Las Vegas fun things to do alone: How to play solo without gambling in Vegas

You can get lucky in Sin City as a solo traveller and you don't have to bet a cent, writes Kylie McLaughlin.

From free hugs to rock-star, chauffeur-driven trips to champagne breakfasts at the Grand Canyon, there are stacks of activities for the solo player in Sin City that don't involve staring at a pokie machine or into an empty glass in a smoky bar. Here are 12 of the best.

EAT

Shamefully, Vegas is a city almost always associated with burgers, buffets and steak, deep-fried fast-fillers to satisfy hangover cravings and fuel gambling binges on every budget.

But you don't need to dig around too much to find top-notch cuisine and chew through your time in Vegas.

Yusho

Forget farm to table, the food from Chicago chef Matthias Merges'  Yusho comes directly from heaven to plate. Housed in the Monte Carlo casino in a vibrant and casual setting, attentive staff will keep you entertained delivering the faddish but fun concept of Japanese street food with aplomb, artfully presented and accompanied by a dizzying array of sakes, Japanese plum wines and beer. The go-to dish is octopus; cooked until tender and prepared with haricot vert, egg yolk and enoki mushrooms. See yusholv.com

Julian Serrano at Aria Resort and Casino

Julian Serrano's is a striking new upmarket Spanish tapas restaurant at Aria, and while the food may be decidedly Mediterranean, the ambience is definitely Vegas. Taking in the decor from a seat at the bar is entertainment enough. The bright, bold stripes of red, orange and gold on the walls demand attention; the ceiling heaves with funky, modern chandeliers and on the floor, stark, leafless tree sculptures offer a vague notion of al fresco dining. Even the dishes are ostentatiously presented, but exploding with flavour. Don't miss the the pintxo de chorizos, the mediterranean chicken skewers with dried apricots, or pistachio tart for dessert. A three-course lunch menu is a steal at  $25 and the young, friendly service is second-to-none. See aria.com/dining/restaurants/julian-serrano

It's commonplace to see Elvis conducting marriage ceremonies.

Lotus of Siam

Off the main tourist circuit, but firmly on the map, thanks to reliable endorsements from celebrity chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, this unmissable restaurant is reputedly one of the best Thai establishments in the US. You wouldn't know it to look at. It's a huge place in a dowdy suburban mall, lacking the pretension of restaurants on The Strip. Here, it's all about the delicious northern Thai fare, and on a Tuesday night was packed  with locals. You'll be too busy sharing the sumptuous, flavoursome food with the nternet to notice you are alone. Ask the staff for advice on the best dishes; bookings are required at least a week in advance. See saipinchutima.com

Eat

A trip north of The Strip, past rows of nostalgic pastel-coloured pawn shops and wedding chapels, takes you to a sparkling new modern cafe that serves distinctly old-school southern US fare with a French twist. Eat  is part of a new venture by the Downtown Project assisting local talent setting up new business; and in this instance, an enormous success. Bar stools are lined up  at a counter, giving solo diners front-row seats to the kitchen and the staff are super friendly. Chef and owner Natalie Young is behind the soulfood, as warm and welcoming as her smile. See eatdtlv.com

PLAY IT SOLO

Once your appetite has been satiated, you can explore these entertainment options north of The Strip.

Shop at Container Park

Once a graveyard for casinos and hotels left after business fled to The Strip, empty, retro buildings are being turned into works of art; fun sculptures stand in empty spaces, the most noticeable of these is a giant praying mantis. Originally slated for Nevada's Burning Man festival, the insect sculpture spews fire  from its tentacles every night, guarding the entrance to Downtown's greatest feat, Container Park, a mall with a mantra to revitalise an area in dire need of it.

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The miniature mall consists of three stories of containers that house shops, bars, and restaurants. Leases are granted to those with exceptional business plans that cannot afford a regular bricks-and-mortar lease, and the result is an offbeat, unique shopping experience, and an opportunity for young talent to shine. Kids are not forgotten, with a huge central fun park. There's entertainment nightly. See downtowncontainerpark.com

SlotZilla 'zoom line'

For cheap thrill solo on Fremont, a stone's throw from Container Park,  try the new fun addition to the Fremont Street Experience. A zipline enables you to fly superman-style through the centre. Take note of your point of departure – a multimillion-dollar,  34-metre-high SlotZilla, the world's largest slot machine, which features Las Vegas icons such as over-sized dice, a martini glass, a pink flamingo, coins, video reels, a giant arm and two showgirls. See vegasexperience.com/slotzilla-zip-line

Neon Boneyard

Grab your camera and prepare to get artsy, exploring a long-gone Vegas solo. This graveyard of neon signs formerly belonged to glitzy, world-famous casinos that once held pride of place on Fremont Street, "old" Vegas. Each of the signs has been donated and has its own unique story; book a tour ahead of time to hear them. Warning: with such a magnificently retro backdrop, it's commonplace to see Elvis conducting marriage ceremonies. see neonmuseum.org

Back at The Strip…

The High Roller at The Linq

Between The Flamingo and The Quad, observation wheel The Linq is a massive and relatively new addition to the Vegas skyline. At  167 metres, it is  2.7 metres taller than the Singapore Flyer, which makes it the tallest Ferris wheel in the world. Moving slowly, it completes an entire revolution in 30 minutes, giving you a fantastic view of the Las Vegas valley that is only beaten by a ride in a  helicopter. Thirsty? No problem. A mobile bar moves from cabin to cabin, or in true Vegas style you could just BYO. The High Roller has its own monorail stop and is open late so you can experience Vegas lights at night. See caesars.com/linq/high-roller

Cirque du Soleil

It sounds like a cliche, but while you're here, it would be absolutely criminal not to take advantage of a great deal on a show. And in Vegas, the circus is always in town. Four of them, in fact. Cirque du Soleil's crowd-pleasing 90-minute shows are a must; Beatles fans should not miss, Love, their epic homage to the British band at the Mirage. See cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/love

Take a tour

Nevada has mind-bogglingly beautiful scenery at its doorstep.

Helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon

OK, so it's actually in Arizona, but this experience is unique to Vegas, and is the perfect trip to take solo as you'll share it with other like-minded travellers. Plus, it will save the oodles of time it would take to drive the long, dull stretch (it's at least four hours from Vegas) and you'll be directly deposited into the middle of the canyon, provided with sterling views of the US' greatest natural attraction and the Colorado River below. You'll also fly over sights such as Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. The entire service is rock-star class – from the stretch-limo collection from your hotel, the pilot's commentary, to the champagne breakfast you'll receive at the canyon. See: sundancehelicopters.com 

Explore Red Rock Canyon

One of Nevada's prettiest natural attractions is a mere hour from The Strip. Pink Jeep can escort you there with a small group through the canyon's  20-kilometre scenic drive. An early start will get you viewing the canyon in the morning when the sun's rays hit the red rock, producing the most photogenic colours – watch as they change spectacularly throughout the morning. Make sure you visit the information centre and its resident white desert tortoises, rarely seen in the wild. See pinkjeeptourslasvegas.com/red-rock-canyon-tour/

And finally… RELAX

Delano

There is no greater way to chill out after a hard day's exploring than returning to a quietly luxurious hotel room solo, and new kid on The Strip, Delano, hits the right spot. Stark and golden, the building juts skywards in a statement-making fashion and holds the unbeatable distinction of being game-free. Happily, that means not having to walk through a maze of slot machines in a smoky old casino in order to access your room. In its place, a rebranded The Hotel has a chic lobby with natural art installations.

The large, spacious standard king suites are a sophisticated neutral and gold, and in the separate bedroom, there is crisp white linen on one of the world's most comfy beds. There are two widescreen televisions, an adjoining marble bathroom with spa-style bath, as well as a living room and powder room. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide fantastic views of Vegas whether you're Strip-side or not. Simply bliss.

You can relax by the pool in the hotel's new beach club, or stroll to the sand and surf of Mandalay's Beach Club, one of the many clubs which guests are permitted to use. There is an inhouse spa and gym, and you can also get semi-decent coffee from the 3940 Coffee and Tea downstairs in the lobby. delanolasvegas.com

Free Hugs

If all else fails, and you  feel a bit lonely, never fear – Vegas is the city of free (salubrious) hugs.  I received  several on my three-day visit from the uber-friendly locals. So don't be afraid to visit those bars and restaurants you want to go to, and strike up a conversation with those spirited holidaymakers or native Nevadans. Chances are, you might get lucky.

The writer travelled as a guest of Visit Las Vegas. 

See also: The ultimate experience in Sin City
See also: What it's like to get married by Elvis in Vegas

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