Few people realize that the secret to getting the most out of a Vegas experience is to step outside the city. It seems counter-intuitive, but this city is much more than the Entertainment Capital of the World. It is a gateway to the Western United States, from theme parks to landmarks to actual wonders of nature.
As locals know, a hefty portion of Vegas’ appeal comes from its proximity to so many other awesome attractions. It’s every bit as much a hub as it is a destination, and it’d be a shame not to take advantage — particularly when the summer sets into its triple-digit groove.
On your next Vegas vacation, consider setting a day aside for one of these local-favorite day trips:
This pocket of wildflowers and pine is just a 45-minute drive from Las Vegas; a perfect jaunt for travelers who are pinched for time. On your brief drive up the mountain, you’ll witness the gradual transformation of raw desert sagebrush and cacti into thick forests of white fir and bristlecone pine.
In addition to lush and varied plant life, Kyle Canyon is home to a number of creatures ranging from white-tailed antelope squirrels and black-tailed jackrabbits to kit foxes, burros, elk, and mountain lions. It also houses plenty of picnic tables fit for red-checkered tablecloths and cold sub sandwiches. And potato chips. And root beer!
Regardless of season, Mt. Charleston offers a wealth of recreation, from hiking and horseback riding to skiing and ice climbing. Spend a sweltering summer day at Cathedral Rock and savor a cold sub in the crisp mountain air. In winter, discover a snowy paradise of plush white slopes and settle in with a famous Charleston Coffee at Mt. Charleston Lodge.
Heat Advisory: Mt. Charleston is typically 15+ degrees cooler than Las Vegas, but be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and water as the higher elevation increases sun exposure. Also beware of “bug season” in July-September. Wasps and fire ants are zero fun at a picnic.
Zion National Park
It is little wonder that Mormon pioneers chose to call the towering monuments and multicolored canyons of this desert jewel, “Zion,” the biblical word for a place of peace and refuge. At just under 230 square miles, it humbles everything and everyone within its boundaries. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Las Vegas and makes a great escape from the city whether you’re looking for an introspective commune with nature or a thrilling wilderness adventure.
If you’d like a little of both, that’s cool, too. Make Springdale your homebase and hit the trails by foot or rent a bike at Zion Cycles, then spice things up with a Red Desert Adventure, Zion Outback Safari, or ATV tour.
For an especially sweet treat, take the whole family to the Springdale Candy Company, a wholesome sweets shop so adorably old-fashioned you’ll feel like you’re a pioneer yourself.
Heat Advisory: Zion typically runs cooler than Vegas, but be prepared to sweat on particularly strenuous hikes. As always, keep sunscreen and water on hand.
Bonnie Springs Ranch
If you’ve ever had a hankerin’ to see the Wild West as it once was, you don’t need a time machine. You just need a car that’ll make the 40-minute trek out to Red Rock Canyon. There, you’ll find Bonnie Springs’ Old Town. Founded as a stopover for the wagon trains following the Old Spanish Trail to California, Bonnie Springs now recreates the the charm of an authentic 1800s mining town.
The petting zoo is on the small side, but it holds plenty of surprises for smaller children. Incidentally, so does the miniature town center. You never know when the colorful townspeople will break into a live performance — or a gunfight in the street.
Admission starts at $7 for kids 12 and under and $10 for visitors 12 and up. The cost even includes access to petting zoo, so if you want to turn your day trip into an overnighter, you’ll have a li’l extra stuffing in your pocket to make use of Old Town’s kitschy-cute motel.
Heat Advisory: Bonnie Springs runs every bit as hot as Vegas in the summer. We recommend planning your trip for spring or fall and bringing the obligatory sunscreen and water, too.
Labor Day is coming up! Are you planning a day trip or a long weekend? Let us know where you’re headed!