Diana Edelman

Top 10 Day Trips From Las Vegas

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Get out of town for the day. Here are the best day trips to take from Las Vegas.

Sure, the glittery lights and sex appeal are enough to lure visitors to Las Vegas. And, sure, there are plenty of things to do in Vegas (like, you know, gambling, partying and dining on some of the best food in the world), but beyond the neon lights there is another world. A world that can put visitors in touch with bright blue skies, sprawling desert landscapes and give them a glimpse at life in southern Nevada.

So, on your next visit to Sin City, plan on a little “escape,” too.

Boulder City
Made famous for Boulder/Hoover Dam, this quaint little town is a quick 30-minute drive from the Strip. Here, you can relax at adorable little sidewalk cafes (one of our favorites is Milo’s Cellar with a sweet smattering of (you guessed it — wine) and pull up a chair to listen to locals having a bluegrass jam. There is also Boulder Dam Brewing Company with seasonal selections of tasty beers, parks, antique shopping and gorgeous views of Lake Mead. Which leads us to …

Lake Mead

Lake Mead Cruises

While you can’t miss the tell-tale bleached rocks that weave a story of a time when the water table was higher and marinas didn’t have to relocate due to shallow areas, Lake Mead’s got plenty to do. From renting a boat and cruising around the various little nooks and crannies of the man-made lake to hiking around and getting a taste of nature, Lake Mead is the anti-Vegas in every sense. Except that, like Vegas, it’s made by humans.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Photo by Ralph Arvesen / CC BY 2.0

Opened in 1936, Hoover Dam (also known as Boulder Dam) tells the story of early Vegas. Visitors can cross the new massive bridge into Arizona (and be in a different time zone), plus explore the inner-workings of this huge complex. A word of warning: for those who get weak in the knees from heights, don’t cross the bridge, and definitely, whatever you do, don’t look down.

Nelson, Nevada
Located about an hour outside of town, this little nugget of a city takes you a step back in time. It’s got kitsch, memorabilia and a plane that has been strategically planted into the side of a small desert mountain. At sunset, it’s a photog’s dream with the textures, the skyline and, of course, the trinkets that make up this tiny, tiny town.

Mt. Charleston

Mount Charleston

Photo by Mike Durkin / CC BY 2.0

The highest peak in Southern Nevada, Mt. Charleston looms just outside of the city. It’s got towering pine trees, a snow-capped peak (depending on the time of year), hiking, camping, lodges to sip hot beverages, a ski and snowboard resort and more.

Ok, so there isn’t too much here except for a few casinos nestled on the state line of Nevada and California. But, if you like shopping, this is the place to score designer duds at the outlets for a discounted price. Oh, and there is a roller coaster.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

You can see the spattering of rust-colored rock from the west-facing hotel rooms on The Strip … which should be enough to entice you to go and explore. Red Rock Canyon, known for its hikes and climbs, is one of the town’s nature gems. Rent a car and explore the loop road and then head out on an adventure that can cater to all ages, from simple walks through towering rocks to scrambles and serious hikes to treat those to a spectacular view of the Valley as a reward.

Valley of Fire
About an hour outside of Vegas, the Valley of Fire is an oft-forgotten stomping ground for outdoor enthusiasts. The state park – the oldest in Nevada – serves up a nice plate of history and features areas of petrified wood and 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs. Bonus points: take the route that winds you through mountains around Lake Mead for some extra nature.

Death Valley

Death Valley Super Bloom

The drive alone is gorgeous, but Death Valley is so much more. It’s the lowest point in the US and has got some seriously fab places to explore. It’s the longest drive on the list, but a day trip here will give you a chance to see glowing white salt flats, mountains that look like they are painted and some good ol’ home-cooking to whisk you into another world.

Bonnie Springs
Known as one of the most haunted areas in the region, this ghost town offers family-friendly fun for all ages. There’s a shoot out, a recreated mining town and a petting zoo. Plus, the restaurant offers romantic fire-side dining.

Honorable Mentions

St. George, Utah
Further away than most other Vegas day trips, St. George, Utah has the gorgeous landscapes and nature absent in Vegas. From the drive up, which includes a (brief) windy road through Arizona, there is plenty to see. Once in St. George, get off and explore the areas nearby. There are ancient Indian grounds here, artist enclaves and more.

Grand Canyon West Rim
Whatever you do, don’t speed to this spot. Arizona police love to pull over visitors as you bump along the road leading up to the Canyon. But, once you’re there, enjoy! The glass sky walk treats visitors to some killer views of the canyon below. It’s pricey, but worth it if you don’t want to shell out the Vegas bucks to take a flight to the North or South Rim but still want to say you’ve been to the Grand Canyon.

Area 51
How can you resist the lure of aliens at Area 51? This military airfield is home to … well … we don’t really know. Rumor has it, the landing field conducts the development and testing of aircrafts and weapons (read: UFOs). Be brave and spend the night in a tent and then drive back to Vegas to impress friends with stories of alien sightings and conspiracy theories.

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