Las Vegas is one of America’s entertainment Mecca’s. But if you’re staying in Las Vegas for longer than a weekend, don’t make the mistake of only hanging out on the strip.
Las Vegas is less than five hours away from Death Valley, The Mojave Preserve, The Grand Canyon, The Hoover Dam, Zion, Red Rock Canyon, and Lake Mead.
Now, I don’t have the space to talk about all of these places, but I am going to highlight a few that are MUST VISITS while you’re in the Vegas area.
The Grand Canyon, North Rim
When most people think of the Grand Canyon, they visualize the pictures from the South Rim.
Only 10% of Grand Canyon tourists go and see the North Rim. And the other 90% that don’t get to the North Rim are missing out.
The North Rim is 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim (North Rim is 8,000 feet above sea level compared to 7,000 feet for the South Rim), and this elevation increase makes a difference for a couple reasons.
First, on the South Rim, the climate is still very much a desert, whereas the North Rim is more of an alpine climate. The second difference is the temperature. When I visited the North Rim in August, it was 75 degrees when I left the Canyon at 6pm. When I got back to Vegas at 11pm… it was 102 degrees!
Let’s face it, Vegas is hot (especially in August), so enjoy the cooler weather and spectacular views at the North Rim.
But there are many other reasons to visit the North Rim over the South Rim (to read our review of the South Rim, click here) besides the temperature difference from Vegas. The top two reasons are the smaller crowds and the sunsets.
Even during the busy season, the crowds at the North Rim are pretty light. This means a much more relaxed experience than the pushing and shoving at the South Rim.
But the best reason to visit the North Rim are the sunsets. The sunsets at the South Rim are spectacular as well, but as I’ve stated, it’s very crowded, especially from the most popular spots to watch the sun set into the Canyon.
On the North Rim, you can sit in a comfy chair right next to the Rim, have a beer brought to you, and even order dinner – and not worry about getting jostled out of your spot.
The Hoover Dam
About 45 minutes from the Las Vegas strip is one of America’s iconic landmarks, the Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam was built in the 1930s and was originally named the Boulder Dam, but renamed after President Herbert Hoover by Congress in 1947.
You don’t really realize how massive the dam is until you get there. Walking across this massive structure is a bucket list item for any Proud American Traveler. But if you’re afraid of heights, you may want to view the dam from afar.
One mistake that I made when visiting was getting there too late in the day. If you want to take the full dam tour (and you do), make sure to get there before 3pm. The last tour is at 4 and those tickets are sold until 3:45. Please learn from my mistake and get there earlier to take the tour – which everyone I talked to said was great.
And on your drive back to Vegas, stop and get some beautiful views of Lake Mead.
Red Rocks Canyon
The closest and easiest side trip from Vegas is Red Rocks Canyon. It’s located 17 miles due west of the strip. Fifteen bucks (or if you have a National Park Pass, you can get in using that) will allow you to take the 13-mile Scenic Loop Drive.
Scenic Loop Drive is a one-way drive through a portion of Red Rocks Canyon. Along the way, there are several places to pull over and take short or long hikes.
I would recommend blocking off at least half a day so you can take some of these hikes and see some pretty spectacular rock formations. Just make sure you have a good pair of hiking shoes and some shorts.
One of the reasons I love visiting Las Vegas is that it’s an area where you can have a lot of fun in a lot of different ways.
If you like gambling… well, it’s Vegas. If you like strippers… again, it’s Vegas.
But if you’re like me and you love the great outdoors, there are a bunch of places within a day’s drive to enjoy some of the beauty that this wonderful country has to offer.