Why you need to visit Las Vegas even if you hate casinos

The glittering, hedonistic extravaganza this strip of land offers never wanes in popularity. Once you are done with the casinos, here's how to make the most of the outdoors.

There’s ample sunshine to look forward to in Vegas, all through the year, with short winters. There’s ample sunshine to look forward to in Vegas, all through the year, with short winters.

When you think of Vegas, you’d think of a jewel in the desert that’s only accessible after hours of reflective driving through arid landscapes. Similar to the ones that countless movies have portrayed. But that’s just one aspect of Las Vegas. If you love the outdoors, have a strong affinity for natural landscapes, and love cruising through air, land and water, across picturesque landscapes that change at every turn, Nevada has a few surprises for you. 

Of the 51,000 Indians who visited Las Vegas last year, a fair share discovered that there’s more to do than just gambling and partying. Situated in the Clark County basin of Nevada, Las Vegas literally translates to The Meadows. It’s curious why a place that hosts the Mojave Desert and is rimmed by mountains would earn such a name. 

Las Vegas is flanked by the Grand Canyon National Park on one side and the Death Valley National Park on the other. While the mountain ranges keep the humidity at bay, they do present a number of activities for those who would love to indulge in adventure. There’s ample sunshine to look forward to in Vegas, all through the year, with short winters. The weather wouldn’t be too different from a Delhi summer or a Mumbai one, sans the humidity.

So, what could you possibly do in and around Vegas, if not gamble? Here’s a list.

Raft over the Black Canyon

Relax, it’s a motor-assisted raft that we’re talking about. Set sail on an experience that will give you a unique opportunity to float over a gorge of the Colorado River. Not known to many, a trip down the Black Canyon can bless you with spectacular views of desert wildlife and the best possible view of the Hoover Dam. Each raft tour is led by an experienced guide who will generously fill you in on the details about the history of the area and the significant spots. If you’re a biophile, you’d love to see the desert bighorn sheep and great blue heron in their natural habitats. At some spots, the walls tower nearly 2,000 feet above creating a surrealistic view, and likely Instagram fodder. You can also enjoy views of the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which is an arc bridge connecting Arizona and Nevada. It’s the second tallest bridge in the United States. 

The trip concludes along the Arizona side of the Colorado River, at Willow Beach. From here, you can get easy access to transportation that will bring you back to your Las Vegas hotel. But before you leave, make sure that you pick up some souvenir that’s up for sale at the Willow Beach.

$169 (Rs 11,650 per person)

Zip line across Bootleg Canyon

The flightlinez can take  you past  landscapes located nearly 8,000ft below your dangling feet at speeds of 100kmph The flightlinez can take you past landscapes located nearly 8,000ft below your dangling feet at speeds of 100kmph

Why leave all those spectacular canyon views to the movies and postcards when you can enjoy them first-hand? A half-hour ride from Las Vegas can take you to Boulder City where you and your family can enjoy an exclusive experience. 

You can ride a zip line that will take you across a distance of nearly 2.42km, offering stunning perspectives of the Mojave Desert. There are four separate zip lines, known as Flightlinez and the ride commences from the top of Red Mountain. If you’re equating this zip line experience to anything you may have experienced before, hold your thoughts right there! The Flightlinez can take you past landscapes located nearly 8,000 feet below your dangling feet at speeds of 100kmph. Now that’s an adrenaline rush we could all do with, even in the stillness of a desert. 

Make sure that you have your Go-pro and accessories in tow since you wouldn’t want to miss the pristine waters of Lake Mead and the depth of the El Dorado Valley as they pass by you in a blink. The staff on duty is welcoming and will ensure your comfort and safety throughout the experience. There are three types of tours including a Daytime Tour from the morning hours up to 2pm, a beautiful Sunset Tour at 5pm and a serene Moonlight Tour at 8pm.

$99 (Rs 6,828 per person) 

Beat the most treacherous MTB slopes

In addition to the downhill trail, you can also take up the cross-country challenge and experience the thrills that cycling legend Brent Thomson envisioned. In addition to the downhill trail, you can also take up the cross-country challenge and experience the thrills that cycling legend Brent Thomson envisioned.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced cyclist, then you wouldn’t want to miss out on this one. The cycling tours through the Bootleg Canyon will likely be the most thrilling bike ride you’ve ever enjoyed. After all, what better than a downhill mountain bike course to let gravity do the talking? Located just 45 minutes from the Las Vegas strip, you can choose from nine of the downhill slopes available to tourists. 

In addition to the downhill trail, you can also take up the cross-country challenge and experience the thrills that cycling legend Brent Thomson envisioned. There are nearly fifteen cross country trails that you can take up and complete on your trip here. The downhills and cross-country trails have been glorified in the way they’ve been named. One’s called ‘The Reaper’, while another ‘The Armageddon’.

It is advisable to check this box on your itinerary whenever you plan something around Boulder City since it is close by. The trails offer a shuttle service back to the top so that you can go at it again or set off on your next destination. The cycling trails are open all through the year, though we’d advise you to avoid them during the summer months when temperatures can soar to unbearable degrees.

$129 (Rs 8,895 per person) 

Gamble on your taste buds

The Lip-Smacking Foodie Tour in Las Vegas can be among the most cherished memories of your entire trip. The Lip-Smacking Foodie Tour in Las Vegas can be among the most cherished memories of your entire trip.

What’s travel if it doesn’t lead to food? The Lip-Smacking Foodie Tour in Las Vegas can be among the most cherished memories of your entire trip. And for good measure. The walking, guided tours take you through some of the best restaurants located on the Vegas Strip as well as the Downtown area. Everything’s curated, keeping your time and convenience in mind. Each restaurant will welcome you to an exclusive area where a couple of signature dishes of that restaurant are presented to you on a platter. There are four tours you can choose from.

The Afternoon Culinary Adventures span two-and-a-half hours and cover four significant eating stops including Arai, Crystals and The Cosmopolitan. The Savors of the Strip tour makes you feel like a king as you’re ushered into a VIP area and food are paraded around you with a guide filling you in. This is a 3-hour affair around the dinner period. The Downtown Lip-Smacking tour is for guests above 21 years of age covering the downtown area in two-and-a-half hours. Our pick is the Lip-Smacking Boozy Brunch Tour that sheds light on the brunching culture of Las Vegas. Revel in the presence of some delectable cuisines at the Aria resort and casino, which is offered on Saturdays and Sundays. There’s nothing better than signing off from Las Vegas with a bagful of memories and a glass of cocktails. 

$110 onwards (Rs 7,585 per person) 

Enjoy the canyon through the eyes of a hawk

If you’re short on time, go for an aerial tour, but if you really want to make the most of the ride, do choose the landing tours. If you’re short on time, go for an aerial tour, but if you really want to make the most of the ride, do choose the landing tours.

No, we don’t mean warging. But what we recommend is pretty darn close to the experience. Papillion is a company that is synonymous with all things Grand Canyon. They’ve been operational for over half-a-century and offer the best prices for some of the most breath-taking views of the natural wonders. Their helicopter tours are conducted on one of the world’s largest fleets that comprise of Bell, Astar and the Ecostar 130. We’d recommend the latter for the comfort it offers. They’ll pick you up from your hotel, arrange for lunch on request, ensure that you’ve got the best possible guide by your side at all times, and drop you back to your hotel.

If you’re short on time, go for an aerial tour, but if you really want to make the most of the ride, do choose the landing tours. They can take up to six hours, but do really well in giving you an actual lay of the land. For both tours, the course includes Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Colorado River, the West Rim and the Grand Canyon Skywalk. All of these are part of the West Rim tours. The South Rim tours have less to offer other than a Sunset Safari in which you can enjoy a 30-minute flight with a 4x4 tour inside the National Park that coincides with the sunset.

$209 (Rs 14,415 per person)

Off-road on ATVs across Goodsprings

ATVs can accommodate one or two riders, depending on the request you place at the time of booking ATVs can accommodate one or two riders, depending on the request you place at the time of booking

Mel and Debra Stotts have brought the thrill of off-roading to Goodsprings and everyone who has availed of this thrilling experience can bear testimony to how good it really is. Goodsprings used to be the most lucrative mining area in Nevada in the early 1900s and bears historical significance to the region. You can enjoy an entire day out here, blending absolute thrill on the track with a dose of history lessons you could bring back home.

Today, Vegas Off Road Tours is a reputable name in the tourism industry thanks to the novel attractions it has to offer. It commences at the World-Famous Pioneer Saloon, which is the oldest bar in Southern Nevada. It’s here that you’ll enter your VegasRZR ATV, which will be your companion for the next two-and-a-half hours. ATVs can accommodate one or two riders, depending on the request you place at the time of booking. The tour’s a circuit, bringing you back to the saloon on completion. 

Once you’re done with all that, you can enter the saloon and enjoy refreshments while you explore the Clark Gable Memorial Room.

$450 (Rs 31,000 per person)

FACTFILE

Nevada has very dry weather. The best time to visit is between February and May, and between September and November

Cathay Pacific flies daily to Las Vegas via ong Kong and LA. Business-class fares start at Rs 2.5 lakh

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