Vegas has two options. Go hard or go easy.
If you’ve managed to stay away from the neon lights and illustrious appeal of flashy shows and fleeting cards, then good on you. But there always seems to be that one friend that says, “Hey! Let’s meet in Vegas.” Whatever the reason, the most infamous town in the Mojave Desert attracts debauchery and decadence in every form. But did you know that some of the most beautiful and natural landscapes are just fifty minutes from the strip?
It’s unanimously agreed that there are just so many ways to do Vegas. From Bachelorette party to work conventions to spa vacation; Las Vegas provides. Aside from the usual hoopla of gambling and nightlife, here is a guide on how to do Las Vegas the easy way. No hangovers and no regrets.
I had a mountain room view at the Cosmopolitan that peaked my hiking trail interest while in town. Feeling the need for fresh air, I compiled a short list of outdoor adventures within an hour drive from the strip that saved me from day-drinking at the pool, again. From Mt. Charleston to Red Rock Canyon to Lake Mead, here are some worthy trails that I’ve given the gold star save on my google maps.
- Gold Strike Hot Springs Trail
- Anniversary Narrows Trail
- Ice Box Canyon Trail
- Big Falls trail
- Cathedral Rock Trail
If you’re down for getting outside into nature, but aren’t exactly feeling long distance hikes into the heat of the day then I hands down recommend driving through The Valley of Fire State Park.
Valley of Fire State Park
Soft red sand, carved out arches, petrified wood and ancient rock paintings are amongst the natural features abundant in this state park. Just fifty miles from the Las Vegas strip, The Valley of Fire spans 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec Sandstone with antiquated markings dating back 2,000 years. The Basketmaker culture of the pre-Ancestral Puebloans once dwelled here, and remnants of their lives are still visible today with open archeological sites and artifacts in the visitor center.
Every angle of this park is truly breathtaking. The landscape changes dramatically once you enter the valley and there is an immediate sense of arriving on another planet. Behold! Planet Earth. Plan to spend a few hours here taking in the sights from the road and conquering a few of the smaller trails. Most of the trails are short distance and easily walkable so it shouldn’t be too difficult convincing your friends to leave the strip for an afternoon hike. I promise, it’s worth it.
Entrance is $15 per vehicle and it is much less crowded during the week.
Here are my top five sights to see while in Valley of Fire State Park:
- Petroglyph Canyon Trail
- Pastel Canyon Trail
- Windstone Arch
- Atlatl Rock
- Mouse Tank Road
After returning from a day of adventuring, get a table reservation at someplace hearty. Carbohydrates in the form of pasta were calling my name…
The Italian ritual of, “fare la scarpetta” describes a gesture that represents savoring all that is on the plate by mopping up the sauce with the table bread and indulging down to the very last bite.
Pro Tip: skip the calamari appetizer and enjoy the fresh breads brought to the table instead. Order the Beet Insalata and the Lamb Tagliatelle with Brussel Sprouts for a savory and fulfilling culinary experience. No time for dinner plate photos here, buon appetito!
Where else can you see a Stevie Nicks cover band amongst a 3D virtual Star Trek odyssey? The Freemont Street experience in downtown Las Vegas has an offbeat party vibe that it reminiscent of Bangla Road meets French Quarter. Home to the world’s largest digital display, the Viva Vision Light Shows are free and occur nightly. I purchased roses made out of stripped palm branches from a street artisan before heading to the D Hotel & Casino for some Lord of the Rings slot machines.
Who knew a parking garage could be so fun? Pro tip: Park in the Garage Mahal to get the party started and enter through Circa Casino before walking Freemont Street. Don’t miss The Vegas Vickie’s Lounge inside the Circa Casino for comfy velvet chairs and unique bourbon cocktails with views of the iconic neon cowgirl.
Sahra Hammam & Spa
After sleeping in, compliments of black-out curtains and extra pillows, I made my way downstairs to the Spa. Wavy Sandstone walls and beaded water curtain chandeliers line the entrance to Sahra Hammam & Spa. Earthy and cave-like, the Spa at the Cosmopolitan feels like sacred ground beneath the chaos.
Arrive early before your massage to relax in the tea lounge and utilize the wet spa features; sauna, steam room, whirlpool and cool mist showers. I received an 80 minute Lomi Lomi Massage with aromatherapy. As a massage therapist provider who used to work in five star spas, the massage was about what I expected. Spas are a money mill focusing on high end amenities and maximizing bookings. Therapists working in this environment are simply overworked, rushed and underpaid. For an 80 minute service you are lucky if 65 minutes of that is actual hands on. With that said, I had a good massage and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Also located inside the Cosmopolitan without a name or signage, this pizza joint is supposedly “secret” and easily passable if you’re not looking for it. Take a left down the hallway just passed Scarpetta for late night slices and pies. I made my own with ricotta, garlic and sausage.
Craig’s Vegan Ice cream
The newest hotel and casino on the strip, Resorts World offers a night market style food court with dumplings, noodle dishes and Korean BBQ. Craig’s Vegan is an ice cream parlor on the ground floor of the shopping area offering cashew based ice creams. And yes, dumplings and ice cream do go together!
Inside Caesars Palace amongst the Athenian ladies (historical replica of the temple of Athena), Sushi Roku is a contemporary Japanese dining experience offering some of the best sushi in town. Where else can you have a little bit of Greece with Japan?? Vegas Baby. Order the Wagyu Beef Gyoza, Blue Fin Tuna Sashimi and the White Lotus Roll for a fresh and savory dining experience.
There a plenty of things to do that don’t involve loosing your money and nursing hangovers in Las Vegas, which is why you can return again and again and find new experiences. A few things I didn’t get around to doing but will check out next time were:
- The Neon Museum
- Nelson Ghost Town
- Tea Room at the Waldorf
But something tells me I’ll be back.
“Lets go girls” –Shania Twain
And for the most epic natural neon display, leave Vegas just before sunset.
P. S. No traffic.
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