A Crowded and Crazy Place
On the surface, Las Vegas seems like the last place for someone like me who doesn’t like crowds and would prefer to minimize my exposure to them as much as possible.
However, I do like to visit Las Vegas from time to time and have always enjoyed my experiences there. I have learned that the key to that enjoyment is some prior planning of lodging and activities to ensure I can visit on my own terms and would like to share those tips with you based on my prior visits.
Las Vegas used to be a no-nonsense gambling town with free parking on the Strip, inexpensive casino buffets to get you inside to gamble, and reasonably priced shows. No longer. Las Vegas (especially the Strip and Fremont Street) have been transformed into a Disneyland for adults, and like Disneyland (or any other theme park), food and entertainment is at a premium and the gambling has become incidental as more non-gamblers (like me) flock to one of the most premier destinations in the U.S.
Timing is Everything
One of the first things to decide when visiting Las Vegas is when to go. My research has shown than the time with the least crowds is probably just after the holidays in January and right before things start picking up for spring break in March. These are also the times when the hotels on the Strip seem to offer the best deals to try to entice you to stay at one of their hotel-casinos. However, it is not always possible to visit at the time of your choosing. My most recent visit was with my wife, mother, and niece at the end of March, which is during Spring Break season in North America. Spring Break is a good time to visit because the temperate weather offers a welcome contrast to the cold, snowy weather that persists in other parts of the U.S.
I have found that it is best to use the following two strategies when visiting Fremont St. and the Strip to manage your exposure to crowds:
- Plan to see a specific show or do a specific activity in the evening and have an escape plan ready to get back to the sanctuary of your room or rented house when you have had enough. Also, ensure those you travel with will support your plan. For example, when we saw the Beatles Love show at the Mirage during our most recent trip, we were able to take in plenty of the lights and nighttime atmosphere of the Strip just by traveling to and from the show. We even took a slow drive down the strip from the Mirage and could observe the goings on from the comfort of our own vehicle (kind of like a wildlife safari).
- Go earlier in the day. I enjoy walking the strip the most just after sunrise when most of the nighttime revelers are still asleep and everything is much quieter. I also can appreciate the architecture of the Strip and take good pictures in the light of the rising sun. One good time to visit the Flamingo is at 8:30 a.m. when they feed the pelicans at the bird sanctuary (which also includes flamingos, turtles, and ducks). This is a relaxing (and free) activity you can do on the Strip. I have generally found that the Strip was not overly crowded until late afternoon.
Location, Location, Location
To avoid crowds in a place like Las Vegas, it is important to also know where to stay. If you can’t visit during one of the low times, suggest staying somewhere away from Fremont St. or the Strip. During our Spring Break trip, we stayed in North Las Vegas (about a 15 min drive from Fremont St. and a 20 min drive from the Strip) in a Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO). We like the VRBOs, because there is more space and a full kitchen that allows you to cook your own meals without having to eat out for every meal (which in Las Vegas can get expensive). Also, the VRBO had a smoke-free environment, which is much more difficult to find when staying on the Strip.
When exploring the Strip, we found that the heaviest density of crowds seemed to be near the Bellagio and Caesars Palace, which are the most extravagant and upscale hotel-casinos. Once we were down at the south end of the Strip by the Luxor, Treasure Island, and Mandalay Bay, the crowds were much more manageable in the evening. Another option for fewer people is to check out hotel-casinos further from Fremont St. and the Strip or just outside Las Vegas. These places still do offer the inexpensive buffets and room rates because they are competing with the better-known venues.
If you are flying in to McCarren Airport, you can get to your lodging easily using Uber, Lyft, or taxi.
Fremont St., which features hotel-casinos like the Golden Nugget, is quite compact and walkable. It is possible to stay within the confines of Fremont St. without needing a car at all. The Strip proper is about 4 miles long, which is also walkable, but for some may be a bit far. One alternative we tried was to rent three electric scooters for my mother, my wife, and my niece (I decided to get my steps in) and used them to explore the Strip. I also rode a scooter for a while and it was a lot of fun!
If you decide to stay away from Fremont St. or the Strip, you may want to rent a car (or use the car you drove in with) to get around. It is still possible to find some free parking on Fremont St. and on the Strip, but that is getting more and more scarce.
What to do if you are a non-gambler in Vegas
Even if you refuse to play one hand at the tables or drop one dollar at a slot machine, there is still plenty to do in Las Vegas. There are a number of interesting museums, including one for vintage hotel-casino signs, which are lit up at night with music in a multi-media show. There are also museums featuring relics from the Titanic, a mob museum, a pinball museum (with working vintage pinball machines you can play), a museum featuring plasticized human bodies, and an atomic museum that provides free tours to the Nevada Test Site (please see my blog on this specific topic). Also, there are at least 50 shows and concerts you can see at any given time that suit all kinds of tastes in entertainment. There are some of the best known high-fashion shops right on the Strip, including Louis Vuitton and Prada. Finally, there are numerous restaurants all the way from fast food to the best gourmet. I mused that if I had a million dollars of disposable income that I could blow in Las Vegas (without gambling a cent), I could probably see a different show or attraction every day, eat at a different restaurant or buffet every day, and do a different activity every day, and still by the end of one month barely scratch the surface of all the things to do in Las Vegas.
When you get tired of the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas itself, consider an excursion outside the city. If you like wildlife and nature, there are several parks and conservation areas within an hour’s drive of Las Vegas, including the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Valley of Fire State Park, the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, and the Lake Meade National Recreation Area. Also, you can visit the Hoover Dam, which offers tours of the dam and its workings. Nearby the Hoover Dam is Boulder City, which is a planned city that was built by the federal government to house the workers who built the dam in a “vice-free” environment. In fact, to this day Boulder City is one of two municipalities in the State of Nevada that prohibits gambling.
Further out there is also the western part of the Grand Canyon National Park that can be reached in just over two hours driving from Las Vegas, or Zion National Park, which is about 2.5 hours driving from Las Vegas.
In conclusion, there are lots of things to do in and near Las Vegas as an introvert and as a non-gambler.
Titanic Artifacts Museum – Luxor Hotel and Casino: https://luxor.mgmresorts.com/en/entertainment/titanic.html
Bodies… The Exhibition – Luxor Hotel and Casino:
National Atomic Testing Museum: https://nationalatomictestingmuseum.org/
Nevada National Security Site: https://www.nnss.gov/
The Mob Museum: https://themobmuseum.org/
Neon Museum: https://www.neonmuseum.org/
Pinball Hall of Fame Museum: http://www.pinballmuseum.org/
Red Rock Canyon: https://www.redrockcanyonlv.org/
Valley of Fire State Park: http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire