They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Whether you live in the Las Vegas area or you’re just visiting, there’s a lot more to Nevada than the neon lights of the famous (or perhaps infamous) Strip. If the flashy casinos and swanky shows aren’t your thing or you’d just like to see something different for a change, there are several interesting options within driving distance.
Here are some must-visit destinations just outside Las Vegas, Nevada, compiled by the Las Vegas travel experts at LBF Travel.
The Hoover Dam
The Hoover Dam is something that everyone should see at least once in his or her life. Located near Boulder City, Nevada, this dam was known as Boulder Dam before it was named after President Herbert Hoover. This massive structure is composed of nearly 7 million tons of concrete and has the ability to hold just over 9 trillion gallons of water. Though it was constructed in the early 1930s, this dam is just as impressive today as it was back then. Take a guided tour to learn everything that went into its assembly. It’s definitely worth the quick 45-minute drive from Las Vegas.
While you’re in the area, you might want to see the lake that was created as a result of the Hoover dam. Also 45 miles from Las Vegas, Lake Mead is a fantastic place to bring out your inner adventurer. Kayaks and canoes are available for rental if you just can’t resist getting in the water. For people that like their fun a little drier, there are several trails located on 1.5 million acres that make up the Lake Mead Recreation Area. If you’re not much of a hiker, you can always pack a picnic and take in the lakeside view. It’s the perfect backdrop for a romantic rekindling or a fun family outing. So make some sandwiches, toss your picnic basket in the car and head off for a day at the lake!
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is another destination that will help you experience the glory of the great outdoors. It lies about 15 miles or so west of Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert. It can actually been seen from the Las Vegas Strip. Hiking, rock climbing and horseback riding are all popular pastimes at this site. If those activities sound a little too “rough and tumble” for your taste, you can always enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your own car. Just follow the 13-mile loop where you can casually view everything this location has to offer. From the iconic Joshua trees that dot the landscape to the wild horses and burros that roam free, there’s a little something for everyone. Best of all, you can get there from Vegas in less than 20 minutes!
Clark County Heritage Museum
For history buffs, the Clark County Heritage Museum is another must-see. There are plenty of fascinating exhibits, including a detailed history of how the region was settled. You’ll also find some great information about Native American culture and plants that are indigenous to the area. When you’re done visiting the main displays, be sure to check out the nearby Anna Roberts Exhibit Hall as well as the eight historic homes lining Heritage Street. All of this can be found just 20 miles east of Las Vegas. It’s a history lover’s dream.
Bonnie Springs Ranch
Another good day trip for Vegas dwellers and tourists alike is Bonnie Springs Ranch. This attraction is a replica of an old mining town from the 1880s. It has everything from recreated gun fights to authentic saloons. You’ll find several shops and restaurants to choose from as well as scheduled train trips through the area. You might even see a tumbleweed roll by in the western wind. Be sure to bring the kids or grandkids along for the petting zoo and pony rides. Everyone in the family can enjoy this journey back in time. It’s good, old-fashioned fun for both the young and the young at heart.
Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest state park. It’s located about 58 miles northeast of the Vegas Strip in Overton, Nevada, which makes it an ideal afternoon getaway. There’s a lot to see here, but the red sandstone formations are the main draw. The gorgeous natural wonders reflect the desert sunlight beautifully. In fact, those fiery reflections are what gave this park its name. You should also take note of the interesting art created on the rocks by the Ancestral Pueblo people. These images have been around since 300 B.C. Check them out as well as everything else you can find on these 42,000 acres in the Mojave Desert.
Ethel M Chocolate Factory
Maybe sweets are more your style. If so, head 10 miles from the Strip to Henderson, Nevada, where you’ll find the closest thing to Willy Wonka’s workshop. Ethel M Chocolate Factory offers a look at how they make a variety of treats from a popular line of gourmet chocolates. From truffles to caramels and everything in between, you’re sure to find something to satisfy your sweet tooth. The self-guided tours are free, which means you can keep all your cash for the goodies in gift shop! (At least you’re saving money by skipping the casinos!) You can even take a stroll through the botanical cactus gardens outside while you munch on something tasty and chocolaty. If you’re afraid your candy might melt in the desert heat, you really shouldn’t worry. Chances are you’ll have your decadent dessert downed before you get even get back to your car.
Las Vegas may be the best-known city in Nevada, but the extravagant hotspots and glitzy nightlife associated with it aren’t for everyone. Instead of hitting the tables and slots, hit the road. You can drive from the Vegas Strip to any of the locations on this list in an hour or less. No matter what destination you choose, you’ll certainly be destined for a good time.