Chow Town

In Las Vegas, activities off the strip provide unique experiences

Dig This in Las Vegas has Caterpillar D-5 bulldozers and 315CL excavators for willing participants to operate.
Dig This in Las Vegas has Caterpillar D-5 bulldozers and 315CL excavators for willing participants to operate. Special to The Star

Okay, you're likely tired of reading about me eating and drinking my way through Las Vegas, though I can't imagine how you couldn't want to hear more of my culinary exploits, which approached epic proportions during my long weekend.

However, I'm going to give you, and my stomach a rest, and turn it over to my erstwhile companion on the trip, the man who shot and edited (half) of my Culinary Travels shows during the final five seasons, Andrew Wegst.

Wegst is a California native who grew up in Kansas City (sort of), lived in our fair city for a long time, and recently returned to his home state in San Francisco, (okay, Palo Alto). Wegst is also an eager pursuer and consumer of great food, great wine, and pretty much any mixed cocktail involving rum and/or tequila you place in front of him. He's also a wildly talented photographer/videographer and a fun guy. So, who better to share my Vegas cornucopia than a guy who loves to eat and drink almost as much as I do, and someone who can chronicle the debauchary with high-quality, digital photographs?

Today, though, I step out of frame, and let him describe two adventures he had after I'd departed and he remained behind to visit his father, who lives in Vegas. I had no idea these activities even existed in Vegas (or anywhere else) until the public relations firms answered my calls for Vegas adventures. Take it away, Andy.

Thanks for the wonderful introduction, Dave. I am honored to be a guest contributor to Chow Town! Dave and I have done several TV shows in Las Vegas, and I can honestly say that it has by far the most diverse collection of eating and drinking establishments I've ever encountered in one city. But, there's a lot more to Vegas that most people realize. It also has amazing outdoor adventures, shows and other more novel attractions that somehow fit perfectly into the frenetic atmosphere that is Las Vegas.

After three days of incredible dining, I gave my taste buds a break and took the opportunity to experience a couple of these unique activities just across I-15 from the Strip.

Since my usual photo talent was heading home to Kansas City, I called my father to come out and be my model. My Dad, Walt, has lived in Las Vegas for 20 years, and when I told him he'd be driving a piece of heavy equipment and shooting fully automatic weapons, he said that he'd read about both things and was excited to actually get to try them.

Our first stop was Dig This. Here, you'll find Caterpillar D-5 bulldozers and 315CL excavators. After a quick orientation, you climb into the cab of one of these monsters, the excavator in my Dad's case, and don a wireless headset where you receive instruction and guidance from the professional foreman. Don't be fooled; these are real heavy duty pieces of machinery, and you are at the fully functioning controls of the biggest toy you've ever driven.

Your hour-long session includes digging a very large hole, driving around, putting the machine through all of its motions and then picking up and stacking a collection of 2,000-pound tires. You also get to try to scoop up basketballs sitting on a cone and deposit them into a tire. As my Dad found out, this is no easy task.

Needless to say, we really dug Dig This.

After a leisurely lunch, we drove the short distance to the Gun Garage. My Dad and I are experienced shooters, but neither one of us has ever shot anything like what they have at this place. Upon entering the modern facility, you are greeted by a welcoming staff that helps you choose from among the many James Bond-style weapons. Only these aren't movie props. They're fully-automatic weapons.

Once you settle on your choice, you're escorted into the firing area. A professional range master then guides you through the experience of loading and shooting a real machine gun. We chose the classic Uzi and a silenced Walther handgun. They threw in a few shots with a Russian-made AK-74 as well. The fun doesn't last long, but I can pretty much guarantee you'll have a blast at the Gun Garage.

You may not feel that these activities are your kind of thing, but that's what makes Las Vegas so special. Dig This and the Gun Garage are there for you to experience if you want. Who knows, maybe you'll surprise yourself and knock a couple things off the bucket list at the same time. Both attractions are well run, very safe, and go out of their way to make sure you have a good time.