Venture past the neon lights of Las Vegas | NevadaAppeal.com

Venture past the neon lights of Las Vegas

Nevada Division of Tourism
Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada.
Travel Nevada |

CARSON CITY — Las Vegas’ siren song draws millions to the Strip, that four-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, with a rhapsody of over-the-top resorts, fine dining, high-end shopping and amazing attractions. But there’s more to discover in southern Nevada’s Mojave Desert, from the engineering wonder of the Hoover Dam in Boulder City to the colorful Valley of Fire State Park in Overton. Whether you’re up for a golf vacation in Mesquite or water recreation in the riverfront town of Laughlin, options abound when you venture past the Strip into Las Vegas territory. Here’s a look at a few options:

Boulder City — Hoover Dam

Just 26 miles from Las Vegas, Boulder City is home to one of the country’s great engineering marvels, the Hoover Dam. Dedicated in 1935, Hoover Dam harnessed the power of the Colorado River to generate hydroelectric power for use in Nevada, Arizona and California. Tours are available, and don’t forget to walk across the Hoover Dam Bypass, formally known as the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, for a great vantage point of the dam itself.

Also in Boulder City: Lake Mead, created when the dam was built, is accessible here at Boulder Beach. Managed by the National Park Service, Lake Mead is popular for kayaking and paddle boarding (check with Boulder City outfitters for rentals and tours); the Alan Bible Visitors Center, just outside the park entrance, is worth a stop.

Overton — Valley of Fire State Park

Nevada’s oldest state park, Valley of Fire, is only 55 miles from Las Vegas, but a world away. The 35,000-acre park’s stunning red sandstone formations are popular with sightseers and photographers, but also with adventurers. Choose an established path or just climb over the sandstone to blaze your own trail to the top of rock outcroppings. While exploring, look for petroglyphs — ancient rock art that can be found throughout the park, and in particular at the park’s Atlatl Rock area.

Also in Overton: The Lost City Museum, the state museum dedicated to preserving artifacts that were in danger of being submerged by Lake Mead, is near the eastern entrance into Valley of Fire State Park.

Mesquite — emerging golf destination

There’s a surprise in the small town of Mesquite: this community of around 16,500 people on the Nevada-Arizona border is home to seven spectacular golf courses. Set in the foothills of the Virgin Mountains, just 80 miles from Las Vegas, those professionally designed courses each offer a different playing experience, from the red rock canyons of the Wolf Creek Golf Club to the lush landscapes of Falcon Ridge Golf Course. Stay another night in Mesquite so you have time to swing the clubs at CasaBlanca Golf Club, Conestoga Golf Course, Coyote Springs Golf Club, Oasis Golf Club and Palms Golf Club.

Also in Mesquite: The Virgin Valley Heritage Museum curates such historical items as the first slot machine brought into the area and a whiskey still. Explore the area’s historically significant buildings on a self-guided walking tour.

Laughlin — riverfront fun

Set on the banks of the Colorado River, about 100 miles south of Las Vegas and just across the water from Arizona, is a clutch of nine casino-resorts that make up the heart of Laughlin. Established in the 1940s as a tourist destination, Laughlin draws visitors with an array of water sports, from kayaking and canoe rentals to guided boating and fishing tours. You can even catch a water taxi to travel from resort to resort as you enjoy the city’s restaurants, entertainment and shopping.

Also in Laughlin: Grapevine Canyon, about 10 miles northwest of Laughlin and accessible via the graded, dirt Christmas Tree Pass Road, offers an opportunity to see petroglyphs – ancient rock art – as well as a diversity of desert landscape. Grapevine Canyon is part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area; it is recommended to visit in cooler seasons.

The Nevada Division of Tourism (TravelNevada) is part of the Nevada Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs. It promotes and markets Nevada as a tourism destination for domestic and international leisure and business travelers through its marketing and advertising programs and by coordinating partnerships between public and private entities.

TravelNevada also administers grant programs for local entities to market travel and tourism offerings and publishes Nevada Magazine.