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The off-Strip guide to Las Vegas

Red rocks in Valley of Fire State Park

So you’re headed to Las Vegas, but you’re not sure the bright lights of the Strip are for you. Or maybe you’re planning to stay mostly on the Strip, but need a break from the action. Maybe you’ve already done or seen most of what the Strip has to offer and are looking to mix it up this time around. 

No matter what your situation, you’re in luck—there are SO many fun things to do in Las Vegas that have nothing to do with clubs or casinos. Whether you’re looking for art, nature, great food or historic feats of engineering, this guide will have you covered! Read on for a list of alternative—and decidedly not sinful—ways to spend your time in Sin City. 

WHERE TO STAY NEAR LAS VEGAS:

If want to stay away from the big crowds on the Strip, look to base yourself in nearby Henderson or Summerlin. These areas are where most residents of Las Vegas actually live, so you’ll find plenty of options around in terms of restaurants (see below). They’ll also give you easy access to Las Vegas if you are heading in to see a show or attend an event, or to the highway if you’re headed out of town. Just keep in mind that you’ll need a car to get around!

If you’re looking for a place to earn or redeem points, I recommend using this tool and typing in Las Vegas to get a sense of what’s around. You can move the map and zoom in to eliminate the Strip options!

Highway in Valley of Fire State Park

WHERE TO EAT NEAR LAS VEGAS:

CRAFTkitchen – If you want a 180° from your typical Vegas breakfast buffet special, check out CRAFT for brunch. It prides itself on local, organic eats and offers loads of healthy options.

Bottiglia – Don’t fill up too much on appetizers and entrees at this bright, airy Italian spot because you’re also going to want to order all the sides. And you probably should. 

Toast Society – With its pink crushed velvet seats and succulents on every table, Toast Society looks more like a place you’d find in L.A. than in Vegas—and it has the prices to match. But who can argue with a solid avocado toast?

Taco y Taco – If you want solid, fast-casual Mexican (so…me, all the time), Taco y Taco is your spot. 

The Juice Standard – An array of juice and smoothie options to suit pretty much any taste.

Nielsen’s Frozen Custard – Because Vegas gets really hot, and what better way to cool down?

Menu at Toast Society
Table and chair at Toast Society

WHERE TO DRINK NEAR LAS VEGAS:

Bad Owl Coffee – This coffee spot is vaguely Harry Potter-themed, but not enough to alienate you if you just want a non-kitschy cup of joe. If you’re into the theme, though, make sure to read the menu; Bad Owl goes hard on the creative drink names!

Bookcase and ladder at Bad Owl
Stacks of cups at Bad Owl

FUN THINGS TO DO NEAR LAS VEGAS:

Red Rock Canyon – Great news: If you’re looking for nature, it’s only 20-something minutes away, depending where in Las Vegas you’re starting from. Drive the jaw-dropping scenic loop at Red Rock or stop as you please and hike around—just remember to bring a map!

Seven Magic Mountains – Just 10 miles outside of town sits Ugo Rondinone’s desert art installation, the Seven Magic Mountains. Head out to see these rainbow rock towers for yourself; they’ll help you appreciate the scale of the desert AND up your Instagram game 😉

Trail and mountain at Red Rocks
Plants and mountains at Red Rocks
Seven Magic Mountains art installation

Downtown Las VegasIf you’re looking for a little local history (or some gambling without all the glitz), check out Downtown Las Vegas, the city’s historic center.  

Neon Museum – Wondering what happens to those neon signs when they come down? They end up at the Neon Museum, a graveyard of sorts for retired signage. It’s a really fun place to walk through and photograph, and the staff can share stories behind every sign. You’ll get a totally different experience in the day vs. the night, but both have something to offer! Read more about my experience here.

Carly walking through signs at the Neon Museum
Sun behind a sign at the Neon Museum

Valley of Fire State ParkIf you have a little more time (or want some more legitimate hiking than you’ll find at Red Rock Canyon), make the just-under-an-hour drive out to Valley of Fire. I highly recommend the Fire Wave hike for some seriously cool striped rocks. They’re like nothing I’ve ever seen! 

Hoover Dam – Yeah, I didn’t think dams excited me either—until this one. It’s easy for anyone to spend an hour or so appreciating this Depression-era engineering feat, and there’s enough here for history or infrastructure buffs to spend much longer. Go around sunset if possible and after the sun sinks behind the bridge, pop over to the lookout over Lake Mead for some beautiful colors. 

Striated rock in Valley of Fire State Park
Winding road at Valley of Fire State Park
Sun setting behind Hoover Dam
Carly watching sunset at Lake Mead

For more fun things to do in Las Vegas, check out the recap of my most recent trip here or read more about my experiences at The Neon Museum and Red Rock Canyon!

Hope you enjoyed this off-Strip guide to Las Vegas! What are your favorite things to do near Vegas? Share them below in the comments! >>

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Off-strip guide to Las Vegas

The Alternative Las Vegas travel guide

The alternative Las Vegas travel guide

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Things to do in Las Vegas

Carly

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