- Dine at Voodoo Steak -- Don't go there for the food or the service, go there for the view! When you make your reservation at the Rio's hot spot, ask for a window seat and try to time it so you can watch the sun set behind the mountains to the west. After dinner head out onto the rooftop nightclub, fifty stories above the strip, for a breathtaking panorama of glass, neon, and a sea of light.
- Watch the World Series -- Las Vegas in summer isn't exactly the ideal timing, but there is one big benefit to being around in July: the World Series of Poker. The tournament actually begins in May, but the Main Event (the No-Limit Hold'em Championship) starts the first week of July. It's a (totally free) blast to wander past the tables with poker stars like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, and Jennifer Harmon playing against pros and amateurs alike.
- Get Misted -- As I said, summer in Vegas can be painfully hot. It's a dry heat, though, and a triple-digit day in Vegas is livable, whereas the same in Houston could kill you. Psychologically, anyway. But when the heat gets to be too much, just find the nearest mister (popular at pools, valet parking, and sidewalks along the strip) and you'll cool off instantly. Now, if only someone would invent a portable mister....
- See a Cirque Show -- Or two, or three, or seven. My favorite (surprise, surprise) is the water-themed "O". My dad-the-lighting-designer's favorite is Mystere, their first Vegas show. Ka is spectacular. Zumanity is ... interesting. Love is fun, but a little disappointing. I haven't seen Believe (and don't plan to) or Viva Elvis (but I will this summer).
- Stop and Smell the Roses -- As a desert, Vegas doesn't have much to offer in the way of gardens outdoors. Inside, is another story. A lot of the casinos have plant and floral displays (walking into the Mirage feels like you're stepping into a rainforest) but my favorite is the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. It's like a stationary Rose Parade, with a new theme every season. One time you'll walk in and find a giant ferris wheel of sunflowers or a massive frog made from different colors of moss. And, the best part, is the small enclosure in the middle, where colorful birds or tropical butterlies live among the flowers.
- Float Away -- The best way to beat the heat in Vegas is to soak up the sun while lounging by or in the nearest pool. Now, the pool at my hotel isn't exactly the most glamorous or exciting (that title might go to The Beach at Mandalay Bay, which is my goal to visit this summer) but when the sun is beating down, a quick dip does wonders to make you forget you're in a soul-sucking desert.
- Get Back to Nature -- Most visitors to Vegas don't know (heck, most residents of Vegas don't know) that just a short drive from the Strip in any direction can take you to some of the most beautiful natural wonders in the southwest. My favorites are Mt. Charleston (a cool mountain park that is a little taste of Colorado), Valley of Fire (pictured, with breathtaking rock formations and rock art), Red Rock Canyon (a great place to hike and explore) and Lake Mead (try one of the cruise tours, but be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen).
- Gamble With the Fishes -- (Only if you're over 21, of course.) Navigating a writing career is usually enough gambling for me, but when I feel the need to
throw awayplay around with a little cash, I head to one of two places in the casino: the poker room or the goldfish slots. The goldfish slots aren't you're normal, pull-the-lever-and-hope-for-three-cherries kind, they're more like a video game. If you get some magical combination of fish then you get to play the bonus game, which alleviates the general boredom that goes along with most gambling.
- Grab a Bargain -- While Vegas may be known for high end luxury and ridiculously expensive things, it's also know for great outlet mall shopping. There are two outlet malls in the city, Las Vegas Premium Outlets north of the Strip (with some of the high end brands, like Burberry and Juicy Couture) and Las Vegas Outlet Center south of town (most of the shops here are a little further down the line). There's also the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas located in Primm (about a 45 minute drive to the California border). I've never been, but they don't seem to have much different from the ones in town.
- People Watching Goldmine -- If there is one thing Vegas has more than anywhere else I've ever been, it's a complete and total diversity of people. And by people, I mean crazy. You can find a one of any thing in Vegas, from a family of four carrying umbrellas to shield the sun to a lady decked out in gold lame and leopard print spandex. Pick a corner, any corner (because you will literally see people walking everywhere, even out in the middle of nowhere), pull up a chair, and just ... observe. There must be some book idea gold out there in them thar crazy people.