No Dice: 7 Options for Non-Gamblers in Vegas

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By John Deiner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 13, 2002

For non-gamblers, there's only one thing worse than the blinding neon glare of nights in Las Vegas. Days in Las Vegas.

For whatever reason -- conventions, trade shows, family reunions, car trouble -- legions of people arrive in Vegas who care absolutely nothing about throwing dice or lining up cherries on a slot machine. Fortunately (and, no doubt, surprisingly to some), the city offers many other daytime diversions, some on the Strip, others in far-flung parts of the city rarely seen by tourists, and all within a reasonable drive of the fabled Strip (with one notable exception).

Here are seven ways to kill an afternoon in Sin City without broiling by the pool, shopping away your gambling money or holding a chip, starting with that notable exception. For most, a car will come in handy, but many tour companies offer day trips by coach.

1. HAVE A DEATH VALLEY DAY. Comprising more than 3.3 million acres in the middle of the desert, Death Valley National Park is about 2 1/2 hours from Vegas and light-years apart. While visitors are better served by spending a couple of days exploring the park (remember, it's 3.3 million acres), you can get a good sense of what it's like on a day trip.

Start at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to get your bearings and then head for Badwater, the lowest point (282 feet below sea level) in the Western Hemisphere. Snap a picture to prove to your friends that you were there, and then take your pick of diversions: hike, explore the Rhyolite ghost town or the old borax works, go horseback riding at Furnace Creek Ranch, or just drive around and ogle. You'll leave wishing you'd booked a room for the night at the incongruously chichi Furnace Creek Inn.

Open year-round, though the summer heat is unbearable (110 degrees-plus). $10 vehicle entrance fee is good for a week. Rangers offer talks, walks and guided hikes November through April. Details/directions: 760-786-3200, www.nps.gov/deva.

2. MUSEUM HOP. Strangely enough, Vegas is full of 'em. The Venetian resort has a Guggenheim branch, while the Bellagio hotel is hosting "Faberge: Treasures From the Kremlin" in its Gallery of Fine Art. Elsewhere, museums are devoted to Elvis, Native Americans, cars, gaming memorabilia, even King Tut. My advice? Mix and match. Three choices:

• The Natural History Museum is a modest affair featuring kid's faves like a shark tank, snakes, fake mammals, robotic dinosaurs and a gallery with scratch-and-sniff displays of Nevada wildlife. Badgers? Yes. You'll need to sniff the steenkin' badgers.

• At the Liberace Museum, donated by the glitzmonger himself, a self-important film precedes a tour of the late entertainer's gaudy doodads, including his jewelry and costumes, vintage cars and historic pianos. The $12 admission fee, however, is the one thing that's truly over the top.

• A better deal is the fascinating, and free, Nevada Test Site History Center -- if you can find it (call for directions). Open only from noon to 4 p.m. weekdays, the one-room exhibit features a timeline of the country's nuclear testing program interspersed with relics of the era and a model of the site in the nearby desert. And the gift shop rocks.

Natural History Museum, 900 Las Vegas Blvd. N., 702-384-DINO, www.lvnhm.org; $6. Liberace Museum, 1775 E. Tropicana Ave., 702-798-5595, www.liberace.com; $12. Nevada Test Site History Center, 2621 Losee Rd., 702-295-1198; free. For other museums, see the info sources listed below.

3. TAKE A TRIP TO THE MOON. Less than 20 miles out of town lies the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and its lunar landscape. Here you can hike, bike, climb, ride horses, camp or drive your way through nearly 200,000 acres of dusty terrain.


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© 2002 The Washington Post Company


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