By contributor

Explainer: 8 ways to get spooked in Las Vegas

  • Image: Mandalay Bay Shark Reef
    MGM Resorts International

    No Halloween costume party invites this year? Lucky for you, there is a slightly better alternative to candy corn at the neighborhood Halloween social. “Halloween has been continuing to grow as a focal point in Las Vegas for the past 10 years,” says Lark Ellen Gould, author of “The Little Black Book of Las Vegas.” But has it reached its full party potential? Not quite, says Rick Garman, author of “Frommer's Las Vegas” and founder of “No one is taking over the casinos and creating some huge Halloween attraction; instead, they are taking what’s there and making it fit into the season.” Well, if losing your shirt to a bad poker hand isn’t scary enough, here are a few of the most terrifying trick-or-treat attractions in Las Vegas.

  • Circus Circus: Fright Dome

    Image: Fright Dome
    Courtesy of MGM Grand
    If you have seen the "Saw" films, this scene in Fright Dome's "Saw" haunted house will look familiar. "Jigsaw" looks extra creepy on that little bike, doesn't he?

    One of Travel Channel’s top 5 scariest haunted attractions in the nation, Fright Dome takes the existing Adventure Dome and turns it into a haunted Halloween playground. Equipped with not one, but five different haunted houses, Fright Dome borrows inspiration from the film series “Saw” and “Chainsaw Massacre.” This year, the fan favorite “Chainsaw Massacre” haunted maze does away with the “chicken exits”: Once you are in, there’s no getting out. Fright Dome is rated I, for intense, and it’s recommended “for anyone who can stomach it,” says Tory L. Cooper, a Las Vegas event planner. In addition to the five haunted houses, the $34.95 admission includes scare zones, rides and live magic shows. This attraction is open Oct. 1-3, 8–10, 15–17, 21–24, 28-31 from 7 p.m.–midnight. For more information, visit

  • Circus Circus: Haunted 13th floor

    Understandably, if cost is an issue, there is an alternative at Circus Circus. For $13 admission, the hotel’s 13th floor is open for visitors daily through the month of October from 2 p.m.-10 p.m. Thirteen rooms are transformed from standard suites into terrifying treats. Escorted by creepy elevator ushers, visitors will encounter zombies, ghosts and ghouls as hotel horror stories are projected on the walls. While there is not an age limit listed for this attraction, children under 13 may not find this enjoyable.

  • Luxor: Free haunted tours at ‘Titanic, The Artifact Exhibition’

    “Vegas for families failed a long time ago,” says travel writer Garman. This may in fact be true, especially for the Halloween holiday, but the Haunted Tours at the Titanic artifact exhibition rings in the Halloween spirit by taking the existing Titanic tour and injecting it with spooky fun. The exhibition items include uncovered stories, replicas, the Titanic grand staircase, and the largest piece from the wreckage that was pulled up from the ocean floor. For the entire month of October, Titanic scholars and excavators retell ghost stories as guests learn more about the haunted remains. Adult rates are $27; children and seniors, $20.

  • The Venetian: Madame Tussauds

    Image: Madame Tussauds
    Courtesy of Madame Tussauds Las
    Zombies and wax "people" line the dark corridors of Madame Tussauds.

    “It’s a spooky place in general. You can’t do better than a wax museum,” says Barbara Messing, vice president and general manager for Travel Ticker at Hotwire. Madame Tussauds is transformed into a frightening, high-security prison.

    Located in front of The Venetian, the six-night special event, “After Dark,” returns for its second year. Visitors are given a single light to navigate the “Scream” horror maze, posing the question “Is there life after dark?”

    This event  runs Oct. 22-24 and 29-31 from 9 p.m.-midnight. Admission is $20.

  • MGM Grand: Nightmare on 54th Street

    Image: Studio 54
    Courtesy MGM Grand
    Throughout the night, performances and costume contests entertain guests, and zombies from Michael Jackson's infamous "Thriller" video stop in for a special Halloween performance at the Beaux Arts Ball.

    This week-long Halloween bash Oct. 25-30 boasts performances by Doug E. Fresh (Oct. 28) and Vanilla Ice (Oct. 29), cash prizes and “the wildest, craziest costumes you can imagine” says Anthony Olheiser, Director of nightlife at MGM. The grand finale, the 44th Annual Beaux Arts Ball, takes place on Halloween night and according to Olheiser, “is the biggest charity-based event on the Strip for Halloween.” All proceeds from the event go to Golden Rainbow’s mission to provide housing and financial assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door.

  • Mandalay Bay: Haunted Reef at Mandalay Bay Thrills and Chills

    Image: Shark Reef at Mandalay
    MGM Resorts International
    The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay is home to more than 1,200 different underwater species, three of which are endangered.

    There is something spooky about the dark tunnels of a shark-inhabited aquarium. Add a few extra Halloween perks and this shark reef becomes downright scary. According to, “The tunnel, which houses five species of sharks and the aquarium's largest animals, contains an astounding 1.3 million gallons of water.” Check out this aquatic site Sun.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Adult admission is $16.95; for kids 12 and under, with costume, admission is free!

  • Hard Rock Hotel: Fetish and Fantasy Ball

    Image: violin grinder
    Tom Donoghue
    According to travel writer Rick Garman, "whether you participate or just watch the performances, it is quite outrageous." Violin grinders and fire breathers ignite the festivities at the Fetish and Fantasy Ball.

    Continuous live music and scandalous attire ’til dawn, Fetish and Fantasy is simply one huge costume party. Garman recommends this event for tourists, calling it “quite the outrageous spectacle.” Named one of the top 10 events in the world by Travel Channel, if an all-night party is what you’re after, Hard Rock is the place. “At Fetish and Fantasy, people go all out. If you’re not in costume you might as well not go,” says Las Vegas event planner Cooper. The ball is held Oct. 30 from 10 p.m.-4 a.m. Tickets start at $77. For more information visit

  • Downtown, Fremont Street: Halloween Parade

    Image: Viva Vision
    Larry Burton  /  Courtesy of Fremont Street Experience
    Viva Vision is "the biggest big screen on the planet" and they are not kidding. As the shop and casino lights dim along Fremont Street, the canopy of LED lights illuminate above, making this overhead spectacle something not to miss.

    This destination may be off the Strip, but it is jam-packed with Halloween fun. The historic Downtown Las Vegas is hosting the Halloween Fremont Street Experience, “OktoberFrightFest,” from Sept. 29-Oct. 31. Binion’s Gambling Hall turns into a haunted casino and the Golden Nugget Casino hosts a Fall Beer Festival. And don’t miss the Viva Vision light show. According to, “the canopy towers 90 feet high and spans the length of five football fields, featuring more than 12 million LED lights.” What is the best part about the downtown celebration? Everything is free. “It’s a much more friendly and congenial atmosphere than on the Strip, and an overall coordinated event,” Garman says.

    He recommends that visitors ask themselves why they are going to Vegas. “If you are going for a wild, party weekend, Halloween is a good time to go,” he says. “As for typical Las Vegas advice, find the best deal.” Hotwire's Messing agrees. “Remember, Las Vegas is easy to get around with a quick cab ride or short walk, so let the deal be the inspiration.”

Photos: What's new in Las Vegas

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  1. 50 years of Danke Schoen

    Fifty years ago, a young Wayne Newton played his first gig in Las Vegas. Now, he tells the story of his iconic career over the ensuing half-century in a new show called “Once Before I Go.” Playing Tuesdays through Saturdays at the Tropicana, the show features a full orchestra, video clips and reminiscences from the man rightfully called “Mr. Las Vegas.” Show tickets are $88 and $110, with VIP packages, including a meet and greet session and photo op, available for $165, plus service fees. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for Tropicana) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. City on the Strip

    If you build it, will they come? As the largest privately developed project in U.S. history, the new CityCenter complex on the Strip is part destination resort, part urban enclave -- and a major roll of the dice for its owners, MGM Mirage and Dubai World. Its size and style -- four hotels, two residential towers and a 500,000-square-foot "retail district," all designed by world-class architects -- are like nothing else in Vegas and may serve as a sign of the next step in the city's evolution. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for CityCenter) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Elvis avec acrobats

    What do you get when you combine Elvis Presley with acrobatics, elaborate costuming and state-of-the-art special effects? Why, Sin City's seventh production put on by those fun-loving fabulists at Cirque du Soleil. Viva ELVIS opens on Dec. 18, and will play several nights a week in a specially built theater at the Aria Resort & Casino at CityCenter. Tickets are $87–$149 for preview performances (through Jan. 28) and $99–$175 thereafter, plus service fees. (Brian Jones / Las Vegas News Bureau via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Up, up and (hopefully not) away

    Looking for a new perspective on the Strip? If so, then climb aboard the new Cloud Nine Balloon, which offers tethered balloon rides to a height of 500 feet above the ground. Eleven stories high, the balloon carries up to 30 people in a circular gondola and provides a 15-minute panoramic “flight” before being winched back to earth. Daytime rides are $22.50 for adults and $17.50 for children ages 5–12; evening rides are $27.50 and $17.50. Children 4 and younger fly free. (Cloud9vegas) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Plush planet

    Apparently, CityCenter didn’t use up all the window glass on the planet: just across the Strip, the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino will open its own skyscraping hotel in early 2010. Managed by Westgate Resorts, the 52-storyPH Towers will feature 1,200 timeshare units along with a health club, meeting facilities and a tropical pool complex with its own sandy beach. As a vacation-ownership resort, it will also offer easy access to the dining, gaming and entertainment facilities at Planet Hollywood. (PR Newswire) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ruck and roll

    If you can tell a grubber kick from a checkside punt, you’ll probably want to be at Sam Boyd Stadium at UNLV February 13–14 when the USA Sevens Rugby Tournament makes its Las Vegas debut. Part of the IRB Sevens World Series — and the only U.S. stop — the event brings together professional teams from 16 nations, along with thousands of rabid fans, for a two-day round-robin of mauling and mayhem. (The players have been known to get a bit rough, too.) One-day tickets are $35–$250, plus service fees. (Todd Warshaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. From Music City to Sin City

    Alas, it took all of five hours for Garth Brooks’ un-retirement concert series at Wynn Las Vegas to sell out, but country music fans can still get their boot-scootin’ boogie on this winter. This month, Trace Adkins plays The Pearl at the Palms Casino Resort on Dec. 9; three days later, Randy Travis takes the stage at Monte Carlo. Then, on Feb. 6, George Strait (aka “The King of Country”) and Reba McEntire (aka “The Queen of Country”) will hold court at the Grand Garden Arena at MGM Grand, with Lee Ann Womack opening. (Tami Chappell / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Downtown goes upscale

    As seen in this artists rendering, a longtime landmark in downtown Las Vegas, the Golden Nugget is in the middle of a $300 million renovation that promises to add new luster to Glitter Gulch. In November, the hotel opened Rush Tower, a 25-story addition with 500 rooms and suites, several shops and a Chart House restaurant anchored by a 50,000-gallon tropical aquarium. A new pool will connect to The Tank, the hotel’s existing pool complex where a three-story water slide shoots through a 200,000-gallon shark tank. Midwinter rates start at $69. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Making an impression

    You’ll probably never see Jay Leno, John Madden and presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush share a stage, so comedian/impressionist Frank Caliendo may be the next best thing. One month into a 10-year run at Monte Carlo, the "MADtv" and "Fox NFL Sunday" vet skewers all of the above, along with DeNiro, Pacino and dozens of other boldfaced names, four nights a week in the resort’s Lance Burton Theater. Tickets are $48–$81, plus service fees. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Exclusive enclave

    Hotel32 sits right on the Strip, but you’d never find it unless you knew where to look. That’s because it occupies the 32nd floor of the Monte Carlo resort, a hotel within a hotel for those who want a VIP experience at a reasonable price. Ranging from studios to two-bedroom penthouses, accommodations include roundtrip limousine service to and from McCarran Airport, private check in, butler services and complimentary breakfasts and evening snacks in an exclusive lounge. Special rates start at $170 per night. (Ogara Bissell Photography) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Take the leap

    Leave it to the folks at the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino to find yet another way for adrenaline junkies to scare themselves silly. Already famous for its sky-high thrill rides, the resort is adding a new one called a Sky Jump that essentially lets guests throw themselves off the 108th floor — fortunately, while being attached to a harness/cable system that stops them before they hit the deck 107 stories below. The ride is modeled after one in Auckland, N.Z., but alas, you’ll have to wait to take the plunge since the Vegas version won’t open until April. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. He writes the songs

    Who? Barry Manilow, of course, who will end his current show at the Las Vegas Hilton on Dec. 30 and open a two-year run at Paris Las Vegas on March 5. While the former show was billed as a collection of his greatest hits, the new gig is expected to highlight classic love songs, many of which will appear on his next album, “The Greatest Love Songs of All Time,” which is set to drop Jan. 26. Shows are Friday–Sunday; tickets are $95–$299, plus service charge. (Paris Las Vegas via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Opening Of Wayne Newton's "Once Before I Go" - Show
    Ethan Miller / Getty Images for Tropicana
    Above: Slideshow (12) What's new in Las Vegas
  2. Las Vegas Strip Exteriors
    Ethan Miller / Getty Images
    Slideshow (23) Viva Las Vegas!


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