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Las Vegas Without Gambling

April 25, 2014

A single weekend – or a few days mid-week if you’re on a budget – in Las Vegas is enough time to get into financial trouble or the swing of things in America’s capital of “Why not”? We recommend the latter because the payout (mostly stories you can tell your friends back home) is guaranteed. 

Here are some of the rewarding ways (think great golf, great cigars, and driving really, really fast) a non-gambling man can spend time in Sin City – and come away with tales of not-so-gamey fun worth telling.

Drive a Ferrari race car.

Unbridled acceleration is a real buzz: G-forces smash your chest into your seat as your helmeted head seems glued up against the roll bars. Dream Racing of Las Vegas offers thrill seekers one-on-one training in a high-tech simulator, followed by five or more laps around Las Vegas International Speedway's nine-turn 1.1-mile track in a Ferrari F430 GT with a roaring 512-horsepower V8. It’s easy to muster the bravado to crush the accelerator on the straightaway, but navigating those tight turns takes real finesse and technique. Dream Racing is the only place in the States where you can drive this quarter-million-dollar, flaming red beauty.

Play a Tom Fazio golf course.

Photo: Wynn Las Vegas

Designed on the site of the defunct (and demolished) Desert Inn Golf Club by legendary golf course architect Tom Fazio and Vegas hotel magnate Steve Wynn, the par 70 Wynn Golf Clubmeasures 7,042 yards from the championship tees. The designers had more than 800,000 cubic yards of earth shifted to provide substantial elevation changes, fairway contours, and room for the pipes that feed the waterfall guarding the back of the green on the 18th hole, the course’s signature straightaway. Your caddy will likely suggest you play from a less-demanding tee box. Follow his advice.

Drink absinthe.

Photo: Comme Ça

Absinthe lore is dominated by Paris’ intellectuals and Prague’s revolutionaries – most of them sliding toward madness – but you can now get the high-proof alcohol made with psychotropic wormwood extract stateside. At Comme Ça, an alluring new farm-to-table slice of Paris, mixology reigns so supreme that custom cocktails – including those fashioned from the green stuff – bear their on-site creators’ bylines. Famed artistes Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Oscar Wilde, among other absinthe imbibers, would approve and envy your absorption of the culinary and aesthetic pleasures on Comme Ça’s lofty patio. It’s a genteel bit of shade that rather fittingly offers the city’s best view of the faux Eiffel Tower outside the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.

Smoke a serious cigar. 

There are smoking sections and then there is Casa Fuente, a lounge perpetually draped in rich clouds of cigar smoke. Tucked in a corner of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, Casa Fuente is an unexpectedly intimate haven removed from the retail rush. “It’s about more than smoking the cigar,” says manager Mac O’Donnell, whose visitors frequently include sports and entertainment stars. O’Donnell or his staff will suggest a cigar to match your tastes, then cut and “toast” the end to bring out the best flavor from start to finish. They even recommend the ideal libation to pair with your particular stogie.

Hit the man spa. 

Photo: Mandarin Oriental

For many guys, spending an afternoon at a spa smacks of feminine indulgence and the unique discomfort that comes from being oiled up and pummeled by a woman you’ve just met and can’t see. Forget all that. The 90-minute Tao of Man treatment at Mandarin Oriental Hotel's spa is uniquely oriented towards a male clientele. It combines a deep massage with an intensely exfoliating Asian skin cleaning (scraping!) technique called Gua Sha, topped off by application of Thai herb poultices that relax and restore muscles. Bottom line: The Tao of Man feels comfortable, even if you're not typically comfortable in that kind of environment.

Visit hip Fremont East. 

Photo: Getty Images

If you’re the curious traveler who wants to explore beyond the predictably flashy Strip, the Fremont East District is the sport for you. Between Las Vegas Boulevard and Sixth Street, this real-life old-town neighborhood boasts hip bars, bistros, boutiques, and even art studios. Two new establishments epitomize the redevelopment of this once-derelict district: Park on Fremont's ground-level outdoor garden patio attracts a colorful, congenial young crowd with comfort food and specialty Bloody Marys. Prohibition-themed Commonwealth challenges drinkers’ expectations with cocktails spiked with a dash of eccentricity. Commonwealth’s rooftop bar offers both a view of LED-lit downtown and the neon signs lining East Fremont Street.

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