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Off the Strip

Think you’ve done Vegas? Think again.

From its over-the-top architecture to its mile-long buffets, Las Vegas is a town built around gluttony: sex, gambling, scantily clad ladies, late nights and inebriation. People are drawn to the action.

Visitors often don’t venture outside the Strip, the 4.2-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard South that houses the biggest hotels, casinos and resorts. But there is more to Vegas than meets the eye. Just beyond the Bellagio fountain, man-made volcano, Eiffel Tower replica and fake Coliseum, there is a more authentic part of Sin City.

Kitsch and Culture: The Neon Museum
Just like vacuums and blenders, old neon signs have to be thrown out, too — only they’re really big, a lot cooler and won’t fit in the recycling bin. The Neon Museum takes in these important artifacts of Vegas’ history and displays them in an outdoor exhibit. A tour guide takes you through the “graveyard,” providing fascinating information about these discarded pieces of pop art. For instance: the Moulin Rouge sign. Opened in May 1955, the Moulin Rouge was the first integrated hotel-casino in the United States, attracting A-list celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny, Sammy Davis Jr. and Louis Armstrong. Though its doors were open for only seven months, the Moulin Rouge helped spur the civil rights movement in Las Vegas.

Sleep Tight: The Palms
You’ve spent all day on the Strip, and by 2 a.m., you just want to get off it and go to bed. A great place to stay is The Palms. This hip hotel is just a short cab ride from all the action, but it’s loads more peaceful and quiet. The Palms also houses amazing restaurants (Alizé, N9NE Steakhouse, Little Buddha) and tres trendy clubs (Ghost Club, Moon, Rain). And the best part? If you get a room that faces west, you’ll have an amazing, lit-up view of the Strip from your window.

Retro Vegas: The Fremont Experience
If you want a taste of the real Vegas, go where the locals go: downtown. Located be­tween Las Vegas Boulevard and Eighth Street, Fremont Street was the original Strip, and it’s where you should go if you want an old-fashioned, stripped-down gambling experience. Today, it’s a pedestrian mall, perfect for an afternoon or evening of walking around. Stay at the Golden Nugget, Fremont Street’s luxury hotel-casino, and take a dip in the $30 million pool that houses a shark tank. Then stroll into Binion’s or Fitzgerald’s to ante up. Bonus: Free video and light shows are displayed hourly on a giant canopy five football fields long. Take that, dancing water fountain!

History Lesson: Hoover Dam
Want to fit a little history into your trip? A short drive south brings you to Hoover Dam. This National Historic Landmark is the highest concrete dam in the Western Hemisphere, producing 4 billion kilowatts of electricity a year. Besides providing a nice, sober activity, the view at the dam’s observation deck is itself worth the trip.

Get Physical: Shooting Range
Feeling a little gun-shy? At The Gun Store, you can learn to shoot a gun in a safe environment with expert supervision. Choose from an assortment of exotic weapons you thought existed only in Rambo. And if you’re concerned about safety, Kelly Ripa brought her kids here, so obviously it must be safe. 

Nature Calls: Red Rock Canyon
It’s easy to forget, but Las Vegas is smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and just 17 miles west lies Red Rock Canyon, Nevada’s first National Conservation Area. Take in the beautiful desert landscape by biking, picnicking or trekking one of its hiking trails. You might even see an eagle circling above — a real one.

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