any of the vintage items that populate the store home with you. I was sorely tempted, but after my jeweled hummingbird and my Not a Givenchy Coat, I felt I needed to show some restraint.
My favorite thing about ReBar is that they serve Charitable Cocktails. Each drink is associated with a different local charitable organization. So a part of your purchase goes to support that charity. I got a Nevada Old Fashioned, which means that I was also making a contribution to the Nevada Public Radio.
I do not care about NPR; I just like bourbon. If you’re asking what makes something a Nevada Old Fashioned, I believe it is stirred using the tongue of a Wise Guy who talked too much to the Feds.
top Las Vegas attractions day
Evening: Dinner at Picasso
So I know I’ve been going on and on about getting off the beaten track in Las Vegas. But sometimes being ON the beaten track can be just as fun. That’s why I stayed at the Bellagio. Where else can you see a giant lady’s head made out of flowers in the lobby of your hotel?
24 Hour Tip
The Bellagio is home to an amazing Cirque du Soleil show called O, and I strongly suggest getting tickets for the show, whether or not you are staying at the Bellagio,
You can get tickets to this spectacular spectacle by going here.
Also, the Bellagio is home to some of the finest restaurants in Las Vegas, and we are going to chow down at the very finest at the end of our top Las Vegas attractions day
It used to be that the main kind of grub you could get in Vegas was some sort of weird all you can eat steakhouses. But now Las Vegas attracts the top chefs in the world.
It even has several Michelin-starred restaurants. Picasso, located inside the Bellagio, is one of those restaurants. (In fact, Picasso has two stars.)
The food is Spanish-French fusion, and the Picasso design theme even trickles down to the designs on the plates. There are also actual Picassos on the walls, so basically you’re getting a museum and restaurant in one. Lucky diners are seated outside with a view of the Bellagio’s famous fountains.
I was not so lucky, so instead I was seated next to a woman and her four young children, who were having trouble finding anything on the menu that they wanted to eat. But this did not stop me from enjoying…
Approximately Top 5: Picasso Las Vegas
1) Maine Lobster Salad
I could tell that the theme of the evening was going to be decadence as soon as the first course arrived. Lobster with caviar on top is one of the clearest ways for a restaurant to say, “Yes, we are happy to take your money.”
I don’t think the carbon footprint on this dish is great, because it must be very difficult to get fresh Maine lobster all the way to Las Vegas. But it tasted so delicious, I don’t care. Let the rainforest burn!
2) Pan Seared Scallop
Another dish that generally makes its way onto Fancy Tasting Menus is the scallop. This was made even more decadent by being served with veal juice. This was a Dayboat scallop, which means that ship that catches the scallop has to return to shore within 24 hours of departing.
This makes the scallop fresher. So get ready for my upcoming article: A Perfect 24 Hours in a Scallop Fishing Boat!
3) Foie Gras
And here we have it! No dramatic display of decadence can be complete without the fatty liver of a goose. (I’d really like to know who the first person was who realized that goose liver is extra delicious with a whole bunch of fat on it.)
At Picasso, they want to make sure you don’t complain that the foie gras portion is too small. That’s why they set you up with a whole giant seared steak of the stuff. I’d much rather have this baby than an all-you-can-eat steakhouse, let me tell you.
4) Main Course
For the main course, you can choose from three different options: filet mignon, lamb, and halibut. I was feeling like a lighter main course with such a heavy meal, so I opted for the fish.
But since the perfectly flaky halibut was served with a liberal drizzling of rich hollandaise sauce, I’m not sure it made much of a difference. Oh well, I hear what halibuts in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, anyway.
top Las Vegas attractions day
What to Pack?
- An excellent small cell charger so you can keep taking pictures all during your top Las Vegas attractions day
- The best guidebook to Las Vegas. (It’s tiny, so you can easily carry it with you.)
- Las Vegas can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply.
- These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
- My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take you on a journey of self-discovery.
top Las Vegas attractions day
How to Get There
By Car: This is really only feasible if you’re going to your top Las Vegas attractions day from somewhere else in Nevada or from a fairly nearby state. I live in New York City and don’t know how to drive, so this would be impossible for me.
But some people like to do a road trip through the very Southwest of the United States and stop in Las Vegas on the way to Joshua Tree National Park and Los Angeles. If that sounds great to you, go for it!
By Plane: Fortunately it is very easy to fly into Las Vegas because it has an airport. Yay! No muss, no fuss. I was coming from Phoenix, Arizona to Las Vegas, and the flight was quick and easy. I think for most people, flying into Las Vegas is the best choice.
I recommend using a search engine like Expedia to search for the best prices on flights.
By Train or Bus: Greyhound does go to Las Vegas, so if flying is really outside your budget for your top Las Vegas attractions day, this might be your best option. Check out their website to see if Greyhound will work for you. As you know if you’ve taken the Hound before, it’s not always super reliable, but I use it from time to time because something nothing else will do.
I couldn’t find any trains that went directly into Las Vegas. Maybe they exist and I just can’t find them. Maybe they are ghost trains! (BOO!)
That’s a Perfect top Las Vegas attractions day
What would you do with a top Las Vegas attractions day? Do you think I should go into steampunk-themed burlesque dancing? And why on earth is Harry Reid sniffing that pencil? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend one day in Las Vegas. If you have time for another one day in Las Vegas, try this itinerary.
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