Hey guys! So last year I went to Las Vegas for the first time. Did all the typical antics – late nights at clubs, raging at pool parties, and gambling at casinos – but I knew I would crave more. I'd heard of and researched a few spots nearby that were all outdoors, and decided to spend an extra day exploring. So I found myself a cheap Airbnb, rented a car, convinced three of my new friends to come along, and we got right to it.
***Pro tip: if you make an account with USAA (it's free!), the underage rental car fee is waived. You're welcome.***
If you're planning a trip to Vegas, maybe you'll also want one more day to recover before you head back to reality. Annnnnd you'll be happy to know after blowing boatloads of money, that these places are essentially free (exception: parking). Here are my recommendations for adventure after a crazy weekend, but not death by desert, located off the Las Vegas Strip:
Alright, since this is a FOOD and travel blog, I'm kicking this post off with food because it was the best ramen I've eaten thus far, and once you hop off that plane, you're gonna be hungry, am I right??? Shoutout to my buddy Ming for taking me to noodle heaven. I had only met him a few hours earlier, and he said he knew about this amazing ramen place nearby, so I figured, what the heck? I could eat.
Anyways, Shang Artisan Noodle no doubt whips up the tastiest, freshest, hand-pulled noodles in Sin City. Guys, if you're a ramen fanatic or you've never eaten ramen before, start praying now cause just one bite and you'll be sinning. The ramen had so much flavor it felt like fireworks were going off in my mouth. We ordered a side of the boiled dumplings too and man, they were tasty. They seated us right in front of the cooks and we got to watch the mesmerizing art of crafting noodles. It was one of the most satisfying meals I've had to date. I craved it for days after.
2. Hoover Damn, this place was fine.
Honestly, this place exceeded my expectations. Watching the scene from the movie Transformers and hearing about it is totally unlike being there in person. You see how huge and tall it is, and the water rushing below is a really unique color. Plus when it's that hot out?? The water looks extremely inviting. I was fighting the urge to jump in.
I'm not a history enthusiast, but this place has some interesting stories. They also offer tours, at an additional cost. Bonus: you get to stand in two different states at once!
This feels like a real life game of "what doesn't belong?" If you like art, colorful rocks, or a good "Insta location," this place is for you. It's literally just seven totem poles of neon-painted boulders in the middle of a desert. Bould move huh? You can see it driving from the highway, but it's so much better close up. If you want to avoid crowds, I would recommend going early in the morning!
Guys, this place was at the bottom of an ocean basin more than 500 million years ago!! A totally different experience than the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado (but that place is sick too and you should definitely see a show there at some point in your life), this was my favorite stop of the day-cation for sure. One minute you're staring at rusty-red sandstone cliffs, and the next you're gaping at a grandeur purple mountain. I had never seen anything like it, and the natural formations and colors here were INCREDIBLE. Keep in mind, this was my first trip to the desert. Even my friend Christian, who hates adventure (and sunlight for that matter), was blown away.
With so many trails, I had hoped to go hiking, but because temperatures surpass 100 degrees during the day, the park advises going before 10am. After a long weekend, we were in dire need of rest, and therefore decided to prioritize sleep. Once we made it to the park, we had about an hour to kill before leaving to catch our flights. We took the "scenic loop drive" due to our time constraint. The drive itself probably took about a total of 20 minutes (excluding time for vista points and photo ops). Although I know I'll be back some day, I would've loved to spend more time there. Regardless, it was worth it. The takeaway: if you're going to visit, leave yourself plenty of time for this stop.
Now I'm not sure how big the park really is, but the mountains we saw were enormous, and I think there was a turn that lets you drive closer. We stayed on the outskirts and just barely grazed the perimeter. I think there's a whole other world on the other side of the mountain that I didn't get to explore...yet.
SO. That wraps it up for my take on what to do if you feel the need to venture beyond the Strip or if you're not into partying (what's wrong with you??). Side note: if you think Vegas isn't your style, I encourage you to go anyway. The energy there is unlike any other city I've visited, and there's so much to do. My friend Barnett took me to Mat Franco's magic show, the winner of NBC's America's Got Talent. So fret not...Las Vegas has plenty of options.
You are certainly not limited to these suggestions, but because they're within an hour away, you can hit them all in one day. Visit them, and you'll Neva(da) want to leave!
꧁ Alex ꧂