On a recent October jaunt in Las Vegas, I had two missions: learn to play blackjack, and find a few under-the-radar spots along Las Vegas Boulevard.

The first mission was accomplished easily enough, with the help of a low-limit table at Treasure Island, a couple hundred dollars and a friendly blackjack dealer willing to help me (“What does the book say?” was one of my favorite phrases of the night).

Finding hidden gems—shops, spas, restaurants and other locales—was not so easy and was, in some ways, even a riskier bet than my choices at the blackjack tables. The sheer amount of people, celeb-driven locales and flashy advertisements made the task of finding any worthy spots that still remained hidden daunting. How, amongst the crowds and the glamour and the gaudiness was I going to find any undiscovered worth-talking-about places along Las Vegas Boulevard?

Thanks to a few in-the-know contacts, I dug up a handful of hidden gems. Here are my top 10 (in no particular order):

Artisan Hotel. While technically off the strip (but within walking distance), I have to mention the Artisan Hotel. The bohemian-gothic décor is gorgeous, and this little boutique hotel is decorated with art from the likes of Da Vinci and Cezanne. The room rates are extremely reasonable, but if you have other hotel arrangements, at least stop in for a drink at the dark, arty lounge.

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