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A Vegas Guide For Non-Gamblers: How To Survive Sin City Without Dropping A Dime

My dad hates gambling. You'd think this fact would hinder our recent family vacation to Las Vegas. But, it didn't.

You see, he's not alone. A full 14 percent of Vegas visitors in 2005 did not gamble while staying in Sin City, according to the Visitor Profile Study for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). There's so much to do in Vegas besides playing the slots and hitting up the blackjack tables, some may not find the time or desire to gamble.

Even if you don't gamble, there's still more than enough entertainment in Las Vegas for you. "Las Vegas has something for everyone," said Erika Yowell, Senior Manager of Public Relations for the LVCVA. "It's the one full-service resort destination in the world with shopping, dining, spas, luxury resort accommodations, and world-class entertainment all located in one concentrated resort area ... there's no place like it."

After vacationing in Las Vegas for the fourth time, I realized that although it's everywhere, gambling isn't necessary. In fact, only five percent of visitors travel to the city with the sole intention of gambling, according to the LVCVA. There are so many other activities, like dining in renowned restaurants, discovering the vibrant nightclubs, and seeing fantastic shows. So if you don't gamble, Vegas will definitely have other less risky diversions for your next vacation.

Always A Show

"Las Vegas' entertainment landscape is second-to-none," Yowell said. "From free outdoor shows to lavish theatrical productions housed in custom-built theatres, the range and scope of what's available here is legendary for a reason."

Las Vegas has a medley of performances, from the different Cirque du Soleil amazements to world famous comedians and Broadway shows. There's literally a performance to cater to anyone's taste. Each major hotel has specialized venues featuring different shows nightly - but watch out for blackout dates and sold-out seats. My family couldn't see the show we wanted because it was sold out; avoid this problem by booking online before your trip. If you're traveling on a budget, you'll discover that many of these shows are costly. Search the guidebooks and discount ticket counters for your best chance at the cheap seats.

When Discounts Aren't Enough

Keep in mind, there are many free performances and attractions. Some hotels on the Strip present outdoor shows every night, and with the average yearly temperature of 67 degrees, there's ample opportunity to check them out.

The Mirage has a fantastic exploding volcano that begins as serene waterfalls dripping from the jungle, only to transform as rocks jumble and smoke shoots from the mountaintop. The cool water turns to fire resembling lava spewing from an eruption. You can feel the flames heat and the mist from smoking rocks. 

After being amazed by such a lively volcano, relax at the Bellagio's fountain show. It's like watching a ballet on water. The elegantly-choreographed waters dazzle atop the pond to songs like "Luck Be a Lady" by Frank Sinatra or "Con Te Partiro (Time to Say Goodbye)" by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. The fountains perform every half-hour during the day, but I would strongly recommend seeing the display at night. Every fifteen minutes the lights and all attention focuses on the sweeping magnificence of the show.

Away from the Strip is the fabulous "Fremont Street Experience." This downtown street is covered with a canopy adorned with millions of lights and 550,000 watts of sound. It creates an incredible light show with themes like Downtown Divas or Area 51. The sound radiates and brilliant colors dance above your head, as you're surrounded by the profusion of neon lights blazing from the casinos. Best of all, the show is free! There are also kiosks throughout the road with discount clothing, interesting art works, and margaritas. Street performers fill the canopy with music, and Elvis is often seen meandering the crowd. The best way to get there is by bus or taxi. Public transportation is suggested because of the busy Las Vegas streets.

Out of the Heat

There are also unbelievable indoor attractions: art galleries, roller coasters, statue performances, and jousting matches to name a few. Up and down the Strip, find wild animal parks and dolphin habitats - in one exhibit, lions actually walk above your head. It would take days to see all the amazing architectural design, beautifully groomed gardens, and incredible thematic wonders that fill the hotels along the Las Vegas Strip. To see as much as you can, take advantage of the monorail and trams going from hotel to hotel. As walking is often rather extensive, not to mention tiring, comfortable shoes are a must. If you're out during the day, bring a water bottle to avoid thirst and exhaustion and definitely wear sunscreen with an S.P.F. 30 or higher.

Las Vegas averages just above 90 degrees during the summer, but this is an average. Don't be surprised if it's hotter than that. Still, if you find it's too hot to cruise the Strip, it's probably the perfect temperature for lying out on a poolside chair. If you enjoy relaxing pool areas, many hotels have lazy rivers, wave pools, and water slides, which are great for the kids. Others have swim-up tiki bars - much better for grownup vacation - and even fake sand. Make sure you've got all the water basics covered, because that desert sun is burning hot. Again, avoid dehydration by drinking lots of water and keeping alcoholic drinks to a minimum.

Shopping, Dining, and Sugar ... Oh My!

From outlet malls to high-end boutiques, Las Vegas is home to some of the best shopping in the world. There are at least four malls along the Strip, many inside the hotels, featuring fashionable clothing, specialty collectables, and incredible art. The different outlet malls are filled with hundreds of stores and are just a short drive from the Strip and downtown. Buses travel from the strip to the outlets, and are full of tourists looking for inexpensive shopping. M&M's World and the World of Coca Cola sit on the Strip with fun gift shops presenting crazy-colored M&M's and collectable bottles of Coke. These corporate attractions are Las Vegas must-sees, although they are constantly packed with people.

Now, of course, you have to eat. Don't miss out on the classic Las Vegas buffets. There are decent all-you-can-eats for about $12 around the Strip and downtown, however there are much cheaper and much more lavish options. If you're expecting to find that renowned 99-cent buffet, you may not; but there are food specials throughout the guidebooks and coupon packages found in taxis and hotel lobbies.

With its fantastic dining, spectacular shows, free entertainment, and great shopping, it is no wonder Las Vegas has become a vacation destination for families and avid gamblers alike.