When you think of Vegas, you think of crazy nights that you pray won’t end up on Instagram, the Hangover, sunburns, and rough mornings spent nursing your Starbucks while cramming in the McDonald’s. You don’t think of Vegas as the place to go when you cannot drink. Which is where I found myself just recently.
For a person who has imbibed a time or two in life, can’t stand bars when sober and isn’t a fan of crowds, planning a trip to Vegas sans alcohol seemed like a nightmare. However, not all was bad. Sure, staying up until the sun peaks out from behind the mountains and handling loud and constantly excited people (no, sir, I do not want to high-five you again) really starts to ware on your nerves. But, that’s what spas were made for. So, for all of you non-drinkers who are curious about Vegas, or those of you who don’t want to spend their entire weekend blitzed and vomiting into your own hands (save a night or two for that special occasion, of course), I’ve compiled a list of a few things you can do, alcohol-free.
This one, for anyone who has been to Vegas before, is an obvious choice. There are outlets and malls at pretty much every single turn. There are stores inside your hotel, around the corner from your hotel, a short walk or drive from your hotel. The shopping possibilities are endless. But, since you’re on a trip and are (most likely) looking for the best bang for your buck and great brands, head on over to Las Vegas Premium Outlets North for a day filled with savings and shopping bags.
Feel free to ignore the South Outlets unless you’re in a massive need to waste time, or you’re thinking of checking out an entire store dedicated to beef jerky. Absolutely no judgment here, if that’s the sole reason you go. If a closer shopping experience, and a more ‘mall’ feel (with Nordstrom’s and Macy’s), is what you’re after, then Fashion Show Mall will quench your thirst for great clothes. You won’t find as many deals here, but there will still be some fantastic sales and great stores, including Francesca’s, which has just about anything adorable and stylish you’d be looking for.
Nothing says ‘murica like shooting off a bunch of guns. Do it in style (and massive safety) at Gun Garage, located just right off the strip. Here, you can shoot an Uzi; M249 SAW; and of course, an AK-47, making every little girl’s dream come true. The instructors are very patient and kind and are able to work with beginners, amateur professionals, and those in between. If you’re feeling a little nervous, don’t be. They take safety very seriously and are there with you every step of the way, keeping closer tabs for those who are beginners or are anxious. And, if that isn’t enough for you, there are literally children showing off their skills in the stall next to you. You haven’t felt bad about your life until a 14 year-old can make a better shot than you.
Vegas is the place to be for shows, every kind of show. Now, I saw the Puppetry of the Penis, which was a fine performance. And, I was stone-cold sober. Watching two grown-men play with their junk all night? Pretty hilarious even without the five whiskeys. Spending time in a strip bar across the street? A little harder to do without a tequila shot or two. But, as long as you plan the right type of show for your alcohol-free weekend or night, you’ll have a great time! There’s definitely something for everyone’s tastes and budgets, and you may end up surprising yourself. Where else can you see strippers; Britney Spears; Reba; and Penn & Teller all within walking distance (or Uber distance) apart from one another?
If you go hungry in Vegas there’s something wrong with your appetite. Everywhere you look there are tons of great options. From kiosks to fast food to full sit-down restaurants. You’ll find your favourites and stick to them, of course, (hello, Starbucks) but there are tons of great restaurants to sample, including a frighteningly delicious amount of buffets. Man, America DOES buffets.
Plus, Michelin Starred restaurants, Denny’s on nearly every damn corner, pretzels galore (you can find the best in New York New York, aptly named New York Pretzel), and every kind of burger joint you can think of. If you’re looking for a celebrity endorsed meal that is actually delicious, you can’t miss out on visiting Wahlburgers. You’ll try the place out solely because of its owners, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good the food actually is and how fantastic your wallet feels afterwards.
For those who like to have a relaxing vacation instead of a party-centric one, spas are the entrees of your trip. And, Vegas has A LOT of them. In the hotels, outside the hotels, off the strip, there are so many great places to get scrubbed, buffed, and massaged. A hot stone massage with an aloe wrap (after all those sunburns you’ve accumulated), a little steam or aromatherapy shower is a great way to start the day or end it. Total bliss is worth it, even if your budget doesn’t allow for treatments. Spend a few hours in the steam rooms and saunas, nibbling on the delicious treats and fancy waters, while walking around in a plush robe, feeling like a princess. A day in the spa can make every worry disappear – at least for the time being.
You don’t just have to spend time in your own pool. You can check out other great hotels and what their pools have to offer (paying a fee, of course) and spend the entire day relaxing poolside, getting your iced tea on and your sunburn to its pinkest hue. If you’re looking for a little more of a club-vibe, where you can spot some celebs and look chic with your kimono and an inflatable swan, then research a few pool parties before you head out. Tickets can be cheap to ridiculous with line-ups matching, but with many-a-popular DJ, Ice Cube and The Chainsmokers as some of the headliners, it’s basically just a large outdoor festival with water. Yeah, it’s crowded. Yeah, it’s hot. But, if you’re looking for a bit of chill time mixed with a show, then pool parties are the way to go.
Fremont Street & Downtown Vegas.
First Fridays (first Fridays of every month on Frement) are for the very drunk and can be crowded and exhausting. But, it can also be fun to see live performances on two different stages and very un-dressed performers along the way. No minors allowed makes for an evening without the screams of children a wonderful change (seriously, who brings children to Vegas?). Pro tip: cut the line-ups by snaking through a casino; there will be security at the door, of course, but you’ll be able to walk on through without having to wait in the larger than thou line-up at the gates.
For those who are wondering why they would leave one part of Vegas just to party in another, hear me out: Old Vegas is pretty damn cool. It’s less crowded, it’s less loud, it’s less in-your-face than the new strip. It also has some pretty neat things that aren’t found in the main area, like the gritty feeling of left-behind blotter papers from Hunter S. Thompson. Although there are strip clubs and invitations for hookers being thrown about in the new and larger strip, there’s something about downtown Vegas that feels more dirty and true to the Vegas name. This is where all the original bad boys went to hang out. This is where the real Vegas drunk and crazy happened. You can check out old photos and feel the classy, yet grimy, Old Vegas in El Cortez Hotel & Casino, the longest continuously running hotel and casino in the very same spot.
I left this until last because, it’s an obvious one. Even if you’re not into gambling, heading down into the casino floor at one in the morning is kind of fun. Unless you’re staying in a casino hotel (and, why would you if you’re not into the game), you won’t have the chance to run on down into the pen and hit the slots. They’re everywhere in Vegas, including the airport and most restaurants, calling out to you to just throw in five more dollars. Spend lazy mornings, or afternoons, playing a little roulette, losing a 20 or two in the slots, and getting to know the regulars. The Doris’s and the Ivy’s sitting for hours in front of a blinking slot machine, their white hair perfectly coiffed, leaving you with mixed feelings about getting old. Believe me, if gambling wasn’t your thing when you arrived in Vegas, you’ll be into it by the time you leave. If only for something to do.