“I actually live here.” I find myself saying this again and again to family, friends, tourists, randoms I meet on the street, those pesky promoters on the Strip, etc. Why? No clue… probably because they think Vegas is a fantasyland made up of bachelor parties, go-go dancers, nightclub crawlers and revelers of all sorts. But it’s not just that, there’s real life here too (I promise).
One thing I have learned from my wise age of 24 and two long years experience of living in the city of sin, there’s SO MUCH MORE to Las Vegas and the relatively close surrounding areas than meets the eye. Look at Las Vegas like the hub of endless west coast horizons. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Las Vegas. There’s no other city like it! Other than its vast casinos, no open container law; 24-hour nightclubs, dayclubs, beach clubs, gentlemen’s clubs, LGBT-friendly clubs, country clubs (SO MANY CLUBS); it’s a city filled with immaculate beauty, expansive culture and one-of-a-kind experiences.
…BUT it honestly baffles me when I hear someone say they’ve never left or traveled outside of Las Vegas since living here (I say “since living here” because almost everyone you meet, except for those rare third generationers, are transplants from somewhere). So please, to all of those “I never leave Las Vegas” souls, let me guide you:
1. Los Angeles
This is a given. Hop in your car, drive 3 ½ hours on the I-15 south and you made it to the city of angels. Honestly, I love LA… there is SO much to do. Cruise around Hollywood and people watch until you spot a celebrity, hike the Hollywood sign (correction: Runyon Canyon), visit some freaks at Venice Beach, drive along the Malibu coast (my favorite restaurant, Paradise Cove, is located here) or enjoy a relaxing, deserving day at Manhattan Beach. Wherever it is, it’ll be worth it.
Must sees: Santa Monica, Venice, West Hollywood, Malibu.
2. San Diego
My favorite city in the entire continental U.S. has to be San Diego. Not only is this laidback, carefree beach town one of the most beautiful places in California, the beachy vibe makes anyone and everyone want to stay forever. Though, it is a bit of a trek to get to (5 ½ hours), I would still do it in a heartbeat. You can also find some awesomely cheap flights (which only takes about an hour).
Must sees: Gaslamp District, La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Coronado Island (the Del!).
3. Grand Canyon
Can you say AMAZING. This beauty only happens to be about a 2 hour drive from Las Vegas (to the West Rim). If you’re in the mood for more of a serious road trip, head to the South Rim (which takes about 4 hours). You can always take a helicopter (my preferred method of transportation. Shout out – Maverick Helicopters) which is only about a 45 minute flight. This wonder definitely makes you feel small in the world, but a memory you’ll cherish forever.
Probably one of the most mesmerizing places I’ve ever seen. Visit the national park on a day trip or camp and stay a weekend. This place has AWESOME hiking (so be ready to workout). If you’re camping, I recommend staying at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort; they have nice indoor showers and a pool and hot tub you can relax in after a long day of strenuous hikes.
Must sees: The Narrows, Angel’s Landing, Cable Mountain, Emerald Pools.
AKA Disneyland! Other than DL, you’ve got California Adventures and oh-so-fun Downtown Disney. Find a cheap Air Bnb (there’s a ton near Disney) and you got yourself a perfect weekend trip.
6. Lake Mead
Truth be told, you don’t need to go far to feel like you’ve escaped the neon lights and bubble of Las Vegas. There happens to be a huge lake only about 40 minutes away. Find a friend with a boat and you’ve got yourself a fun-filled day of water sports and tanning.
Honorable Mentions: Temecula (wine tasting!), Santa Barbara (gorgeous beach and great shopping), Mt. Charleston (Mary Jane Falls), Hoover Dam, Lake Las Vegas.
Why stop there? There’s an insane amount of gorgeous, untouched (well kind of) land left to see. Leave the bright lights behind for a weekend and get out there and see it!
I’ll just leave you with this (disclaimer: I don’t know who said this fine quote) – “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life” – unknown.