Las Vegas is known for gambling, extravagant shows, and wild partying. The lavish hotels are attractions themselves, not just a place to lay your head at night. My best friend Rachel lives in Las Vegas, so I’ve been there to visit several times. I’ve spent hours wandering through Caesar’s Palace looking at all the extravagant shops, dined in the Venetian trying to pretend I was in Italy, watched the fountain show in front of the Bellagio, and even spent some time gambling at the Hilton with Star Trek themed casinos. (Just to be clear, Rachel had Hilton points to redeem, we are not Trekkies.) While in Vegas you can also go to the Stratosphere to experience the SkyJump, the world’s highest controlled free fall at 855 feet. Sin City is probably one of the most popular destinations for bachelor parties due to the club scene and abundance of strippers. People expect crazy things to happen in Vegas, and if you haven’t heard the phrase “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” you might be living under a rock.

fountain display in front of the Bellagio

But what if you also enjoy outdoor activities? A few days spent on the Strip might be enough, maybe you want some nature to balance out the materialistic, fast-paced city. Well, there are plenty of places to go near Las Vegas that are perfect for the outdoorsy type. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is about 15 miles west of Las Vegas. Here you can go biking, hiking, or you can drive the 13 mile scenic loop. Rachel took me there on my first visit, and while I wasn’t up for the miles of biking she normally does, I did enjoy a leisurely hike through the park. There is also a campground at the park for those who want to sleep under the stars. If you want the gambling and nature without much of a drive, there’s even a casino nearby called Red Rock Casino.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

A little further out is Mount Charleston. It’s amazing that just 35 miles outside of Las Vegas you are no longer in the sweltering desert heat, but instead on a wooded mountain with a variety of wildlife and flowers, and the temperature is about 25 to 40 degrees cooler. From certain parts of the mountain, you can see Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon, and Lake Mead. There’s even a ski resort nearby!

Other side trips from Las Vegas include the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, and Death Valley. You could also make Las Vegas your home base and take slightly longer trips to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Joshua Tree National Park in California, and Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Rachel had to work a couple days while I was visiting a few years ago, so I drove to Zion National Park. It was only about 150 miles and I really enjoyed the desert landscape as I drove.

Zion National Park

Don’t write off Las Vegas as simply a city of gambling, drinking and partying. While those activities can be entertaining, there are plenty of other more peaceful (and less expensive) aspects of the Las Vegas area to enjoy. Planning your Vegas trip to include different types of activities will make for a much more balanced vacation. I try to include one each time I visit, and next time I’m thinking Bryce Canyon.

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12 comments on “Las Vegas On and Off the Strip

  1. Jason Demant

    Who would’ve thought? There are things to do other than partying and gambling in Vegas, interesting. Now, how do you convince your friends to do one of these activities? :-)

    1. Ali Post author

      Haha!! Just tell your friends the exercise will help work off the hangover!

  2. ayngelina

    Great post, I’ve never been to Las Vegas and thought a week of gambling and drinking would be too much but this makes it look much more interesting.

    1. Ali Post author

      My thoughts exactly, every time I visit, Rachel and I wander around the strip for an afternoon, look at the stores we could never afford, and throw a few dollars in a slot machine. The rest of the time, I’m doing something else.

    1. Ali Post author

      Yep just a few hours from Vegas! Thanks!

  3. Poi

    Looks good, nice to read something about Las Vegas that doesn’t mean blowing all my budget, looks a lot more appealing now!

    1. Ali Post author

      Glad to help! And if you stay a little off the main strip, you can find cheaper hotels.

  4. Andi

    So cool to see another side to Vegas! I hate the city, but the surrounding areas look fantastic!!!

    1. Ali Post author

      I’m not a big fan of Vegas either, which is why I love that there are so many things to do off the strip. I also like that my friend out there doesn’t live right in the middle of everything.

  5. Sheepish

    We spent a week there for our tenth wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time doing the “fun ” things but wish we could have gone to the destinations you reviewed in your blog. In 3 years we will be married 50 years. Sounds like a place we should revisit, making sure we drive around.

    1. Ali Post author

      Wow, congrats on almost 50 years!!

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