Must-see in Las Vegas

20 not-to-miss sights in Las Vegas

Las Vegas specializes in spectacles, but don’t leave unless you’ve seen its most famous attractions.

Andrea Bennett
June 15, 2023

From the moment you land in Las Vegas and are greeted in the airport by the jangling of a thousand slot machines, you know that this city was built differently than others. Las Vegas’ strategy: surprise and delight. Each time you visit and think you’ve seen it all, something new pops up on your next visit. Some of its iconic sites are impossible to miss: a choreographed show lake fronting a Lake Como-themed resort; a Doge’s Palace whose exterior gives Venice’s version a run for its money; a pyramid whose LED laser can be seen from space. But not all the attractions are hanging out on a street corner waiting to impress - you’ll need to seek some of them out.

The Fountains of Bellagio

The landlocked arid desert city of Las Vegas loves a water show, and every afternoon and evening, the Bellagio puts on a spectacular one. Its fountains, which take up nearly nine priceless acres right on the Strip, have been a main attraction for tourists for 25 years. More than 1200 sprayers and booming shooters send sprays of water nearly 500 feet into the air and is fully choreographed to a roster of songs that spans generations. Bellagio famously opened with the stylings of Andrea Bocelli and classics by Frank Sinatra, and over the years has added more and more performances, even adding Tiesto and Lady Gaga into the mix. For the thousands of people who line the sidewalks every night, this icon never ages.

The Mob Museum

Imagine walking into the same federal courthouse where some of the nation’s most notorious mobsters were tried to find a museum dedicated to them – and the law enforcement agents who hunted them down. Downtown’s Mob Museum, officially the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, is exactly that. The building was once both post office and courthouse, and Las Vegas’ families on both sides proudly donated memorabilia – and mingled together at its opening, presided over by the former mayor, formerly the defense attorney for Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro, and Meyer Lansky. Other notable artifacts include part of the bullet-pocked St. Valentine’s Day Massacre wall from the hit ordered by Al Capone in Chicago and interactive exhibits like a forensics lab. This is Vegas, so education comes with a side of fun, which you’ll find at the museum’s speakeasy – which naturally serves its own moonshine from a still on the premises.

Red Rock National Conservation Area

Make a reservation

Red Rock now requires you to make a timed entry reservation to enter the scenic loop if you visit from October until the end of May, which you can easily do on its website.

If your hotel room faces west, you’ll get a view of the valley’s dramatic Red Rock Conservation Area, only a half-hour drive from the Strip. The nearly 200,000-acre hiking, biking and rock climbing mecca (the world’s most famous free climber lives in Vegas so he can hike here) is also full of ancient cultural sites like pictographs and petroglyphs from the native people who lived here for thousands of years. If you’re not into hiking but love a drive, the 12-mile loop around Red Rock is a favorite.


If hanging off the side of the Western Hemisphere’s tallest observation tower is your thing, you’ll be delighted to know that you can pay to be terrified on several different rides at the top of The STRAT (formerly the Stratosphere). The SkyJump will throw you right off from 829 feet at 40 miles per hour – like a bungee jump with a controlled decelerator. The X-Scream roller coaster seemingly tips riders over the edge then shoots them 27 feet over and hangs momentarily over the Strip. For perspective, that’s like getting launched off the Hoover Bridge, only 100 feet higher. If you prefer to stay on solid ground, you can enjoy one of the best views of the Las Vegas Valley from floors 108 and 109.

The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

If there is one photo op to get to commemorate your time in Vegas, a picture beneath one of the most famous signs in the world is it. If you’ve ever wondered why the sign has become such an enduring symbol of this strip of wacky and historic American fun, here you go: Commercial artist Betty Willis, who designed the sign that was placed there in 1959, gifted her design to the city without copywriting it, so it can be reproduced freely by everyone, everywhere. Where you once had to brave traffic to get to the sign on a median in the middle of the boulevard, the city has now installed parking—and the sign is now solar-powered.

The Big Apple Coaster

Fun fact: New York-New York’s Statue of Liberty is half the size of the original, and unwittingly once served as the model for a US Post Office stamp that was issued to three billion people.

New York-New York Hotel & Casino takes bits and pieces of the five boroughs and reorganizes them in ways that would perplex New Yorkers. But taking some inspiration from Brooklyn’s Coney Island by way of a roller coaster is just considered efficient planning here. The Big Apple Coaster, which zips riders around near a corner of Las Vegas Boulevard, is the first coaster in the world to do a 180-degree twist and dive maneuver and then drops riders in what feels like a free fall. In all, it does two inversions, a 76-foot drop, goes up a steep hill and then drops them another 144 feet. If you need a little liquid courage before or a reward after, the coaster’s station is connected to The Chocolate Bar, which sells boozy dessert martinis.

Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden

The skylit, Art Nouveau-style conservatory positioned just beyond the blown-glass-flower ceilinged lobby is a wonderland of supersize, animatronic figures, bobbing lanterns, and little magical moments that change five times each year, for the four seasons and again for Lunar New Year. Bellagio employs an army of horticulturists (over 100), plus designers and engineers who come up with a new theatrical display to express each season, sometimes planting more than 30,000 flowers, and never repeating an element. It’s an open atrium, so unless they’re changing out a presentation, you’re welcome to explore at all hours. In the past, we’ve seen choreographed parasols dipping and swaying from the 50-foot glass ceiling; dragons, blossoming cherry trees, and a bridge over a babbling brook. Even jaded locals never tire of the magic.

The Neon Museum

If you’ve ever wondered what happened to the iconic neon signs of long-gone casinos like the Stardust and Lady Luck, you’ll find them at The Neon Museum, an indoor-outdoor museum that even transported a historic 1950s hotel lobby from a neglected spot by a railroad track in Las Vegas to serve as its lobby. Walk through the former La Concha Motel lobby into what locals call “the neon boneyard” to see about 120 signs, mostly made between the 1950s and 1980s, that now line passageways on the ground. Although most don’t still light up, you can visit them on a night tour when they’re lit with ground lighting. The museum’s North Gallery uses new technological methods to illuminate over 40 nonworking signs.

Eiffel Tower

One of my favorite tables in Vegas is the Eiffel Tower Restaurant’s so-called “proposal table,” (ask for it when you make a reservation; they’ll know). It faces away from the restaurant and toward the fountains for maximum drama.

The Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas is smaller than its counterpart in France, but even at half height, it’s a vertiginous 540 feet. You can take its elevator 46 stories up to the viewing deck and take in a sweeping view of the city. This Eiffel Tower also has a restaurant near the top, which doesn’t attempt to copy the Jules Verne of the original, but still turns out contemporary French cuisine. And although there’s a little bit of an Epcot feel to the attraction, it’s a great example of a borrowed icon becoming pure Vegas. For instance, in this Eiffel Tower restaurant, you can watch the Bellagio Fountains as you dine; they even shoot higher than your table, and you’ll look right over a Venetian piazza that would be 700 miles away in real life.

Fremont Street Experience

What was once the main thoroughfare of a fading downtown is now an entire experience – a canopy suspended 90 feet over a pedestrian mall that plays an ultra-high-def light and video show with 3D effects. The canopy, Viva Vision, runs the length of five blocks over historic casinos like Four Queens, the Golden Nugget, and the Golden Gate – the city’s oldest casino. Walk the length of it at night and you’ll be treated to a light show that pulses to classic Rat Pack-era songs, as well as contemporary groups and super DJs that have a Vegas connection. If you have always wanted to fly down a city street like a caped avenger, now’s your chance. Climb up into SlotZilla, a 12-story slot machine-shaped zip line, and it will shoot you out in a harness over the crowd.

High Roller

In recent years, the world’s second-largest observation wheel has been added to the Las Vegas city skyline. The High Roller takes passengers in glass-domed pods up to 550 feet to look over the city and the Vegas Valley beyond. This is no ordinary Ferris wheel: each of its cabins can fit 25 people, and this being Vegas, you can even book one for happy hour with an open bar and bartender. Even those who hate heights will feel secure: it travels at a slow crawl, taking a full 30 minutes for one revolution. Before or after your ride, explore the Linq Promenade, a car-free zone of shopping and dining that runs perpendicular to the Strip.

Lake of Dreams

Each night at Wynn, an astronaut floats over the lakefront dining patios at SW Steakhouse and nearby Lakeside. A giant singing frog rises from the top of a 90-foot waterfall which doubles as a video screen. Glowing orbs spin in the water, turning into singing emojis of Sonny and Cher. The Lake of Dreams is enclosed at Wynn behind a 105-foot-high manmade mountain covered with 1,500 pine trees replanted from the original Desert Inn, which once stood here. These short musical interludes begin at dusk each night to entertain guests for just a few minutes each – and can’t be seen from anywhere else but inside Wynn. The best places to take in the show are from the two restaurants or Aft, Wynn’s new outdoor lounge where you’ll feel like you’re sitting near the stern of a super yacht.

Stadium Swim

Stay for a while

Even those who aren’t guests of Circa can book a bed, cabana or poolside box here and enjoy an afternoon or evening of chilling out at in the adults-only fun zone.

Las Vegas likes to have the “world’s largest” anything, and at Circa, the first new resort to be built in Downtown Las Vegas in 40 years, you’ll find the world’s largest sportsbook, a three-story amphitheater that can fit 1,000 sports fans below its 78-million-pixel screen. It’s worth seeing even if you don’t love sports. Then head to Stadium Swim outside on Circa’s second floor, whose 40-foot high, 143-foot-long screenplays for an entire six-pool complex of up to 4,000 people.

Seven Magic Mountains

Drive just south of the Las Vegas Strip on I-15 and you’ll enter decidedly un-glitzy territory: cracked earth dry lake beds, and imposing mountains. But just to your east off the highway rising up from the floor of the Jean Dry Lake bed are seven neon rock formations (they’ve been described as ice cream cones), each up to 35 feet tall. Created by artist Ugo Rondinone in 2016, the limestone boulder stacks recall the desert’s “hoodoos,” or natural pinnacles of weathered rock. They were only meant to stay two years, but they’ve become such a fixture in the landscape that they remain – one of the most photographed wonders around the Vegas Valley.

The Hoover Dam

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal public works project, the 726-foot-high, 1,244-foot-long Hoover Dam, created Lake Mead by impounding the Colorado River. In many ways, this dam is responsible for Las Vegas, which turned to entertainment and gambling to attract workers from the dam. It is now a piece of living history where you can learn about this defining public works program of the 1930s. If you’re not afraid of heights, there’s an even higher bridge you can cross than the road across the Hoover Dam. The Bypass Bridge, officially the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, rises 880 feet above the Colorado River and is the world’s tallest concrete arch span.

The Grand Canyon

It’s not in Las Vegas, but one of the most dramatic ways to see the world wonder is located here. Book a Maverick helicopter ride and you can get from your hotel on the Strip, over the Hoover Dam, over the rim and into the base of the Grand Canyon and back to your hotel in four hours. You can choose different tours, such as the “Skywalk Odyssey,” which takes you to Grand Canyon West and the glass-bottom observation deck 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. Or fly in the late afternoon for a tour that descends 3,500 feet for Champagne at sunset then returns over the lights of the Strip at night.

Shark Reef Aquarium

The Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay puts you right in the center of a 1.3-million-gallon aquarium – one of the largest in the world – teeming with more than 2,000 sharks, sea turtles, piranhas, jellyfish, and giant rays. You’ll enter through a replica Indo-Pacific temple and descend to the sea floor, so you’ll see everything from crocodiles and Komodo dragons that live on the water’s edge to deep sea predators and even a shipwreck. You can now also feed the aquarium’s zebra tigers (using a tong, not your hand) and feed a touch pool of stingrays and horseshoe crabs.

Wedding Chapels

The Clark County Marriage License Bureau has officiated more than five million weddings; in fact, weddings in Las Vegas represent about five percent of all weddings held in the US each year. In fact, the “Wedding Capital of the World” moniker is so fitting, the county trademarked it in 2022. The classic way to get married in Vegas, of course, is by Elvis at one of the city’s 50 or so small wedding chapels and venues. You can still get married, as many celebs have, at the Little Church of the West, the oldest building on the Strip. Or choose your aesthetic (Tuscan, Victorian, contemporary) at the Chapel of The Flowers. You can even, as many have, get married at a drive-up window at the Viva Las Vegas chapel.

Waterfall Atrium at Palazzo

If you’re currently in love with someone, the place to memorialize that is now the “Love” installation: the word spelled out in letters that measure 12 feet high and 36 feet wide. The sculpture, which was created by artist Laura Kimpton as part of her Monumental Word series, sits in the skylit grand atrium in Palazzo close to the entrance to the Grand Canal Shoppes and at the base of a two-story waterfall. The sculpture has served as the ultimate social media background for lovers and even a proposal spot.

MSG Sphere

The skyline of the Strip has recently changed in a major way. A giant sphere now appears next to the Venetian Resort, just off the Strip. It’s a remarkable sight because its exterior features 580,000 square feet – the sphere’s entire surface – of programmable lighting. In other words, it can be programmed to look like a pumpkin for Halloween or a snow globe for the holidays. The venue, which seats 20,000 people and is a joint venture between Madison Square Garden and Las Vegas Sands Corporation (which owns the Venetian), will use it for concerts, boxing and mixed martial arts events, conferences, and more. And in case an interior screen that’s the largest- and highest-resolution screen in the world isn’t enough to transport you, it can also deliver sound through its floorboards as well as scent and wind.

About the author

Andrea BennettAndrea Bennett is the former editor-in-chief of Vegas magazine and group editor-in-chief of several city and custom magazines for Modern Luxury. She counts her years as an anonymous hotel critic for The New York Post as her very favorite. Among her years in New York City, Kuwait, Atlanta, and San Diego, she has moved to Las Vegas three times.