50 Things To Do Before Labor Day

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Take part in one of the Cosmopolitan’s wonderfully weird summer festivals. Like the TropFest, the world’s largest short-film festival, which celebrates its 20th anniversary June 1-3 (general admission is free; VIP three-day passes are $200; TropFest.com). And the LuckyRice Night Market, which welcomes the best of Asian food on June 23, when top chefs (including our own Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam and Mitsuo Endo of Raku) serve up signature dishes poolside ($88, CosmopolitanLasVegas.com). And keep your fingers crossed: There’s a chance that everybody’s favorite pork fest, All Star Cochon, will return this summer. Bacon ice cream, anyone? (Watch for news at CosmopolitanLasVegas.com.)

Follow your heart and raise your spirits by stepping into Las Vegas Distillery, Nevada’s first and only legal distillery since Prohibition. There you’ll meet the Las Vegas Copper Angels, owner/distiller George Racz’ twin 170-gallon pot stills, Rose and Swan, and witness whatever’s going on in the life of a real working distillery that day. There’s no tasting on premise (darn bureaucratic red tape!) so there’s no age restriction—even on Saturdays, when you can pitch in and help label the very bottles of seven-grain vodka and Rumskey that will one day grace shelves all over the Valley. Labeling occurs 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.; call one day ahead for tours, 629-7534; LasVegasDistillery.com.

Learn the fine art of brewing by watching a master, Dave Otto, make a batch of Dog Pound pilsner at Big Dog’s Brew School. The $99 tuition includes the 10 a.m.-4 p.m. class, lunch, two brews and, a few weeks later, a graduation dinner, certificate of completion and a growler of your class’s project beer. By reservation only, next class June 23, BigDogsBrews.com/brewschool.

Think helmet hair is sexy? When you volunteer some time at the Fremont Bicycle Clinic, you’re sure to meet others who agree. With a mission to facilitate safe and proper bicycling through education, workshops and maintenance, the clinic helps people rehab their bikes. Get yours done, then help others! In Emergency Arts, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon-Wed, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Thu, noon-3 p.m. Sat, Facebook.com/fremont.bike.clinic.

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is the world’s fastest-growing water sport for a variety of reasons: It’s fun, it’s easy to learn and it provides a great total-body workout. Desert Adventures SUP instructor David Kitchens is a lifelong surfer who will help give you a different perspective on Lake Mead, and perhaps even help you get a new favorite water hobby. And even if you have trouble staying on the board, an unexpected plunge sure feels good on a 110-degree day. $75 per person for group lesson, $150 private lesson. Desert Adventures, 1647 Nevada Highway, Boulder City.

Depending on how you want to play it, there are a variety of recreational opportunities to be had if you spend a day exploring all of Southern Nevada’s halls of fame. For example, play a round at Las Vegas National Golf Club before visiting the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame in the clubhouse (1911 E. Desert Inn Road). Afterward, have lunch downtown, where the art of seduction is on full display at the Burlesque Hall of Fame (520 E. Fremont St., Suite 120) in Emergency Arts. Want to get some shopping done along the way? No sweat. The Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame (1300 W. Sunset Road, Henderson) just happens to be in the Galleria at Sunset mall. And saving the best for last, make a night of it at the Pinball Hall of Fame (1610 E. Tropicana Ave.). It’s definitely the most fun you’ll ever have with a pocketful of quarters.

After all that hall-of-fame exploring, get the Foot Awakening Treatment at the Spa at Lakeside in Summerlin. Relax and check out the pleasant views while a professional offers a soothing foot scrub, hydrating foot mask, and a foot and leg massage. The 50-minute treatment is $55. SpaAtLakeside.com.

It may be too late to lose that last 20 pounds before the onset of summer, but here’s a quick fix to give you a confidence boost. The Spa at Mandarin Oriental and its Ultimate Facial treatment can sharpen your appearance in 80 minutes. Your skin will appear more toned and firm thanks to an advanced micro-current system that tricks the epidermis into thinking it’s 20 years old. Facial muscles get zapped back into place, sags and bags be gone. Plus there is a relaxing deep cleanse and mask at the beginning and end, respectively. Our favorite part: The treatment features Aromatherapy Associates Rose Skin Tonic, which is euphoria in a bottle. Pick up some to take home for $40 in the spa boutique. $400 Fri-Sun; $360 Mon-Thu, 590-8886.


Join the Santa Rampage pub crawl on Fremont Street. If you’re down on Fremont Street on a hot summer night in July, there’s a chance nearly 50 people dressed like Santa Claus will be stumbling from bar to bar. The Rampage descends yearly for a pub crawl, much to the confusion of tourists. Keep an eye on Facebook.com/groups/VegasSantaRampage for this year’s date and itinerary.

House parties can only go so far before the cops are called. If you’ve got the cash and some friends (or, better yet, some friends with cash), book the entire Artisan Hotel for a night. For $4,000 (Sun-Thu), you can buy out the entire 64-room property for your own fête. E-mail Buyout@ArtisanHotel.com to solidify the ultimate staycation. 1501 W. Sahara Ave.

Hike Ice Box Canyon, whose high canyon walls keep it perennially shady and cool (hence the name). Get an early start, as your chances of seeing a rushing waterfall drop as the temperatures rise. The signed trailhead is eight miles past the entry gate of the scenic loop at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. RedRockCanyonLV.org.

Enjoy stars on the screen and stars above at MugsNMovies on Third Street between Stewart and Ogden avenues. Watch classics while sipping beer (or hot chocolate) and munching popcorn. Bring a chair or blanket, and make yourself at home downtown! Free, various times, next show May 19, MugsNMovies.com.

Like to dance but don’t have a partner? Country line dancing makes for a great support group. Learn the Cowboy Cha Cha, Tush Push and Watermelon Crawl with free line-dancing lessons by instructor Jeanette Schmeling at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country (7:30 p.m. Wed-Sat), with Tim Perez at Gilley’s in TI (7:30-8:30 p.m. Sun-Mon, Thu; 7-8 p.m. Tue-Wed) and with Jason McCollum at Revolver in Santa Fe Station (8:15-9 p.m., Wed-Sat).

See how close you can get to Area 51 without getting arrested. Take U.S. 93 north about 90 miles, through the surprisingly lush Pahranagat National Wildlife refuge, to Nevada 318. About a mile west, turn left on Nevada 375 and follow it 15 miles. Just beyond Hancock Summit you’ll see Groom Lake Road, an unmarked, well-maintained dirt road running south. Follow it 13.8 miles until you see a sign warning you that deadly force is authorized if you go on. Look to the right and you’ll likely see a “cammo dude” perched on a hill waiting for someone to disregard the sign. If you’re still feeling adventurous, get back on Nevada 375 and go 20 miles farther north just to buy a T-shirt at the Little A’Le’Inn gift shop.

Yeah, you can see a bighorn sheep at the zoo, but this is much better: In the early evening, spread out your blanket on the lush grass of Boulder City’s Hemenway Park, unpack your dinner, untie the kids and hang with the coolest wildlife species in Southern Nevada. This is prime viewing time, when—often in herds of 50—the sheep come down from the rocky hills around Lake Mead to chill. 501 Ville Drive, Boulder City.

Think of the NASCAR Whelen All-American series as the Sprint Cup’s farm league, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s late-night special race (7 p.m. to midnight Aug. 18) as the perfect time to sit outside and watch the future stars of NASCAR race during our ugly season. The racer we’ll be rooting for: 15-year-old Hannah Newhouse, who debuted in April and became the youngest driver to ever win a Division 1 career start.

Get a new cookbook and discover the tasty beauty of exotic produce. Ever tried a Romanesco cauliflower, loquat or limequat? Visit the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Friday and you see all kinds of things that are fresher than what you find at Vons. Third Street between Stewart and Ogden avenues, Downtown3rd.com.

Go to a Pub and Watch Las Vegas in the Summer Olympics

It may be billed as “The Michael Phelps Show,” but the London Olympics also might have some Vegas-raised talent. Here’s a quick guide to the two-week spectacle (July 27-Aug. 12) of running, jumping, throwing, diving and—lest we forget—trampoline:


Who to watch: Among the Southern Nevadans hoping to go for the gold are Reindell Cole (sprinter, long jumper and Desert Pines High graduate, profiled in Vegas Seven’s “Most Intriguing People,” Jan. 26); Rodney Martin (sprinter, Western High); Connor Fields (BMX, Green Valley High); Michael Hunter (heavyweight boxer); and Elliott Seleska (field hockey).

How to watch: The Games will be aired on various NBC networks, including NBC Sports. Additionally, cable or satellite TV subscribers will have free access to live streaming events and full replays at NBCOlympics.com/LiveExtra.

Where to watch: Drape yourself in that Union Jack and hit up any of the city’s three English-style pubs, all of which will be flush with Olympic fever: Crown & Anchor British Pub (1350 E. Tropicana Ave., 739-8676; 4755 Spring Mountain Road, 876-4733), CrownandAnchorLV.com); Queen Victoria Pub (in the Riviera, 794-9260, QueenVicLasVegas.com); and English’s Quintessentially British (in Town Square, 478-8089, EnglishsTownSquare.com).

Fly the friendly skies … in a basket. OK, so the “hot air” part of hot-air ballooning sounds unfriendly in the summer, but when you take off in the cool pre-dawn skies and escape to more than 1,000 feet above the scorched desert floor, drinking in some of the best views of the Strip and Red Rock Canyon, you’ll forget the mercury. Plus: champagne! Did we mention the champagne?! Rides start at $275 per person, 553-3039, VegasBalloonRides.com.

It’s been a few weeks since you and your roommates started your own at-home version of TV’s Chopped and, by now, news of your SPAM-wonton victory has gone viral. It’s time to up the ante. Bourdain’s busy (and a notorious ass), so learn how to cook from Las Vegas’ own Geno Bernardo. The Nove Italiano executive chef holds a class just before nearly every holiday on the calendar. Starting at $85, the hands-on lesson takes you through five courses with wine pairings and cocktails. In the Palms, 942-6800, NoveLasVegas.com.

Force yourself to have a medicated cooling-down period. There are two Minus 5 Ice Bars in Las Vegas—each a frosty 23 degrees—that will chill you out faster than you can say “Sweet home Varykino.” In this frame of mind, we recommend a stiff screwdriver, which will be as cold as the couch you’ll sit on while you consider your next move. In Mandalay Place, 740-5800; in the Monte Carlo, 643-7800.

Do you know what year The Mirage was built? Or how many lights line the Fremont Street Canopy?  You will when you play the new city scavenger hunt. The game at StrayBoots.com sends clues to any text-enabled phone, rewarding correct answers with fun facts and points. Sign up on the website, and you and any number of your friends can compete for … well, that’s up to you. The game has four different routes in Las Vegas, including the Center Strip and Fremont Street. It’s an out-of-the-box way to get to know your city. $9-$12 per person, StrayBoots.com.

West Air Aviation operates out of the North Las Vegas Airport and, for $99, they’ll take you up for 45 minutes and let you fly a Cessna. A summer tip: Take your flight in the morning, because it’s 10 degrees hotter up there than on the ground. WestAirAviation.com.

There’s gold in this desert, but there’s a lot of desert. Where to begin? Try the Las Vegas chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America. Congenial club members will teach you how the equipment works and let you go on a gold-hunting trip to Nye and Lincoln counties. You probably won’t get rich, but you will have a good time. Contact chapter President DeAnna Costen, 452-1049, or go to LVGPAA.com.

The best view of Hoover Dam is from just below it on the Colorado River, and the only way to get there is with a tour guide out of Willow Beach. Boulder City River Riders feeds you breakfast, then you paddle a kayak down Black Canyon to the foot of the dam. On the way back you visit hot springs down river and stop for lunch. One advantage of kayaking: You ride low in the water, where the temps are cooler, even in the summer. $210 person (two-person minimum), BoulderCityOutffitters.com.

Stop fantasizing about getting behind the ones and twos. Become a DJ! Local guys Steele & Godfrey are willing to help out with lessons—but it’ll cost you $400 a level (from a private lesson to doing a live show), with a three-level package deal for $1,199 (DJ4Life.org/Academy/LasVegas). If that’s too pricey, try the at-home method with the legendary DJ Qbert and his Skratch Academy at QBertSkratchUniversity.com. That’s $90 for a three-month membership. Either way, after you graduate, just change a few letters to numbers in your name, and you’re on your way!

Here’s how to do Broadway, Vegas-style: Grab a super-size nosh at the Carnegie Deli at The Mirage—say, one of those pastrami sandwiches that defies the mouth span of the average human. Then take in Wicked, a show that defines the term “Broadway hit” at The Smith Center (Aug. 29-Oct. 7). Close out the night at the Bar at Times Square at (where else?) New York-New York with a (what else?) Manhattan and singing along to (yep) “New York State of Mind.” Sorry, no subway service. It’s still Vegas, after all.

It isn’t quite like joining the Mile-High Club, but it’s almost as fun to earn your wings at the Whisky Attic’s Flight School. Upstairs from the Freakin’ Frog, owner and UNLV professor Adam Carmer will tailor a whiskey flight to your particular desires. Wanna know more about bourbon than your poker buddies? Never had an Indian whiskey? Carmer can help with one of 21 flights, most ranging from $50 to $100 per person. Complete all 21 and you get a jacket—and our eternal respect. By reservation only, 597-9702, 4700 S. Maryland Parkway, FreakinFrog.com.

On June 8, 1859, Henry “Pancake” Comstock came upon two miners working a claim in what is now Virginia City. Thus began the first major U.S. discovery of silver ore and the rush to settle what was then western Utah Territory but would soon become Nevada. Honor Pancake’s legacy by visiting the new Nevada State Museum, where you can see an example of the square-set timbering that kept the Comstock from collapsing. In the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri-Mon., free with park admission ($9.95 adults, $4.95 kids).

Try every flavor of soda from the high-tech mix-and-match fountain at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets’ food-court chicken joint (gloriously named Chicken Now). If you ever mixed sodas as a kid, get ready to take the habit to a whole new level. Vanilla-grape Sprite Zero, anyone?

Tour Our New Downtown Landmarks


The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health: You’ve driven by it a thousand times and wondered if it’s as weird on the inside as it is on the outside. (Answer: Yes. Being inside the events center is like living in a Dr. Seuss book. The rest of the center is nice office space with an impressive art collection.) Arrange a tour and see for yourself by calling 483-6000. Go on the first and third Tuesday of each month, 11 a.m., and take a virtual tour of the Cleveland Museum of Art via teleconference.

The new City Hall. You paid $185 million for it. Delight in it with civic pride. Park across the street in the brand-new garage, where you’ll get free parking for two hours with validation. March up the front steps under the solar trees and into the marble foyer, contemplating the sustainable yet luxurious machinations of municipal government. Make your way back to the Council chambers and plop down in a red theater seat to revel in democracy at work. Then finish it off by riding the elevator to the seventh floor to see the mayor’s floor-to-ceiling views—but don’t forget to stop on the fourth floor to pay your sewer bill. City Hall, 495 S. Main St.,
229-6011, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mon-Thu.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Get an eyeful of its Hoover Dam-inspired architecture outside and its elegant appointments inside. Drink in its centerpiece, the 2,050-seat Reynolds Hall and its plush grand lobby, plus the Cabaret Jazz room and Troesch Studio Theater in the Boman Pavilion. Ogle its sprinkling of artwork (both modern and classical) throughout the campus, plus its educational facilities. Free hourlong tours are booked through May but become available again in June, every Wednesday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Make reservations by calling 749-2000.

Explore Valley of Fire State Park, get to know Elephant Rock, commune with the petroglyphs at Mouse’s Tank, and then stop at Overton’s Inside Scoop for sandwiches and unforgettably good milk shakes. Valley of Fire State Park in Overton, 397-2088; Inside Scoop, 395 S. Moapa Valley Blvd., 397-2055.

Go antiquing in Boulder City. Don’t miss Goatfeathers (1300 Wyoming St.), where you may land anything from an early ’60s TV-dinner table on wheels to a silver-plated triceratops music box that plays the theme from Cats. Then relax on the patio at the Boulder Dam Brewing Company (453 Nevada Way)—especially on Fridays and Saturdays, when there’s live music 8-10 p.m.

Ballet can be acrobatic, and acrobatics can be an aerial ballet, so why not blend the two? Catch the annual Choreographers’ Showcase, a dance-tastic blast starring performers from both Nevada Ballet Theatre and Cirque du Soleil as they challenge and even defy gravity. Think of it as Ballet du Soleil. Starting at $20, 1 p.m. June 9-10, Aria’s Viva Elvis Theater.

You can vanquish a phobia with Venom! Or simply satisfy your serpent curiosity, as the Springs Preserve showcases Nevada’s most toxic reptiles: Mojave sidewinders, Great Basin rattlesnakes, speckled rattlesnakes, desert night snakes and Gila monsters. Senior zoologist Thomas O’Toole hosts shows at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily, June 1-July 15, in the Big Springs Theater in the Origen Experience. Free with park admission ($9.95 adults, $4.95 kids), SpringsPreserve.org.

Movies may stink at the theaters this time of year, but it’s a different story if you go to a film festival. Mark down July 19-22 for the Las Vegas Film Festival at the LVH, as its schedule is stuffed with screenings of Oscar-winning films, world premieres, celebrity tributes, panel discussions and parties. Then in August (dates to be announced), movie madness shifts to Bellagio as the Vegas CineFest returns for a second year of features, shorts, documentaries and, yes, parties. That should satisfy even the hungriest film lovers.

Then again, who needs a movie theater to see a movie? Dress down in your bathing suit. Lounge in a daybed. Have dinner. And, oh yeah, watch a free flick poolside—a mix of classic and contemporary films—at Dive-In Movies every Monday night at 8 throughout the summer, starting May 14, at the Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool. Pretty cool, as long as they don’t show Thunderball, in which 007 gets trapped in a pool with hungry sharks.

Soak up the Electric Daisy Carnival flavor even if you don’t have tickets. The night before EDC kicks off on June 8, Bassrush and Insomniac have teamed up for a massive drum-and-bass and dubstep event at the Orleans Arena. The 18-and-up event features sets by Datsik, Knife Party, Bassnectar, Excision, 12th Planet and more. Insomniac.com.

Take off work early on Friday like they do back East and stretch out in a patch of sun like a fat house cat on Bar+Bistro’s patio with a pitcher of the house pomegranate sangria. Just cuz. $6 glass, $20 pitcher, in the Arts Factory, 107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 155, BarBistroAF.com.

Sure, it’s hotter than hell, but here’s one very Vegas way to enjoy yourself outdoors: Spend a day at the Red Rock Cabana Club at Red Rock Resort in Summerlin. Book a luxurious cabana with top-shelf bottle service and plasma TVs—just in case the pool isn’t enticing enough. Admission is free for locals, but it comes with a $400 minimum for food and beverages. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat-Mon, 797-7297.

Sharpen your palate and intellect at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, which lets you pair wine with Monet in honor of its Impressions of Light exhibit. Besides the physical pleasures of taste and beauty, the appeal of this monthly event, called Art & Wine: A Perfect Pairing, is the enrichment gleaned from an “interactive conversation” with gallery director Tarissa Tiberti and director of wine/master sommelier Jason Smith. $38, 5-7 p.m. June 13, July 11, Aug. 8 and Sept. 12, 693-7871.

Ready for some marathon partying? We challenge you to do Vegas nightlife all day. The best vehicle for this exercise, conveniently, is at one venue: Encore, whose Beach Club opens at noon Fridays and 11 a.m. Sat-Sun and morphs into Surrender nightclub at 10:30 p.m. That’s a lot of nonstop fun, though we’d recommend a shower between sessions.

Take a day trip to China Ranch, a family-owned date farm that appears like a lush mirage near the south end of Death Valley National Park, about 80 miles north of Las Vegas. After exploring the landmarks along the Old Spanish Trail, where pioneers and Indians once trekked, follow the serene stream to Date Farm Gift Shop, a barn where one of the best treats your taste buds will ever experience is served: a cold, creamy date shake. And the homemade breads, muffins and cookies there make great gifts to take home. 760-852-4120, ChinaRanch.com.

You’ve witnessed the spontaneous eruption of excitement at a hot craps table, and you want in on that action. One problem: A physics book written in Mandarin makes more sense than craps. Solution: Take a free craps lesson. They’re offered at casinos all over town. We recommend Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, where you not only learn the difference between playing the “pass” and “come” line in a 20-minute session at 10:30 a.m. daily, you also receive a $5 match-play coupon for when you’re ready to throw the bones for real. (Many casinos offer free lessons for other table games, as well. Visit LasVegasAdvisor.com/FreeGamingLessons.cfm for details.)

If you’re going to spend five hours outdoors … in the searing summer heat … playing the most frustrating game in the world, you damn well better take advantage of the best golf deal in town. We like this one from Walters Golf: From May 31-Aug. 31, local duffers get one round at three courses (Bali Hai, Desert Pines and Royal Links); a $20 range card for Desert Pines; a voucher for a free clinic from a Walters Golf Academy instructor; and a three-day advance booking window. Total cost: $199. You also receive discounted pricing at all three courses (for example, before 2 p.m., Bali Hai is $69 weekdays/$89 weekends, while Royal Links is $39/$49). WaltersGolf.com, 450-8159; PrimmValleyGolf.com, 679-5509.

Shop at The Bungalow, the newest boutique to spark our fancy. Owner Meital Bronstein curates a chic collection that includes such designers as MiH, Anna Sui and Milly. The one-stop shop also features Taschen books and home goods from Missoni and Match Pewter hand-picked in collaboration with Unicahome. 7024 W. Charleston Blvd., 477-0107; TheBungalowLV.com.

It’s time to pay it forward. Clean out the closet and donate your reusable possessions to the New Vista Emporium Store (5220 W. Charleston Blvd.). The thrift shop benefits those with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder and more. The emporium offers a pick-up service (457-4677) and, yes, they’ll leave you a receipt for tax purposes.

Take two hours out of your summer and give back to the community. We recommend the Soup & A Smile program, in which you can help the homeless downtown fill up on soup, bread and tea. Once the food runs out, volunteers return to the Catholic Worker residence (500 W. Van Buren Ave.) to help with the dishwashing and laundry. Then get one of your hands painted in your favorite color, head to the tiny shed in front of the house and leave your mark. It’s a cool way to remember those who’ve helped out. 6-8 a.m. Wed-Sat (except the last Saturday of the month), 647-0728, ThreeSquare.org.

Suggested Next Read

The Man Who Photographs Produce

The Man Who Photographs Produce

By Bob Whitby

Dr. Robert Belliveau sits hunched over a small white-plastic cutting board, kitchen knife in hand. He’s slicing a fresh green pepper into quarter-inch-long strips, and the earthy smell momentarily turns his lab into a kitchen. Belliveau selects a strip and flips it over, revealing the fleshy, moist, inner lining of the pepper, called the endocarp. That’s what he’s after. He trades the knife for a razor blade and hunches a little closer to his work. This is the tricky part, and it’s rare to get it right the first time.