Millions of visitors travel to Las Vegas every year for its bright lights, gambling and casinos, world-class restaurants, and noteworthy shows. While Sin City may not be known for its family-friendly atmosphere, Vegas does offer activities for kids ranging from M&M World, Discovery Children’s Museum, and the famous light shows of Bellagio and Fremont Street Experience. If you’re looking for adventures beyond the city, take the family to these best day trips from Las Vegas.
Best Family-Friendly Day Trips From Las Vegas
Las Vegas is spectacular with its neon lights, mega hotels, hustle, bustle, and entertainment although many might question whether Las Vegas is truly kid-friendly. A road trip away, discover more family-friendly adventures that await just beyond the city limits. Escape the neon lights and big city atmosphere of Sin City with our best family-friendly day trips from Las Vegas.
Lake Mead National Recreational Area
Rent a boat, gaze upon the lake via helicopter, or hike a picturesque trail. All of these are options for those venturing southeast (45-minute drive) to Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
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Those in the mood for a hike should check out the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail. This trail offers beautiful views of the lake and wildflowers in spring.
Boulder City and the Hoover Dam
Best known as the home of the iconic engineering marvel, Hoover Dam, Boulder City is a relatively short drive southeast of Las Vegas at just 40 minutes. Visit the dam and then take a stroll up the steps to the gigantic Memorial Bridge for incredible views of the dam below.
In addition to its most famous water-taming resident, Boulder City offers more to see. Families will want to visit the Southern Nevada Railway Museum. Look at its historic locomotives and all-aboard its 45-minute train ride.
Valley of Fire State Park
Located about an hour northeast of Las Vegas, this state park is the perfect introduction to desert life in Nevada. Beautiful red rock formations in dramatic shapes make this one of the most photogenic spots in the southwestern United States.
Families should consider a hike at the Mouse’s Tank trail where they will walk over red sand, scramble on rock formations, and try their best to interpret the ancient petroglyphs that decorate the surrounding cliffs.
If you have extra time, stop by the nearby town of Overton to explore the Lost City Museum, which focuses on the Anasazi, the makers of the Valley of Fire petroglyphs.
Zion National Park
Only a 2 1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas, Zion National Park is known for its steep red cliffs, emerald pools, and waterfalls, and not surprisingly, it is also one of the most popular National Parks in the U.S. With a variety of hiking trails, it’s ideal for solo travelers, families, and any age group. Use this first time guide to discover lodging options, must-see hiking trails, and learn how to get around inside the park.
Death Valley National Park
For more fun in the desert, drive just 2 1/2 hours to the California/Nevada border to experience a national park that is one of the driest, lowest, and hottest spots in North America. Death Valley National Park isn’t the for faint of heart, as the heat alone is stifling (and yes, even more so than Vegas). Therefore, it’s critical to choose your timing well (avoid summer months!) and be prepared for the heat with plenty of water and layered clothing.
Yet I’m always in awe of Mother Nature’s landscapes and Death Valley rewards those scenery-seeking travelers ten-fold, and those who visit are rewarded with the vast salt flats, rolling sand dunes, and historic Scotty’s Castle.
Plenty of hikes are available, from easy (2+ miles) to difficult and strenuous 13-mile hikes. The easiest and perhaps most popular hike is the Mosaic Canyon. Located just outside of Stovepipe Well, this 2.8-mile round-trip hike treks through the canyons of the Cottonwood Mountains meandering through polished marble and colorful mosaic stone. The trailhead is just outside Stovepipe Wells.
TravelingMom Tip: Only have a few hours? Start your visit at Furnace Creek Visitor Center. From there, drive to Badwater Basin and Artist’s Drive. Be sure to check out Devils Golf Course. Take in the sunrise or sunset at Zabriskie Point.
Several ghost towns dot the region surrounding Las Vegas. Perhaps the most fascinating and lonely is Rhyolite, located near the town of Beatty, Nevada. This former bustling mining town is now a shell of its former self. Visitors shouldn’t miss the house-made of glass bottles. Other ghost towns can be found in Chloride and Oatman, both of which are located in northwestern Arizona.
Las Vegas is larger than life. Enjoy your time in Sin City and then consider these day trips from Las Vegas.
Note: This post was originally written by Sarah Vernetti in 2014, and updated by Diana Rowe in 2019.