The Weekend Guide: Neon Signs, Red-Rock Hikes, and Tiki Cocktails in Las Vegas

Despite the setbacks of 2020, Las Vegas is a city that can’t sit still. Nevada remains one of America’s fastest-growing states, and an influx of creative newcomers is reshaping the city with a host of new galleries, bars, and restaurants. The opening of downtown’s Circa Resort & Casino late last year will be followed by the highly anticipated Virgin Hotels Las Vegas this spring, and the Santa Fe–based arts collective Meow Wolf expanded into Vegas with a new experience, Omega Mart, in February. Suffice to say, there’s a great deal to get excited about. Here’s how to make the most of a long weekend in still-booming Sin City.

Day 1

Wake up at the NoMad Las Vegas, a hotel-within-a-hotel at the Park MGM. With its elegant dark woods and jewel-toned velvet—a tasteful take on the glitz the city is known for—it’s one of the Strip’s newest stays.

Your first day in town is dedicated to off-Strip exploration though: Take a 10-minute cab ride to downtown’s Arts District, and begin by fueling up with a café con leche and a short-rib-topped arepa benedict on the patio at Makers & Finders. Walk a few blocks north to the Arts Factory, a converted warehouse filled with galleries, boutiques, and studios where you can buy works by local artists, such as skater-slash-painter David A. Soto. Back on Main Street, browse vintage shops, including Retro Vegas for midcentury-modern furniture and Modern Mantiques for old signs and phonographs.

Makers  Finders Coffee in Las Vegas NV

Makers & Finders, a Latin American–inspired café in the Arts District

Adrianne Lopez/Courtesy Makers & Finders

Old Neon Signs displayed at Neon Boneyard Museum Las Vegas Nevada

The Neon Museum, which is home to 200-plus restored neon signs

Jarmila Kostliva/Alamy

For lunch, hail a cab to Vegas Test Kitchen, where rotating chefs host pop-ups of new concepts such as Bulgarian pastries and sourdough pizza. Next, dive into the long history of American organized crime at the Mob Museum. You’ll need a timed-entry ticket, and a deluxe or premier pass can get you access to an interactive forensic crime lab or a Prohibition distillery tour.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to return to the Strip to find a decadent dinner. For proof, splurge on the seven-course tasting menu at Chinatown’s Partage, where chef Yuri Szarzewski (who has cooked at Michelin-starred restaurants across France) puts modern twists on French classics, with dishes like mahi-mahi confit and seared foie gras with pineapple carpaccio.

Book a timed-entry ticket for the Neon Museum to learn the history of the city’s rise as an American entertainment capital through its collection of 200-plus restored neon signs. Cap the night off with a rum-and-pineapple Tiki Bandit at Frankie’s Tiki Room, a perfectly kitschy tropical escape out in the desert.

Day 2

No trip to Vegas is complete without a visit to the Hoover Dam, the awe-inspiring feat of Depression-era engineering that harnessed the power of the Colorado River. On the 30-minute drive from Vegas, make a pitstop at Henderson’s Weiss Deli for cult-favorite breakfast sandwiches such as The Best, a combo of corned beef hash, eggs, and cheese.

While tours of the dam are currently on hold, you can still walk across the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge—the world’s tallest concrete arch bridge at 880 feet—for spectacular views of the dam and the Black Canyon below. Nearby, take a stroll on the Historic Railroad Trail, which skirts the shores of the artificial Lake Mead and then cuts through a series of tunnels carved into the mountainside.

Aerial view of Hoover Dam Nevada USA

The Hoover Dam, an architectural marvel built in the 1930s

bluejayphoto/Getty

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