6 Unexpected Ways I Broadened My Cultural Horizons In Las Vegas

I consider myself a pretty ~cultured~ person. I’ve lived in two major American cities. Coming from an Italian background, my family life has been rooted in food, which led to me being a rather adventurous eater, and I’m generally open to all new experiences.

The desire to always have something new to do — a great concert to go to, a new restaurant to try, a new park to check out — led me across the country two years ago, from my home state of New Jersey to Los Angeles, to start a new life. My adventures discovering the art, music, food, and nature (the glorious nature!) of the city helped me feel like I belonged in my new California home.

To broaden my cultural horizons beyond my city, I hopped on quick flight to Las Vegas to check out the interesting and unique culture that the city had to offer. What did I find? There’s so much to do in this city beyond the “what happens in Vegas ...” stereotype.

When you think Vegas, you no doubt think of The Strip. I, however, wanted to experience something a little out of the ordinary, so I opted to stay downtown, in classic Vegas, at the iconic institution The Golden Nugget.

Thanks to a surprise upgrade, I got to stay in one of the luxury Spa Tower rooms, which boasted two floors, a gilded staircase, a king bed and a ceiling mirror. It basically set me up for a weekend of, "What is my life, even?!"

If you haven’t heard of it, the Neon Museum of Las Vegas is a radiant, colorful, and historical collection of authentic, vintage Vegas neon signs going all the way back to the Prohibition Era.

I was lucky enough to tour the grounds of the Neon Boneyard, a garden where hundreds of signs from the city’s days of yore are sent to live out their afterlives. Each piece has a unique story that reveals something about Vegas history you never knew existed.

I learned that the majority of the signs are donations, and in many cases, they are required to be carefully restored, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. What better way to learn Vegas’ history than through neon, which you spot in Vegas literally everywhere?

Another lesson: This is basically the best place in town to snap a pic for social media. You’re welcome!

My childhood tea party dreams came to life on the 23rd floor of the Waldorf Astoria overlooking the beautiful Vegas Strip. Walking in and absorbing my surroundings, I quickly realized my go-to coffee shops at home have nothing on the Tea Lounge at the Waldorf Astoria.

I ordered the matcha, which was served in a massive, beautiful pastel teapot that perfectly complemented the décor of the space. I wondered if this serving of tea was meant for just one person, and it most certainly was. Dainty tea-sipper that I am, I finished the entire pot without even noticing.

To accompany my tea, I was served a beautiful stack of assorted afternoon tea sandwiches, pastries, and scones — I felt like a true fancy Brit! My absolute favorites were the grilled cheese with a creamy deviled egg, a scallion cream cheese and radish combo served on crispy shortbread, the pistachio macaroons, and a canelé, a French pastry I’d never had before. Safe to say that I will be searching all of Los Angeles to find my next canelé with a side of matcha — but there’s pretty much no chance it’ll be quite as perfect!

I got to sample some world-class French cuisine at Bouchon Bistro inside the beautiful Venetian Resort Las Vegas. I started off my feast with a cheesy, hot, crispy French onion soup (or, as I like to call it, F.O.S), which is my favorite soup of all time.

Then, in a blink of an eye, I was surrounded by homemade beignets. For those who don’t know, a beignet is essentially a French donut or zeppoli — but better than you could possibly imagine.

It was some amazing French-inspired cuisine in the middle of Vegas, and I was definitely doing multiple ::chef kisses:: throughout!

There are few pleasures in life that satisfy me more than a solid steak dinner paired with a delicious dirty martini (with strictly bleu cheese olives).

Safe to say, I was beyond excited to check out Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse at The Golden Nugget to enjoy this delicacy. The staff was raving about the Kobe beef on the menu, since they are the only restaurant in Downtown Vegas to carry this type of meat. I was quite skeptical since I had no idea what Kobe beef was prior to this. But let me tell you, it was LEGIT. The tender center of the meat combined with the crispy, salty crust was to die for. Trust, I will be needing more Kobe beef in my life ASAP.

My other favorite dishes were the thick roasted bacon, the maple glazed quail, crab cakes, and bleu cheese butter to pour all over my steak. Can you tell it was a FEAST?! I’m salivating just writing this.

My Japanese Cherry Blossom dreams came true in the terrace of The Bellagio. These Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are refreshed and redesigned every season with new and beautiful horticulture. This time of year was themed to Japanese Spring — with vibrant colors and scents that made me feel like Spring was finally here.

It was a weekend that enriched my senses and my mind. Plus, I left with plenty of new favorite foods, stories, and enough pictures to "latergram" for a good year. And though I had a seriously packed weekend, I had simply scratched the surface. This town has so much going on! Great food: check! History: check! Nature(!!!): check! When it comes to an unexpected cultural getaway, Vegas should be at the top of your list.

This article is sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.