Venturing Out from Vegas: 8 Day Trip Ideas

Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire State Park
Dec 17, 2020

Las Vegas is known for its world-class entertainment, dining and shopping, but if your trip doesn’t take you off the Strip (or even past the city limits), you’re not thinking outside the Vegas box. Beyond the Strip, you’ll find former mining towns, craft breweries and distilleries, river cities, snow-covered mountains, centuries-old rock carvings of unknown origins and enough gorgeous nature to fill your Instagram feed.

We’ve rounded up our favorite day trip ideas—covering a few hours, a half day, or from sunrise to sunset—to send you exploring this colorful corner of Nevada nicknamed the Las Vegas Territory

Editor's note: The Las Vegas Territory is open and ready to welcome visitors with new safety measures for these (and more) fan-favorite adventures; read more about the state's safety precautions and check relevant activity websites to prepare for your visit.

If you have a few hours...

Neon Museum

If you're staying near the Strip, but not ready to leave Las Vegas quite yet, you can start your adventure by checking out a different part of town: Downtown Las Vegas which is about a 10-minute drive from the Strip. Here you'll catch the sights of vintage Vegas on Fremont Street, including El Cortez Hotel (est. 1941) and Vegas Vic—the neon cowboy who's been pointing the way to the (former) Pioneer Club since 1951. For a glimpse at even older neons, visit the Neon Museum where signs dating back to the 1930s are on exhibit (go at night for the full effect.) History buffs and/or fans of Martin Scorsese's Casino will love the Mob Museum's artifacts and historic recounting of organized crime in the city.

But Downtown doesn't only showcase the Vegas of yesteryear, it's also home to many new quirky and cool spots. One we love is Container Park—an open-air shopping center constructed out of recycled shipping containers and filled with boutique shops, restaurants and a bar. And because it's Vegas, there's a giant fire-breathing grasshopper statue to greet you at the entrance. 

Hiking in Henderson

Slightly further afield there's Henderson—a 15-minute drive from the Strip. Henderson is a good overnight alternative if you're not looking for hustle and bustle, but do want to maintain quick access to the city's best. Henderson has 180 miles of hiking and biking trails, nine golf courses and (perhaps most famously) Lake Las Vegas. In addition to the fun found on the water, Lake Las Vegas has upscale hotels like Westin and Hilton and hosts events, like the annual Dragon Boat Festival (scheduled for June 2021).

If you only have a few hours, though, we recommend you (and a designated driver) hit the city's Artisan Booze District, where there are multiple craft breweries, Las Vegas Distillery (Nevada's first craft distillery) and Las Vegas Valley's only winery. You can also try your hand at crafting your own barrel of wine at Grape Expectations. 

For outdoor activities, you also don't need to go far: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is only about 20 minutes from the Strip by car and has 25 or so hiking trails ranging from easy to (all caps) strenuous. For something in the middle, try Dale's Trail, which runs about 4 miles through open desert along the base of the Red Rock Escarpment. This trail has beautiful plant life and remarkable sandstone rock formations that really pop around sunset.

Mount Charleston

A little further out of town (about 50 minutes from the Strip) you'll find Mount Charleston. During the winter, the mountain is dusted with snow and welcomes visitors for skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and tubing at Lee Canyon Ski Resort. Through the rest of the year, this area offers hiking, biking and horseback riding with beautiful vistas.

If you have half a day...

Colorado River below the Hoover Dam

For a half day full of adventure, head to Boulder City (about 40 minutes from the Strip) to see the Hoover Dam which, even if you know the history and incredible energy-producing capabilities, is pretty impressive to see in person. Though guided tours aren't currently possible due to COVID-19 protocols, the Memorial Bridge walkway is a great vantage point (and photo op). The damming of the Colorado River created Lake Mead, making it the country's largest water reservoir. Lake Mead National Recreation area is a fantastic place to spend a few hours, particularly if you can get out on the water. Boat rental options are a bit more limited right now, so you may have to commit to longer than an hour's rental (twist your arm, right?) Beyond the lake itself, the surrounding area has trails, scenic drives and campsites.

Colorado River in Laughlin

Another half-day option we love is about 1.5 hours from the Strip. Laughlin is a full-fledged destination unto itself, attracting two million-plus visitors a year, but with a half day to spend, you'll have enough time to see the highlights. Start at Grapevine Canyon to see centuries-old petroglyphs etched by an unknown culture that are thought to depict a creation myth. You'll find the largest concentration of glyphs at Christmas Tree Pass with about 700 etchings and rock shelters in total. After getting your fill of ancient art, drive into Laughlin for a bit more adventure on the Colorado River. If you're visiting between March and October, we highly recommend a Jet Ski tour with Rocky River Adventure Center. If speedy watercraft aren't quite your tempo, you can kayak or float on an inner tube down the river instead. However you choose to take it in, do go rollin' on the river for a very nice view of Laughlin's Casino Row skyline.

Seven Magic Mountains in Jean

Our last half-day recommendation will take you to three towns to experience outdoor art, Old West history and bargain hunting at name-brand stores. To begin, you'll head to Jean, which is about 30 minutes from the Strip; there you'll find Seven Magic Mountains, a massive outdoor art installation comprised of colorful stacked boulders that are sure to be a hit on your Insta. From there, fuel up at the world's largest Chevron station, Terrible's RoadHouse. While we wouldn't usually go on about a petrol stop, this spot is worth mentioning. Measuring in at a whopping 50,000 square feet and filled with snacks, slots and souvenirs galore, Terrible's also has Herbie (the starring car from 1968's The Love Bug) on display.

With a full tank, drive another 10 minutes to Goodsprings where the main attraction is the circa-1913 Pioneer Saloon — an historic saloon turned Hollywood set (credits include Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Miss Congeniality 2). Have a pint and a burger with a view of bullet holes whose origin is very Old West: a poker-cheating miner tried to steal a pot of money before being shot dead by the card dealer. Two of the dealer's bullets struck the pressed-tin wall and left behind the two holes which are still clearly visible today.

To cap the half day, drive another 20 minutes where you'll end your afternoon with a shopping extravaganza at the Prizm Outlets in Primm where favorites like Michael Kors, Williams Sonoma and Nike have stores.

A full day to explore...

Though any of the above could arguably turn into a full day's worth of fun, you'll need sun up to sun down to experience this day's events. Start the morning early (very early, if you can swing it) and take a drive northeast toward Moapa Valley, where your first stop will be the Valley of Fire State Park. Here, you'll see towering boulders in shades of red, pink, purple and yellow. Hundreds of millions of years ago, this area was under the sea. Centuries of ocean undulation and erosion carved slot canyons and arches and painted waved lines in the sandstone. It's, in a word, stunning. 

Valley of Fire State Park

You can explore the park a few ways: rappelling and mountain climbing are permitted in some locations, and hiking is very popular throughout the park. Popular treks include the White Domes Trail (where you'll find an incredible slot canyon) and the Fire Wave Trail (here, see hills covered in iconic waved lines). The latter is only 1.5 miles total (out-and-back) and easy to navigate. Located on the Scenic Loop trail, Arch Rock is another beautiful formation; it requires no hiking to reach, making this sight a good option on hot summer days. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the abundant wildlife you're likely to see throughout the park: Bighorn sheep, lizards, chipmunks, various bird species and, yes maybe also rattlesnakes, so do keep an eye out.

After your morning amid the geologic marvels, head deeper into the Mojave Desert toward Mesquite to encounter a desert dweller of a different sort on a Camel Safari. The ranch has a number of options (including camel rides), but current safety precautions limit their offerings; call ahead to check what's currently on offer. One activity available now is a Day Glamp experience, where you'll have five full hours to enjoy the desert ranch, eat a privately catered lunch, make crafts and, of course, interact with the camels. You'll also have the opportunity to meet a sloth, llamas, hedgehogs and armadillos. Between animal meet and greets, hang out in air-conditioned, cabana-style Mongolian Gers.

If you'd rather chase birdies and eagles, this area is also known for its offering of golf courses. Conestoga Golf Club, a championship course designed by award-winning architect Gary Panks, is a good option.

From here, head back to your hotel to get cleaned up (believe us, you'll need a good long shower after this day of events); the drive back to Las Vegas will take around an hour. For the grand finale, go classic Vegas with a show on the Strip. Many shows are on hiatus but a few really fantastic options are still in production (and with COVID precautions in place, of course). One such show is Tape Face, a silent entertainer that first gained national notoriety on America’s Got Talent and now performs an eccentric mime act at Harrah's Showroom.

Another sure bet for a fun night? The winner of Las Vegas's "Best Tour" for five years in a row: Lip Smacking Foodie Tours (according to Las Vegas Review-Journal) which allows you to sample the most delicious dishes at the city's hottest restaurants. To really go for the VIP treatment, book the Savory Bites and Neon Lights tour; after you dine at four of Vegas's most exclusive restaurants, a limo will drop you off for a helicopter ride over the Strip. 

Ready to plan your own getaway? Head to the Las Vegas Territory website, where you can gather more ideas and recommendations.

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