For some people, Las Vegas consists of nothing more than the Strip and McCarran International. That’s understandable given the wealth of entertainment options, but Las Vegas Boulevard is really just one small part of the city.
If you’re interested in exploring beyond it, these are five of the best places to start.
Downtown is where the Vegas gambling industry got started. The area is still home to the second-largest concentration of casinos outside of the Strip, centered on the covered Fremont Street Experience. Free concerts are frequent in this area, and it’s also where major annual multi-day shows like Life Is Beautiful and Las Rageous take place.
If you’re willing to explore just outside of the casino corridor, you’ll encounter the recent fruits of a decade-long renovation effort. The downtown area just outside of the Fremont Street Experience is the city’s new hot spot for live music, nightlife and dining. You can even do some upscale shopping at Container Park and the Premium Outlets North, and the Mob Museum and Neon Museum are unique exhibits worth seeing.
2) RED ROCK CANYON NATIONAL CONSERVATION AREA
A short drive west of the Strip is one of the country’s best places for hiking and rock climbing. The canyon area consists of a 13-mile loop along which you can either drive and enjoy the unique Aztec Sandstone formations or get out at various points to explore any of the two dozen trails.
The park is open from sunrise to sunset all year long and climbing is always allowed, though it is strongly discouraged for about 48 hours after any rainfall.
3) BOULDER HIGHWAY CASINOS
Originally intended to be a rival to the Strip, the casino corridor on Boulder Highway has suffered an unfortunate slide into crime and disrepute. So why go there? Some of the casinos are actually pretty good and tend to offer better odds and promotions to attract locals and more savvy gamblers. The casinos are safe, and travel along the street by car or bus is generally very safe during the day — most of the crime is confined to low-rent apartments and motels.
The nicest properties along Boulder Highway are the 4-star Eastside Cannery Hotels and Casino (see photo), Sam’s Town and Boulder Station, but the smaller ones offer some of the most enticing meal deals and gambling promotions in the valley.
4) LAKE LAS VEGAS
Just east of Las Vegas is a man-made 320-acre lake perfect for all sorts of boating and water sports. There are also a number of resorts at the lake that have private beaches, along with shopping and dining at The Village and a 12-hole course at the Reflection Bay Golf Club.
5) SPEEDVEGAS RACING / LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY or EXOTICS RACING
Three different companies in Vegas have private tracks and a collection of exotic sports cars that anyone with a driver’s license can take for a spin. A private instructor will teach you how to handle them in a warm-up lap, or you can opt to simply ride shotgun while a professional driver shows you some tricks straight out of the movies.
Other interesting areas off the Strip include Boulder City, Railroad Pass, the Pinball Hall of Fame, the Atomic Testing Museum and the Springs Preserve. Just remember to pack a good sunscreen and plenty of water if you’re adventuring between May and September.