When you’re off to Vegas, you likely have on thing on your mind -- gambling. And that’s followed by crazy shows and concerts, shopping, buffets, pool parties, and the list goes on. Vegas offers all of these things and more, but after a few days in Sin City, you might be looking to get out of town for a day or two. Luckily, despite being in the middle of the desert, the city is within day-trip distance of many great sights. Here, we pick 10 of our favorites, and travelers should note that it’s possible to book tour packages to these destinations that’ll take care of all transportation for you.
Drive: Five hours to the South Rim
The quintessential day trip from Vegas is the Grand Canyon. As it is a pretty far drive, day trippers will want to wake up early to maximize time at the sight. Alternatively, if you have deeper pockets, you can book a helicopter tour departing from Vegas, which typically starts at about $300 per person.
2. Hoover Dam
Drive: 40 minutes
A trip to the Hoover Dam might only take you half a day, as it’s very close by. But you might want to consider exploring the area a bit before heading back to Las Vegas. You can view the dam by helicopter tour, go zip-lining at Bootleg Canyon, or visit the Nevada Southern Railroad museum in Boulder City.
3. Death Valley
Drive: 2.5 hours
Want to visit the site of the world’s hottest recorded air temperature? Head on over to Death Valley, where the thermometer hit 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913. It’s also the driest spot in North America. They certainly don’t call it Death Valley for nothing.
4. Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Drive: 45 minutes
As the largest body of water near Las Vegas, Lake Mead is popular with day trippers seeking to cool down. It’s a hot spot for sport fishing, boating, kayaking, and even scuba diving. Want to stay on dry land? There are plenty of hiking trails within the recreational area, but visitors should note that it’s only advised to take a trek between November and March, when temperatures are cooler.
5. Red Rock Canyon
Drive: 30 minutes
In the aptly named Red Rock Canyon, rust-colored rocks and sandstone peaks rise above the desert. The highest summit in the area is the 8,154-foot La Madre Mountain. Unsurprisingly, the area is popular with rock climbers and hikers, but you can also bike or drive through, if you have four-wheel-drive.
6. Zion National Park
Drive: 2.75 hours
Head to nearby Utah to visit Zion National Park, one of five national parks in the state. It has four different “life zones” (desert; riparian, or river; woodland; and coniferous forest) that are home to over 280 types of animals. To avoid the crowds — and the heat — visit between November and April.
7. Eldorado Canyon
Drive: One hour
If you want a taste of the old-school Wild West, take a trip to Eldorado Canyon, home to the 1861 Techatticup Mine, which is open for tours, and the ghost town of Nelson around it. To take a tour inside the mine, be sure that your group has at least four people (smaller parties can call ahead to see if other travelers plan on taking the tour that day).
8. Pahrump, Nevada
Drive: 1.25 hours
There are two types of travelers that are typically attracted to Pahrump — winos and thrill seekers. The former can enjoy Pahrump Valley Winery and Sanders Family Winery, while the latter can enjoy the Spring Mountain Motor Resort and Country Club (a racetrack home to a Corvette driving academy — you can take a one-day private lesson).
Drive: Four hours
One of Utah’s other national parks, Bryce Canyon, is also within day-tripping distance of Las Vegas. The star of the park is Bryce Canyon, of course — but did you know that it’s not actually a canyon? Instead, it’s a series of natural amphitheaters filled with hoodoos (towering rock formations).
10. Valley of Fire State Park
Drive: One hour
This state park gets its name from the area’s fire-like appearance when sunlight hits the red rocks, and was once the home of the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi). In some places, you can still find their petroglyphs (rock carvings). The site also has a futuristic connection of sorts — it stood in for Mars’ landscape in the film “Total Recall.”
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