Destination Vegas: What to do off the Strip

Adventures in Las Vegas beyond the Casinos

Nightlife and entertainment continue to lure millions to Las Vegas each year, but for some, it’s just not that appealing. Whether a nightclub isn’t your cup of tea or your pockets hurt at the thought of the typical Vegas experience, we urge you to read on before you draw the line through destination Vegas.

We’ve done our homework and talked with locals about their favorite to-dos in Sin City to get a feel for what tourists are missing. Just a short five-hour drive from San Diego and mere miles away from the Las Vegas strip, there are no excuses to miss these options. Discover what lies behind the image of wild parties, empty pockets and drunken shenanigans below.

Outdoor Adventure: Red Rock Canyon

If you’re looking for the “oohs” and “awes” of Mother Nature, the crimson landscape of Red Rock Canyon will do just the trick. Located 17 miles west of the Strip lies over 30 miles of outdoor activities including hiking, mountain biking, camping, rock climbing and scenic views. The Canyon is a local staple and outdoor sanctuary where Las Vegans are known to enjoy their free time. Some of the canyon highlights include the well-known Wild West spot, Bonnie Springs Ranch, featuring a peek inside an Old Western Town: Vegas style. Stop by and enjoy live music and numerous events throughout the year at this venue. Horseback riding is also a popular excursion; Ride or hike with your pal across the mountaintop and view the richest sunsets that Vegas has to offer.

Red Rock Canyon: 3205 NV-159, Las Vegas. (702) 515-5350 or redrockcanyonlv.org

Out-Of-The-Box Experience: Container Park

A unique dining and boutique shopping experience is the definition of the newly-built structure, Container Park. Located in the heart of Las Vegas, Container Park shines with creatively stacked shipping containers showcasing a fun, recycled open-air mall equipped with restaurants, live entertainment and boutique shopping. Locals praise this new development for its wild change of scenery. Whether you’re craving a gourmet hot dog or browsing the shops, Container Park makes for a fun night out. Be there or be square.

Container Park: 707 Fremont St, Las Vegas. (702) 359-9982 or downtowncontainerpark.com

Canyon Resort: Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa

This stunning resort offers spacious rooms overlooking the Red Rock Mountains or Las Vegas Strip. The location fits in the heart of suburbia and is surrounded by a cherished shopping and dining district. Enjoy the views from your hotel room while you relax or go see some live entertainment poolside. Promising to never bore you, the Resort also has a bowling alley, movie theatre and buffet onsite. Shopping, anyone? Head next door to Downtown Summerlin, a new hit mall giving visitors a large selection of shopping and dining year-round. What more could you ask for?

Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa: 11011 W Charleston Blvd, Las Vegas. (702) 797-7777 or redrock.sclv.com

Wet 'n Wild Las Vegas
Wet ‘n Wild Las Vegas — courtesy photo

Wild Theme Parks: Adventuredome and Wet ‘n Wild

Calling all adrenaline junkies! Las Vegas has two thrilling parks in town. Inside the Pink Dome next to Circus-Circus Hotel and Casino lies a hair-raising fun zone. Roller coasters, carnival games and tons of rides are at your mercy. Ride the Canyon Blaster or compete for the big prize. Locals have enjoyed the Adventuredome for many years and they keep coming back for more.

If the heat is not your friend, float over to the recently opened Wet ‘n Wild Water Park to cool off. Float down the lazy river or go for a wild ride down one of the many slides. Grab a pool floaty and some Dip ’n Dots to prepare for a day in the sun. Vacation doesn’t get better than that.

Adventuredome: Circus Circus Hotel, 2880 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas. (702) 794-3939 or adventuredome.com

Wet ’n Wild: 7055 S. Fort Apache Road, Las Vegas. (702) 979-1600 or wetnwildlasvegas.com

Broadway Headliners: The Smith Center

If you’re craving top-shelf entertainment, Vegas has it all. The Smith Center, a new addition to the Las Vegas community, raises the bar and gives locals and visitors an opportunity to experience world-class entertainment. This new-in-town theatre brings some of the most popular productions to Las Vegas every month. Some mentionable upcoming summer headliners include The Tony Award-winning production “Annie,” “Elf,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Dirty Dancing” and the hot comedy “The Book of Mormon.”

The Smith Center: 361 Symphony Park Avenue, Las Vegas. (702) 749-2012 or thesmithcenter.com

Day Trip: Grand Canyon & Skywalk Glass Bridge Tour

I booked the Grand Canyon West Rim day trip tour through the hotel. The tour company, Maverick Airlines, has a shuttle service that picks up at most Las Vegas hotels. The shuttle driver arrived on time, which was an early morning pick up at 6:30 am, and drove me along with other passengers to the airport which was a short 20-minute drive from the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino. After arriving, we were all checked in by the Maverick Airline staff for the day trip. We had the option to purchase tickets for the Skywalk Glass Bridge. The Skywalk bridge is a glass bridge that overlooks the canyon and the Colorado River. The purpose of the bridge is to give you the perception that you are standing over the canyon. Tickets for the Skywalk can be purchased when you arrive at the entrance of the Skywalk but by purchasing it through Maverick Airlines you will avoid the long lines.

Grand Canyon Day Trip West Rim Skywalk Glass Bridge
Grand Canyon, West Rim

After being checked in we were met by the friendly pilot who briefed us about the aircraft. We were flown in a 9 seater, Cessna Grand Caravan 208 Performance, pictured above. While the aircraft is small, the plane ride was fairly smooth and comfortable. I also got to sit next to the pilot in the front of the aircraft. The pilot was highly knowledgeable and provided us various bits of information as we passed the Hoover Dam and small towns. Unfortunately, the plane is not authorized to fly inside the Grand Canyon, only helicopters can, so if you would like to fly inside the canyon you should opt for the helicopter day trip tour.

After landing at the airport the pilot explained what we could do. There are 2 main attractions, Eagle Point and Guano Point. You are transported via a bus between the airport, Eagle Point and Guano Point. Buses arrive every 10 minutes at each location.

The first stop was Eagle Point which has two main attractions; Eagle Rock and the Skywalk Glass Bridge platform. Eagle Rock as pictured below is a rock formation that looks like an eagle spreading its wings. You get some great views looking down the canyon from Eagle Point. There is also the option for the Skywalk which I purchased through Maverick Airlines at the airport. The Skywalk Glass Bridge was the only disappointing part of the tour. You are not allowed to take anything with you on the Skywalk Glass Bridge including your own camera. You are forced to make use of their own photographers and pay a ridiculous fee to have the pictures printed. The Skywalk Glass Bridge floor has scratches on and while this does not impact looking down at the Grand Canyon its still not what you would expect to pay $30 for. My advice would be to bypass the Skywalk Glass Bridge.

Next up was Guano Point. Guano Point is where you will be served your lunch. There are many tables and chairs covered in shade to protect you from the harsh sun. A short 10-minute walk takes you to a viewpoint that provides a stunning 360-degree viewpoint of the Grand Canyon. Guano Point is also home to the now-closed tramway which has broken down after a US Air Force fighter jet collided with the cable system. The tramway was a transportation mode to the nearby bat cave.

guano point part od the grand canyon day trip
Guano Point

The final stop of the day trip was back to the airport where there is a souvenir shop where gifts can be purchased. You are then flown back to the airport where you once again get great views of the Colorado River and the Hoover Dam. The tour to the Grand Canyon West Rim was great and superbly organized by Maverick Airlines. I would, however, liked to have stayed at the Canyon and spent a few days exploring the hiking trails, however, for a day trip it’s well worth the money. If you would like to fly inside the canyon rather opt for the helicopter tours.

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