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10 hidden gems of Las Vegas

This article originally appeared on www.hotelclub.com/blog. which is now part of hotels.com

A trip to Sin City wouldn’t be complete without an impromptu Elvis Chapel wedding and a gondola ride under a painted Venetian sky, but our sources on the ground reveal there’s more to their hometown than meets the tourist eye. We spoke to some Vegas locals about what to do when you’re not feeding slot machines, staving off daylight and gambling with dignity at the MGM Grand’s Hakkasan Nightclub.

1. A piece of the Berlin Wall at Main Street Station Casino

If you thought two-way mirror urinal walls were a unique spin on the traditional men’s restroom, wait until you visit the boys’ room at Downtown’s Main Street Station Casino. Prepare to have your manhood dwarfed by a decent sized chunk of the Berlin Wall. Ladies can also request to be escorted for a sneak peak at the preserved original graffiti bricks. Tempting as it may be to get your hands on the ‘Iron Curtain’, touch at your own risk – how’s your aim after a night at the casino?

2. A carved woolly mammoth tusk at Treasure Island

Woolly Mammoth Carved Tusk

True to its name, Treasure Island Hotel Casino homes an artifact of significant interest to black market pirates: an intricately hand-carved wooly mammoth tusk. The display plaque – near the hotel’s cashier cages – states that these six-tonne behemoths “roamed the Earth during the Pliocene Epoch which ended 4,500 years ago”. If that fact alone doesn’t send you into deep reflection, the elaborate carvings of warrior men in military garb will. The piece took so long to finish that the warriors from the beginning to the end of the tusk evolve with generational changes in military apparel. It is literally history carved into history – deep!

3. The Burlesque Hall of Fame

On the corner of Fremont & 6th Streets in historic Downtown Vegas is where you’ll find this time-warped gem, dedicated to preserving the living legacy of burlesque as an art form and cultural phenomenon. It’s one of those bygone subcultures that refuses to fade away; peruse the halls of this nostalgic museum housing thousands of costumes, images, stage props and personal items belonging to famous flappers and you’ll understand why. It’s the world’s largest archive of vintage burlesque paraphernalia and it’s free to visit, so you’ll have leftover cash for some sneaky speakeasy canapés and Manhattans.

4. The Zombie Apocalypse Store

A zombie apocalypse is all fun and games, until the zombies actually invade. Whether you’re a believer or not, you’re bound to be entertained by the invasion survival gear and zombie warfare antics at this quirky, must-see Vegas attraction. It’s half tongue-in-cheek, half catered for diehard survivalists. For only $65USD they’ll take you to a zombie infested area on the outskirts of town to shoot real zombies with “powerful and realistic looking paintball guns”. Scared? Don’t be. The zombies will only attempt to eat you (but not touch you) and a mere minimum level of fitness is required.

5. The Lion Habitat Ranch

In 2012 there was a lion exhibit at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. For around 11 years the lions’ owner transported them daily into town where they’d lounge around in the cas. When the lions weren’t on display, they lived on an 8.5-acre ranch about 10 minutes south of the Strip. Not quite the party animals you’d imagine, they never actually spent a night in the hotel. Feline enthusiasts can now visit the 40 odd African lions at their ranch, where you can play Trainer for a Day, enjoy a Feast with a Beast, or take a Private Tour and learn about the lions’ grooming routine, which takes an entire month to return to the start of the cycle.

6. The Pinball Hall of Fame

As the website states, it’s “pinball and nothing but pinball for 10,000 square feet”. It’s good, cheap, clean and non-violent fun; these guys have made it their business to offer an alternative Vegas vision to pocket-belting slot machines and sunrise roulette. With family-fun in mind, you can bring the kids (or bucks party) for a cheap day out. The collection ranges from 1950s up to 1990s, with the older pinballs setting you back 25c, and newer 1990s models 50c. You may experience a feel-good sensation while pulling pinballs, as the world’s largest pinball collection not-for-profit museum donates excess revenue to non-denominational charities.

7. The National Atomic Testing Museum

Around 5km from the Strip, immerse yourself in 10,000 square feet of history at the USA’s only official atomic museum. Explore interactive displays, short films and equipment recovered from the old testing site, responsible for huge mushroom clouds that rose high above Nevada in the 1950s as a result of 928 announced nuclear tests. While the site is no longer active, the National Atomic Testing Museum now serves as a historical reminder of nuclear politics and propaganda. You’ll find another piece of the Berlin Wall, artefacts from the World Trade Centre, and have the opportunity to test your own radioactivity – just what did you get up to last night?

8. Cosmopolitan’s hidden pizza

Is it the quality mozzarella, sweet tasting sauce, crisp crust or precision cooking that makes this pizza the best on the Strip? Only you can be the judge of that. Keep your eyes peeled for this New-York style, 24-hour pizza eatery with no signage, hidden on the third floor of The Cosmopolitan. You’ll be in good company – follow the Elvis and Sinatra vinyls down the hall into the cosy pizzeria selling the usual suspects: pepperoni, cheese and vegetarian. If you find yourself alone on the Strip after 2am, head to Cosmo’s secret pizza joint for some lovin’ of the culinary kind.

9. The Goodwich

Nothing beats a good sanga to line the stomach before a night out, and there’s no better place to do it than at The Goodwich, located on Las Vegas Blvd and Wyoming Ave in the Downtown area. Once a hotdog stand, now a tiny kiosk serving surprisingly gourmet but refreshingly affordable sandwiches, this street food haunt is the work of reputable chefs from Vegas fine dining backgrounds who’ve opted for a more hangover-friendly, grunge establishment.

10. Art of Flavors

If you can conceive a gelato or sorbet flavour, it’s likely you’ll find it at Art of Flavors. Care for a sample? Just ask. There’s no shame in trying before you buy here. Milk’s Flower might sound like something Cupid’s angels pour over their breakfast cereal, but it’s one of many heavenly flavours on offer, titled fior di latte. For something more daring than plain vanilla, request a spoonful of pear, avocado or sweet corn. Go easy on dinner – you’ll need more than a second wind to get through the selection of saintly sorbets and gelato made in-house at Art of Flavours. Update 12/03/15 – Art of Flavour is currently closed for renovation but will be reopening very soon.

Local discoveries with thanks to:

• Scott Roeben of Vital Vegas

Somewhere at the intersection of YOLO and LOL is where you’ll find the slightly skewed and often highly intoxicated reviews of Vital Vegas writer, Scott Roeben. Scott has lived in Las Vegas for more than a decade and written blog posts for the world’s largest gaming company, including a handful of Vegas resorts. His blog has attracted accolades such as “Best Blog” in the country in PR Daily’s 2012 Digital PR & Social Media Awards. He was also named the most valuable Las Vegas blogger in 2011 by CBS Las Vegas, and was an editor’s choice for Best Blog in the Trippies Awards in 2010.

• Megan Edwards, Executive Editor at Living Las Vegas

She’s got a few stories up her sleeve, Megan Edwards, accumulated from a six-year road trip – the only logical thing to do when your house burns down in a California wildfire. During her time living and working in Costa Rica, Germany, Greece and California, Megan recorded her experiences in a novel, called Roads from the Ashes. Megan now calls Las Vegas home and in between trying to harvest sweet peas in a cactus climate, she covers special events and celebrities for Living-Las-Vegas.com.

• Esther & Jacob of Local Adventurer

This travel and lifestyle blogging power couple recount for their readers their daily adventures, whether it’s discovering new spots in their hometown Las Vegas, crossing another country off their bucket list, or trying new hobbies. With a chemistry bachelor, a coupon collecting fetish, a potty mouth and a karaoke addiction between them, you never quite know where they’ll end up, but you can be guaranteed it will be well documented with cheeky pics and entertaining text.

• Clint Bas of Bite and Switch

Put simply, Clint eats for a living. When this doesn’t put bread on the table, being a digital media art director does. When he’s not fixated on pixels, Clint can be found roaming around his hometown of Las Vegas putting all manner of things in his mouth for the reading pleasure of his blog followers. On a mission to find the best east on and off the Strip, Clint is constantly putting his body on the line to cover the best of Vegas food from buffets and cupcakes to Tacos and Thai.

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