Indulgence is the bedrock on which modern-day Las Vegas is built; a destination where you’re limited only by imagination, the laws of physics, and your own bank balance.
Its unique geography amid the vastness of Nevada’s Mojave Desert means there’s ample space to create attractions and experiences which, though perhaps not possible elsewhere due to various constraints, are fully embraced and brought to life by Sin City.
Some are things you’ve always dreamed of, appealing to natural curiosity or your sense of childlike wonder, while others are more traditional experiences, making use of the natural surroundings that have drawn crowds to the desert mecca for decades – and will do for many to come.
Here are some of the wildest and most exciting thrills you can enjoy during a visit to Las Vegas.
Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters
At around six-million years old and one of the natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is a phenomenal example of the power of nature.
Rather than exploring its entire 446-kilometre length at ground level, a better way to see and truly appreciate the vastness of the canyon is from above in a Papillon helicopter.
Scenic air tours of the Grand Canyon regularly depart from Las Vegas and include return hotel transfers, with the half-day adventure setting off from Papillon’s terminal at Harry Reid Airport.
After check-in formalities (which include a weigh-in to ensure efficient distribution across the aircraft), your flight soars over Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam before the famous canyon appears in all its majesty. Make sure you have your camera charged and ready.
To really immerse yourself in the canyon’s jaw-dropping wonder, Papillon’s ‘Grand Celebration’ tour lands inside the canyon itself, followed by a light picnic and glass of champagne to toast the occasion.
Other available upgrades with Papillon include the opportunity to maximise your view in the front seat of your chopper. Or, for something a little different, you can add-on a visit to the glass-bottomed SkyWalk, which takes you literally over the edge.
Tip: Consider visiting the landmark later in the day, admiring sunset through the prism of the Grand Canyon, and returning to Las Vegas as dusk sets in and the bedazzling lights of the strip come to life.
Many of us would have played with Tonka trucks and diggers as children. But while most grew out of the fascination within time, Kiwi entrepreneur Ed Mumm – who perhaps never grew up, or never wanted to – used it as inspiration for a future business venture.
Rather than thinking small-scale though, he elevated the idea to allow people to take command of full-size earthmoving equipment, safely of course, and let their childhood imaginations run wild.
You’ll find Dig This Las Vegas in a huge sandy block just off the Las Vegas Freeway, around 20 minutes west of the Strip. It’s proof that some of the best ideas can come from everyday life.
After a short orientation and safety briefing, visitors don a high-vis jacket and hop behind the levers of anything from a simple 1.5-tonne digger to an enormous ‘Big Dig’ bulldozer and excavator.
Under instruction from a qualified guide, you’ll pilot your machine through a simple warm-up activity such as digging a hole before graduating to a task such as stacking giant tyres.
It’s also possible, with an upgrade, to use your excavator to smash, flip and destroy a full size car otherwise destined for a scrapyard.
Dig This is even great for children who, from as young as two-years, can upgrade their home sandbox and dig holes using a one-tonne skid steer.
Mumm has struck oil with his venture (not literally…yet), opening locations in Denver, Colorado and Dunedin in his native New Zealand.
While it may seem like a typical driving range at first glance, Topgolf actually takes the humble golfing experience to new heights with a variety of pioneering games that put your accuracy, as well as your long-drive ability, to the test.
For example, one game allows you to join forces with the Angry Birds characters, where your objective is to defeat pigs using golf balls to topple virtual towers. Because why not?
Found behind the MGM Grand, Topgolf uses microchipped golf balls which score themselves. Players take turns aiming their shots at specific targets in the range, with more points allocated for longer hits, if they’re accurate.
Aim for the different targets to score points, depending on what challenge your programmed game sets for you.
There’s no need to bring your own clubs either, with high-quality equipment provided in each bay and balls dispensed one at a time. You can even get the party started with food and beverages delivered to your hitting bay.
If you have more time, you can even play a virtual round on a real course, with shots at different targets equating to real shots. Long targets replicate a drive, while putting is simulated via attempts at shorter targets.
We’ve all heard of Area 51 – the top-secret US Air Force facility that supposedly holds aliens, intergalactic spacecraft and all kinds of otherworldly artefacts. Area15 is a bit different, but it is just as intriguing.
More than an obvious play on words, Area15 is home to a variety of out-of-this-world experiences, virtual reality games and experiential exhibits. All utilise advanced technology, cinematic immersion, music and lighting to entertain and amaze… and sometimes leave you scratching your head.
Think of it as like a mini version of Sydney’s Vivid festival, if it was housed across multiple rooms within a single building.
Located just off the Las Vegas Freeway, Area15 is free to enter but individual attractions come at a cost, with packages available depending on how many you’d like to try.
Enter ‘Wink World’, an installation by Chris Wink, the visionary behind Las Vegas’ Blue Man Group, where guests move between rooms in small groups for a series of kaleidoscopic light shows featuring 3D glasses, music, mirrors and neon props.
The star attraction is a visit to Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart, an alternate reality supermarket featuring gimmicky products such as cubed peas, tattooed chicken, moth milk, ‘happles’ and canned ‘beaches’ from aisles selling ‘forbidden fruit’ and ‘banned’ vegetables.
It’s a journey into the plain weird.
FlyOver Las Vegas
Back on the strip, FlyOver Las Vegas is the latest in a group of globe-spanning attractions which have been set up in Vancouver, Minneapolis and, surprisingly, Reykjavik in Iceland.
This ‘flying theatre’ concept straps up to 60 riders at a time into rows of seats attached to mechanical arms.
When the lights go out, seats push forward and hover over a cavernous 16-metre spherical screen, incorporating wind, mist and scents into an immersive short film where you fly over some of the world’s most scenic landscapes.
A variety of ‘itineraries’ are available, including the American Wild West, over the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and taking in some of the world’s most awe-inspiring glaciers, snowy peaks, enduring plains and harbour cities.
During your flight, you’ll spot wildlife, dip and dive into valleys, soar high above mountains, float over polar ice caps – feeling the wind in your hair, almost like you’re really there.
Some vistas you may recognise, some may be foreign. But all will leave you spellbound and eager for another round after the seats return to their home position.
Productions rotate between FlyOver attractions after a few months at any one location, but regardless of which one you pick, you’re in for an adventure.
Cirque du Soleil
Las Vegas is known for putting on a good show, offering everything from magic and illusion, to acrobatics, music, dance and comedy right through to more risqué performances long-established in Sin City.
Counting 30 years as a permanent fixture on the strip and combining elements of all the above categories, Cirque du Soleil alone performs to more than 9,000 people every night in Las Vegas.
Whether it’s the costumes, the music or the extravagance, Cirque du Soleil is a ride for the imagination.
Currently, there are six separate productions residing in six different casinos, each proffering unique forms of entertainment complete with imaginative costuming, death-defying stunts, captivating music, and immersive audience interaction.
Some performances are just beginning their run, whereas others have been mainstays for many years, even decades, and remain as popular as ever.
Take your pick from the current crop, which includes:
- Mystère – Treasure Island
- ‘O’ – Bellagio
- Zumanity – New York-New York
- Kà – MGM Grand
- The Beatles Love – The Mirage
- Michael Jackson: One – Mandalay Bay
- R.U.N – Luxor
While you will be left spellbound by any production, our pick is ‘O’ at Bellagio. Consider upgrading to a ‘La Grande’ experience for a pre-show reception, cast meet-and-greet and a seat upgrade to enjoy the show from a fully-catered premium box.
In addition to the usual theatrics and whimsical pageantry you may be expecting, ‘O’ takes things to a new level by replacing the stage with a swimming pool, performing its routines inside, beside, behind and above as performers dive into the depths.