In addition to the popular indoor activities of gambling and dining, there are many outdoor activities and recreation areas for residents and visitors:
The Mount Charleston Recreation area offers a spectacularly beautiful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas. Thickly forested limestone cliffs rise nearly 12,000 feet above the desert floor creating a stunningly impressive backdrop for hikers, backpackers, picnickers, campers and wintertime snowboarders and skiers. This popular year-round destination averages 20-30 degrees cooler temperatures than the Valley which is a welcome respite from summer's heat and a snowy paradise for winter sports.
Fall is a popular time to visit the area when the aspens show their annual foliage changes of bright yellows and brilliant reds.
If camping is not your cup of tea, overnight or weekend visitors have the option of RV parking areas, cabin rentals or a stay at the rustic and charming Mount Charleston Hotel. Located just below the timberline on Kyle Canyon road, the hotel's weathered wood exterior, open beam rafters, Ponderosa Pine pillars and open pit fireplace offer a typical mountain lodge atmosphere. A dining room, gift shop and of course, slot machines are available.
Las Vegans may be living in a desert but that does not mean there is no opportunity for boating or fishing. Less than an hour's drive from the city is the Lake Mead National Recreation area, home of the largest man-made lake in the United States. The lake offers 550 miles of shoreline and contains nearly nine trillion gallons of water. If fishing is your game, the lake teems with trout, catfish and striped bass.
Lake Mead Marina has hundreds of boat slips, a motel and a popular floating restaurant. Additional marinas are Callville Bay Resort Marina, Echo Bay Resort and Marina and the Las Vegas Boat Harbor.
Boulder Beach is the place for sun lovers to spread a beach towel and soak up the rays. The two miles of sandy beach offer a year-round haven for enjoyment.
Completed in 1935, Hoover Dam is one of the most popular tourist destinations for visitors to Southern Nevada. The dam is an engineering marvel and is 600 feet thick at the base, reinforced by enough steel to build the tallest skyscraper. The plug holding back the waters of the Colorado River is as high as a 54 story building.
Five thousand workers laboring day and night built the dam in five years time but the harsh and dangerous working conditions resulted in 94 deaths and an average of fifty injuries each day.
Visits begin at the Exhibit Center. The center houses a lobby and rotating theatre and visitors can see details of the history behind the creation of the dam and how it is used today. Guided tours start with an elevator ride to the base of the dam. There visitors can view the seven story high turbines located in an immense room. A drive across the two lane road on top of the dam takes about an hour and ends in Arizona.
RED ROCK CANYON
About one half hour's drive out of Las Vegas takes you to the scenic wonders of Red Rock Canyon. A sheer escarpment 3,000 feet high and over thirteen miles in length provides the centerpiece of the canyon. Deep fissures line the face of the canyon walls formed by eons of rain and melting snow. Red and yellow sandstone cliffs form a stunning background to the surrounding desert as you enter the Joshua tree and yucca dotted canyon.
A worthy drive is over the thirteen mile one-way scenic loop. Open to traffic from 7:00 a.m. to dusk, the route winds thru spectacular rock formations and towering sandstone bluffs of reds, pinks and purples. There are many hiking trails and scenic stopping points along the loop where pictures can be taken of the breathtaking view and the many varieties of plants, animals and birds native to the region.
BONNIE SPRINGS RANCH
Just about a mile from the end of the Red Rock Scenic Route (turn right on Nevada 159) is Bonnie Springs Ranch. A tourist favorite, Bonnie Springs was a real cattle ranch in the mid-nineteenth century and an oasis for wagon trains on their way to California.
Modern day Bonnie Springs Ranch now has a petting zoo, riding stables, a duck pond and bird aviary. Old Nevada Village next door is a full-scale Old Western Town restored. There you will find the requisite saloon, the sheriff's office, an opera house, shooting gallery, ice cream parlor, a silent movie house and a mini-train ride around the outskirts of town. Gunfights and other Wild West dramatizations are held throughout the day to the delight of visitors.
Strange as it may seem, if you enjoy playing golf, Las Vegas is your town. Not at all inhibited by its Mojave Desert surroundings, Las Vegas boasts of more than thirty professional level golf courses. How do they keep the greens green? Built in wells and water reclaimed from holding ponds and water district treatment plants is the answer.
Numerous state parks have facilities for picnicking, bird watching and getting away from it all for a day. The Valley of Fire State Park - named for the jagged mounds of scarlet and vermillion sandstone and furnace-like summer temperatures - presents an other-worldly landscape to the visitor. The area contains numerous examples of ancient Indian rock art and many artifacts have been uncovered linking the area to the Anasazi, Piaute and other tribes.
Overall, the Las Vegas area is a delightful place for outdoor activities as it is an area of almost perpetual sunshine. The weather is rarely a factor to consider when planning an outing as there is no rain or snow storms or extremes of cold to keep you indoors.