I have lived in Southern California my whole life, and as is the time honored tradition among people who live in So Cal, I go to Las Vegas….a lot. You see, it’s only about a five hour drive away, and thus perfectly located to be the weekend getaway capital for pretty much all of Los Angeles and San Diego.
Every Friday night, cars filled with people off work or school for the weekend pour into Las Vegas. Every Sunday afternoon, the traffic coming back from Vegas is horrible. Most of the people heading that way are looking forward to drinking, partying and gambling. There’s more to Sin City than sin, however, and this decidedly non-party girl still has plenty to draw her to Vegas over and over again.
While I could spend a whole weekend exploring strange museums and attractions, catching shows, eating at fabulous restaurants, and doing a number of unique activities (roller coaster through a casino, anybody?), this particular post is for those of you who want to escape the city altogether and enjoy some of the awesome attractions the area around Las Vegas has to offer.
The Hoover Dam
Bored with casinos? Why not check out a marvel of modern engineering? It’s only about a 45 minute drive from Las Vegas, making it an easily do-able day trip. It opened in 1936 and was dedicated by President Herbert Hoover (hence the name). When visiting, you can walk around the outside of the dam or drive a car over it free of charge, or you can take a tour and get an inside look at the inner-workings of a major dam. Kind of neat, and definitely worth checking out!
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is really close to Las Vegas, but definitely feels like a world away. Located just 5 miles outside of the Las Vegas metropolitan area, you can be out of the hustle and bustle and enjoying the serenity of nature in no time. The area is beautiful and encompasses a lot of different trails for you to explore. They also have camping areas if you would like to stay for a little while.
The beauty of Lake Mead from the sky. We were looking for wild horses but didn’t spot a thing. Avalon did say “Look there’s poo” over the headset but it would’ve have to of been a real big one to see it 😂 . . . #lakemead #lakemeadnationalrecreationarea #hooverdam #water #lake #resevoir #nevada #desert #lasvegas #grandcanyon #grandcanyonnationalpark #maverickhelicopters #helicoptertour #helicopterride #view #landscapephotography #landscape #travel #travelblog #beautyinnature #nature #photooftheday #photography
Lake Mead is pretty close to the Hoover Dam, so it could be possible to do both in one day if you wanted to. It’s a nice area to participate in water sports such as kayaking or canoeing. You can also go on desert hikes, go fishing, or just have a nice picnic by the water.
The Grand Canyon
Did you know you can visit the Grand Canyon in a day trip from Las Vegas? It’s a bit of a distance, but if you’re not from the West Coast and you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon before, I absolutely encourage you to go and see it if you’ve got a free day in Las Vegas. There are tours to the canyon out of Vegas (even helicopter tours if you’re short on time but money isn’t an issue). If you want to drive there yourself, you can also do that in a day trip, though it is a bit of a long drive. The closest part of the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas is the West Rim, which is only 121 miles away. It will be a considerably further distance if you want to go to the North or South rim. Here is some more information about the different rims of the canyon and how to travel there from Las Vegas.
Valley of Fire State Park
If you’re into nature and hiking like I am, you’ll love the Valley of Fire State Park! It’s an amazing place boasting incredible rock formations and desert scenery, hiking trails, picnic areas, camping and more. Located only 54 miles from Las Vegas, this makes for an easy day trip out of the city and into the beautiful scenery of nature.
Where ever I am I always like to wonder what that spot would have looked like 100 years ago, a thousand years ago. When I'm in a place that seems untouched by our crazy world it feels like magic. The world is meant to be a beautiful place. 🏔🌵🌲#mountcharleston #cathedralrock #lasvegas #desert #forest #beautifulworld #hiking #thosecolors #nature
Want to escape the desert? Why not check out Mount Charleston? Located just 35 miles from Las Vegas, this is a really easy day trip and a wonderful escape from the desert. Enjoy beautiful forests and cool mountain breezes. In the Winter, they even have skiing here! In the Summer, you can enjoy hiking trails and picnic areas. It’s a great spot year-round.
Located about 90 miles from Las Vegas, Laughlin itself is sort of a mini-Vegas with one large difference: the Colorado River! People from Southern California and the surrounding areas flock to Laughlin during times like Spring break not only to gamble and party, but also to go water skiing, wakeboarding, inner tubing, jet skiing, and all other manner of fun water activities. Growing up, my best friend’s family went to Laughlin every year and I got to go with them on several occasions. It was always an amazing time!
The slogan of Pahrump is “60 miles West, 180 degrees different”. Pahrump prides themselves on being NOT Las Vegas, and there is plenty to do while you’re there. This small town has plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking trails, golf courses, and off-road adventures. If you’re into that sort of thing, you can take courses in firearm training and self defense (personally I’m scared of guns, but you know….something for everyone, and it is Nevada, after all). They also have casinos, of course, as does every town in Nevada. In my personal opinion, Lake Spring Mountain is the best attraction in Pahrump, though, as it’s an awesome place to go swimming, participate in water sports, and even go jet packing.
Zion National Park
Ok, so this is getting a little far for a day trip. It is about a 2.5 hour drive to Zion from Las Vegas, so you’ll be in for a lot of time behind the wheel if you try to do it all in one day. That being said, it’s doable if you’re committed and you get up early. Zion National Park is amazing and definitely worth a visit! Try to spend a night nearby if you can, but if you’re short on time and only have one day, I say go for it!
Know any other amazing side trips from Las Vegas not mentioned here? I’d love to hear about it!