Spring Mountains

There's more to Vegas than the Strip

This week marks the start of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament—also known as March Madness. That means tens of thousands of travelers (myself included) will flock to sports books on the Las Vegas Strip to watch and wager on the games. Instead of fighting these crowds to place bets or snag reservations at fancy nightclubs, consider trying some off-the-beaten-path destinations and activities as serious alternatives. Remember, in Vegas, jackpots come in all shapes and sizes.

Best new bar: F. Pigalle
You’ll remember downtown’s newest bar for its baby bottles. Yes, you read that right—the bartenders serve wine in the very same vessels parents give infants milk. The bottles are an obtuse reference to a Parisian glass tax levied on stemmed glasses in the early 1800s. Pair your wine with Pigalle's fondue (cheese, shrimp, beef, and chocolate are among the options), and most dishes are priced at around $20 a pop. If that’s not enough to entice a visit, the cocktail list is pretty major, too. One of the favorite specialty drinks: Violet Beauregarde, which features Hendricks Gin, Thatcher’s Elderflower Liqueur, fresh lime, blueberry-lavender syrup, champagne, and violet perfume. fpigalle.com 

Best new(ish) attraction: Casa de Shenandoah
This year marks the 58th year Wayne Newton has performed in Sin City—it’s no wonder they call him “Mr. Las Vegas.” Now Wayniacs can get a little closer to the man himself on a tour of his 52-acre estate, Casa de Shenandoah. Tours begin in a visitor center across the street. Groups then are bussed over to see a museum of memorabilia from Wayne’s career and meet some of the animals he has collected over the years (including a Capuchin monkey named Boo). Some tours even cover the house where Wayne lived for decades. Mr. LV doesn’t live on-site anymore, but he still visits every day to see the animals. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse. casadeshenandoah.com

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Best new restaurant: Salute
Family-style Italian food is fun for everyone, and the area’s newest Italian restaurant, Salute Trattoria Italiana by Chef Luciano Sautto, takes the concept to new levels. Located at Red Rock Casino in Summerlin, the 186-seat eatery mixes traditional preparations such as whole roasted and salted branzino with modern theatrics such as table-prepared bucantini alla vodka. In addition to an authentically Italian wine list, Salute also sports a cocktail program that incorporates products from overseas with fresh ingredients from around Nevada. Book a reservation on the open-air patio and watch the sun set over the Spring Mountains to the west. salutevegas.com

Best place for gambling goodies: Gamblers General Store
You don’t have to be into gambling to appreciate the Gamblers General Store. This sprawling facility, located in the heart of downtown, sells just about every form of gambling and casino memorabilia and accessory you could possibly imagine—from decommissioned card decks to hard-to-find poker chips, automatic shufflers to Rat Pack-era ash trays. The best part of the store: Gamblers Book Club (known as GBC), which has existed on its own since 1964 but moved in last year. With more than 3,000 titles in history, strategy, and fiction, GBC is the most comprehensive gambling-themed bookstore in the world. (And, hey, you’re never too old to learn how to play craps.) gamblersgeneralstore.com 

Best outdoor adventure: Spring Mountains
When it’s hot in the Vegas Valley, locals flock to the hills—specifically the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. Because this 316,000-acre swath northwest of the Strip sits a few thousand feet higher than the casinos, it’s usually 10 to 15 degrees cooler. The region is also home to a modest ski resort, hundreds of miles of trails, and the tallest point in southern Nevada: the 11,916-foot-tall peak of Mount Charleston. Last summer the U.S. Forest Service opened a new visitor center about halfway up Kyle Canyon on Highway 157. The center is a perfect spot to stop for a crash-course in local ecosystems, a check-in with park rangers, and a refill on filtered water. fs.usda.gov/htnf

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