Not into casinos or shows? Try the Pinball Hall of Fame, the Neon Museum or other tourist draws weirdly suited to Sin City.
So you’re going to Vegas! Not your first choice, you say. You’re tagging along. Well, there’s the exciting casinos to visit, and — what’s that? You don’t gamble? Hmm. Well, how about a show? There’s probably a Cirque du Soleil in your hotel.
You don’t like shows? Or poolside lounging? Don’t worry. It’s not all gambling, gaping and groping in Vegas. Here are four of the city’s most unusual points of interest.
Pinball Hall of Fame
In a nondescript building on a road by the airport, there’s a world of binging, bonging, clacking examples of coin-operated joy. Four hundred pinball machines from every era are here, most in working condition. Stubby-flipper old tables from the ’60s with groovy designs, snappy machines of the ’70s complete with Elton John in platform shoes, and the manic and often incomprehensible tables of today. Looking for your college pinball machine? They probably have it, next to the one you played at the small-town ice cream parlor in the town your family visited each summer.
Note: You don’t have to play to appreciate the place. It’s not quite right to call this a museum, since you can play the exhibits. But it is a museum, devoted to a medium that doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves: stylized pop-art paintings that range from traditional to psychedelic. It’s like looking at panels of comic books from a parallel dimension — everything is a bit off, a bit peculiar, the postures wrong, the faces frozen in eternal unnerving glee.
The Fremont Street Experience
In old downtown Vegas, the bulbous man is not entirely naked. His groinal parts are contained in a piece of fabric the size of a toddler’s sock. He’s here for your Outrageous Tourist Selfies. Drop a buck in the pot, pose with the naked dude. Whoo! Vegas!
Overhead: A vast canopy shields the street from the sun. In a few hours it will explode with light, and all the neon signs that line the street will come alive. For now, in the afternoon, the lights are off — a strange, weird rebuke to the always-on Strip. Fremont doesn’t particularly care about the glitz and the ballyhoo. It’s an experience no matter when you show up. Just look down there: an enormous slot machine three stories high, known as SlotZilla. Every few minutes people fly out of it on zip lines, amateur angels screaming fear and delight as they soar over Mostly Naked Dude and the rest of the impromptu crowd. The casinos are open, of course; Binion’s, where you can be photographed with a million dollars. The Four Queens, the Golden Nugget — classic names over smoky dark caves where the penny-slot crowd hunches around burbling machines.