Millions of visitors come to Las Vegas every year for gambling, world-class restaurants, and noteworthy shows. They also check out family-friendly spots like Red Rock Canyon, Springs Preserve, and the Discovery Children’s Museum. But there is plenty to explore beyond Las Vegas.
Las Vegas is spectacular, but there are many family-friendly adventures that await just beyond the city limits. Here are a few day-trip ideas for those looking to escape the neon lights and big city atmosphere of Sin City.
Rent a boat, gaze upon the lake via helicopter, or hike a picturesque trail. All of these are options for those venturing southeast to Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Those in the mood for a hike should check out the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail, which offers beautiful views of the lake and wildflowers in spring.
Best known as the home of the iconic engineering marvel, Hoover Dam, Boulder City is a relatively short drive southeast of Las Vegas. 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 to get a look at historic locomotives and to take a 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.
For more fun in the desert, drive 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 isn’t the for faint of heart, but those who visit are rewarded with the vast salt flats, rolling sand dunes, and historic Scotty’s Castle.
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 exploring these quieter gems nearby.
Sarah Vernetti is a freelance writer and travel blogger living in Las Vegas, Nevada. When she isn’t writing, she’s either planning her next trip or spending time outdoors with her husband and daughter. Follow along on Sarah’s travels by visiting her blog, Wandering Off, or finding her on twitter at @SarahVernetti.