Though all of Vegas is designed to make you forget that there is an outside world, it might do you and your pocketbook much good to reacquaint yourself with the non-Vegas realm. Actually, if you're spending more than 3 days in Vegas, this may become a necessity; 2 days with kids and it absolutely will.
Plus, there is such a stark, startling contrast between the artificial wonders of Sin City and the natural wonders that in some cases lie just a few miles away. Few places are as developed and modern as Vegas; few places are as untouched as some of the canyons, desert, and mountains that surround it. The electrical and design marvel that is the Strip couldn't exist without the extraordinary structural feat that is Hoover Dam. Need some fresh air? (My heavens, don't you!) There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, all in a landscape like no other.
The excursions covered in this section, with the exception of Area 51 and the Grand Canyon trips, will take you from 20 to 60 miles out of town. Every one of them offers a memorable travel experience.
Hoover Dam & Lake Mead
30 miles SE of Las Vegas
This is one of the most popular excursions from Las Vegas. Hoover Dam is visited by 2,000 to 3,000 people daily. Why should you join them? Because it's an engineering and architectural marvel and it changed the Southwest forever. Without it, you wouldn't even be going to Vegas. Kids may be bored, unless they like machinery or just plain big things, but expose them to it anyway, for their own good. (Buy them ice cream and a Hoover Dam snow globe as a bribe.) Obviously, if you are staying at Lake Mead, it's a must.
The tour itself is a bit cursory, but you do get up close and personal with the dam. Wear comfortable shoes; the tour involves quite a bit of walking. Try to take the tour in the morning to beat the desert heat and the really big crowds. You can have lunch out in Boulder City, and then perhaps drive back through the Valley of Fire State Park (a landscape of wind and water-hewn formations of red sandstone), which is about 60 magnificently scenic miles from Lake Mead (purchase gas before you start!). Or you can spend the afternoon on Lake Mead-centered pursuits such as hiking, boating, even scuba diving in season, or perhaps a rafting trip down the Colorado River.
Las Vegas Travel Tips
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