People think that a vacation in Las Vegas must involve a substantial amount of casino gambling. This is a misnomer. First of all, no single casino can satisfy all of a gambler’s needs. It’s best to sample a number of casinos for their variety of games, atmosphere and décor, and general attractiveness. However, Las Vegas is very hot most of the time and the casinos are spread out over a large area so you have to walk in the heat to get from one to the other.
We love Las Vegas but we love it for everything else it offers besides gambling. We do our casino gambling online where you can go from, say, Intertops Casino Red to any of the other thousands of online casinos which a simple click on your mouse. When you do so online, you don’t have to give up your seat or the game you were playing as you would have to do at any of the land based casinos.
So, why go to Las Vegas, then? Las Vegas is centrally located in an area with great outdoor activities. It also offers tremendous entertainment, dining, and other urban activities. You can easily fly in and out of Las Vegas and have a great vacation combining the great outdoors with urban delights.
During the week, you can find excellent accommodations for very cheap prices. The rates go up on the weekend but are still very reasonable except in the super-luxurious hotels.
Spring or Fall
We love going to Vegas during the cooler months. Suffice it to say that the desert gets really hot but it’s a lot nicer in the spring and the fall.
Valley of Fire State Park
About one hour northeast of Vegas is this state park. The park opens at 8:30 am every day and closes at 4:30 pm so get there on time. The eight hours you’ll spend there will be enough, and then you’ll drive back to Vegas for a great meal and possibly a show.
The park is called Valley of Fire because it is red. The sandstone mountains all around are the perfect preparation for that first wonderfully awesome view of Bryce National Park a few days hence.
Valley of Fire has many hiking trails from short and easy circular trails to longer and more arduous hikes. Only you can decide which hikes to do but make sure you have enough water and that the park rangers know if you decide to go deep into the park.
The lake was formed by the Hoover Dam. It offers boating, canoeing, and kayaking plus fishing, swimming, hiking and many other activities. Bird watchers love coming to Lake Mead especially in fly-over seasons in the spring and the fall. Access to Lake Meads is also just about a one hour drive from Las Vegas so it’s perfect for a second day trip.
Now, you’ll be heading due east from Las Vegas. After the tour of the dam, we recommend taking your picnic lunch and head south on US Highway 93 about twenty miles to the picnic area to the right. You go down, down, down until you reach the river. Even in the fall, the picnic area is warmer than along the highway. Take off your shoes and wade a bit in the Colorado River. It will give new meaning to the term “cold”!
The picnic area has large umbrellas so if it’s too warm to sit under the sun, you can sit in the shade.
Sloan Canyon and Red Rock Canyon
At this point you need to decide if you’ll stay close to Las Vegas or venture forward into Utah. If you decide to stay close to Vegas, there are two National Conservation Areas nearby, one to the south called Sloan Canyon and one to the west called Red Rock Canyon. Both have wonderful scenic drives and overlooks plus hiking and picnicking.
On to Utah
If you decide to go to Utah, we have three musts for you to do. The first is a great outdoor theater at the southeastern corner of Utah called Tuacahn. They put on great shows and it’s really worth it if the show being presented is one you would like to see.
The second is Bryce Canyon National Park. On your way to Bryce, you’ll pass close to Zion National Park. We were there once and felt that it paled in comparison to Bryce and the Grand Canyon. Please don’t take time away from Bryce to go to Zion but if you have enough time and it’s a cool time in the desert Zion is worth a few hours.
Bryce is worth more than just a couple of hours. If you have never been there, be prepared for a great first moment as you walk up the slight incline and then the
“hoodoos” open up below. You can walk down into the maze of hoodoos but you really can’t get lost because the overlook above them is always visible.
Give yourself enough time in Bryce to etch the strange and beautiful land scape in your mind.
From Bryce, make your way to US Highway 89 and head south. Although this highway is the faster route to the Grand Canyon, we suggest leaving 89 and winding down on local road 800k.
The Grand Canyon
The best reason to go to Las Vegas during the cool months is that it’s so much safer to walk down into the Grand Canyon at this time of the year. If you can do the walk down and up, the canyon simply has so much more to offer than if you simply look at it from above.
At the bottom, you’ll have another chance to dip your feet into the ice cold Colorado River.
If you have the time, it will be a short drive back to Flagstaff. This is an odd town because it combines the rugged ethos of the American wild west with amenities for tourists and a new age sensibility brought there by newer residents looking for a different lifestyle.
A night and half day in Flagstaff are well worth your time.
Then you drive back to Las Vegas and by now, it will probably be time to catch your flight home.