10 ways to combine BYU’s Las Vegas Bowl trip into a family vacation

You can become a dolphin trainer for the day at Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. (Photo courtesy Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat)

You can become a dolphin trainer for the day at Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. (Photo courtesy Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat)

Local football fans have a rare opportunity to see BYU and Utah battle in a bowl game when the two longtime rivals clash in the Las Vegas Bowl on December 19. It isn’t just an opportunity to watch the Cougars try to end a four-game losing streak to the Utes and send Bronco Mendenhall out with his 10th career victory in his final game as head coach.

Making the trek down I-15 can also double as a fun family vacation for the whole family. There are plenty of places to see and things to do in the Las Vegas area besides simply going to the bowl game.

Pinball Hall of Fame

If you’re a retro gamer, the Pinball Hall of Fame will feel like paradise. It features more than 200 pinball machines and classic arcade games dating back to the 1940s. Admission is free and games cost 25 cents and up. The Pinball Hall of Fame is open for play from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and until midnight on weekends.

Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat

Animal lovers will enjoy a trip to the Mirage Hotel and Casino to see Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. Lions, tigers and leopards are all on display amid a jungle setting and jungle-themed music. You also get to visit bottlenose dolphins and participate in activities like paint with the dolphins or becoming a dolphin trainer for a day.


Go inside Circus Circus and enjoy 25 rides and attractions in the largest indoor theme park in America. These include roller coasters, mini golf, laser tag and bumper cars. The $90 million park took an entire year to build. It is 200 feet high and is fully enclosed by 8,615 panes of glass.

Neon Museum

Ever wonder what happens to neon signs once they are retired from The Strip? The Neon Museum lets you take a tour of that signage past. Admission is only available through booking an hour long guided tour. It is an outdoor collection and several restored signs are lit up in the evening.

The Mob Museum

Gangsters helped build Las Vegas into a modern tourist destination. You can learn all about their history through a tour of this 41,000-square-foot museum in downtown Las Vegas. The interactive displays and videos make this a fun experience for kids and adults alike.

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition

History is brought to life at the Titanic exhibit inside the Luxor. It features more than 300 artifacts salvaged from the famous sunken ship — including a portion of the hull. This includes 20 never-before-seen artifacts such as gaming chips, passenger papers and decorative sections from the Grand Staircase. Patrons receive a boarding pass of an actual passenger on Titanic when they start touring the exhibit and can learn if that person lived or died on a wall memorial at the end.

Stratosphere Tower

Standing at 1,149 feet, this is the tallest freestanding observation tower in the nation. The observation deck is set at 869 feet high and offers a 360 degree view of the city. You can see helicopters at eye level and can also take a spin in one of four exciting rides that overlook the Strip from the top of the tower.

Lake Mead

Only 30 minutes from the Strip, you can enjoy one of the largest reservoirs in the Western Hemisphere. Lake Mead is a popular place for activities like swimming, kayaking, paddle boating and waterskiing. It is surrounded by hills made from black lava and red sandstone and the area is home to animals ranging from desert tortoises to bighorn sheep. You can purchase a week-long pass for $10.

Hoover Dam

Eight decades after its construction, the Hoover Dam remains a marvel of modern engineering. It features 6.6 million tons of concrete — enough to pave a road from San Francisco to New York City. The Hoover Dam is 726 feet tall and 1,244 feet long. There are spectacular views of Lake Mead from the dam.

Red Rock Canyon

If you want to get away from the city for a scenic hike or horseback ride, Red Rock Canyon is a perfect destination. It features magnificent cliffs that reach as high as 3,000 feet and is home to more than 200 animal species from red-tailed hawks to cougars. You can also check out scenic spots like Willow Springs and look at pictographs left behind by Native American tribes. Passes to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area cost just $7 per car.


John Coon is a Utah native and has reported on sports in the Beehive State for more than a decade. After stints as a reporter with the Salt Lake Tribune and then the Deseret News, John became a full-time freelance writer and editor in 2011. He currently covers major sports at BYU and the University of Utah for the Associated Press. You can follow John on Twitter at @johncoonsports

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