A Very Brief Engineer's Tourist Guide to Vegas

If you need a break from the daily grind why not book a trip to Las Vegas?
Christopher McFadden

There is more to Las Vegas than shining lights and gambling. Here are some lesser-known things you can do there. 

This is not intended to be a comprehensive tourist's guide to Las Vegas. It is merely intended to highlight some of the more interesting things you can do while you are there. 


Can I visit Hoover Dam without a tour?

You certainly can. Located about 30 minutes south of Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam is a great family-friendly and fascinating place to visit. 

You are free to wander around the top of it and you can easily spend an hour just doing that. But you really should consider taking the tour.

"It costs nothing to visit Hoover Dam. There is a charge to take a tour and see the visitor center. Admission to the visitor center is included with a tour, or can be purchased separately." - tipsforfamilytrips.com

Is the Hoover Dam worth seeing?

The Hoover Dam is one of the world's most impressive feats of engineering. But if nature is more your thing, it happens to be located in one of the most beautiful and scenic settings you're ever likely to see.

Whether you love science and tech or just want to do something different, the Hoover Dam is a great choice for an outing. 

What is there to do in Las Vegas during the day?

Las Vegas has a lot of things to do besides gambling (though you should at least try that once if legally allowed to). According to sites like bestofvegas.com, here are some suggestions: -

  • Just explore. Walking up and down the strip is the best way to experience Las Vegas. You'll certainly find something that piques your interest.

  • Big Bus- Open Top Sightseeing Day Tour.
  • Stratosphere Observation Deck - This is great.
  • The High Roller. 
  • The Mob Museum.
  • Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.
  • CSI: The Experience. 
  • Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition.

Of course, at night is when the city really comes to life

How long does it take to do the Hoover Dam tour?

The best way to explore the dam is to take the tour. There are two tours you can choose from and both are great in their own way. 

The first takes around an hour and guides you through the powerplant and passageways of the dam. The second tour is the "Powerplant Tour" that takes around 30 minutes and is an exclusive guided tour of the powerplant only. 

Both tours include admission to the Visitor Center. 

Lesser-known places to visit in and around Las Vegas

Apart from the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon (both of which you really should check out), here are some other places you might want to consider visiting while in Vegas. 

Most Popular

1. Check out the Grand Canyon Skywalk

If you are looking for a thrill while in Las Vegas, instead of "risking it all" on black or red why not take a little trip to the Grand Canyon Skywalk? This transparent horseshoe cantilever bridge will give you an unparalleled experience of one of the world's most magnificent natural landscapes.

The views are incredible, and if you are brave enough look down! But the bridge is also an engineering masterpiece and huge technical achievement.

The bridge is suspended around 21.3 meters away from the edge of the canyon and hangs about 1220 meters above the awe-inspiring Colorado River. 

It can support the weight of "70 fully loaded 747 passenger jets" and is also designed to be earthquake resistant up to Richter 8.0. The foundations alone took almost two years to complete. 

"The box beams the bridge uses are built up from two-inch-thick plates, creating hollow shapes of 81 cm wide and 183 cm deep. The bridge deck consists of five layers of composite glass, a total of 7 cm thick." - imeche.org.

2. Try something different and visit the Neon Museum

las vegas tourist guide neon museum
Source: Gilda/Flickr

Where do neon signs go when they are retired? As it turns out, in Las Vegas, they are sent to the Neon Museum

The museum was founded in 1996 and is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that is dedicated to "collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting iconic Las Vegas signs for educational, historic, arts and cultural enrichment."

Its exhibits include an outdoor space called the "Neon Boneyard" as well as a visitors' center housed in the former La Concha Motel's lobby. 

You can either take a guided tour (which is recommended) or wander around under your own steam. Tours are available most days of the week but times will vary depending on the season. 

"In addition, the Neon Museum collection chronicles changes and trends in sign design and technology through pieces ranging from the 1930s to the present day." - Neon Museum

3. How about visiting the Nostalgia Street Rods Museum?

vegas tour guide Hot Rods
Source: Nostalgia Street Rods Museum

If you are fond of cars, especially "Hot Rods", you might want to check out the Nostalgia Street Rods Museum in Las Vegas. This museum has a wonderful collection of automobiles (not just Hot Rods) built between 1910 and 1965.

The museum also has a wonderful collection of memorabilia and other antiques that include "signed sports memorabilia, music memorabilia signed by famous musicians and much more!"

This really is a treat of a museum if you have become a little jaded with some of the excesses of Las Vegas. 

4. The National Atomic Testing Museum is very interesting indeed

Since you are in Las Vegas you might as well explore one of the most momentous events in science and technological development - the creation of nuclear weapons. 

"The National Atomic Testing Museum (NATM) is a national science, history and educational institution that tells the story of America’s nuclear weapons testing program at the Nevada Test Site." - NATM

Visitors are rewarded with a whistle-stop tour of the events that finally led to the development of the world's first atomic weapons. It also tries to explore the past and present to help you better understand the effect of testing worldwide and how they changed geopolitics forever.

"The National Atomic Testing Museum is one of a handful of private national museums and showcases some of the rarest of artifacts relating to the nation’s atomic testing program. Nowhere else can you see a large nuclear reactor that was used in the development of the nuclear rocket and the first air-to-air missile, Genie. " - NATM.

If you are looking for something a bit different, you really should check this place out. 

5. The McCarran Aviation Museum is interesting

vegas tour guide mccannan museum
Source: Eddie Maloney/Wikimedia Commons

Located at the McCarran International Airport, this museum provides a fascinating insight into the early days of flight in Las Vegas. 

"Aviation first came to Las Vegas in 1920. Randall Henderson, well-known as a newspaper publisher in Blythe, California, and later as the founder and editor of Desert magazine, is less known for his aviation barnstorming career. However, flying a borrowed Curtis JN-4 “Jenny”, Henderson became the first pilot to land in Las Vegas when he landed on May 7." - McCarran Aviation Museum

The museum tells his story as well as other aviation-related events of the region. There is only one aircraft on display however, a 1958 Cessna 172 that set a world endurance aloft record in 1959 of 64 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes and 5 seconds

It's not very big so if you have some time between flights you might want to spend a little of it here.

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