The Strip. With all of the entertainment, fine dining and eclectic attractions, the Strip is a hard place to leave. You can count on the fact that thousands of Vegas visitors each year--whether in town for business or bachelor/bachelorette parties--have spent their entire visit on the Strip. But sometimes you need to get away from it all. Seasoned Where Las Vegas magazine editor Jennifer McKee takes us on a two-day trip to find Vegas' hidden gems; it's an almost entirely off-strip adventure.
The things to do: Breakfast at a bar, bounce off the walls, play the silver ball, a hidden pizza parlor
A good adventure starts with a good breakfast. We recommend you grab a booth in Ichabod's Lounge and enjoy a retro breakfast on Flamingo Road. The comfortable restaurant, which is a throwback to Vegas' days of yore, serves up a mean omelet, as well as steak and eggs. The waitresses are friendly, and you can step into the adjacent bar and join the regulars to watch sports or go up against a video-poker machine (if that is how you want to start your day).
Vegas isn't just the concrete-and-neon paradise you know from visiting the Strip. In fact, your next stop will surprise you doubly. Tropicana Avenue winds its way from town toward the Las Vegas Wetlands Park. Yes, that would be wetlands in the desert. The nature preserve offers two miles of concrete walking trails, secondary graveled trails and a half-mile loop. On a nice day, you'll see turtles sunning themselves; birds are prevalent in all seasons. The visitors center, which is currently under renovation, is open from 9 am to 3 pm daily.
Coming back into Vegas on Tropicana, at the intersection with Steptoe, you'll see what appears to be a nondescript building. What's inside is one of the wildest attractions, SkyZone. It's a trampoline park with heavily padded walls--so when you tell your friends you bounced off the walls in Sin City, your words couldn't be more true.
At the corner of Tropicana and Swenson is the kind of place that would make any pinball wizard proud. The Pinball Hall of Fame is loaded with row after row of classic and current pinball machines, the work of a collector who uses the play money to restore these delightful games. From vintage baseball pinball machines to the newest machines with movies and TV-show themes (the "Family Guy" game is sweet--if you can get on it, that is), you'll get long play times for your money.
Hungry? Foray back on the Strip, but you're there to find the Cosmopolitan's hidden pizza parlor. Stowed at the end of a long hallway, this pizzeria is unmarked, but we'll give you a hint: It's on the third floor next to an elevator. Slices are reasonably priced, and the wall art is great. When you're stuffed, head back into the common area for a game of billiards or just relax and enjoy the curious furnishings.
Finish this active day by hanging out at a low-key place with a laid-back vibe--a far cry from the thumping clubs you might find on the Strip. On Saturday nights, Dino's (Las Vegas Boulevard near Oakey) is home to the best karaoke in town, but it's always open, it always serves an affordable beer, and it always offers a haven for those who want to come as they are.
The things to do: Spa time, vinyl hunting, mountain Zen, the best carnitas in town
Tucked inside The Platinum hotel (Flamingo Road and Koval Lane, just east of the Strip) is the WELL Spa. It's the kind of place where you could lie behind one of the sheer curtains in the relaxation room for hours. Once you've had enough of candlelight and attentive servers, it's on to the arduous task of wrapping yourself in luxury with a body treatment or massage.
For lunch, go in search of "the incredible, edible egg." Egg & I, at Sahara and Arville roads, is home to everything that is eggs. You'll find savory egg crepes, skillets, omelets and more. A good strategy is to have everyone in the party order something different, and then share. The decadent banana-nut muffin is a good choice for a side, and the restaurant also makes a great cuppa joe. The portions are enormous.
Looking for original vinyl? In the same complex as your lunch stop is ZIA Record Exchange, one of the last used-record stores in town (as well as CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and some hard-to-find collectibles). Take a half-hour to flip through the racks here--you're likely to come out with a treasure.
Work off your luncheon by getting to the mountains. From ZIA and Egg & I, it's a 20-minute drive out Charleston Boulevard. This is the Zen zone, the opposite of late-night dancing lights and slot-machine noise. Awash in red peaks and white bluffs, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is nothing short of spectacular. Explore the visitors center, hike on of the myriad trails, or drive the scenic loop--in either your own vehicle or a three-wheeled scooter you can rent on-site from Scoot City. There's no shortage of ways you can drink in the rich scenery and panoramic views.
The day is almost complete, but when heading back toward the Strip from your mountain zone of Zen, stop at Flamingo and Arville for the best carnitas in town. El Taco Feliz is open 24 hours for an anytime fix. You can either eat your meal at one of the orange booths, or ask the cashier to bring it to you in the attached Money Plays bar, which offers 24 beers on tap and 90 bottled beers for your drinking pleasure.