Skip The Strip And Head To These Unique Hidden Gems In Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada has had an interesting reputation since it was founded as a city in 1905. Thanks to the legalization of gambling in casinos and a reduced residency requirement for divorce, Sin City became a hotbed for vice-driven pleasures. The lavish hotels, bright lights, and A-list entertainment that became synonymous with the metropolis began to pop up after World War II. And despite an attempt to move towards becoming a more family-friendly vacation destination in the 1990s, the Vegas Strip mostly caters to a much more upscale crowd with high-end cuisine, nightlife, and performances.

However, contrary to popular belief, there is plenty to do in "The Entertainment Capital of the World" outside of the famous boulevard of hotels and casinos along the main drag of the city. And no, this isn't about the other kind of strip that's popular in this desert oasis. If you are headed to Vegas soon and staying in the central hub of the city, but hope to fill your itinerary with an eclectic assortment of attractions and activities that stray away from the hustle and bustle of The Strip, it can absolutely be done thanks to a number of hidden gems buried around town just waiting to be found.

Ellis Island Casino, Hotel, and Brewery

Playing games in a casino and indulging in fine dining are integral parts of the Las Vegas tapestry. Although, these experiences don't need to cost an arm and a leg. And thanks to the Ellis Island Casino, Hotel, and Brewery on Koval Lane (behind the Paris and Planet Hollywood resorts), you can ball out on a budget.

For those looking to gamble, Ellis Island offers $5 craps and blackjack, as well as $10 roulette, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While you're in between games and looking for something to eat, there are plenty of options to choose from and they're all pretty good. Metro Pizza sells slices for something quick and easy, Ellis Island BBQ touts top-rated barbecue chicken and ribs, but the kicker is the $9.99 steak special at The Village Pub. This deal is so good that winner winners might consider steak instead of a chicken dinner.

Finally, after having your fill of games and food, Ellis Island features one of the best karaoke lounges in the city. Their bar area welcomes singers every day of the week after 9:00 p.m. to choose from a catalog of over 50,000 songs and sing their hearts out onstage. And it's all completely free of charge! Even if you're not a singer, this is one of the best opportunities for people-watching in the city.

Frankie's Tiki Room

For a quieter and more low-key spot to enjoy some libations, Las Vegas features a number of excellent tiki bars around town. While there's nothing against The Golden Tiki in Chinatown or the long-standing Starboard Track, Frankie's Tiki Room may be the best tiki bar in the area.

Decorated by Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room designer Bamboo Ben, Frankie's is an interesting mix of island hideaway and local dive bar. To give you an idea of how this ambiance is created, the bar is lit (though occasional smoke clouds, since that's still legal throughout the city) by both small theme-appropriate candles at the tables and neon signage. This isn't the place to come and read while you enjoy a drink, however, it is a solid date spot since you're not struggling to speak over loud music.

Most importantly, Frankie's boasts an extensive menu of tropical drinks that are each as tasty as the last. Classic concoctions like Zombie, Scorpion, and Mai Tai are expertly made by the excellent staff at this stand-alone establishment. But the bar's original recipes like Lava Letch, Frankenstein, and Bearded Clam are worthy additions to the pantheon of tiki beverages. They can also be served in a souvenir tiki mug for you to take home for an additional fee. And if you need help making your choice, the menu's famous skull ratings can help you navigate the strength of each drink. Just remember to call an Uber to get some safely if you order more than one three-skuller.

The Writer's Block

Alcohol isn't always everyone's cup of tea. Sometimes you want a literal cup of tea. One of the most interesting places in Vegas to get one is The Writer's Block. Located in the downtown area near the Arts District, the sleek building is home to "a bookshop, coffee shop, young writers' workshop, and artificial bird sanctuary."

No, this is not a joke. Each room focuses on different kinds of birds that are "up for adoption." From robins and bluejays to penguins and puffins, fake birds can be found throughout the stacks of books. Although, despite the birds (and the bear) being artificial, there is a real bunny named Baron who lives in a cage on a bookshelf.

Aside from giving the birds a roost in the largest independent bookstore in Nevada, The Writer's Block is part of the literacy and arts-focused philanthropy mission of the building known as The Lucy. The Rogers Foundation created this initiative (including event space and lofts for the artists in residence at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and other writers) to be a hub for Las Vegas' creative community to congregate, collaborate, and educate. In that spirit, the store also hosts free workshops for grades K-5 where students are able to learn how to create a project like a poem, a print, or even a podcast, then take it home with them. Though it's a great hidden gem for now, hopefully more people will discover The Writer's Block and support their great work.

Omega Mart

No matter what major city you visit, there are plenty of immersive experiences to visit where you can take plenty of social media-worthy pictures. For example, visitors to the Museum of Ice Cream in cities around the U.S. (and one in Singapore), can dive into a pool of enormous sprinkles. And of course, there are those projection-based exhibits such as the one for Van Gogh or Las Vegas' own Arte Museum. However, arts and entertainment company Meow Wolf has taken the interactive and Instagrammable art exhibit to a whole new level with Omega Mart.

Occupying 52,000 square feet of the experiential Area 15 retail and entertainment complex, Omega Mart looks like a grocery store. However, upon further examination, things start to look slightly more askew. The shelves are lined with products like Gender Fluid, Mammoth Chunks, and Plausible Deniability laundry detergent. And when you walk into a cooler or some other secret passageway hidden throughout the store, you're transported to a labyrinth of different worlds filled with unique sculptures, vibrant projections, and other works of art created by over 325 artists. There's also a hidden bar that serves rather unique drinks located somewhere in the store.

In addition to being a surreal and rather absurd art installation, Omega Mart is also an interactive game that gives your journey inside the experience a more concrete purpose. Naturally, there's an added cost to play, but if you only plan to take wild pictures while exploring this trippy maze of consumerism, the whole family has more than enough to uncover.

The Punk Rock Museum

When people think about Las Vegas, the first (or even fifth) thing that comes to mind usually isn't museums. However, Sin City is the home of a number of amazing and sometimes weird museums like The Mob Museum, The Neon Museum, and the Burlesque Hall of Fame. But the newest one is quickly becoming one of the best around.

Founded on April Fools Day 2023 by Fat Mike of NOFX, production manager Lisa Brownlee, and a collective of musicians and investors, The Punk Rock Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the genre. The 12,000-square-foot facility houses over 1,000 artifacts from the birth of punk to the present day. Pioneers like The Clash, The Ramones, and The Misfits are represented alongside Rancid, Taking Back Sunday, and even The Linda Lindas. There are even items from bands like Nirvana, Devo, and Motorhead that inspired punk and helped it to evolve into what it is today, including some famous artists' guitars you can play.

The museum's collection is wonderfully curated and offers QR codes with playlists that allow visitors to listen to songs from various eras. But for an elevated experience, guided tours are available from local punks who lived this history (like the amazing Baxter) and members from touring bands like The Vandals, Social Distortion, and Bayside stopping by between gigs. On top of that, the facility also includes The Jam Room, a chapel for weddings and wakes, a tattoo parlor, and The Triple Down dive bar that has an unbeatable happy hour with $5 drinks.