Every year, more than 40 million visitors pass through McCarran International Airport's gates. Even though it's sunny most of the year in Las Vegas, there are still occasions when layovers occur, such as a a presidential visit or weather issues in other cities. There's no need to park yourself in a chair and wait for hours on end: use it as an opportunity to explore what McCarran has to offer.
Explore Vegas' National Pastime: Gambling
McCarran is one of only two airports in the United States that allows gambling—the other, fittingly, is in Reno, Nevada. It's hard to ignore the call of "Wheel. Of. Fortune." as the machines seemingly beckon you to play them. Just keep in mind that the pay scales are tighter at the airport, so it may take you longer to win. But if your focus is purely on entertainment value, you'll find a fun variety of one-armed bandits to play. You'll find them conveniently outside of your gate, with larger groupings near the food courts.
Toss Back a Few Cocktails
If gambling is at the top of Vegas pastimes, drinking isn't far behind. After all, there's a reason it's nicknamed "Sin City." Jose Cuervo fans can sample an impressive variety of premium spirits at the Tequilera (Terminal 1, C Gates); shaken, not stirred cocktails are served at Crafted (Terminal 1, C Gates). The Las Vegas Chophouse & Brewery (Terminal 3, E Gates) not only offers craft beer, wine and classic cocktails, but delicious "breakfast cocktails" as well. And Sammy's Beach Bar & Grill (Terminal 1, C Gates) features a the Red Rocker's "Cocktail Hall of Fame"—selections made with Sammy's Beach Bar Rum.
Visit McCarran's Aviation Museum for Free
Las Vegas loves its free attractions, and one of the first places you can experience them is at McCarran. Learn about the history of aircraft in Las Vegas at the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum, named for the U.S. senator who served four terms in Nevada and introduced the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which led to a doubling of commercial traffic at McCarran between 1978 and 1980 and helped air traffic blossom not only in Las Vegas, but throughout the country. The museum covers more than 3,000 square feet in Terminal 1, the majority of it on level 2 above baggage claim.
Tour the Airport's Public Art
And keeping with Vegas' trend towards art in public areas, you'll discover many great pieces in McCarran. Terminal 1 would be incomplete without the "Desert Wildlife" sculptures located inside the D Gates; these larger-than-life sculptures of Southern Nevada's native wildlife are made of cracked concrete and pay tribute to the horned toad, desert tortoise, desert hare and desert rattlesnake. Also in Terminal 1, Tony Milici's "Glass Sculpture" (esplanade, level 2) is a layered-glass composite of Saguaro cacti and desert plants that gives a 3-D appearance. Milici's work can also be seen at near gates D-5 and D-36, where the "Skylight Cones," two compositions of hanging steel and glass frames, catch and refract light in the food courts.
When Terminal 3 opened in 2012, it was with a dedicated focus on bringing artwork to the traveler. In addition to numerous portraits by landscape photographer Peter Lik, you'll find pieces such as the iridescent "Cloud 9," in which multiple pieces of dichroic glass come together to form a cloudscape more than 90 feet wide; "Blue Arroyo," a fluid sculpture that winds through the east end of baggage claim, about visitors' heads; and "Waterfall," in which nine curtains of beads spill down the window wall from level 2 to level zero baggage claim.
Get Fit: Where to Workout at McCarran
Perhaps this seems like a strange one for Vegas, but McCarran is encouraging airport fitness with walking programs endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine. Paths range from half a mile to 1.5 miles in length and are available for both terminals.
Note: There are no lockers in which to stow carry-on bags at McCarran, so if you have one, you'll have to take it with you; just consider it as adding on weights.
After a jaunt throughout the airport, show your tootsies some love with a pedicure, soothe tired muscles with a massage or get a new glow with a facial: you can find the tranquil XPresSpa in Terminal 1 at both the C and D Gates, and in Terminal 3 at the E Gates. You'll melt into relaxation and won't even think about your delay!