Active in Las Vegas

Las Vegas skyline facing south
Las Vegas Strip facing south // Sky_Sajjapho / iStock / Getty Images Plus
The High Roller, a 550-foot observation wheel offering 360-degree views of Las Vegas, is the focal point of The Linq Promenade.
The High Roller, a 550-foot observation wheel offering 360-degree views of Las Vegas, is the focal point of The Linq Promenade.

We’re just back from a whirlwind tour of Las Vegas, where we tried our hand at a unique array of activities. Read on for samples of some fun and funky things to do for those eager to try a different side of Las Vegas.

Dig This

Always harbored secret dreams of digging serious holes in the ground and with heavy machinery? Dig This is the country’s first heavy-equipment playground—and it’s located right off the Strip, close to the Wynn and Encore hotels. Visitors can, after a quick introduction (and a breathalyzer test—no mimosas before arrival!), hop into a bulldozer or excavator to get to work. (It’s a great family or team-building activity, and we hear that companies like Google and Facebook have stopped by to run machines around the yard.) As they learn proper operational skills, drivers can dig holes, push dirt around, make a hill and then drive up it. Good to know: The drivers are connected via headset to an instructor at all times, so no worries about not knowing how to stop this crazy thing or running into another operator’s space. Safety is just as important as fun, and Dig This emphasizes both.

Be sure to get some time in an excavator, where drivers can pick up basketballs and drop them into tires to show off their newly learned dexterity. (It’s amazing that a machine capable of digging into hard-packed earth can be so precise and gentle that it can be used for a basketball game.)

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Tip: Be sure to wear comfy, casual shoes for this activity. While no heavy lifting is required and the machinery is climate-controlled, the lot is real desert dirt and high heels would probably get smudged.

Contact Group Sales Manager James Von Eps ([email protected]; 702-222-4344) for any special requests.

What’s Cooking

The Cosmopolitan, one of Las Vegas’ newer resorts, has a vast array of high-end restaurants covering a range of cuisines. But for visitors looking for a fun hands-on activity, visit Jaleo, an authentic Spanish restaurant with a massive Paella Grill in the middle of the room so that diners can watch their to-order rice dishes be prepared from scratch. Even better, with advance reservations, they can participate and make their own paella while sipping sangria and sampling tapas. (The dish takes a little less than an hour to make, and the guests can be as involved—or uninvolved—as they like in the process.)

Jaleo is an authentic Spanish restaurant housed in The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
Jaleo is an authentic Spanish restaurant housed in The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

While preparing the dish, aspiring chefs can learn about Spanish cuisine and how Head Chef Jose Andres combines traditional cooking styles with local Southwestern produce. (As many ingredients as possible are locally sourced and nothing is pre-made, including the chicken stock.) And the final product is simply fantastic and as authentic as one is likely to find outside of Spain.

Tip: While the cocktail is not traditionally Spanish, Jaleo makes a fantastic gin-and-tonic. Be sure to order one while waiting for the rice to cook. Bonus: This is one of the few restaurants we’ve seen in the U.S. with a traditional jamon iberico (traditional Spanish style of cured ham) available for sampling. Only recently made available for import, the ham sets the tone for a genuine Spanish experience.

For special requests, reach out to the Cosmopolitan’s Director of Leisure Sales Erin Naeve ([email protected]; 702-698-7086), or contact the restaurant directly ([email protected]; 702-698-7950).

SlotZilla at the Fremont Street Experience

Downtown Las Vegas has undergone serious revitalization over the last few years, with many independent businesses creating a decidedly urban counterpart to the Strip’s resort vibe. Reserve at least half a day Downtown to explore, dine and shop, and put on comfortable shoes to walk around and see all the sites.

The Fremont Street Experience is a five-block entertainment district that is covered by Viva Vision, the world’s largest video screen suspended 90 feet above the urban pedestrian mall. (Some Stats: The Viva Vision screen is 1,500 feet long, 90 feet wide and 90 feet tall. There are nightly Viva Vision light-and-sound shows with 12.5 million LED lights and a 550,000-watt sound system.)

Dig This, the country’s first heavy-equipment playground, is located right off the Strip.
Dig This, the country’s first heavy-equipment playground, is located right off the Strip.

Just beneath the screen is the SlotZilla zip line, an attraction that lets thrill-seekers choose between sitting in a harness 77 feet above the street and riding along the 850-foot “Zipline,” or flying like Superman 114 feet up on the 1,750-foot “Zoomline” at speeds faster than 35 miles per hour. (It may not sound fast, but trust us, it certainly feels that way.) Guests take off from a 12-story slot machine-themed tower and fly under the Viva Vision canopy, looking down on the shoppers and pedestrians below. Tip: While flyers on the Zipline must keep their hands on their cables, the thrill-seekers on the Zoomline can reach out and nearly touch the canopy as they go by. Bags are provided for keeping valuables with flyers and photos are taken along the route by high-speed cameras, available, natch, for purchase later. For special requests, contact Marketing Assistant Leslie Church ([email protected]; 702-678-5733).

Retail Therapy

Underneath the Viva Vision canopy, Fremont Street is home to plenty of stores and is a great place to wander and browse. But for something a bit off the beaten path, walk over to the new Container Park, a shopping area made of repurposed shipping crates and Extreme Cubes—stackable blocks that FEMA sometimes uses for emergency housing after disasters. The park is home to a range of independent businesses—restaurants, clothiers, jewelers, etc.—all housed in these distinct structures. This is a great place to find unique items and get great deals, since all of the businesses in the park are independent. Notable shops at Container Park include IndianSoulArt, which sells Native American artwork, beauty products and spices; Lead in the Window, a stained-glass art studio; and Blowout Dollhouse, a blow-out hair salon.

Cool Touches: In the middle of the park, a massive “tree house” provides a safe space for kids to play while their parents are shopping, and a theater is set up toward the rear for outdoor movies and live events. Between the shopping and the snacking, it’s easy to spend a full morning or afternoon here.

No time to head downtown but still want to see how Las Vegas is becoming increasingly pedestrian-friendly? As we noted in our September issue, The Linq Promenade—the popular  open-air retail, dining, and entertainment district—has some top shops in the fresh air. The entire facility, which has been opening in stages, will have more than 30 shops, restaurants, bars and venues when completed.

Unique stores here include footwear mecca Bella Scarpa; 12AM RUN (pronounced “Midnight Run”), a sneaker and urban-inspired clothing shop partnered with hip-hop artist Nas; and an outpost of L.A. lifestyle boutique Kitson. There are also several nightlife options, so come by late to make the most of it.

Advisor Insight

We asked David Rubin, CEO of DavidTravel, for tips on cool activities and attractions in and around Las Vegas.

“The Auto Collections at The Quad Resort & Casino is a bit hard to find as it is on the top floor of the parking garage at the back of the hotel. This is a great collection of cars and other auto-related memorabilia. The range of vehicles spans several decades and includes Marilyn Monroe’s pink car and the car full of holes where Al Capone died. There are cars for sale there, as well, so the exhibit always changes. For collectors, it’s a place to buy, but for anyone, it’s fun to see what the cars are selling for.

“Vegas Balloon Rides offers a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the Las Vegas Valley. It’s amazing to see what Las Vegas was built out of; there’s nothing but desert in the distance.

“The Hoover Dam and Hoover Dam Bypass are worth the short drive of about 45 minutes. We parked on the Arizona side and the walk over the dam was amazing. There are a few companies that do the drive. We’ve dealt with a DMC, AlliedTPro, and set up a private tour of the dam. It’s worth going on an interior tour of the dam, or to get a car and driver for a private tour.”

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