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Posted by: budgettravel 1 year, 6 months ago
Most of us think of Las Vegas as a place for adults to party and gamble. While that may still be true, Las Vegas has something to offer to families with kids as well. Since we have relatives in Las Vegas, my family (kids and all) go there at least once a year. We have been visiting Las Vegas even before our relatives moved there - for the sunshine. What did we do in Las Vegas to enjoy the sun?
1. Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area is one of the many beautiful sandstone rock formations you can explore when visiting Vegas. Rent a car and drive 45 minutes from the Strip to marvel at these beautiful red rocks. Enjoy a picnic lunch then hike the trails that take you up close to the ever changing rock formations.
Red Rock Canyon, near Las Vegas, Nevada
2. Lake Mead National Recreation Area is another beautiful wonder not far from the glitz of Las Vegas. There is a historic railway track that has been converted to a walking trail with the beautiful Lake Mead as its backdrop. There are also many red rock formations here if you are so inclined.
Bowl of Fire, Lake Mead, Nevada
3. Hoover Dam is just down the road from Lake Mead. Cross the dam that is responsible for bringing power to so many while looking at the Colorado River down below. Dam Tours are available at the Visitor Center for a fee.
Hoover Dam, at the border of Nevada and Arizona
4. You can find Lake Las Vegas and a Florentine Ponte Vecchio (copy) crossing it along the way to Lake Mead. Pretty cool to see if you're in the mood for reminiscing.
5. Valley of Fire State Park is another beautiful rock park filled with both red rocks and white rocks to wander through and to take beautiful pictures.
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
6. Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument is Nevada’s newest National Monument. Though largely undeveloped at the time of writing this article (January 2016), it holds many of history’s animals, from mammoths to saber tooth cats. I for one, cannot wait to explore this area. Hopefully with its new designation as a National Monument, more information will be available to visitors about the past residents of this area.
7. About 2.5 to 3 hours from Las Vegas, you'll find Zion National Park. With its towering red rocks and slot canyons, there is no shortage of things to do here, from hiking towards hidden arches to hiking into the Narrows to climbing to the top of red rock mounts.
Zion National Park, Utah
View from inside a Canyon,
Zion National Park, Utah
8. Bryce Canyon National Park is about 4 to 5 hours from Las Vegas, about a 2 hour drive from Zion. Bryce is an amazing national park with hoodoos in both red and white hues, and all combinations in between. There is a 3 to 4 mile hike that goes down into the hoodoos that gives you an up-close view of these beautiful geological features. Try to stay in the park overnight, the stars that line the night sky are a sight to see.
Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon
National Park, Utah
9. Grand Canyon National Park is also about a 5 hour drive from Las Vegas. Just south of the Grand Canyon you'll find Walnut Canyon National Monument. The Island Trail takes you upclose to the limestone cliff dwellings that were left by Native Americans many years ago. Check respective websites for trail and road closures.
Limestone Cave Dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument, Arizona
View from South Rim,Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
10. Beyond these, there are many places that we have not visited yet. Meteor Crater, just outside Flagstaff, was formed by a meteorite crashing into the Earth, about 50,000 years ago. It is not part of the National Parks system, so you will need tickets for admission. Antelope Canyon is another such site. There are so many possibilities for exploration within driving distance of Las Vegas that will keep us busy exploring for many years to come.
Practical Information (as of November 2015):
Car rentals are reasonable from LAS McCarran Airport. I usually book mine at Costco.com. Hotels on Strip may have reasonable nightly rates, but beware the resort fees. Shuttle rides may be taken from the airport to the Strip hotels for $10 per person (at the time of writing - 2015), a discounted rate for return trips. It might be a good option if you're planning to stay on-Strip for a few days before heading out to off-Strip locations.
If you are planning to hit several National Parks and Monuments, consider purchasing the Annual National Parks Pass for $80 for free admission to U.S. National Parks lands for everyone in your vehicle (with some exceptions) for one year. National Parks Pass can be purchased at entry gates of most National Parks. If you have a grade 4 student in your midst this year, print a voucher to get a free National Parks pass valid until August 31, 2016.