Ethan Miller  /  Getty Images file
The Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada
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Special to msnbc.com
updated 9/12/2006 1:18:00 PM ET 2006-09-12T17:18:00

24 hours to kill in Las Vegas? That’s an easy one: hit the blackjack table, fortify yourself with free booze, and sit there until your savings give out (or your husband catches you), right? Well, sure that’s one way to do Vegas for a day, and a mighty popular one, too. But there’s more to see in Sin City than the King, Queen, Jack and Joker. Here are my suggestions for a rip-roaring adventure in “Pair-O-Dice”.

8 a.m. - 9 a.m.: Ditch the Strip and head to Hash House a Go Go which takes the unofficial mantra of Vegas (more ... more … more) to ridiculous degrees. The pancakes are the size of pizzas, hash and eggs are plated in foot-wide skillets (the food covering every inch) and the special eggs benedict run the length of a forearm. It would be just another Vegas stunt if the food wasn’t so superb, but this place takes breakfasts to new heights with creative, complex creations on every plate. You’ll swoon for the snickers flapjacks; the griddled mashed potatoes with poached eggs, bacon and red pepper cream are to die for; and the “S’mores” mocha coffee, which comes topped with graham crackers and charred marshmallow, will take you right back to your sleepaway camp days.  If you finish your plate, you’ll need to skip the lunch suggestion below.

9 a.m. - noon: From Hash House a Go Go, it will only be about a 15-minute drive to Red Rock Canyon (allot at least 25 if you’re coming from the Strip). It may seem odd to leave town, first thing, but there’s no sight in Vegas proper that matches the awesome power of this canyon. At the bottom of the ocean several millennia ago, the walls of canyon have since been sculpted by the elements into a striking collection of natural bridges, arches and mottled peaks, colored in flamboyant ochres, rusts, blacks, whites and even hot pinks in places. Stop first at the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center to learn about the geologic and natural history of the canyon before setting off on the 13-mile loop driving tour. If you’re truly ambitious you can get out and hike (be sure to bring at least a gallon of water per person). Especially recommended is the Ice Box trail, much of which is shaded from the sun. It ends at a lovely little waterfall.

MORNING ALTERNATIVE
If nature isn’t your thing, how about death, doom and destruction? There are a lot of rollercoasters and spooky 3-D movies in Vegas, but none will terrify you more effectively than the Atomic Testing Museum . Much of the testing the United States did from the 1960’s onward took place right outside of Las Vegas, and this complex, fascinating museum details that history while giving visitors a chilling look at the power of the bomb. Though it might be a darker diversion than most who go to Vegas expect, it’s the finest museum of its sort in the nation and deserves to be seen.

Noon-2 p.m.: You’re in Vegas, baby so it’s your duty to do the buffet thing (and gain the requisite five pounds many visitors leave the Strip carrying). There are lots of fabulous buffets in town, but the one you should visit combines terrific food, a central location, and a décor so kitchy you could be nowhere else but Sin City. It’s the Le Village Buffet at the Paris Resort and Casino, designed to look like an idyllic, French town square (or perhaps a scene from Disney’s movie Beauty and the Beast), and each food station highlights a different region of France. Fondue, crepes, boeuf bourgignon, cheeses, pastries -- you name it, it’s all on offer, and because so much is cooked to order here, it’ll be tasty and fresh.

2 p.m. - 5 p.m.: Stroll or drive the Strip (depending on the weather). Stop when the spirit hits you and duck inside a Roman palace, an Egyptian pyramid, the cities of New York, Monte Carlo or Venice, a massive mall…or two … or three. The Strip is Vegas’ biggest attraction and simply walking and gawking at all of the “flare bartenders” (think Tom Cruise in “Cocktail”); the animatronic statues (perhaps in Caesar’s Palace); and all the rest of the insanity here (trompe l’oeil skies, fiber glass stone statues, fake body parts jammed into tiny cocktail waitress uniforms) is a hoot and a half.

AFTERNOON ALTERNATIVE
For those who’d rather see the Strip by night (and it really does reach another level when it’s lit up), that shrine of kitsch, the Liberace Museum beckons.Here you’ll see all of Mr. Showmanship’s extraordinary costumes, hear his life story (or at least a version of it that downplays the AIDS that cut his life short) and if you’re lucky catch a tribute show by the beaming Wes Winters, who is a Liberace sound alike when his fingers hit the keyboards. He also tells dozens of charming and ultimately moving stories about the man himself. Not just for fans, the museum is a lark and should entertain even those who never heard the maestro play.

5:30 - 7:00: You’re not going to believe it, but again, I’m going to urge you to desert the Strip, and head to what I think is the most distinctive restaurant in town, Lotus of Siam . Named best Thai restaurant in the country by Gourmet Magazine, it’s an unpretentious little place set in a strip mall, about a ten-minute drive from the center of the Strip.  Have the waiter order for you and you’ll have the meal of a lifetime, trying all of the Thai delicacies that never reach your neighborhood Thai place from searingly hot beef jerky, to addictive stews, to deeply sour fish dishes. This is where the celebrity chefs who lend their names to the famous restaurants on the Strip (but rarely cook there themselves) come when they want a gourmet night out.

7:30 p.m.: Join the Circus, or the Cirque du Soleil in this case—these surreal extravaganzas are by far the most magical in town (though not cheap). I personally like “O” best, the water ballet performed on a dreamlike stage that morphs from swimming pool to lake to African Savannah in mere seconds. But Beatles fans will want to catch the newest show “Love” which incorporates the music of the Fab Four into the show, some of which released for the first time for use in the soundtrack of this show. Anybody with children should pick Mystere, the funniest of the Cirque shows, as well as the least expensive.

EVENING ALTERNATIVE
Or you could just wander the Strip again. Don’t waste your time waiting to see the free pirate show at TI (not worth it), but you will enjoy the dancing fountains at the Bellagio, the volcano at the Mirage, and all of the other free entertainments that lace the Strip at night. The hotels themselves are beautifully lit, and look even more outrageous at night than during the day, so do try and get out if you can.

11 p.m. on … Put on your dancing shoes and head to Pure , Tabu Ultra Lounge , Tangerine or one of those other clubs consistently featured in US Magazine for Britney Spears and Paris Hilton spottings. They all have gimmicks—usually scantily clad women doing nouveau burlesque shows or celebrity DJ’s. Go to the websites to find out what the draw is the nights you’ll be in town. Warning: While these clubs aren’t as hard to get into as those in NYC or LA, you do need to be wearing appropriate club wear to get past the velvet ropes; and if you’re with a group of guys, split up. There’s no way they’ll let you in altogether.

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Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer guides in bookstores now. She is currently working on Pauline Frommer's Las Vegas.

Hash House a Go Go, 6800 West Sahara Boulevard, phone 702/804-4646; www.hashhouseagogo.com/. Open daily 7:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Red Rock Canyonis located 13 miles West of Las Vegas. Take Charleston Blvd West until it turns into Nevada 159

Red Rock Canyon Visitor’s Center, phone 702/363-1921; www.redrockcanyon.blm.gov/. Open daily 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., free admission.

The Atomic Testing Museum, 755 Flamingo Rd, phon 702/794-5151; www.ntshf.org/. Open Mon-Sat 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. Admission $10 adults, $7 seniors

Le Village Buffet at Paris Casino and Resort, 3655 Las Vegas Blvd South, phone 888/266-5687. Breakfast is $13, lunch $18, dinner and brunch is $25; alcoholic beverages are extra except at brunch when champagne is included in the cost. Open Sun-Thurs 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., Fri-Sat 7 a.m. - 11 p.m.

The Las Vegas Stripruns along Las Vegas Boulevard from the Stratosphere Hotel to the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

The Liberace Museum, 1775 E. Tropicana at Spencer, phone 702/798-5595; www.liberace.org/. Open Mon-Sat 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun noon-4 p.m. Admission $13 adults, $8.50 seniors.

Lotus of Siam, 953 E. Sahara Ave in a strip mall, phone 702/735-3033; www.saipinchutima.com/. Open Mon-Fri 11:20-2:30 and 5:30-9:30, Sat-Sun 5:30-10 p.m.

For more information and to purchase a tickets go to www.cirquedusoleil.com.

Pure in Caesar’s Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd South; cover and hours vary.

Tabu Ultra Lounge in the MGM Grand, 3799 Las Vegas Blvd South; cover and hours vary.

Tangerinein TI at the Mirage, 3300 Las Vegas Blvd South; again cover and hours vary.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer guides in bookstores now. She is currently working on Pauline Frommer's Las Vegas.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Photos: Welcome to Vegas

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  1. Welcome to Las Vegas

    The Bellagio's fountain show entertains visitors nightly. In the background is Bally's Las Vegas, left, and Paris Las Vegas, which has a 50-story Eiffel Tower replica in front. Over 37.5 million people visit Las Vegas each year. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Fremont Street Experience

    Located in downtown Las Vegas, this exciting pedestrian promenade is home to approximately 16 million lights, making it one of the largest LED screens in the world. (Brian Jones / Las Vegas News Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Looking for Lady Luck

    Casion visitors play slot machines at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Dunking Elvis

    An Elvis impersonator performs a slam dunk during the 2007 NBA All-Star Game on February 18, 2007, at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. (Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAEGetty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Grand casinos

    Lights from passing vehicles are seen in front of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Poker face

    Jamie Gold, right, of California and Paul Wasicka of Colorado go head-to-head on the final table of the World Series of Poker no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event at the Rio Hotel & Casino on Aug. 11, 2006, in Las Vegas. Gold outlasted more than 8,700 other poker players to win the top prize of $12 million. Wasicka won just over $6.1 million for finishing second. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Glitz and glamour

    A Canon display is seen inside the Las Vegas Convention Center at the Consumer Electronics Show. Las Vegas is the nation's top business travel destination, with easy airline access, numerous hotel rooms, low rates, plentiful convention facilities and a wide range of dining and entertainment options. (Karl Polverino / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Over-the-top entertainment

    Performers ride a Volkswagen Beetle across the stage during a preview of "The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil" at the Mirage Hotel & Casino on June 27, 2006, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A New York minute

    The New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas recreates the Manhattan skyline, complete with replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge. (Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Entertainment mecca

    Kenny Chesney performs "Out Last Night" at the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on April 5, 2009. (Mark J. Terrill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Tying the knot

    From left, Elvis Presley impersonator Norm Jones plays guitar as Bruce Barnett of Virginia Beach, Va., escorts his daughter Gayle to her wedding ceremony at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Graceland is the oldest wedding chapel in Las Vegas and offers ceremonies with or without Elvis impersonators. (David Mcnew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    The $25 million, newly redesigned volcano display in front of the Mirage Hotel & Casino features 150 choreographed FireShooters sending fireballs more than 12 feet in the air and a custom soundtrack created by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for MGM Mirage) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A night on the Strip

    Hotels and casinos line the Las Vegas Strip. From thrilling roller coasters to erupting volcanos to art museums, Las Vegas' many attractions appeal to people of all ages and interests. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Fight night

    David Diaz and Manny Pacquiao fight during the fourth round of the WBC Lightweight Championship at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 28, 2008, in Las Vegas. Pacquiao won in a ninth-round knockout. (Harry How / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Day at the races

    Rookie driver Shawn Langdon earned his first No. 1 qualifying position of his career at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Richard Wong / NHRA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Fabulous shopping

    The Juicy Couture retail store at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is seen before the grand opening February 5, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for Juicy Couture) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Stunning shows

    Buyi Zama as “Rafiki” in the opening number “The Circle of Life” from THE LION KING Las Vegas. (Joan Marcus / Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A slice of Italy

    Visitors take a gondola ride at The Venetian in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Get into the groove

    Dina Buell, left, and Carla Giordano, both from California, dance at the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino during Rehab, the resort's weekly pool party, in 2005 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Let’s get this party started

    Party goers gather for the grand opening of LAX Nightclub Las Vegas in 2007. (Chris Weeks / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Big laughs

    Comedian Ellen DeGeneres performs at a taping of ''Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show'' during The Comedy Festival at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in 2008 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A kingly stay

    The Excalibur Hotel and Casino features a castle motif with newly refurbished hotel rooms. (Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A dancing fountain

    Visitors are silhouetted against the backdrop of The Bellagio's fountain show on the Las Vegas Strip. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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