8 Day Trips from Las Vegas (Slideshow)
April 26, 2016
Finding fear and loathing in Las Vegas? Escape the madness with these 8 quick day trips
Interested in aliens? Curious about military technology? A staunch conspiracy theorist? Consider a trip to the infamous Area 51. No, this isn’t a trick to get you to drive aimlessly around the desert all day; the existence and location of Area 51 was finally declassified by the CIA in July 2013. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can actually visit Area 51 itself or get within sight of it, but there are a few related attractions somewhat nearby. The Area 51 Travel Center is only 80 minutes (88 miles) from Las Vegas, and offers plenty of souvenirs, corny photo ops, and even an alien-themed legal brothel (owned by Dennis Hof of the famous Bunny Ranch). The town of Rachel, Nevada, (2.5 hours, 150 miles from Vegas) is the absolute closest you can get to Area 51 — and you might spot some warning signs on the town’s border regarding the base. Sure, this isn’t exactly an eventful trip, but it should be enough to satisfy alien-obsessed tourists.
PLEASE NOTE: The security around Area 51 should not be taken lightly. The base is still a 100-percent restricted area, with no trespassing or photography allowed. Guards have a license to use deadly force to protect and defend the location. Use extreme caution in the surrounding areas.
Bonnie Springs Ranch
Traveling with kids? Take the short 30-minute drive to Bonnie Springs Ranch, a Wild West attraction that offers guided trail rides on horseback (60 to 120 minutes, $60 to $155), pony rides ($7.50 per child), rock climbing (six hours, prices vary by group size), a non-profit petting zoo ($7 for kids, $7-10 for adults), a train ride (weekends only, free), and a chance to explore a replica of an 1880’s mining town (as seen on Ghost Adventures, $7-10). Guests 10 and over can also board the “Zombie Paintball Express” bus on the last Saturday of every month to shoot paintballs at “live” zombies that roam around the Ranch ($30 for 200 paintballs). Some appointments and reservations can be made online.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley might not seem like a desirable destination (especially knowing that it’s the lowest, driest, and hottest place in America), but it still has spectacular views of nature and also a couple of very interesting draws. Sure, there’s hiking, paleontology tours, and Scotty’s Castle (which, due to flood damage in 2015, is currently closed for repair), but there are two must-see and must-visit parts of the Death Valley: First, we are crazy about the dining room at The Inn at Furnace Creek. Fine dining on an outdoor veranda surrounded by distractingly-stunning views? Count us in anytime. We’re also fascinated by the park’s famous “sailing stones.” For those unfamiliar, a multitude of rocks (weighing from a few ounces to a few hundred pounds) in Death Valley slowly drag themselves across the dry lake bed, leaving tracks behind as they travel. Heck, even the lake bed itself (also called “The Racetrack Playa”) is immensely impressive, looking like a mosaic on the ground made up of small hexagonal mud-crack polygons. Death Valley is a little more than two hours from Las Vegas via either route 95 or route 160. Inside Tip: The latter offers better views.
Grand Canyon National Park
A four-hour (269-mile) drive each way is a bit of a haul for a day trip, but if you (or any of your travel companions) have never seen the Grand Canyon, it’s a must. Plan to leave first thing in the morning, allow for several hours at the destination, and you can be back in Las Vegas in time for a late dinner. To make the most of your time, we’d recommend simply looking for signs for AZ route 64 when you get close, and take that all the way around the South Rim. There are ample lookout areas along the way that provide different viewpoints, and the road will take you right by the Grand Canyon Village (which contains two popular look-outs: Yavapai Point and Mather Point). Stop by the Visitor Center if you’d like to grab some Canyon swag or a bite to eat, but it’s not necessary; the most important part of visiting the Grand Canyon is simply taking in the unbelievable scenery.
Less than 40 miles (45 minutes by car) away is the historic Hoover Dam, straddling the Colorado River on the border between Nevada and Arizona. Taking a dam trip can be a great way to break up a Las Vegas vacation, as getting a bit of dam history offers a break from the nonstop, in-your-face action of Sin City. Upon reaching your dam destination, we’d recommend taking the Dam Tour (in order to absorb all the dam information and see the dam interior), which is offered every half hour from 9:30 a.m. (Pacific Time) until 3:30 p.m. Get there early, as they don’t allow any dam reservations, and each dam tour only allows a maximum of 20 people. The cost is $30, but it’s the best dam decision you can make.
If the desert heat has you seeing oasis mirages at every turn, consider a trip to Lake Mead. Less than 90 minutes from Vegas (and less than an hour from the Hoover Dam, depending on which part of the lake you visit) is the 16th largest manmade lake in the world, and a great spot to enjoy the sun and catch some rays. Hike, swim, boat, jet ski, or picnic around the lake to your heart’s content year-round, while taking in views of lava hills, Joshua trees, bighorn sheep, and enough red sandstone rocks and cliffs to make you feel like you’re Matt Damon on Mars.
Pahrump Valley Winery
Although some of Nevada’s neighboring states are bursting with wineries, the Silver State only has a handful, one of which being Pahrump Valley. In addition to lots of winemaking info and tastings, the winery also has a wonderful onsite restaurant, Symphony. Only an hour from the Strip, several tour operators offer door-to-door pick-up and drop-off service to and from Pahrump Valley, which not only saves you the general hassle of driving, but also allows for maximum enjoyment and tastings at the winery. As a nice bonus, the actual tours of the facility (at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. daily) are free!
Zion National Park
Utah needs some love on this list, and coincidentally, we absolutely adore Zion National Park. Easily one of the most beautiful sights in the entire United States, Zion is famous for its gorgeous greenery and white, pink, and red rock formations. These can be viewed in the winter via the scenic route through the canyon in your own vehicle, or (from March to October) by taking one of the Park Service’s shuttle buses. Ponds and waterfalls are also accessible by hiking trails, and the ultimate reward for a long day of being active is dinner at the park’s Red Rock Grill. Dinner during a day trip? Don’t worry, Zion is only two-and-a-half hours from the Strip, so you’ll be back in time to hit the casinos.