By Mary S., Hilton Mom Voyage Travel Writer
Contrary to popular belief, Las Vegas is actually a family-friendly destination and one of our favorite places to visit for its varied food and activities. We take multiple trips there every year because it’s a doable weekend trip from our home near San Diego. However, Las Vegas can also become overwhelming and crowded. Sometimes, it’s worth the time and effort to escape the bright lights and big crowds. Take a drive and go on these day trips from Las Vegas.
Enjoy Natural Wonders
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is nearby with its grand red cliffs and canyon, desert wildlife of over 200 mammals, trails and petroglyphs along its 20.9 km scenic loop. It’s amazing to see what can survive in the harsh desert environment. The large visitor’s center is a wealth of information on the animals and the Native Americans who lived here.
About an hour from Las Vegas is Valley of Fire State Park. Many hiking trails allowed us to get up close to the stunning red sandstone formations. There are also prehistoric petroglyphs and petrified logs kids will find fascinating.
Death Valley is one of our favorite parks and located about two hours away. Its sand dunes, lowest salt flats in the world, even a castle defy its morbid name. Just stay away during the summer when the park’s temperatures reach triple digits.
Grand Canyon National Park is about four hours away and it’s not usually a feasible day trip. The popular, but pricey Grand Canyon Skywalk, which is two hours away, is a good alternative for a taste of the canyon. This glass-bottom, open-air bridge is suspended over the West Rim and the Colorado River.
The stunning Zion National Park in Utah is only 2 1/2 hours away and features some spectacular canyons, trails and rock formations that always leave us in awe.
Yes, there are lakes in the desert and only about 30 minutes from the Strip. Lake Mead National Recreation Area is an oasis for year-round fishing, hiking, wildlife viewing, boating and other water recreation activities in America’s largest man-made reservoir. There are about 1319.6 km of shoreline including popular Boulder Beach.
Lake Las Vegas offers an idyllic Mediterranean-inspired village, a marina and a 1.29 sq. km lake for kayaking, canoeing cruising and fishing. The beautiful Hilton Lake Las Vegas is a relaxing retreat here.
This engineering marvel is just minutes from Las Vegas and is one of the world’s highest concrete dams and one of the largest hydroelectric power plants. There are guided tours to learn about the dam’s history and functionality including the observation deck, passageways and seeing the power plant generators close-up.
Don’t miss walking or driving on the Mike O’ Callaghan—Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge for spectacular views of the dam and the Colorado River. My kids loved crossing between Nevada and Arizona along the bridge walk.
Go to the Mountains
Winter is one of the best times to visit Las Vegas with cooler weather and potential ski trips. Brian Head Ski Resort in Utah is one of our favorite winter destinations about three hours away. Lessons are affordable and crowds are thin which makes it easier for kids to learn.
Brian Head also claims to have “the greatest snow on Earth,” averaging 400 inches annually, which is great for riding snowmobiles, cross-country skiing and even snowshoe hikes. Scenic lift rides, hiking, mountain biking and disc golf are popular during the summer.
Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, or Mt. Charleston, is a wonderful way to escape the heat during the summer months and is only an hour away. There are numerous trails for hiking and mountain biking and even scenic rides on the gondolas.
During the winter, Mt. Charleston has areas for playing in the snow, snowman making, snowshoe hiking and sledding. The mountain gets an average 6 meters of snow annually. Las Vegas Ski and Snow Resort offers ski and snowboard lessons for everyone at various levels.
Do you have any day trips from Las Vegas to add?
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For more information, visit our guide to Las Vegas.