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The Variety of Vegas

It is not a new idea that you might consider spending more time in Las Vegas seeing shows, dining at the latest hot spots and shopping than at the tables. In fact, if spending is an indication of traveler interest, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Tourism Authority, entertainment began to surpass gaming around a decade ago. Below are some of the best things to do beyond the casinos in Las Vegas right now.

In recent years casino hotels on the Strip have invested in important public art. Treat yourself to a self-guided gallery tour of the Crystals, a Daniel Libeskind-designed space at CityCenter where you can see pieces by Claes Oldenburg, Jenny Holzer and Henry Moore, to name just a few. But one of Crystals’ best secrets may be Akhob, an unmarked permanent installation in Louis Vuitton Maison by light artist James Turrell. Visitors sit in a light-filled room that is one of the most meditative sanctuaries on the Strip. Reserve in advance for a free visit.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’s P3 Studio is a residence space that has hosted Fab 5 Freddy and Shelter Serra. Artists live free and can work, and guests are often invited to interact with them.

One of the most unexpected fine-art collections is in the undulating Frank Gehry-designed Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Behind its silver façade you’ll find L.A. artist Peter Alexander’s massive glass-shards pyramid sculpture, Sugar. Inside the hospital itself, a contemporary gallery featuring works by Ken Price, among others, sells pieces to benefit both artist and hospital.

Lying by the pool is hardly lounging these days, considering how many activities abound at most pools. The multilevel Boulevard Poo, at the Cosmopolitan springs to life at twilight, when “dive-in” movies play on the 65-foot marquee or concerts are held as part of the Set Your Life to Music series. At Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, the adults-only Encore Beach Club is high-end glamour most of the time, though the particular crowd that flocks to the pool depends on the event. Pay for one of the 26 cabanas, outfitted with flat-screen TVs and refrigerators, to be just a little removed. Parties like Recess Fridays and Daystar Sundays can get a little raucous.

On the eighth floor of the Mandarin Oriental, anyone can gain entry to the spa-like pool scene for the price of a cabana rental (price varies but includes mini smoothies, frozen fruit and a flat-screen TV). Seven pools make up the massive Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis at Caesars Palace. You’ll find swim-up blackjack, 44 completely outfitted cabanas and one of the better poolside dining menus in town.

The most comprehensive look at the city in the context of organized crime can be found at the Mob Museum, in the former federal courthouse where the landmark 1950 Kefauver hearings on organized crime were held. Among its showpieces is a piece of the bullet-ridden wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Fans of the atomic age won’t want to miss the National Atomic Testing Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate that brings to life the goings-on at the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles out of town. You can join a theater presentation that simulates what it was like to watch an atomic explosion, complete with shaking seats. Viewing those blasts was once recreation here, and the best seats in town were at Atomic Liquors Lounge, the oldest freestanding bar in Las Vegas.

One of the hottest restaurants is DB Brasserie, Daniel Boulud’s reentry into Vegas. In the Venetian, the revamped space serves upscale comfort food, like the unctuous Frenchie burger: beef with Morbier cheese and pork-belly-tomato-onion confit.

There are many Chinese restaurants around Vegas’s Chinatown, and there are a few grand experiences on the Strip. Lao Sze Chuan, the authentic Szechuan from Chicago’s “Mayor of Chinatown,” Tony Hu, bridges the two with tea-smoked duck served in a beautiful room.

Spanish superchef José Andrés brings another winner: Bazaar Meat at SLS Las Vegas, where grills are front and center. Look for dishes like table-side beef tartare and an entire suckling pig. If you’re the type that loves the insider track on dining, head for the 60-seat Carson Kitchen by the “Rock ’n’ Roll Chef,” Kerry Simon. Chefs, celebs and rock royalty flock here for crispy fried chicken skins with smoked honey and a doughnut bread pudding soaked in three-rum caramel (nothing is more than $20). No matter who you think you are, you’ll wait for a seat. But you’ll be happy you did.


Crystals: 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 1.702.590.9299;

P3 Studio: 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 1.702.698.7000

Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health: 888 W. Bonneville Ave.; 1.702.483.6000;

Boulevard Pool: 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 1.702.698.7000;

Encore Beach Club: 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 1.702.770.7000;

Mandarin Oriental: 3752 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 1.702.590.8888;

Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis: 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 1.702.731.7280

Mob Museum: 300 Stewart Ave.; 1.702.229.2734;

National Atomic Testing Museum: 755 E. Flamingo Rd.; 1.702.794.5151

Atomic Liquors Lounge: 917 Fremont St.; 1.702.982.3000;

DB Brasserie: The Grand Canal Shoppes; 3355 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 1.702.430.1235;

Lao Sze Chuan: 4321 W. Flamingo Rd.; 1.702.990.8888;

Bazaar Meat: 2535 Las Vegas Blvd. S.; 1.702.761.7610;

Carson Kitchen: 124 S. Sixth St.; 1.702.473.9523;

NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.