There are dozens of reasons that millions of people visit Las Vegas each year. For thousands, Las Vegas is the USA’s vacation capital, a playground whose themed activities incorporate the full range from relaxing pools to exhilarating amusement park rides to fine dining. For thousands more, Las Vegas is the USA’s convention capital, and professional gatherings fill conference rooms by day before the masses spill out onto the iconic Las Vegas Strip at night. With enough entertainment to fill every waking hour you have ten times over, it would seem there is no reason to ever go off the Strip.
As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons to go off the strip. In fact, we’ve found 10 of them.
Las Vegas has been a favorite vacation spot for Adam and me for years, and I have lost count of the number of business trips I have taken with Las Vegas as my destination. Between trips that use vacation time to business-turned-bleisure trips that mix work with free time, it took multiple visits before I discovered that life in Las Vegas off the strip is just as interesting as what you’ll find on the strip. Although you, like me, might wonder if it is worth giving up the lounge chair by the pool that you spent the whole morning defending to explore Las Vegas, you’ll be amazed by the incredible sights that await you (and don’t worry—the pool will be there tomorrow!). If your vacation plans will include Las Vegas, here are 10 things to do off the Strip that will connect you to some of the off-the-beaten-path destinations you will love exploring.
Las Vegas Off the Strip: Quick Trips
If spending time on the Las Vegas Strip is the reason for your vacation, these quick trips off the Strip will prove to be a great compliment to the fun you will have when you are on it—and they don’t require a big time investment.
► The Simpsons HouseIf you are a fan of Matt Groening’s famous TV family, you won’t want to miss the chance to see a life-sized version of the Simpsons’ house just 30 minutes off the Strip. Nearby Henderson, Nevada hosts the full-scale replica of the famous house, which was built in 1997 as part of a promotion from Fox and Pepsi. Builders took care to get every single detail exactly right, from the arched front doorway to the bricks in the chimney. When it was unveiled to the public, the house boasted the exact color palette you would see in any Simpsons episode, and because it was part of a content a winner was chosen and given the choice to keep the house or take a $75,000 USD prize. The content winner opted for the payout, and the house was painted to match other homes in the suburban neighborhood.
Today, the Simpsons house is a private residence, and it is not possible to tour the inside. Still, it is worth the drive off the Strip to see the house and admire the incredible detail that is still obvious even without the bright yellow exterior and a pink car parked in front of the garage. Just remember that the house is located in a popular neighborhood and that people live in the home, so don’t linger longer than it takes to snap a few photos.
► Gold and Silver Pawn Shop
Only two miles off the Strip, it will take you just 15 minutes to arrive at the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop. The shop rose to fame as the setting for the History Channel’s Pawn Stars TV show, which stars owner Rich Harrison, his family, and the store’s staff. Gold and Silver Pawn Shop is a fully-operational pawn shop, so while many visitors are seeking the chance to walk in the same setting where the show is filmed, you may also encounter some interesting treasures if the shop makes your off the Strip itinerary. The shop often has antiques and collectibles, and if you are looking for items that were highlighted during one of the show’s episodes you are likely to see a few on display (and available for sale). Of course, it wouldn’t be the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop if you couldn’t buy jewelry, and dozens of high-end watches, necklaces, and rings will compete with items you may find in high-end jewelry stores on the Strip. The Gold and Silver Pawn Shop is an easy destination if you want to go off the Strip but don’t want to venture too far, and for History Channel fans it’s a must-see stop.
► Seven Magic MountainsOne of Las Vegas’s most colorful art installations is 20 minutes south of the Strip, just off I-15. Seven Magic Mountains may strike you as familiar-looking formations; travelers will recognize them as oversized stone cairns, or small rock towers commonly used by people visiting unknown lands who use the structures to find their way back to their starting point. Artist Ugo Rondinone strategically placed the installation on busy I-15 between Nevada’s sprawling natural landscape and Las Vegas’s constructed cityscape. The cairns, painted in unmissable neon tones, offer a few interpretations. For some people they are markers between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, two busy metropolises connected by I-15. For others, the cairns can guide you toward the mountains and back to the city—or vice versa. Whatever personal meaning you can derive from them, Seven Magic Mountains are a worthwhile off the Strip destination.
Seven Magic Mountains provides a unique photo opportunity, and with ample parking it is an easy off the Strip spot to visit. The installation is not permanent, though; although funding is keeping it in place through early 2019, it is possible that the cairns will be removed in the future. If seeing Seven Magic Mountains is on your Las Vegas off the Strip bucket list, it’s a good idea to prioritize your visit to avoid potential disappointment. Because the site receives 1,000 daily visitors, there is a clear interest in keeping it part of the off the Strip landscape for as long as possible.
More Information: SevenMagicMountains.com
► The Neon Museum
The Neon Museum isn’t far from the modern glitz and glamor of the Las Vegas Strip, but its brand of bright lights and grandeur will connect you the city’s former glory. Las Vegas isn’t lacking in style or flamboyance these days, but just a few decades ago the city was characterized by big neon signs that drew people into hotels and casinos. Over time the neon signs began to fall into disrepair; subjected to the elements and poorly maintained, as each neon sign failed and was replaced by more modern technology it was surrendered to “the Boneyard” at the Young Electric Sign Company.Today, a quick trip off the Strip offers a walk through Las Vegas’s history and culture. The Neon Museum is committed to restoring all of the signs to bring new relevance to the iconic memorabilia. While not all signs have been restored, they don’t need to be in working order—or even turned on—to appreciate their stories. Many of the signs, like the Hacienda Horse and Rider sign, represent hotels that are now shuttered. Others, like the Ugly Duckling Car Sales sign, represent an era gone by. The Neon Museum is a great stop to include in the evening, when nighttime tours walk you past illuminated signs, but our daytime visit felt just as meaningful. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and if your summer visit leaves you sweltering under the Vegas sun the gift shop is full of quirky, fun souvenirs to check out while you cool down.
More Information: NeonMuseum.org
► Fremont Street Experience
One of the best reasons to go off the Strip is the Fremont Street Experience. Located in Downtown Las Vegas, Fremont Street is an ideal spot if you are looking for people watching, a party atmosphere, and a fun collection of experiences for thrill seekers. My family loves the SlotZilla Las Vegas Zipline, where you can cruise down Fremont Street as hundreds of people watch you from below. If you are thinking of trying your luck in the casinos, be sure to walk past the California Hotel and Casino to rub its famous Buddha’s belly. Although we love the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay, you can still see sharks off the Strip at the Golden Nugget, where the magnificent tank also features a three-story water slide (don’t worry—it won’t dump you into a pool of sharks). You’ll also find plenty of dining that equals some of the restaurants on the Strip. You may wonder if it’s worth it to sacrifice a night on the Strip for a night on Fremont Street, and we can assure you it is—in fact, you may be surprised to find yourself hopping in an Uber bound for Las Vegas’s downtown more than once!
► The Mob MuseumIf you are curious about Las Vegas’s ties to organized crime, you’ll need to head off the Strip to the Mob Museum to satisfy your quest for knowledge. From Las Vegas’s rise as a city built by the mob to some of the most (in)famous names in the USA’s seediest stories, the Mob Museum is a great off the Strip spot to add to your Las Vegas itinerary. However, one of the museum’s most interesting installations isn’t a Las Vegas crime artifact at all. The Mob Museum houses the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Wall, which was popularized by its role in the assassination of seven men in Chicago. The men were shot to death against the wall on Valentine’s Day in 1929 by alleged associates of Al Capone because of their affiliation with rival mob leader Bugs Moran. Just a month later, Capone was sentenced to prison and served his term at Eastern State Penitentiary.
There are dozens of stories that the Mob Museum expertly brings to life, and history buffs will love learning about the darker side to the city’s foundation.
More Information: TheMobMuseum.org
► Cowabunga Bay Water Park
Although the Las Vegas resort scene on the Strip is great for relaxing in the lazy river or in a cabana, the Cowabunga Bay Water Park is a reason to head off the Strip and experience the slides and rides you won’t find at the hotels. From fast water slides like Breaker 1-9 to splash pools and wave pools, Cowabunga Bay is a terrific choice for families traveling with children or looking for a different way to enjoy a sunny day. Although going off the Strip can require some planning and may be a bit more inconvenient, you may also find it to be worthwhile. Cowabunga Bay’s amenities are significantly less expensive than the same experiences on the Strip, so if you are dreaming of a day in a cabana but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars you may find Cowabunga Bay to be a nice alternative. Additionally, while your hotel will likely have a pool, it won’t have each of the types of pools and slides that Cowabunga Bay offers, so you can enjoy a more diverse range of activities by taking a short trip off the Strip!
More Information: CowabungaBayVegas.com
Las Vegas Off the Strip: Day Trips
If you are ready for a change of pace, these day trips will take you off the Strip and into some of the most unique and popular destinations within a few hours of Las Vegas.
► Hoover DamIt will take you just 45 minutes to drive from the Las Vegas Strip to the Hoover Dam, and with just a half day you will be able to experience one of the most incredible feats of engineering on display in the United States. Along with sites including San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Panama Canal, the Sydney Opera House, and Egypt’s Aswan High Dam, the Hoover Dam was recognized as one of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century.
The Hoover Dam was completed in March 1936, and it is one of the USA’s largest hydroelectric power facilities. To maximize your experience and truly see what makes the Hoover Dam such an impressive structure, take a tour of the facility to learn about its history and significance. We especially liked the dam’s bridge walk, which is punctuated by informative signs that share facts about the Hoover Dam as visitors walk from Nevada into Arizona via the 1,900-foot-long bridge. Similarly, the observation deck provides some incredible views of the Hoover Dam, the Colorado River, and Lake Mead.
A visit to the Hoover Dam will take most people a bit more than a half a day, and if you don’t mind spending some additional time off the Strip it’s a great idea to continue to Lake Mead if the weather is nice. Lake Mead is famous for water sports including boating, water skiing, and canoeing, and it is a wonderful place to extend your day trip and spend some time in the great outdoors.
► Death ValleyTake a two-and-a-half-hour road trip to California’s Death Valley for a truly memorable off the Strip day trip. Death Valley is a place of extremes, and depending on the timing of your visit you might find out just how harsh and unforgiving the environment can be. In the summer, Death Valley is regularly the driest, hottest place in North America. Averaging just two inches of rain each year and with average summer temperatures between 110- and 115-degrees Fahrenheit, it still attracts thousands of visitors during the warmest months. Death Valley is also home to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America.
We went off the Strip to visit Death Valley in a rental car in August during one Las Vegas vacation, and it showed us one of the most fascinating landscapes we have ever seen. Still, there is a lot to keep in mind if you decide Death Valley will be one of your day trip destinations. The temperature soared to 120 degrees Fahrenheit when we were there, and we were glad to have plenty of water and a full bottle of strong sunscreen with us. We were also surprised that our rental car, a new model with low mileage, wasn’t up to its assignment. As we departed Death Valley, we noticed the check engine light was on, and while it eventually turned off as we got to cooler temperatures we both realized how important it is to have a reliable ride out of the extreme climate. Although our car was fine, it is a good idea to be sure the car you take is in excellent condition—those temperatures are just as hard on cars as they are on people!
► Bryce CanyonWe absolutely loved the half day we spent at Bryce Canyon in Utah, and like the Grand Canyon it is a long but manageable day trip if you want to explore off the Strip. Bryce Canyon’s landscape is nothing short of magical, and in just a few hours you can traverse lookout spots like Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point, and Sunset Point and still be back at your Las Vegas hotel by bedtime. If you can afford a multi-day trip from Las Vegas, book a room at a hotel near the park so you can experience it at dawn and twilight.
If you are thinking of including Bryce Canyon in your travel plans, take a look at our full-length article that highlights some of the must-see spots within the national park.
► The Grand CanyonIf visiting the Grand Canyon is on your bucket list, you can cross it off in a single day off the Strip. To see the Grand Canyon itself, you’ll need to make the four-hour drive to the North or South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Once there, a leisurely day of admiring the panoramic views is as easy to enjoy as hiking or rafting along the Colorado River, and depending on your interests and the amount of time you have before returning to Las Vegas you can easily pack your day full of activities. Due to the amount of time it takes to get there, it’s a great idea to stay overnight to make the most of your visit and avoid being exhausted on the drive back to the Strip.
If you have just one day and are looking for a unique experience that will get your adrenaline pumping, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is just two hours away from the Strip and is an easy day trip. Known as Grand Canyon West, the Skywalk is not part of Grand Canyon National Park. It is on land owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe, which is on the western rim of the Grand Canyon. Visiting Grand Canyon West will give you the chance to walk on the Skywalk, a mile-long plexiglass walkway that extends a mile above and 70 feet over the rim. The experience might be more than those with a fear of heights can handle, but on a clear day the views are spectacular—and it’s an unforgettable way to cross the Grand Canyon off your bucket list!
Las Vegas Off the Strip: Where to Stay
When we visit Las Vegas we almost universally stay on the Strip, but there are dozens of great off the Strip hotels to choose from if you are looking for a different experience. We regularly find the best deals with Booking.com; whether you plan to stay on or off the Strip, this tool might connect you to a great hotel room like it did for us!
Enjoy Las Vegas Off the Strip!
The first time I went off the Strip was during a business trip, when a colleague suggested we check out Fremont Street after dinner one evening. Over my towering mound of buffet cocktail shrimp I narrowed my eyes, questioning why anyone would willingly hop in a cab and leave the lavish excess of the Strip for… well, whatever lay beyond it. After that night, and after many subsequent nights on many subsequent trips, I know the answer is the same reason why so many visits to familiar places benefit from changing your travel routine. It’s great to experience your favorite sights, meals, and shows when you are in Las Vegas, but it’s just as wonderful to check out the new, the surprising, and the unfamiliar.
Las Vegas, Nevada is an incredibly diverse destination, and we hope you have as much fun building your off the Strip itinerary as we did!
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* From time to time, our travels are directly impacted by a service or company. In this case, we visited multiple locations in and around Las Vegas, and this post includes our candid review of our experience. We selected the locations based on our own research and travel needs; we were not offered and did not receive compensation of any kind from them or any other party in exchange for our review. Learn more about our travel philosophy here.