The best tours & attractions we experienced in Vegas in 2015

Vegas is full of top notch tours and attractions, if it wasn’t, all you lovely bitchin’ people would stop coming to visit us. As Vegas Insiders, our mailboxes are stuffed full of invites to the latest and greatest Sin City has to offer. But not all things are created equal. As we round out the end of 2015, we started looking back at the coolest stuff we did all year so you can make sure to put it on your must-do list for your next Vegas vacay. Enjoy!

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Did I forget to mention some of the rifles come with optics? Photo courtesy of Doralynne Valenzuela.

Adventure Combat Ops

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to star in your own action movie, Adventure Combat Ops is the place for you. The best way I can describe it is being on an active movie set, but you’re not watching the movie, you’re in it. There are explosions, air strikes, smoke-filled streets and sour smells piped in that will totally make you think you reek. Don’t worry, it’s not you (well, maybe it is but you won’t care). You’re trained and led by retired Special Forces before you go on a mission through 54,000 square feet of blood splattered battlefields in the zombie apocalypse. You’ll kick down doors, climb through windows, shoot zombies and become hopelessly addicted to this experience. Adventure Combat was the most unique and fun attraction I’ve ever experienced, not just this year.

Ashley Oñoz-Wright, Vegas Insider

Fainting couches, aka '57 Chevy seats at the Elvis Presley drive-in theater. Photo courtesy of Ashley Oñoz-Wright/Vegas.com.

Fainting couches, aka ’57 Chevy seats at the Elvis Presley drive-in theater. Photo courtesy of Ashley Oñoz-Wright/Vegas.com.

Graceland Presents ELVIS: The Exhibition

I grew up listening to my mom blast Elvis records on the stereo so I’ve always been a fan of The King. My favorite new attraction in Vegas this year has to be the Graceland Presents Elvis: The Exhibition at the Westgate.  I probably won’t be getting to Memphis any time soon so this is the next best thing. It’s the largest collection of Elvis memorabilia outside of Graceland. It’s cool to see everything from Elvis’ yearbooks to his Army uniform and of course his Vegas jumpsuit costumes. Be sure to check out the room that looks like a drive-in theater with Chevy seats where you can watch classic Elvis movies.

Kristine McKenzie, Vegas Insider

Most people will never have the chance to see this view. Photo courtesy of Alonzo Wright.

Most people will never have the chance to see this view, but you can. Photo courtesy of Alonzo Wright.

Helicopter Tour to the Grand Canyon

If you’ve got one bucket list splurge, use it on Maverick’s Dream Catcher tour to the Grand Canyon. If you’re like me: secretly terrified of flying, slightly claustrophobic and prone to motion sickness – you’re probably thinking I’m nuts. But from one sissy to another, I’m telling you it’s worth every “trip of a lifetime” penny. You float over the lip of the canyon and descend onto a secluded ledge near the Colorado River for champagne and hors d’oeuvres. It’s an experience I’ll never forget – it was almost spiritual. Imagine having one of the most famous and heavily visited attractions in the world all to yourself. You can actually appreciate Mother Nature without the hordes of elbowing people, all fighting to take the same picture. On your way back, you fly over the glittering lights of the Strip, which is a real bonus because that’s a separate tour in itself. Sure, you could take a bus to the Grand Canyon and listen to a screaming child a few rows ahead of you, while you breathe in the sweet tang of sewage every time the lavatory door swings open. Or, you could finally treat yo’self.

Ashley Oñoz-Wright, Vegas Insider

This is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Photo courtesy of Fright Dome.

This is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Photo courtesy of Fright Dome.

Fright Dome at Circus Circus

You know that friend who gets a little too into haunted houses and you’re kinda sure they’ve just found their natural habitat? Yeah. That’s me. So when I got a chance to go to Fright Dome I was pretty much in a demented heaven. My friend who accompanied me was… less enthusiastic. In case you don’t know, Fright Dome is the Adventuredome at Circus Circus, but tweaked out for Halloween. It’s that special time of year when people who like to dress up as clowns and scare the piss out of people are considered fun, not “psychos” or “terribly disruptive” and “not allowed back in this Best Buy.”

Of the six houses stuffed under the dome, my favorite by far was the Insanitarium. An unguided, solo jaunt through a decrepit asylum wherein the patients have disposed of the doctors and taken over, it felt like a peaceful excursion through a macabre metaphor for the dehumanization of modern medicine. The fact that I had to go in a second time to rescue my friend who was too terrified to move implies that my assessment of the situation was perhaps abnormal. But whatevs, those crazies were fun as hell. I checked out every haunt that night and they were all amazing. Granted, as we’ve established, I might be in the minority when it comes to my views on killer clowns and dolls that come to life and stab people. But if you’re like me and think it’s funny to watch people panic while you dance giddily through the mayhem, then Fright Dome is a good place to stop and smell the corpses.

Miranda Boyd, Vegas Insider

Being a High Roller never cost so little. Photo courtesy of Ashley Oñoz-Wright/Vegas.com.

Being a High Roller never cost so little. Photo courtesy of Ashley Oñoz-Wright/Vegas.com.

The LINQ Promenade

Even though I lived in Vegas since the late ’90s (which practically makes me a native, right?), I still take out-of-towners to the Strip. If folks want to sightsee, drink, eat and shop all at the same time, I bring them to The LINQ Promenade. This outdoor entertainment plaza is pretty dang awesome. Feel like watching a concert? Brooklyn Bowl is by far the best concert venue in town. From the sound quality to its VIP lounge-style bowling section, I wouldn’t even mind sleeping here. I’ve already seen several headliners here including Warren G, Snoop, Chromeo, Disclosure, Bonobo, Little Dragon and The Roots. (Next on the list: Erykah Badu.) Plus, ticket prices for any concert aren’t too high.

But that’s just one spot inside The LINQ Promenade. If you’re down to do a little shopping, I’d hit up Nas’ 12AM Run shoe store, or even Goorin Bros. for a vintage-inspired hat. Personally, I never pass up Sprinkles cupcakes. They have the best vegan red velvet cupcake. There’s seating outside Sprinkles too; when I’m here, I always get my people-watching on. Finally, there’s the 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel. I’ve been on it several times, but the views of the Flamingo hotel pool and Bellagio fountains never get old. If I’m not admiring views from the High Roller, I like hanging out at Yard House’s second floor patio. The view of the High Roller from here is unreal. The LINQ Promenade’s overall experience and relaxed vibe has me coming back time and time again. It may be in the center of the Strip, but you feel like you’re in an entirely different city. Shoot, I’ll even kick it here by myself. Cupcakes and concerts? Check and check.

Jeannie Garcia, Vegas Insider

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Whitehair/Vegas.com

Sorry, fresh baguettes and bottle of wine not included. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Whitehair/Vegas.com

Gondola Ride at the Venetian

Normally, when I hear glug glug glug, it’s because I’ve poured myself an obscenely large glass of wine. But in this case, it was the sound my body made as it sank into the 11-foot-deep lagoon at the Venetian. This year, I got a taste of what it was like to go to Gondolier University. I’d say I was in over my head (haha so punny), but that’s an understatement. I now have a deep appreciation for the remarkable talent of each of the rock star gondoliers. My trainer, Livio was from Milan, had the bellowing voice of an opera singer and could steer the Titanic out of harm’s way. I recommend taking the outdoor gondola ride at night because it’s the only place you can experience the glittering lights of the Las Vegas Strip in a boat. Your expert gondolier will serenade you with the most beautiful music the Italian language has to offer. They even take requests, but you probably shouldn’t ask for a Top 40 because it kind of ruins the atmosphere.

Ashley Oñoz-Wright, Vegas Insider

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Whitehair/Vegas.com.

That’s one pissed off carp. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Whitehair/Vegas.com.

Kabuki at the Bellagio Fountains

Can something in Vegas be too popular?  The answer – when smashed up against the balustrade surrounding the Bellagio Fountains while kids try to climb over you – is, yes, yes it can. But despite 110-degree temperatures and crowds that rivaled World Cup matches (both in size and behavior), the free kabuki show at the Bellagio fountains was the most amazing attraction I’ve seen in 2015. I don’t even regret my brush with heat stroke.

Now, before you start saying everything is great from the VIP seats, know that I camped out two hours in advance and fended off children and camera-toting tourists to get a spot on the edge of the lake just like everyone else. While the kabuki was a bit difficult to see without the zoom capabilities of my video camera, the digital projection on the fountain waters was a  once-in-a-lifetime, brag-to-everyone-you-know experience. The sight of a giant carp racing, diving and eventually being sushi-ed  on Lake Bellagio was unforgettable.

Even if the kabuki doesn’t make a reappearance (which it should, just with video screens for those in the back rows), those digital projection effects on the water need to become a permanent addition to fountains.

Jennifer Whitehair, Vegas Insider

Driving down the Strip ain't got nothin' on flying down the Strip. Photo courtesy of Alonzo Wright.

Driving down the Strip ain’t got nothin’ on flying down the Strip. Photo courtesy of Alonzo Wright.

Helicopter Tour of the Strip

Hands down the best Vegas tour of the year was getting high…. above the Strip, that is! OK, let me clarify more; the Vegas Nights tour that takes guests on a helicopter flight that circled Las Vegas Boulevard in all of it’s glimmering glory was absolutely fantastic. I do believe the fact that I had never been in a helicopter before this made it all the more thrilling but even if you’ve had helicopter experience, this is still a one-of-a-kind flight for the sheer fact that you have the chance to get a view of Vegas unlike you ever have before. In addition to the flight, the new Maverick terminal is absolutely stunning. Recently, the terminal was completely renovated elevating the experience (so to speak) to a whole new VIP level. This is a tour that not only would I definitely do again, but it is one that I will recommend to anyone looking for something fun to do while in Vegas.

Haley Caldwell, Vegas Insider

Comments

Born a Buckeye - raised a Hoosier. I grew up in a one-horse town that straddles the Indiana/Ohio state line and until 2006, was in two different time zones. There were three stoplights and a whopping 48 students in my graduating class. Fast forward a few years later, I was bitten by the travel bug and decided to head west. It seems like no matter how long I live here, there’s always something that still makes my jaw drop. That’s what I love about Vegas; you never know what you’re going to see next and that’s what makes living here so much fun. Basically, if you’re bored in this town, there’s something wrong with you…not the city. I’m an avid traveler with an incurable case of wanderlust so stay tuned for all the tours, attractions and shopping adventures that Sin City has to offer.