In a city filled with the atypical, it’s easy to fall into the typical tourist routine in Las Vegas.

The generationally accepted Sin City mantra is to gamble, catch a show, gamble some more, have a few drinks, enjoy a little entertainment…and repeat as many times as humanly possible until you have to stagger back to the airport and catch your flight home. Vegas’ two tourist zones, the Strip or Downtown/Fremont Street, are within a 15-minute drive of one another; if you stay in one, perhaps you’ll make an excursion to the other. And that’s the extent of a “day trip” for most.

Yet far too many visit Las Vegas without exploring the top-notch historical, geographical and cultural attractions nearby, many of which are within a three-hour drive. By renting a car, you can coast through the likes of Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire of State Park within 45 minutes (though we recommend taking more time, to explore the orange rock formations in both by hiking).

It’s pretty easy to navigate Las Vegas and surrounding areas via generally well-kept and well-paved roadways, with Interstate 15 (running north-south), Clark County Rte 215 (a beltway encircling the city) and a US Rte 95 (a northwest-southeast diagonal) the key roads to know.

It’s true that Las Vegas is surrounded by desert, and this arid region doesn’t abound with notable road-trip stops. But quality makes up for quantity, and you’ll find a world of wonder awaits within reach of Sin City: think the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, quirky hotels, national parks…and so much more.

Here are three true day trips – plus two additional multi-day options – that will help expand your Las Vegas horizons.

Skywalk glass observation platform at Grand Canyon West, Arizona, USA
The Skywalk brings out to the edge of the Grand Canyon – and even beyond it  © diegograndi / iStockphoto / Getty Images

1. Grand Canyon West

Best road trip to do via bus
Las Vegas–Grand Canyon West Skywalk; 125 miles (201km); allow one (long) day

The Western Rim of the Grand Canyon (known as Grand Canyon West) is within a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride of Las Vegas. Tour operators like Grand Canyon Destinations, Gray Line and GC Tours pack it all in one day, making early morning pick-ups, allowing three-or-so hours of free time and stopping for optional meals. The “must” at Grand Canyon West is a tip-toe along the cantilevered, glass-bottomed Skywalk.

Planning tip: Grand Canyon West is operated by the Hualapai Nation (whereas Grand Canyon National Park is under the purview of the National Park Service). From Las Vegas, a trip to the national park will take substantially more time, and should be a multi-day affair. 

Concrete dam and spill way of the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, Nevada, USA
The Hoover Dam near Boulder City is a marvel of engineering © Peter Unger / Getty Images

2. Boulder City

Best road trip for history lovers
Las Vegas–Boulder City; 26 miles (42km); allow one day 

While this city is only a 30-minute drive southwest of Las Vegas, it feels a world apart. Whereas the Strip is all about creative destruction and ever-bigger resorts, Boulder City has more than 500 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, most of which were constructed in the 1930s and ’40s. The city came into being in the ’30s, when workers from across the USA converged to build nearby Hoover Dam; you can learn all about the key figures at the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum. En route to the majestic dam – just 15 minutes northeast of Boulder City – stop at Hemenway Park, which offers panoramic vistas of the often bright-blue Lake Mead

Detour: Henderson is Nevada’s second-largest city, and its Water St artery regularly hosts car shows, parades and farmers markets.

People on Jet Skis and boats at the Colorado River Heritage Greenway Park, Laughlin, Nevada, USA
Head to Laughlin to enjoy water sports in the desert, courtesy of the Colorado River © Christophe Klebert / Shutterstock

3. Laughlin

Best road trip for a river reprieve
Las Vegas–Laughlin; 97 miles (156km); allow one day 

On the southern tip of Nevada on the Colorado River, you’ll find this cozy, casino-filled town. Along north-south main drag Casino Dr, you’ll see a handful of gambling names that you’ll also find in Las Vegas, including Golden Nugget, Harrah’s and Tropicana. So why Laughlin? Its appeal boils down to cheaper table games, less swank and river adventures aplenty.

Water excursions come in all forms here, including guided kayaking journeys with Desert River Outfitters, Jet Ski rentals with Watercraft Adventures or hikes along the Colorado River Heritage Greenway Trail, which runs adjacent to the river.

Woman looks up at the neon lights under illuminated archway sign, Commercial Row, Reno, Nevada, USA
Take a few days to meander across Nevada and up to friendly Reno © Aaron McCoy / Getty Images

4. Reno

Best road trip for seeing another side of the Silver State
Las Vegas–Reno; 438 miles (705km); allow 4–5 days 

With its vast green landscapes, a slower pace and small-town vibes, northern Nevada is a different world from Las Vegas. Its anchor is Reno – aka the “Biggest Little City in the World,” a nickname proudly proclaimed by an arched sign in the city’s Commercial Row core. Reno is a nearly 7-hour drive from Vegas following US Rte 95.

En route, stop at the Goldfield Hotel, the 1902 hallmark of an eerily quiet town and regarded as one of the most haunted structures in the US. Keep that haunted streak going with a visit to the Clown Motel in Tonopah, which also has a free clown museum in its lobby. Tonopah is also stargazing heaven, hosting a biweekly “Star Party” after dark every April through October. Telescopes and binoculars are provided to get up close and personal with the constellations.

Once you arrive in Reno, hit the Reno Brewery District, which has more than 15 craft spots. Nevada’s first meadery, the Black Rabbit Mead Company uses locally sourced honey in its brews.

Sporty young woman contemplating wavy bands of red sandstone in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, USA
The patterned rocks Valley of Fire State Park dazzle © swissmediavision / Getty Images

5. Zion National Park

Best road trip for outdoors enthusiasts
Las Vegas–Springdale, Utah; 159 miles (256km); allow 4–5 days 

Within a two-hour drive of Sin City, a world of emerald pools, soaring pine-lined trails and the Angels Landing bucket-list hike await. And for all the wonder you’ll find within Zion National Park, getting there from Las Vegas is half the fun. Along the way – generally a straight-north shot on I-15 – stop at Valley of Fire State Park to see mounds of sandstone with red patterns reminiscent of a cinnamon bun, as well as 2000-year-old petroglyphs etched in caves. Continue north to the city of St George, just over the Utah border. Red mountains loom in the distance over its historic downtown and art district; pop in the St George Art Museum for rotating exhibits that showcase the Western USA’s rocky and rugged beauty.

As you approach Zion, Springdale, the quaint town at the park’s southern gate, has southwest-inspired souvenir shops, hotel-chain outposts and the five-star LaFave Luxury Resort, which has villas that sleep up to 10. If want to camp in the park, Watchman Campground is open year-round, with reservations accepted up to six months ahead of booking. 

Detour: Tucked off Interstate 15, Mesquite is a golfer’s paradise, with nine public courses – including the Jack Nicklaus–designed Coyote Springs Golf Club – within a 10-minute radius of town.

This article was first published Apr 5, 2024 and updated Apr 10, 2024.

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