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5 Fun Day Trips From Las Vegas
Hike, relax lakeside or marvel at man-made wonders just outside the Strip.
Only a 20-mile drive from the Strip, Lake Las Vegas offers golf courses, resorts and a variety of activities for visitors.(Thomas Cushard)
With gambling, fine dining and even an erupting volcano, the Strip provides seemingly endless diversions, but there are plenty of compelling reasons to take a trip away from the heart of Sin City.
"If you're adventurous, you can go drive dune buggies in the desert, jetpack at Lake Las Vegas or go shoot guns," says Nancy Nitsche, chief concierge at Aria Resort & Casino. "You can do everything out here."
For travelers with extra time on their hands in Las Vegas, local experts recommend these day trips.
Grand Canyon(Courtesy of the National Park Service)
Nitsche says you can't go wrong with a trip to the Grand Canyon, but you'll have to decide which area to visit – the North Rim, the South Rim, Desert View (the eastern portion of the park) or the West Rim. Travel times to each section vary, and each offers something unique.
[Read: The Best Hotels in Las Vegas.]
Patrick Ritschard, chief concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, recommends the West Rim to first-time visitors. It's only a 2.5-hour drive from Las Vegas and features the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a cantilevered glass-bottomed bridge that allows visitors to look straight down to the canyon floor from 4,000 feet. But keep in mind that you can't use National Park Service passes for entry to the West Rim because it isn't part of Grand Canyon National Park. A ticket that includes admission, a meal with a view and Skywalk entry costs about $82.
The iconic South Rim is the most visited section of Grand Canyon National Park. It's a five-hour drive from Las Vegas, which makes it an intense day trip. Check the National Park Service website for free entrance days. Otherwise, entry costs $30 per car.
Valley of Fire State Park
Located approximately 50 miles north of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park offers another natural getaway from Sin City. Nevada's oldest state park is known for its red sandstone rock formations, which come in all sizes and shapes – even elephant-shaped. Plus, there are designated spots for camping, hiking and rock climbing.
Doug Ward, former chief concierge of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and Delano Las Vegas, notes, "Valley of Fire has a huge variety of colors from purples to reds. There are petroglyphs in the area, and as a bonus, you get views of Lake Mead."
[Read: The Best Las Vegas Tours.]
The park is open 24 hours daily and entry is $10 per vehicle. You can also camp for $20 per night or $30 per night for sites with utility hookups.
Lake Las Vegas
Lake Las Vegas(Thomas Cushard)
Lake Mead is perhaps Las Vegas' better-known body of water, but Melinda Sheckells, editor-in-chief of Vegas Seven, a weekly local lifestyle magazine, thinks, "Lake Las Vegas is really fun and underrated."
Only a 20-mile drive from the Strip, the man-made lake is surrounded by a Mediterranean-themed village, golf courses and resorts. Lake Las Vegas Water Sports offers a variety of activities, from electric pedal boat rentals to Flyboards and jetpacks. After a day on the lake, you can dine by the water and stroll along cobblestone paths.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
"If people want to get out and do some hiking, I am definitely going to send them to Red Rock," says Tina Matson, head concierge at the Bellagio Las Vegas. "It is an easy drive, only 45 minutes from the Strip, and you don't have to be comfortable climbing boulders. You can just get some nice, easy hikes in, get some sunshine, and call it a day."
[Read: The Best Las Vegas Helicopter Tours.]
Even if you don't want to hike, there's a 13-mile scenic loop that makes for a beautiful drive. Matson also recommends grabbing a bite to eat at the Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, which is on the way. The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, and entry is $7 per car. Hours for the scenic loop vary by season.
Hoover Dam(Courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation)
To marvel at engineering feats, Kelly Messina, senior director of leisure sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, recommends taking the Hoover Dam Postcard Tour by Black Canyon River Adventures. For $33 per person, you get a 30-minute tour with an experienced guide on a motorized raft. You'll learn about the history of the Hoover Dam and the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which opened in 2010.
The bridge features the longest concrete arch in the Western Hemisphere and is the second highest bridge in the United States. "It's such an eye-opener when you realize what all went into the building of the dam and the bridge," Messina says. If you want to skip the raft, official Hoover Dam tours start at $15 for adults.
On your way to or from the dam, you can stop in Boulder City for breakfast at The Coffee Cup Cafe or lunch at Milo's Cellar. If you have time, visit the Boulder Dam Hotel, which, in addition to housing the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum on the first floor, is supposedly haunted.
To experience more of what Las Vegas has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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