Now, I don’t consider myself a travel blogger by any means, but I couldn’t help but write this post after my recent Las Vegas trip. My husband and I visited my little brother in Vegas for an extended Memorial Day Weekend and had such an amazing time. As a local, my brother isn’t a huge fan of the strip so while we did get a room there for our last night to do some exploring, most of my favorite activities we did were located off the strip. If gambling and major crowds aren’t your thing, check out these suggestions to make the most of your time in Sin City.
Red Rock Canyon
This is far and away my favorite thing we did in Vegas. Coming from Upstate New York, the landscape in Nevada is so radically different from anything I’ve ever seen before and Red Rock provided us with some amazing desert views.
First we did a short 2-mile hike that started near the visitors center and looped around to a limestone ridge with a nice view. The weather was not too hot so the hike was pretty easy and it was amazing to walk around right in the middle of the desert with the mountains looming all around.
After that we drove the scenic route around the park and stopped at a few areas for photos. I also wanted to check out another super short hiking trail to see some petroglyphs carved on the mountain and after a short detour (we got lost) we found the carvings. The trail to the petroglyphs is literally right next to the Willow Springs parking lot so don’t continue down the road like we did. The trail marker might be blocked by parked cars so be on the lookout for that.
Even just driving around the park was amazing and I had my phone out snapping photos the whole time. If you’re from someplace that isn’t a desert, this is the perfect way to experience Nevada’s landscape. The entry fee for the park is $15 (or free if you’re with a military member, like I was) which is worth every penny.
If you’re a history buff you’ll probably get the most out of the Hoover Dam, which was the largest dam in the world when it was completed in 1935. It’s pretty neat to walk around the dam and get some pictures of the surrounding mountains and the Colorado River, but I enjoyed the drive to the dam almost as much as the actual attraction.
Instead of taking Route 515 through Boulder City to get to the dam, try taking the scenic route through Lake Mead National Recreation Area. You’ll have to pay a fee to drive this route, but it will be worth it to weave through the mountains and see some great views of the lakes nestled in between. Lake Las Vegas literally looks like a gorgeous desert oasis and if I had known about it earlier I would’ve loved to spend some time there. Next time!
When you get to the dam you can pay $10 to go through some exhibits, watch a movie on the history of the dam, get a cheesy green screen pic taken (extra $ if you want to buy the pic) and go up to the overlook. I’d say this is not necessary unless you’re really into dam history or you’re trying to find some air conditioning.
7 Magic Mountains
The 7 Magic Mountains are an art installation I had heard about months before my trip and was super curious to visit. They’re located about 20 miles south of the strip and, again, the drive is half the fun of visiting this attraction. Are you sensing a theme here? I was obsessed with driving through the desert and checking out the landscape.
The exhibition by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone was installed in 2016 and although it was originally a 2 year project, its popularity has led to a possible extension plan. Currently the extension plan hasn’t been completed, so if you definitely want to visit this attraction make sure you get there before the end of 2018.
Although my travel companions didn’t really appreciate me dragging them out to the desert to see some colorful rocks, I thought it was worth it! Plus, this place is an Instagrammer’s dream, so make sure to wear a cute outfit and come with your phone battery charged.
If you’re looking for the Vegas nightlife experience without the $20 cover fee, Fremont Street is for you. Most people know Fremont Street as the covered street with an overhead zipline and plenty of…unique street performers and while it’s fun to stroll around that area (known as the Fremont Street Experience), there are tons of unique bars farther down the street. Some of my favorites ones we checked out were:
- The Container Park: This funky shopping center created out of huge shipping containers had a few cool bars and eateries along with live acoustic music on an outdoor stage. Definitely more of a chill vibe here.
- Downtown Cocktail Room: If you’re into unique, gourmet cocktails and a cozy lounge vibe, make sure to put this place on your list. The staff was super friendly and service was excellent here so don’t be afraid to ask them for more seating or drink suggestions. Plus I’m 99.9% sure I saw Lil Dicky here but was too embarrassed to talk to him.
- Corduroy: This was my favorite bar we visited! From their perfectly lit selfie room in the back, to the delicious Moscow Mules on tap, to the early-2000’s pop punk music everyone was scream-singing along to, everything about this place was right up my alley.
- Gold Spike: Part club, part hotel, part adult playground, this place has almost everything. Admittedly, this was our last stop of the night so I didn’t get to fully experience everything Gold Spike has to offer. They have just about every lawn game you could ask for in the “backyard” area and a restaurant on site called Fiddlestix which is open 24 hrs so you can get your nachos fix at 3 am.
Hope this gave you some ideas for a Vegas experience a little different from the ordinary! Vegas ended up being one of my favorite trips I’ve ever taken, and I don’t consider myself much of a gambler or partier. If you’re looking for a trip packed with a lot of action, fun and gorgeous landscapes, consider giving Vegas a try.