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There’s more to Vegas than gambling

By John Deiner
Washington Post.

So what’s there to do in Las Vegas besides lining up cherries on a slot machine? A heck of a lot, our group discovered.

Get some culture

It’s no New York, but there’s plenty of interesting history in Vegas. We took the group to the Neon Museum ( www.neonmuseum.org), where vintage signs are artfully arranged in the “boneyard” behind the visitor center. Daytime guided tours are $18; night tours are $25. Book in advance.

See a show

The group was drawn to Cirque du Soleil shows like desert nomads to shade, including “KA” (at MGM Grand), “Mystere” (Treasure Island), “Zumanity” (New York New York) and illusionist Criss Angel’s Luxor extravaganza (produced in partnership with Cirque). Four people checked out “Le Reve,” a Cirque-like production at the Wynn. Ticket prices are hefty, generally $90 and up.

Dam it

Just about everyone paid homage to the Hoover Dam ( www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam) at some point, either by rental car or bus tour. (Check with the concierge or visit one of the myriad info stands on the Strip.) If you go by bus, prepare for a long day; one foursome whose tour also stopped at the Ethel M chocolate factory ( www.ethelm.com) professed to have enjoyed the adjacent cactus garden more than the factory itself.

Shop for anything, everywhere

A couple who stayed at the Elara hotel said that they were “forced” to walk through the Miracle Mile ( www.miraclemileshopslv.com) – a circuitous mall connecting their lodging to the Planet Hollywood resort and the Strip – every day and grew to love it. A Florida guest who relishes the chance to get free hand cream samples made a special effort to zip through the Fashion Show Mall ( www.thefashionshow.com) across from the Wynn resort. The super-chic Shops at Crystals ( www.crystalsatcitycenter.com) is an eye-popping architectural show-stopper in the CityCenter complex.

Stargaze

Our party coincided with the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand, so several industrious types hit the pre-show red carpet and spotted the likes of Miley Cyrus and J-Lo. But just about any of the hotter clubs, restaurants and even pools will have a celeb or two bopping around; check the local papers to see who’s in town and what’s going on.

Fire away

Four trigger-happy guests spent part of an afternoon at the Las Vegas Gun Range (www.lasvegasgunrange.net), one of numerous such facilities in Vegas proper. Prices vary widely, so call ahead if you’re interested to see the range of firearms/ammo available.

Go on a pub crawl

You can find a drink anywhere in Sin City, but for a touch of old-school tippling, we checked out the downtown bars along Fremont Street ( www.freemontstreetbars.com), which include such cool spots as Insert Coin(s), home to brews and vintage video games; the Griffin, a dark, moody music lovers mecca; and Commonwealth, whose three bars include a speakeasy-style space that’s hidden behind a secret door and is reservations-only.

Get wet

Nothing beats sunshine and cold water for shaking off the night before in Vegas. We rented two side-by-side Vdara cabanas on a Monday afternoon for $150 each, half the weekend rate. Our two private havens included eight loungers; misters that kept the air cool; fridges full of (nonalcoholic) beverages and fruit; large-screen TVs; a long, narrow pool that we had to ourselves; and Justin the hardworking pool boy.

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