Once you’ve had your fill of slot machines, glitzy shows and throngs of gamblers, consider spending some time discovering what exists “beyond the neon.” If you travel just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of The Strip, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the serenity of the Mojave Desert and the exciting entrepreneurial spirit of the residents of Las Vegas.
See nature at its very best by hiking through Red Rock Canyon. This stunning area is teeming with beauty, ranging from wildflowers to wild donkeys and horses. Don’t be surprised if you also encounter desert tortoises, Gila monsters, roadrunners, painted lady butterflies and jackrabbits. The not-for-profit Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association (RRCIA) offers its visitors hiking resources, educational programs about the area, organized recreational activities, and a book and gift shop. For more information about upcoming events and programs see redrockcanyonlv.org.
Discover the Desert by Helicopter
Take in the grandeur of Las Vegas and its area landmarks via helicopter tour. Choose a day trip to enjoy the beauty of the desert, mountains, dam and colorful rock formations; or book a night flight and see the sky glowing with neon-lit hotels and attractions.
Raft the Colorado River
If you’re looking for a real adventure, consider a rafting expedition along the Colorado River. Feel a rush of excitement as you’re swept away by rapids flowing through the Westwater Canyon, or enjoy a calm and soothing journey below the Hoover Dam. Both half and full day trips are available from multiple outfitters.
Cruise Lake Mead
If serenity is what you’re seeking, a brunch or dinner cruise along Nevada’s Lake Mead might be the perfect excursion; or rent a houseboat for a weekend getaway or company party. Glide by craggy rock formations, hidden coves, sandy beaches and even small islands. Don’t forget to visit the lake’s Visitor Center to learn more about the area’s natural resources; and gather information about swimming, kayaking, picnicking, nature photography, hiking and scenic drives. The National Park Service (nps.gov) can provide you with an assortment of ideas for enjoyable outdoor activities.
Flightline Through Bootleg Canyon
Adrenaline junkies might want to experiment with soaring through Bootleg Canyon on a flightline. Similar to a zip-line, flightlining allows you to relax in a paragliding harness as you glide down a cable with a bird’s eye view of the canyon. Flightline adventures typically last about 2-½ hours and are offered through at bcflightlines.com.
Where The Locals Go To Get “Out of Dodge”
Bonnie Springs (a 20 minute drive out of town) has a charming little petting zoo, restaurant and bar, horseback riding, and an interactive wild west replica of an 1880’s mining town, called “Old Nevada.”) Mount Charleston (less than an hour from The Strip) is where locals go to enjoy a reprieve from the heat. There’s a romantic historic lodge at the top, cabins for rent, picnicking, hiking. The newer Charleston Hotel is a favorite local wedding and reception site, but it has a waiting list, unlike chapels on The Strip. Skiing and snowboarding are just a stone’s throw away at next-door Lee Canyon. Mountain Springs is a climate-friendly, tiny mountain-pass town with a friendly neighborhood saloon; you can even play horseshoes out back. It’s off Highway 160 on the way to Death Valley, or Pahrump; catch it going west off I-15, just south of Las Vegas town.
Time of year and weather both play a large role in determining which activities you’ll be able to take part in during your stay in Las Vegas, so do your research and plan accordingly. Organizations such as the Las Vegas Tourism Bureau (lasvegastourism.com) can get set you on the right path.