What happens in Vegas doesn’t always have to stay in Vegas. On a recent trip to Sin City for business, Colleen and I discovered some pretty awesome sites off the strip. If you thought this city was all about gaming – think again. Rent a Zipcar like we did and explore the land that surrounds the lights, slots and outrageous shows.
LAKE MEAD– Set just 30 minutes from the non-stop excitement of the strip is a Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which occupies about 1.5 million acres (think twice the size of the Ocean State Rhode Island) and 820 miles of shoreline. Lake Mead is the 16th largest man-made lake in the world. Formed by the Hoover Dam along the Colorado River, the National Park Service established Lake Mead as a national recreation area in 1964. Lake Mead offers year-round recreation with everything from kayaking and jet skiing to swimming, hiking and wildlife viewing. Lake Mead’s Boulder Beach is a popular stop to paddle boat, swim and camp out by the shore.
Located at the junction of three desert ecosystems — the Mojave, the Great Basin and the Sonoran deserts — Lake Mead is surrounded by red sandstone and black lava rock. In fact, some of the lava hills are about 6 million years old. And for a mere $10 YOU can have access to the lake for a week.
THE RED ROCK CANYON – Set 17 miles west of the strip is Red Rock Canyon – Nevada’s first National Conservation Area. As we drove the 13 miles scenic route around the canyon, I wondered how we didn’t veer off the road, as the beauty around your can be quite a distraction. The area is 195,819 acres and is visited by more than one million people each year. In marked contrast to a town geared to entertainment and gaming, Red Rock offers enticements of a different nature including a scenic drive, 30+ miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing and a visitor center. A daily pass is $7 at the entrance of the canyon. As a notation, we were told if we came across any Burros (or any canyon animals for that matter) to NOT FEED THEM. Seriously folks, they might be cute, but they are still WILD ANIMALS.
Colleen and I flexed our ex-cheerleader muscles and captured this ‘star-fish’ shot. What can STAY in Vegas is the absolute embarrassment of landing horribly wrong and twisting my ankle. This is why 30-somethings should NEVER try to replicate squad days. At least we got an amazing photo out of it. My ankle (which I am still hobbling on) is another story.
THE NEON BONEYARD– Probably one of the coolest things I have done to date (in or out of Vegas). Ever wonder where those signs, marquees and other such signage from the Vegas strip go? Welcome to the Neon Museum (lovingly referred to as the Neon BONEYARD).
In 2012 the Neon Museum Boneyard opened their 2-acre campus featuring an outdoor exhibition space, known as the Boneyard, which showcases more than 150 signs, four of which are restored, a visitors’ center housed inside the former La Concha Motel lobby and the Neon Boneyard North Gallery which houses more rescued signs and is used for weddings, special events, photo shoots and educational programs.
The Museum includes nine restored signs which can be viewed as public art and visited on a self-guided tour twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The gallery includes the Lucky Cuss Motel, the Bow & Arrow Motel, The Silver Slipper, Binion’s Horseshoe, the Normandie Motel, Dot’s Flowers, the Landmark and 5th Street Liquors.
Night tours are better than day tours (in my humble opinion). There is something about seeing the boneyard filled with lights that is pretty magical. Tickets will run you $25 each.
And finally, a shout out to Chuck and Diane, who very generously let me borrow their KD Smart Chair (ironically the same my mom has for her PD). I was able to electronically buzz around the boneyard with ease (reducing my wincing and complaining apres Red Rock Canyon Cheerleading ‘fail’…much to Colleen’s delight). Did I mention THAT STORY can STAY in Vegas? #ExCheerleaderShame