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Offbeat Las VegasMarch 31, 2008 By: Glenn Haussman Travel Agent
There's a lot to be said for discovering activities off The Strip
What do dead bodies on display, atomic tests and dueling Elvis's all have in common? No, it's not the start of some old joke. In fact, they're all attractions that make up the quirky heart of the Las Vegas experience. From the offbeat to the kooky, this desert oasis has it all. And while most people spend their time enjoying world-class cuisine, $100 million shows and multi-billion dollar mega resorts, there's lots of fun to be had on the flip side of Vegas.
The Graceland Chapel is perfect for couples looking to tie the knot in Vegas.
It's a part of Las Vegas that seems to hover just below the surface. The city's offbeat attractions are really a call back to a simpler old school Sin City. It was a time when kitsch was
Fortunately, the city is still replete with myriad offbeat attractions. And if your clients are looking to experience something a little out of the ordinary, this city is a great bet.
For example, you can get married by Elvis—younger or older version, visit a neon "boneyard" of old hotel signs, learn about Nevada's history of atomic tests or see an exhibit examining dissected human bodies. Though you might want to suggest saving that last one for after lunch, every one of these attractions is lots of fun.
Graceland Wedding Chapel
If you're looking to tie the knot or renew vows, the Graceland Wedding Chapel has the most unusual and fun ceremony around—you can get hitched by Elvis. Enter legally binding bliss by getting married by either Young Elvis, 1970s-era Jumpsuit Elvis—or both! On average, 6,000 couples a year visit the Graceland Wedding Chapel, including numerous celebrities, such as Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Ray Cyrus, band members from KISS, Deep Purple, The Beastie Boys and Def Lepard.
The Chapel offers a variety of wedding packages, starting at $199. Basic packages include use of the chapel and photographs. Elvis packages start at $329 and go up to $799. The King will escort the bride down the aisle and give her away before breaking into song. He'll also sing during and after the ceremony. The truly adventurous can opt for The Famous Dueling Elvis Package, which includes Young Elvis and Vegas-era Elvis performing on two different stages.
Fans of both Young Elivs and Old Elvis flock to Vegas for the legendary impersonators
The venue is also branded as "A Storybook Chapel" for those looking for a more traditional and Elvis-free ceremony. For more information, call General Manager Brandon Reed at 702-382-0091. Some packages include round-trip limo service from the couple's hotel.
Dedicated to remembering the days of Las Vegas past, the Neon Museum is a nonprofit organization that preserves the city's rich history by collecting and restoring its most iconic signs and artifacts. The museum is actually made up of two separate components: a public outdoor gallery and The Neon Boneyard.
The Neon Museum
Located on Fremont Street, the gallery section features 10 restored and working signs that are always on view; the Neon Boneyard is a great place to check out Las Vegas relics that have yet to be restored. A treasure trove of history and a photographer's dream, this three-acre site is accessible only by tour, which requires an advance reservation. The tours are offered twice a day, Tuesday through Friday at noon and 2:00 p.m. The minimum donation for the tour is $15 per person. Spots fill up quickly, so it's crucial to make reservations in advance.
The facility is currently undergoing a $10 million upgrade that will result in new indoor and outdoor exhibit spaces, classrooms, a museum store, café, event space and a neon park with picnic area. For more information, call 702-387-NEON.
Talk about kitschy. The Liberace Museum provides a look at the life of one of the city's most famously flamboyant performers. Even if your clients are too young to remember "Mr. Showmanship" himself, a trip to the museum is a great way to see a piece of Las Vegas history through the prism of glittering excess.
One of the costumes on display at the Liberace Museum.
Among the items exhibited are pieces of jewelry, dazzling costumes, rare exotic cars and antique and bejeweled stage pianos. Highlights of the museum, which is located in two buildings, include Liberace's rhinestone-lined, full-length Black Diamond Mink cape with 40,000 crystals, a 200-pound "King Neptune" costume, his trademark candelabra ring, complete with platinum "candlesticks" and diamond "flames" and a white-and-yellow gold piano-shaped ring, studded with 260 individually set diamonds. There is also a display of his exotic cars, such as "Stars and Stripes," a hand-painted red, white and blue Rolls-Royce convertible. Visitors also can catch a tribute show at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Saturdays, for a separate fee of $17.50.
The Liberace Museum costs $15 for adults, and $10 for seniors, 65 and older, and students with a valid school ID. If guests arrive at the museum by taxi or bus, they may show a receipt or transfer ticket at the register desk to receive $2.00 off the adult ticket price. For more information, including how to get a complimentary shuttle from The Strip, call 702-798-5595.
Get a glimpse inside the human body with one of the most incredible exhibits ever created. Bodies...The Exhibition is a bizarre—yet fascinating and educational—look at our anatomy, utilizing more than 275 body specimens. Painstakingly dissected and preserved, these specimens have gone through a unique process that makes it possible to see the complexity of the human body.
Visitors get to see up-close views of skeletal, musc
The Tropicana Las Vegas is host to Bodies... The Exhibit
ular, respiratory and circulatory systems. Plus, the attraction also promotes health and well-being, with exhibits comparing healthy and unhealthy organs.
Bodies is currently located at Tropicana Las Vegas. The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., with the last tickets sold at 9 p.m. Admission is $28.50 for adults, $26.50 for seniors, $20.50 for children 12 and under, and $25.50 for Nevada residents and Tropicana Hotel guests. Tickets can be bought online at www.bodiestickets.com
Atomic Testing Museum
Part of the Smithsonian Institute, the 3-year-old Atomic Testing Museum slips back the veil on the Nevada Test Site, which served as the U.S. government's primary nuclear weapons-testing facility from 1951 to 1992. The museum has a variety of exhibits exploring the history and science behind this world-changing technology, focusing on the era between its development during the 1940s through the 1990s when nuclear testing was halted due to environmental concerns. The museum also features five different video venues with various films that include footage of the testing and offer a historical context.
The U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Site Office offers free general interest tours as well as trips to the actual Nevada Test Site, which depart from the Atomic Testing Museum's parking lot. Held once a month from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., this excursion takes guests, via bus, 65 miles out of town to the 1,375-square-mile facility.
Tourists will get to see the Mercury Base Camp, which has more than 1,100 buildings, and Frenchman Flat, where, on January 27, 1951, the first atmospheric nuclear test took place. Thirteen subsequent atmospheric nuclear tests were conducted at the site between 1951 and 1962. There are other sites to see, including a giant blasted-out crater 1,280 feet in diameter and 320 feet deep, created by a 104-kiloton nuclear device in 1962.
The Atomic Testing Museum is just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, just east of Paradise Road. Admission is $12 for adults, and $9 for seniors, military, students and kids. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, call 702-794-5161.