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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Top-10 non-gambling activities to do in Vegas

25 April 2011

By Vin Narayanan

One of the beautiful things about Las Vegas is there are plenty of thing to do for people who don't gamble. In fact, there are so many things to do, it was hard distilling this list down to just 10, so I cheated a little bit (you'll see where below). But I did restrict this list to things that happen in the city itself, so great attractions like Red Rock Canyon, the Hoover Dam and Lake Las Vegas didn't make the cut.

10. Shoot a machine gun
When you arrive at Las Vegas-McCarran International airport, one of the first things you'll see as you ride the moving walkways toward baggage claim is a giant ad for shooting a real machine gun. The ad is real, and so is The Gun Store, where you can shoot the machine gun. The store has an indoor range, instructors for beginners, classes on gun safety and is open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. seven days a week.

9. The rides at the Stratosphere
The Stratosphere Casino Hotel and Tower doesn't usually factor into "must see" lists of Vegas thanks to the combination of being out of the way and hard to reach on foot -- especially from the rest of the Strip. But that doesn't change the fact that the Stratosphere is definitely worth visiting -- for both its incredible views of Vegas and its adrenaline inducing rides. "The SkyJump" provides a controlled free fall of 855 feet. "Insanity the Ride" puts you in a contraption 900 feet wide and 64 feet beyond the edge of the tower and spins you around in the open air and then tilts you straight down to look at Vegas. The "X-Scream" resembles a giant "dragon boat" amusement ride, only it's 866 feet in the air. And the "Big Shot" ride propels you to a height of 1,081 feet. If you're afraid of heights, skip these rides. But if you love these sorts of rides, head over to the Stratosphere. In addition to the excitement of the ride, you'll get some great views of Vegas.

8. The New York-New York Hotel & Casino roller coaster
Roller coasters have a long history in New York. The Coney Island Cyclone opened in 1927, and has been part of the Coney Island landscape for the better part of 80 years (it's been occasionally closed for refurbishment or management changes). The roller coaster at New York, New York definitely captures some of this Coney Island magic in a fun and enjoyable ride. I like the ride best at night, when you can see the lights of Vegas. And don't forget to rent a locker so you don't lose anything from your pockets!

7. Shop till you drop
If your idea of fun includes shopping, Las Vegas is the place for you. The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino and Wynn Esplanade have all the high-end shopping you can handle. A tiny step down from those spots is the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. And if you're looking for high-end quality on a budget, try the Las Vegas Premium Outlets.

6. Visit the Pawn Stars store
If you're a fan of the History Channel's “Pawn Stars,” the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop is a must stop on your next Vegas trip. This is where Richard Harrison, Rick Harrison, Corey Harrison and Austin Russell ply their trade -- appraising and buying objects for people who want cash. You can try to sell them something if you'd like. You can browse the merchandise. Or you can just take in the location of one of television's most popular reality shows.

5. Hit the pools
Las Vegas is now the home of several adult pools which have become major tourist attractions. Rehab at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is the biggest party pool in Las Vegas. It's a daily bacchanalia of alcohol and barely-there bikinis, and it's always packed. The Palms Casino Resort pool is popular among locals looking to party. The Bare Pool Lounge at The Mirage, Encore Resort European Pool, TAO Beach at The Venetian and the Sunset Pool at Wynn Las Vegas allow women to go topless. And the LIQUID Pool Lounge at the CityCenter Aria Resort & Casino is turning into a popular party spot as well.

4. Neon Museum Boneyard
The Neon Museum is a brilliant ode to the quintessential Las Vegas icon -- the neon sign. The Neon Museum restores old neon signs, and you can see its work all over downtown Vegas in the Fremont Street Experience. You walk the experience whenever you want and see if you can spot the nine signs they've refurbished. You can also visit the Neon Museum Boneyard. This site has more than 150 donated signs, representing Las Vegas history from the 1930's through the 1990's. But if you want to visit the actual Boneyard, make sure you make a reservation. That's the only way you can see it.

3. Wynn Buffet
This is simply the best buffet in Las Vegas. It's all you can eat, high-end, gourmet food. It's expensive. And it's worth it. You'll spend around $40 for dinner, and you won't regret it. This buffet has high-end options for meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike. The desserts are outstanding. And the service is excellent. The waiters are attentive, but not obtrusive. Your drinks are refilled quickly. And in the end, you feel like the money you spent on the buffet was well worth it.

2. Signature Vegas attractions
There are some things that just define Las Vegas -- or define individual casinos. And you have to make sure you see them at some point on your Vegas journeys. Here's a quick look at some of the key "signature attractions:"

Welcome to Las Vegas sign -- This sign is so popular, the city had build a mini park, complete with parking, around it to accommodate all of the people who wanted pictures.

Dancing Fountains at the Bellagio -- The fountains are the ultimate Las Vegas experience. No trip to Vegas is complete without it. Every 30 minutes during the day, and every 15 minutes between 8 p.m. and midnight, the Bellagio Fountains dance to music. The dances are beautifully choreographed. And Frank Sinatra is in heavy rotation. The best song of all for the fountains is "Luck Be a Lady." If you've heard the fountains dance to that song, you are a lucky soul.

The Sirens of TI -- This show oozes Las Vegas. Gorgeous women lure pirates off of their giant pirate ship and into their lair as tourists crowd the sidewalks, enjoying the views, the songs and the double entendres.

The Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas -- Like the real Eiffel Tower, you can ride to the top for great views of the city. And you can dine in a very good restaurant as you enjoy views of the Las Vegas Strip.

The Lion Habitat at MGM Grand Las Vegas -- This free exhibit is very remarkable, and unlike other items on this list, very kid friendly. As you walk around the habitat, you get the chance to observe lions, and sometimes lion cubs, lounging around or playing in the habitat. The glass enclosing the habitat is soundproof, so you won't be spooked by any roars (and they won't be spooked by you). And if you're lucky, you'll get to see them eat.

1. Wander up and down the Strip at night with a large alcoholic beverage
Las Vegas is a great city for gawking -- whether it's at casinos or people. And there's no better way to take in Vegas than by walk the Strip with one of those massive adult beverages that they seem to sell everywhere. Who knows what you'll run into. Dancing fountains, dancing people, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, thumping music and drunken revelry are all possible sights as you wander the Strip. And that doesn't begin to scratch the surface! So before you leave Sin City on your next trip, make sure to take the time to wander the Strip at night. It will be one of the high points of your trip.
Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.