Las Vegas is exciting not just for the food, drink, spas and luxury. There are larger-than-life outdoor adventures to revel in just a stone’s throw away. The metropolis is located right in the middle of the stunning Mojave Desert, which offers all kinds of once-in-lifetime opportunities.
Here are five ideas for Las Vegas adventures to give you bragging rights among all your friends…
Much of the excitement of Las Vegas can be felt just by viewing the city skyline, sprawling in front of you. What would make it even more exciting? Seeing this larger-than-life city from the air, on a helicopter tour. Tours range from quick spins above The Strip for 15 minutes to luxe half-day extravaganzas soaring from the city out to The Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Some of the helicopters even land in the Grand Canyon’s West Rim, where the canyon is still shallow enough for a helicopter to fit inside, so you can run around and take selfies within the gorgeous gorge, just killing it with your Facebook friends back home. How cool is that?
“The most popular helicopter tours land in the Grand Canyon’s West Rim,” says Clifford Anderson, president of the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association. “The views from the air are spectacular, and you feel tiny as you are engulfed by the magnificent canyon walls.” Sometimes it seems there are more helicopter tour companies in Las Vegas than there are buffets: Maverick Helicopters, Sundance Helicopters, and Papillon have great options. The choppers take off from a helipad adjacent to McCarran Airport, and the tours usually include ground transportation to and from your hotel.
2. Take A Hike
See those mountains in the distance from your suite? Well, they aren’t as far away as they seem, and they are gorgeous the closer you get. The Las Vegas Strip is a mere half-hour from the stunning Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, over 300 square miles of rock formations and desert landscapes drenched with Southwestern color. Hiking trails wind through the park, from novice skill level to advanced, so visitors can get up close and personal with gorgeous geology. For starters, especially for anyone who hasn’t hiked the desert, try the Calico Tanks trail, with sweeping views of the city and lots of nooks and crannies to explore. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can get a big dose of natural beauty by driving the 13-mile, one-way loop along the hills and canyons of the park, and it really does provide an eyeful of scenery. Hint: The park is at its most luminescent as the sun rises and shines from the east, so get up very early for the best Instagraming. Or just stay up all night. You’re in Las Vegas! There’s no time for sleep. Check the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association for fees and such.
Did you play with Matchbox cars during your childhood and dream of going really, really fast as a grownup? Well, in Las Vegas that dream comes true–the city hosts several exotic car racing schools, where the everyday driver gets a chance to sit behind the wheel of a supercar for the day. Choose from options like a Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche, or even a stock race car, and the pros will teach you the basics of how to drive an automobile that costs more than the average American makes in a year’s salary. Then they slap a helmet on your head, buckle you in, and set you loose. Don’t trust your own driving skills? Ride in a car steered by professional driver who knows how to hammer through the track’s turns at top speed, and being a passenger really is more fun than you’d expect. Exotics Racing and Speed Vegas operate private tracks with even more twists and turns.
If you’re looking for stunning panoramas of Las Vegas and a thrill ride at the same time, why not take the ultimate look while falling from two miles in the warm, blue sky? With all that desert and cloud-free weather, Las Vegas is the perfect place for skydiving. Jump out of the plane and free fall for about a minute, and then the parachute pops open for a five-minute glide to the ground. These jumps are performed in tandem, with a skydiving pro strapped to your back, so no need to worry about getting that pesky parachute open in time. Take in the views of the Hoover Dam.
5. Scream Your Head Off
Part of the Las Vegas charm is how it appeals to the kid in you. Adventure rides await any person with a taste for adrenalin and a disinterest in self-composure. These attractions are for the thrill seekers:
SlotZilla: This zip line stretches above Fremont Street–as in, it is literally above the street. Riders can go either sitting ($25) or laid out flat like they are flying ($45). The wire for the “flyers” is higher and twice as long as the wire for the “sitters,” and the thrill of this kind of flying can’t be beat.
Big Shot: Look at The Stratosphere Tower. There is a spire on top of the tower. Big Shot is a ring of seats around that spire, where riders are strapped down, and then the seats zoom upwards so fast it generates 4 G’s of force. To put that in perspective, when astronauts leave Earth, they escape the planet’s gravitational pull with approximately 3 G’s of force. There are other rides at The Stratosphere, but how much can your adrenalin glands handle?
Big Apple Coaster: Located at New York-New York Hotel and Casino, this roller coaster is the perfect blend of thrill and terror, with the loops and drops and twists and turns that will make you want to throw your hands in the air and scream. New York-New York’s coaster brings riders up a huge first hill, and from there the drop is fast and exhilarating.