If you’re already well-acquainted with the sights, sounds and draws of a typical Vegas getaway, then maybe it’s time to try something new on your next trip to Sin City. Attractions in Downtown Vegas and the surrounding desert offer the chance to break out of the stereotypical glittery bubble and embrace some more active experiences—from biking and hiking to crazy ziplining.
Ease into your day with a visit to the city’s historic core—Downtown Vegas is a charismatic mix of vintage grit and eccentric creativity. The area is definitely walkable, but renting a bike lets you cover more ground. Cycle at a leisurely pace, and be sure to stop often to check out the futuristic sculptures and graffiti murals throughout the area’s Arts District.
Ride northeast to The Mob Museum and wander the three floors of comprehensive exhibits for a crash course on organized crime in America. Once you’ve had your fill of gangsters, pedal over to Downtown Container Park (a shopping complex built of shipping containers) to browse the local boutiques, then head east to Atomic Liquors, the oldest freestanding bar in Vegas, to refuel with elevated pub food and craft cocktails.
Check out the Fremont Street Experience—ground zero for neon-lit street parties—then head to Evel Pie for a late dinner. The popular New York-style pizzeria serves pizza by the slice or baked-to-order pies.
Dine at one of Vegas’s best-loved breakfast spots, such as Eat or Mr. Mamas, making sure to fill up for a half-day of hiking and exploring the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Less than a half-hour drive from the Strip, this expansive, protected spot in the Mojave Desert offers a number of hiking and cycling trails, most of which are easy to moderate. Pop into the Visitors Centre for advice on which trail to take, or consider the 2.5-kilometre Calico Tanks Trail. About 30 minutes into this hike, the surrounding sandstone cliffs turn from light brown to a vibrant, earthy red. The colour of the 50-foot cliff walls are eye-candy enough, but the geological formations are amazing. Bulbous outcroppings are imprinted with striations from sedimentary layers, and jagged boulders are scattered all over. More ambitious or advanced hikers can choose to continue along the trail to the peak of La Madre, one of the mountains in the Spring Mountain range that looms in the distance.
Once you’ve had enough of Red Rock Canyon and the day’s heat, head back to the city and stretch out your tired muscles with a one-hour yoga session inside the High Roller, the world’s largest observation wheel. Let an experienced instructor guide you through poses, 550 feet above the Strip, as you take in sweeping views of Vegas. (Book ahead.)
Cap your day of healthy excursions with an equally healthy Mediterranean meal at Estiatorio Milos at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. With its high-end Greek menu and a fresh fish bar where you can choose the fish you want to eat, Estiatorio is considered one of the finest seafood restaurants in the city.
Make your third day the most adrenaline-heavy of them all. Drive around 42 km southeast of Vegas to the outskirts of Boulder City, where a 2.4-km zipline course by Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon awaits. Opt for the three-hour Bootleg Canyon tour; a group of amiable guides will lead you to the top of Red Mountain, only to release you back down again via four separate ziplines. As you race along the steel cables at around 60 miles per hour, enjoy the view of the desert below.
Further south, in Nelson’s Landing, you can keep your adrenaline pumping on an ATV ride with Awesome Adventures. You’ll follow your guide into the Eldorado Canyon, navigating your four-wheeler along gravelly, abandoned gold-mining trails that wind through dusty valleys and over rocky hilltops. The tour is an action-packed way to explore as much of the landscape as possible while getting to take in some of the area’s rich and fascinating mining history.
After your adventures in the desert, enjoy a poolside rest at your hotel, then cap your stay with one of Vegas’s myriad fine-dining experiences. For something really special, try GIADA in The Cromwell (reserve well ahead). Run by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, this spot serves mouth-watering cuisine that combines Italian dishes with Californian influences. Order a bottle of wine from the extensive wine list and raise a glass to your unconventional getaway.
[This story originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated.]