Las Vegas: Where NOT to go

Las Vegas Insider
The Paris Casino with replica half-sized Eiffel tower and balloon (Photo: Richard Cummins / Lonely Planet Images)
The Paris Casino with replica half-sized Eiffel tower and balloon
"Wandering around Downtown after sundown, paying money to climb to the tops of things, waiting to get into a club you know you don't belong at ... time best spent elsewhere. "
Las Vegas Insider

While home at one point to Elvis, the Rat Pack and Liberace (now Bette, Cher, Elton and Barry), Vegas also has a history steeped in tacky. Consider yourself forewarned. Wandering around Downtown after sundown, paying money to climb to the tops of things, waiting to get into a club you know you don't belong at … time best spent elsewhere.

Fremont Street

Almost as pedestrian as it is shabby, the Fremont Street Experience is a "must see" highlighted in every pickpocket's guide book. But if blinking lights and craning your neck like an ostrich in a rainstorm appeals, do what you must to hide your belongings where you would at least notice an intruding hand.


Unlike San Francisco and New York, whose Chinatowns sprung up via a natural, organic influx of immigrants, resulting in a thick concentration of pan-Asian culture, Vegas' Chinatown is about as real as the Venetian's gondoliers' accents. Hokey, garish, and filled with mediocre restaurants and bubble tea houses, this area just west of the Strip at Spring Mountain is best left to the masses. Only Tofu Hut and Joyful House redeem.

Attractions with no attraction

Topping the list: Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, M&M's World, The Titanic Exhibit, Tournament of Kings — in fact, stay out of the Excalibur and Circus-Circus altogether if possible. If it can be found at the Mall of America, skip it.

The Monorail vs The Deuce

Money-wise, at $2 per ride ($5 for a 24-hour pass), the Deuce double-decker busses are cost-effective and take you further and wider. The Monorail, at $5 per ride ($12 for a one-day pass), takes you from the MGM Grand only as far as the Sahara and is not available 24/7 like the Deuce. Time-wise, they both fail miserably. Take a cab.


If your heart's desire is to ascend to the top of the Eiffel Tower, then Paris, France awaits. Vegas' pint-sized Eiffel-ette is not going to scratch that itch. Want to see the Pyramids of Giza? Skip the Luxor and go to Giza. Avoid theme-y recreations of France, Italy and beyond and that includes gondola rides in the Canal Shops at the Venetian and note that Lake Las Vegas is manmade. For a truly jaw-dropping vista of the valley without the cheesy costumes, the best view (other than from a tandem skydive plummeting to the desert floor) is from the top of the Stratosphere — the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States.

Decrepit wedding chapels

Most of those wedding chapels of old are … old. And in varying states of disrepair. Unless you're truly in a hurry (in which case there really is a drive-through chapel), skip the Chapel of the Bells/Flowers/West, and the Wee Kirk O' the Heather and either invest just a tad more for one of the myriad Strip hotel chapels — many with useful amenities and package deals (adventurous couples can really stretch their imaginations with helicopter rides to the Grand Canyon for a sunset ceremony, a night-time ceremony over the Strip or even a wedding in the ice bar at New Zealand export, Minus 5 at Mandalay Place) or, for the most personal service, held anywhere you desire, have a friend or family member ordained via the Universal Life Church (free, takes under one minute) to legally bind you in holy matrimony.

Got any more places to avoid? Have your say using the comments form below.

Next: Near the beaten track

User comments
went to vegas in august this year, absolutely awesome stayed at caesars palace really really great and central to the strip. did papillon tour of grand canyon and is a must do such a professional tour, helicopter pilot, etc etc all fantastic. loved everthing, saw celine dion show at caesars. Just a wonderful time, definitely would go back
Everytime we go to the states we spend a day or two in vegas. Took two kids 9 & 11 and had a great time. Last trip(2009) it seemed to revert back to being sleazy and dirty with guys shoving business cards showing naked women at you every 5 steps. The dancing fountains and the enchanted garden at the Bellagio were fantastic and we always enjoy Freemont street and have never felt unsafe. Will be there in a month or so, looking forward to seeing if Vegas has cleaned up its act.
I have to disagree with most of this article, I just got back from Vegas. - Isn't the whole point of getting married in Vegas is to get the Vegas feel, not a hotel? who wants to get married in an ICE BAR??! really? - The monorail was fine, we got a full day pass and used it to go from one hotel to another rather than taking a taxi. Including a tip, my taxi rides were never under $10 on the strip. - Themes and tackyness is why you travel to Vegas (along with the casinos and drinking). Ignore this article.
Vegas is a fantastic city. There is a lot of werid and wonderful things to see, especially if you are a non-american visiting vegas. Down town is so different from the strip and well worth a trip at night. We've been there plenty of times without having anything pinched. Not been on the monorail due to price but the bus is great. Get on it as far up the strip as you can be bothered to walk and try and get up stairs at the front. It is brilliant to sit and watch the whole world go by and see all the strip. All the 'faux' hotels like the venetian and the luxor are great, totally different from the 'normal' type of hotel you see everywhere. Go and look at them. It costs you nothing. We got married in Vegas last year in the Bellagio. The whole thing was so well organised and we were made to feel so special. There was about 25 of us there in total from all different backgrounds and ideas about what makes a good holiday.We all really enjoyed ourselves and would go again. Vegas Baby
my husband and i have been to vegas 4 times now..stayed at a different strip hotel each time..bellagio expensive & not worth the $$..caesars palace,the venetian, the hilton behind the flamingo..all different, all great in different areas. It's Vegas..nothing like you have every experienced before, yes its busy, yes its full of themed casinos, some great, some a waste of time but that's what its all about! everything is different...we go to have fun! we enjoy the restaurants, the food is amazing! we enjoy abit of a gamble, he on the tables, me on the slots, we enjoy walking and seeing the free stuff, we enjoy seeing shows...its just great fun! we havent taken our children there, so have not had to worry about where to go and where not to go. The shopping is excellent from your top end Fashion Show Mall to the factory is truly amazing - dont not go - you have to experience it just once in your life!
The wife & i traveled to La a must see for 4 days hired a mustang drove to Arnaheim and all the way along the coast to San Fran where we spent 5 days brilliant !!! then flew to vegas for seven days had a ball grand canyon expensive but cant miss it stayed at T.I Hotel right on the strip felt safer in Vegas than North bridge Fremont i agree bit dodgy but worth while seeing
I'm worried! I have plans to do Vegas in May 2012 and I cant decide if its worth the money or not. This article seemed good, but after reading the comments, Im feeling a bit unsure. Maybe someone can write an article about what to see, so then I can have my pick of some options. Any comments pertaining to this would be much appreciated!
VEGAS IS AWESOME! Im not into travelling but man was vegas a blast! If you love clubbing and nightlife then this is as good as it gets. I didnt just go clubbing but you do have to do things like the stratosphere and the scaled Eiffel tower to have experience all of vegas. Downtown was so cool with the street perfomers and the light shows. We highly recommend vegas and can't wait to do it again. We went to a few strip clubs which were a little disappointing with the regulations they have. I have 2 pieces of advice. 1 Make sure you double check what note you pull out your wallet to tip people. 2 Wear some comfortable shoes!!!! And remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
I disagree too. I havent been to Vegas - will be going in 3 months time. But isnt all that tackiness why you go? You might as well have just sat in your hotel room. Boring...
I also disagree about Fremont St. We took our kids there (11 and 14 at the tme) and they loved it too. Didn't feel unsafe at all. Had a lovely buffet dinner at the Golden Nugget and it looked like a good place to stay too. I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Fremont St, kids and all. We also enjoyed Madame Tussauds as well, so I have to disagree on that one too! Overall we had 5 nights in Vegas and wished we had more. The Deuce bus is a waste of time. It is quicker to walk, or as we found out on the last night, catch a cab! The time wasted on the bus is frustrating. M&M's world was the most crowded, claustrophobic shop I have been to in my life. That I would not recommend. Bellagio Fountains at night is a must see. I totally loved it. One regret is not seeing more than 1 show. We plan to go back to Vegas to do all those things we didn't have time for this visit. We did spend a whole day on a Grand Canyon experience, so we can tick that one off our list.