LAS VEGAS Travelogue: Happily Sinless in Sin City


Can you have a good time in Las Vegas without gambling?

Las Vegas - Travel - How To

Viva Las Vegas! The Bellagio Fountains

I recently spent four nights there determined to answer that burning question. You see,  Las Vegas had somehow ended up on my bucket list and, ironically, I’m not a gambler.

Having descended from a long line of Southern Baptists on my mother’s side, I’m certain I was born with a genetic aversion to gambling.  I’m not even tempted to play $1 scratch off cards. I can’t remember the rules to card games or how the “spread” works.  And then there’s my stubbornly realistic streak that doesn’t appreciate the one in a gazillion Powerball odds. Games of luck or chance simply don’t appeal to me.

So what’s a chick like me going to do in Vegas? Well, as it turns out, a lot!

♠ Eat to her stomach’s content

Forget buffets. Vegas is for gourmand and gourmets! Pretty much everyone with a best-selling cookbook or cooking-theme show has a restaurant here. Is Gordon Ramsey’s Shepard’s Pie just another bland English dish or is it a culinary masterpiece? See for yourself as you literally eat your way through the Food Network here. And finish it off with the dessert of contradictions – Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3. And Jose Andres, if I return to Vegas, I’ll now have the foresight to book reservations at your restaurant three months in advance.

♣ Shop ’til her AMEX/MC/Visa Hurts

Vegas is a shopping paradise so come prepared with comfortable shoes. Yes, there are the kinds of shops that need at least one suit-jacketed security guy per 25 square feet. But for the other 99% of us, there are tons of other shops. It’s the kind of place where a Gucci store peacefully exists next door to a Swatch Watch store.

There’s something for everyone – actually there are a lot of somethings for everyone. My AMEX bears witness to this – I think I actually heard it cry “Uncle” toward the end of the trip. Just plan ahead and leave room in your suitcase for the flight home. Or do what I did and buy a new Longchamp bag to haul your booty home.

♦ Wander away from The Strip

The Strip - Las Vegas Blvd.

“The Strip” – Early Morning

And by this, I don’t mean head downtown to Fremont Street. No, I mean literally get out-of-town. You must leave the city limits to see Las Vegas in its proper context –  as a man-made oasis in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

It’s easy to succumb to the hyper-reality of Vegas. After two days here, you’ll need an antidote to the neon, the crowds and all those sleazy sidewalk guys shilling for “Scantily Clad, Barely Legal Girls Direct to You!”.  Luckily, the cure is an hour or less away from The Strip in natural wonders (Red Rock Canyon & Valley of Fire) and man-made wonders (Hoover Dam & Lake Mead.)

Venture a few hours away and you’re in Death Valley or Zion National Park. Or take an all day bus or jeep excursion to the Grand Canyon. Or for the more adventurous or time-strapped who don’t mind a little turbulence and a possible barf, you can see the Canyon in just a half day by helicopter or small plane.

And if you can’t tear yourself away from The Strip, at least take the elevator to the top of the “Eiffel Tower” at Paris Las Vegas. Yes, a faux “Eiffel Tower” is a shamelessly cheesy abomination, but the desert panorama and mountain views at the top are  beautiful, especially on a clear day.

Burn some calories playing in Vegas’ backyard

Black Canyon of the Colorado River

The Colorado River outside Las Vegas

Since you’ll probably be stuffing your face with Jean Philippe crepes, Tom Colicchio steaks and deep-fried oreo sundaes, you may want some exercise to counter all those calories. You can kayak, hike, cycle and believe it or not, even ski and snowboard in the Las Vegas vicinity.

If it’s summertime and the temps are in triple digits, you may want to do what we did: Cool off and wash away the seedy parts of The Strip in the mighty Colorado River.

The nice folks at Evolution Expeditions will take you on a kayaking tour through the Black Canyon of the Colorado, starting at the bottom of the Hoover Dam. The river there is wide and calm and a refreshing 54 degrees year round. You’ll be so wowed by the canyon walls, red barrel cactus, bighorn sheep and bald eagles that you’ll completely forget it’s 115 degrees! And if you ask nicely, the guide will even do a rattlesnake check on your kayak when you come back from hiking!

♠Sit back and enjoy the show

Cirque du Soleil - Las Vegas - Zumanity

One of the eight Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas

You can’t leave Vegas without seeing a show. I think it’s a law, but then I’m not licensed to practice in Nevada. And, trust me, after all the shopping, sightseeing and playing, it’s a welcome relief to plop your weary body in a dark theatre seat for a couple of hours.

There are eight Cirque du Soleil shows to pick from. Choose Zumanity if you want your Cirque cabaret-style in homage to classic, risqué Vegas. Or catch a comedy show or pay a zillion dollars to see Celine Dion. The entertainment options are truly paralyzing for the indecisive.

So, bottom-line, you don’t need to gamble to have a great time in Vegas. I guarantee you’ll have no problem spending the money that you otherwise would have lost gambling! And uhh…maybe some more!

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?

I don’t think so….

For this chick, what happens in Vegas, ends up in a meticulously arranged 8×11 Shutterfly album!

(If you’re planning a trip to Vegas, check out my Vegas Pinterest board here.)

How about you? Are you up for Las Vegas?

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  1. adrianscrazylife says

    Actually, I LOVE Vegas and the things you don’t like are the ones I love – I love the cheap buffets and the cheesy shows, and I even love gambling. I can play for hours on about $20 worth of nickels, although I love it even more on the rare occasions that I WIN. And I love to just drive down the strip and see the sights. I think it’s awesome. #SITSSharefest


  2. I don’t gamble either and I loved Vegas! You hit it all: shopping, shows, really great food! I actually ate at Paris, I thought it would be a let-down but we had mussels and an unforgettable wine, and looked out at the Eiffel Tower. lol. It was a great time. Hi from SITS!


  3. I don’t gamble either and I loved vegas! You hit it all – shopping, shows, great restaurants! And the faux… everything is a show in itself! I’ll definitely go back again. Happy Sharefest!


  4. Heh. You foreigners (aka those who do not live here in Vegas) tend to see only the gambling side of Vegas plus the sleaziness of the Strip. Can’t say I blame you. That is what is marketed after all. But there is definitely so much more to Vegas than just the Strip. I’ve lived in this sandbox for seven years and there’s always something to do. I’m at a point where I am bored and want to get out of Vegas but if pressed I know of several places to go and have fun.

    Glad you had a great time on your visit!


  5. Denise G. says

    When I go to Vegas, I spend most of my time in the desert at places like Red Rock Canyon for a horseback ride or Valley of Fire (just to be amazed). It is the best way to enjoy Vegas.


  6. faycinacroud says

    I’m really not much of a gambler. I used to work at a casino in Blackhawk, CO. One night a fellow bartender and I went gambling and decided we were stupid for blowing all our tips like that. It never happened again. But there were cool things to do at the casinos–most of it involved eating!


  7. Nice tips. We live in Las Vegas and so gambling & the strip are never on our weekend plans! There’s a ton to do outside the main tourist attractions!


  8. spectraghostseeker says

    If I live my entire life without gambling in Vegas, I won’t be sorry. Some of those other things sounded pretty nice, though.


  9. My partner and I don’t drink or gamble, either, so this post was perfect for us! I’ve been trying to get her to visit LV with me but she’s like “gambling, drinking, and strippers? No thank you!” Now I can show her this post. Thank you!


  10. kerriemendoza says

    Great post! Wonderful tips for the novice Vegas goer and the non-gambler. Thank you for linking up to Travel Tuesday!


  11. I’ve always wanted to go to Vegas and knew there would be lots to do without gambling. But, I don’t think I could have thought of all of these tips!

    Thank you for coming to link up to Travel Tuesday!


  12. I love Vegas! Was there earlier this year on my friend’s bachelorette and we had the best time.

    Serendipity 3 is one of my all times faves and their desserts are just amazing! The Wicked Spoon buffet at The Cosmopolitan is definitely worth a visit too – they have some great desserts too.

    Oh, and I didn’t gamble once in Vegas. Probably because I don’t know how to!


  13. And now Vegas is on MY bucket list, though I prefer to call it 60×60 (I have 7 more years!). Love Zion, Grand Canyon and kayaking. Me thinks it is definitely a place to see. Thanks for the tips.


  14. I love Las Vegas! I have been there three times WITH kids (and no times without). I have hit the slot machines a little, but never gambling away more than I am willing to lose.

    We have been to Serendipity 3 two times (it was not there on our first trip). We love it so much that it will be in our plans to visit it on each future trip.

    Cirque du Soleil shows are worth the expense, if you can afford it. We saw “O” and were absolutely amazed.


  15. I am not a gambler either but never let that bother me when putting Vegas on my travel list as I know, and as you have highlighted wonderfully here, Vegas is more than slot machines and black jack. Visiting from SITS.


  16. I’m not a gambler, either (the casinos always win – that’s how they can afford these huge buildings!) but I would love to see Vegas some day. And the national parks nearby 🙂


  17. I absolutely love Vegas! We went in April and we also went in July. I promise I will never, ever do a buffet again. So much food! I just kept eating! We’re not gambles either. Just penny slots sometimes. And you’re right about the shopping – snagged myself a Michael Kors bag at the Palazzo. I can’t wait to go back! But you forgot one thing…the pools! Amazing pools by day, the lights by night.


  18. I’ve never been able to do Vegas without gambling but these are all good things to do otherwise. Did you hit the place that serves pancakes that are almost hubcap size? LOL Happy Sharefest 🙂


  19. Love this description: “a man-made oasis in the middle of the Mojave Desert.” We live in Utah so we’ve driven to and through Vegas on many a vacation. One of my favorite things is when we time things just right so we approach Vegas after dark. There’s nothing for miles and miles. Super dark. Then you come over a hill and there’s this light in the distance. Soon it’s a light like you can’t believe — because, boy, do they light Vegas up at night.

    Fun ideas. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Happy Sharefest. I hope you have a lovely weekend.


    • Thanks Robin! That’s why I loved the window seat flying into Vegas after dark! It’s strange that the airport is right beside the Strip. The runway could just use the light emanating from the hotels on the strip!


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