The number one destination in the US, time and time again = Las Vegas. Globally, this city of sin, is equally well known. There is so much more to explore however, than the plethora of craps tables and lap dances this community offers. Come prepared to explore more than a deck of cards or a concert. The desert outside of the city is perfect for social distancing, and offers a plethora of campgrounds, if you are prepared to drive to the area. If not, it's never too early to start planning your post COVID adventure. If this is the case, and you choose to stay on "the strip", bare in mind the additional daily surcharge these locations will add on to your rate. You may peruse Expedia, for instance, and find a fabulously opulent hotel to spend your free time, and it may come up as only $75 per night. What a deal you might say. However, when you get to finalizing your booking, your 4 night stay has gone from $300 to $600 - Yikes! Double! It is because of daily charges which are not disclosed in the room rate posted. Knowledge is power, as long as you realize you are actually spending $150 per night, all is good. If money is no object, there are some incredible venues to spend time in, something for everyone.
Another popular spot to find accommodation is only about two miles west of the strip, the original heart of Vegas, Fremont Street, where you can find original quirky hotels, fabulous bars, a container park, and the now famous block long hologram (with zip line!). There is a bus called The Deuce, which goes between the two areas, easy enough to use and a fantastic and inexpensive way to see the city. I recommend going directly up the stairs, in these double deckers, and sitting yourself directly behind the front windows. Fantastic views for only $2 per trip. Sure, you can self drive, but with easily accessible alcohol and daily traffic jams, trust me on this, the bus or the monorail are your friends. The arts district is yet another area worthy of exploration. Sandwiched between The Strip and Fremont Street, just past the tallest hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard, the Strat...which is not easily missed, and a superb beacon to guide you towards this area of town.
The real reason to head to the Nevada desert however, is to explore - NOW being the best time to lace up your hiking shoes. Red Rock Canyon State Park, is a nearby jaunt of only 30 - 40 minutes. You need a reservation to visit this location, which you can do online HERE. It is possible to roll up in your vehicle the day of and purchase your pass, but not recommended. Once inside the park, you are not going to have access to food, water, petrol...so plan accordingly. This is a loop road, with one way traffic, numerous pullouts are available, some have toilet facilities, others do not. You can easily spend a full day exploring the many trails. It is an instagrammers dream, offering a plethora of photo ops. You may see coyotes, marmots, hawks, turtles, hairs, or even big horn sheep. Because of its proximity to Las Vegas, this park is VERY popular. Even with the controlled access, be prepared to share the trail with a number of others. In this time of COVID that means wearing your mask and keeping your distance.
Depending on the time you spend in Red Rock Canyons, a short excursion to Seven Magic Mountains may be a good side trip, either first thing in the morning during sunrise, or at the end of the day. This art installation is free to visit, and about a 20 minute drive South of Vegas, heading towards California. It can get crazy busy with tourists, and also super hot during the peak of the day. There is nothing else to see out this way, making a perfect end of day jaunt.
Valley of Fire is my personal favorite red rock location, located a little over an hour North of Las Vegas. My recommendation is to take the entire day, planning on arriving at sunrise. Take highway 15 North towards Salt Lake City. The exit for Valley of Fire is clearly marked. You will be in the middle of nowhere. There is a gas station at this exit, if you have not already topped up your car, do so now. Bring water, snacks, pack a lunch; wear close toed shoes, and have plenty of sunscreen as well as layers, a hat and sunglasses are definitely encouraged. This is the Mojave Desert and morning temps may be 30-40 degree cooler than afternoon temps. Gates open at sunrise with a $10 entry fee. There is a visitor center, a great spot to stop and use the restroom before your day of exploration. The "guide" given with your entry fee, does a poor job in describing the trail heads and unusual rock formations, so do some research ahead of time, and save to your phone. There is limited, if any, service out here, keep that in mind. Like Red Rock Canyon, there are limited areas for pulling off the road, and are located at suggested trail heads. Because these canyons are rock, you may find cairns to help keep you on the trail. Please leave them be. I have seen a lot of dogs at this park, and do NOT recommend bringing fido. Too many cliffs to fall off, too hot, no water, cacti, snakes; the list is long. Leave your best friend at home. Definitely bring your camera. This is a photographers dream location, especially at sunrise when the light reflects off the rocks, making them look ablaze.
When you decide to head back to the city, leave enough time to go back, driving adjacent to Lake Mead via the Northshore Road. Easy enough to find, when you depart the park heading East, the opposite way you arrived. You are still only a bit over an hour away from the city, but this road will provide some great access points to the lake as well as additional hiking locations for the return trip. Remember, there are NO services in this region, and there won't be any, until you get Lake Las Vegas and Henderson. During spring, winter or fall, when daytime temps don't get too out of control, this is a superb convertible route. There are a plethora of specialty car rental locations in and around Las Vegas, take advantage!
For longer stays, there is of course Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley. All within a few hours drive of Las Vegas. All simply spectacular, and best during non summer heat. If you'd like a taste of these locations, but don't want to drive or are not outdoorsy enough to want to hike, there are helicopter and small plane trips available, all from base camp Vegas, providing an incredible aerial display. Though you will of course be distracted by the numerous casinos, lights and glam of the region, there are plenty of other fantastic must see and do locations to grab your attention. Numerous museums as well as hot springs, and countless golf courses. Bottom line, this iconic location is much more than just gambling, clubbing and pools. Think outside the box, explore more (when safe to do so). In the meantime, some of these locations are ideal for social distancing and perfect to plan for future winter excursions.
As always, have fun, be safe, and do not hesitate to contact me for any questions
while planning your epic adventure.
Cheers! - Una