Five Fun Nearly-Free Day Trips Outside of Las Vegas Strip

Off the Vegas Strip – Fun and Nearly Free

Las Vegas is world-famous for casinos, exotic shows, and theme hotels. See the other side of Vegas by visiting these fun, nearly free adventures within driving distance.

Think Las Vegas. Think gambling, gambling, and more gambling. Think again. Here are five fun, nearly free things to do on the Strip that don’t involve dice, cards, or slot machines.

Fremont Street Experience

After years of desolated streets and rundown casinos, the original seven-block section of downtown Las Vegas was renovated in the mid-to-late 1990s and is now the Fremont Street Experience. Called an “open-air pedestrian mall” in brochures, this covered area is home to street vendors and casinos, including Golden Nugget and Fitzgerald’s. The main attraction is the overhead Viva Vision, the largest screen on the planet. Nightly themed light shows are spectacular to view.

Hoover Dam

Considered one of the greatest engineering wonders in the world, people have been traveling over Hoover Dam on Highway 93 since its completion in 1936. By the end of 2010, however, traffic will be re-routed over an enormous superstructure being constructed just 1,600 feet south of the famous dam. The new bridge will alleviate the heavy traffic that currently uses the two-lane road over the dam and to address safety issues. Officially called the Hoover Dam Bypass Project because of its size and scope, the bridge itself is called the Colorado River Bridge and spans the Black Canyon with a suspension height of 900 feet. Just 27 miles southeast of Las Vegas, make the trip prior to the opening of the bridge in 2010 and experience one last drive over the dam while viewing progress made on the nearly completed bridge. Can’t get there in person? View the amazing Hoover Dam Bypass Webcam.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Pick up the current Lake Mead newspaper as you enter through the National Park Service ranger station, where the parking fee is $5.00 per car. There is an official visitor center near the intersection of Highway 93 and Lakeshore Drive, but all visitors must go through the ranger station to enter the national recreation area. Once in, options abound. Numerous scenic overlooks feature picnic tables, shaded areas and restrooms. The Nevada portion of the lake includes four marinas: Hemenway Harbor, Callville Bay, Echo Bay, and Cottonwood Cove. The Arizona portion includes Willow Beach, Temple Bar and Katharine Landing. The developed shoreline areas of the marinas offer feature stretches of beach for visitors.

Mount Charleston

Open year-round, Mount Charleston offers a cool retreat from the desert heat in the summer and a place to see snow in the winter! Located in Toiyabe National Forest, Mount Charleston is just an hour’s drive from Las Vegas. In the warmer months, the temperature can be up to 15 to 20 degrees cooler than in the city, making hiking an exceptional activity. One of the most popular hikes is Mary Jane Falls, however, do not expect to actually see a waterfall if it’s summertime. Snow is visible on some north-facing peaks until June.

Marjorie Barrack Museum of Natural History

Located on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), the museum features mammals and reptiles native to the southwest. The museum is named for Marjorie Barrick, a philanthropist who founded the Barrick Lecture Series at the university. Exhibits on anthropology, archeology, and early architecture are included. Entry to the museum is free, but donations are suggested. In addition, the UNLV campus is a great place to walk around and explore during the day.

While gambling has long been the primary draw of visitors coming to Las Vegas and the world-famous Las Vegas Strip, there are many other things to do that involve fresh air, sunshine, and a different kind of entertainment experience.

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