For the 30+ years I’ve been on this earth, I’ve travelled the world for both work and play but Las Vegas was never amongst my list of conquered destinations. This action packed location just outside the desert has become almost a right of passage if you will, for most North Americans in their 20’s looking to celebrate moments like milestone birthdays or their last days of single life before tying the knot. Usually filled with champagne showers and epic night outs, that may or may not be remembered, after their “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” weekend experience is over. After discovering that Vegas hosts nearly 40 million visitors each year, it had me thinking that it’s quite possible the city is not as one dimensional as I once thought. This past January, with my interest piqued, I flew to the state of Nevada for four days to see if there really is life and entertainment off the strip. And let me tell you, I was in for a big surprise.
Obviously well known globally for it’s lavish hotels, casinos and nightclubs, turns out Vegas can also be added to the bucket list of anyone who is an adventure seeker or loves the outdoors. I can easily say that the only time I was indoors during this trip was to either eat or sleep in my hotel room and have zero regrets. If you followed along IRL on my Instagram stories, you may recall some hilarious, outrageous and breathtaking moments but I am summarizing the best of the best below that will 100% have you thinking a bit differently about this destination.
VOTED: MOST BALLER EXCURSION
When it comes to sightseeing experiences, I don’t think there is anything cooler than a helicopter tour. I’ve done a few of them over the years and it never gets old. If you’re anything like me and the Grand Canyon has been on your bucket list for as long as you can remember, a heli tour over the canyon’s vast expanse and down to the depth of it’s floor in one of Papillon’s state-of-the-art choppers is definitely a must! During our hour long customized tour, my mind was blown by the most majestic topography I’ve ever seen in my life; 100% making the canyon worthy of it’s status as one of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders. Papillon, the world’s aerial sight seeing company has helicopter tours starting at $200 and is perfect for a romantic date for two (ideal setting for a proposal) or a small group activity.
VOTED: MOST DARING AND ADVENTUROUS
If speed and excitement is your thing, Flightlinez Bootleg Canyon will not disappoint. Just a 30 minute drive from the strip and starting at just $159 per person, it’s the perfect adventure for those obsessed with adrenaline. After a brief drive up the hills of Boulder City, followed by a short hike to the top, is the first of four separate runs that span over a total of 1.5 miles long. If you have a slight fear of heights, the scenic views and friendly guides are just the recipe you need to overcome it and enjoy the experience. We laughed our asses off for days about Jenn’s elegant finished on the final run of the day. So thankful to have have captured some of the fun and laughs that morning in an Instagram video:
VOTED: MOST NIQUE PLACE TO FIND YOUR ZEN
I used to think that I had done yoga in some very unique and beautiful places but leave it to Vegas to take my yoga game to new heights, and I mean literally, with a 60 minute vinyasa flow at 550ft in the air inside the High Roller Vegas. The pièce de resistánce of the LINQ’s outdoor shopping and entertainment promenade, the High Roller is the world’s tallest observation wheel, eclipsing both the London Eye and Singapore Flyer. Facing both north and south and running parallel to Las Vegas Boulevard, the gigantic observation wheel, is compromised of 28 glass enclosed cabins, gives riders expansive views of Vegas and the strip and if you planning on adding this to your list of things you “Must Do” while you’re in town, and is most spectacular at sundown.
Each revolution of the wheel takes 30 minutes to complete, so our private session with our Silent Savasana yoga instructor meant that we got double the pleasure, doing the journey around twice. And as if the experience wasn’t already cool enough, we all donned state-of-the-art LED headphones so we could be guided through the sequences while also listening to a curated playlist of Beyoncé remixes.
VOTED: MOST BAD ASS DESERT EXPERIENCE
I don’t care who you are, how old or where you come from, everyone should experience at least one ATV excursion in their lifetime. Sure, it can be a bit intimidating at first and depending on what type of landscape your driving in, it could get pretty messy but you’re guaranteed to have a blast. Most of the others who joined me on the trip were ATV virgins and so I contently sat back as I watched each of them get fitted for their helmets and goggles with some slight fear in their eyes. I’ve done it a handful of times before on press trips and from experience it always winds up being a fave of everyone on the trip. A few hours riding around the desert might seem like too long but trust me when I tell you, this is one activity you will be begging you wish went on just a bit longer. It wasn’t long before the ATV newbies got in their groove and with increased confidence we were able to pick up some speed and handle some more technical driving along the dusty trails.
We chose Awesome Adventures for our ATV tour of Eldorado Canyon, located only 45 minutes from Las Vegas, and our guided tour took us through desolate desert trails and through the Tecchaticup Gold Mine – the oldest, richest and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada. The gold mine ran from 1861 to 1942 and most of what is on site was is preserved and looks exactly the way it did 70+ years ago. The Eldorado Canyon tour starts at $199 for a single seater ATV and $160 for a two seater and also includes round trip transportation from wherever you’re staying, a professional guided tour in addition to a boxed lunch.
VOTED: MOST BREATHTAKING VIEWS
With the most awe inspiring views you wouldn’t expect to see so near to a major metropolitan city, the desert beauty of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area was the perfect way to conclude our active trip to Nevada. Not to worry if you’re not a highly skilled hiker or mountain climber, because I’m certainly not. Due to being so quiet and isolated, the conservation area has become very popular amongst tourists, sightseers, joggers and cyclists as a temporary getaway from the craziness of the strip and expertly recommended and arranged by the overly accommodating concierge at the J.W. Marriot hotel.
More vast than you can imagine, there are actually a total of 19 trails with differing difficulty and gains – making this activity appealing to all. For those not able to explore the grounds by foot, you can still experience Red Rock’s beauty by car via the 13 mile scenic drive loop. The speed limit around these parts is actually 35 mph (and in some areas even lower) to purposely encourage drivers to enjoy the spectacular scenery and also for the safety of runners, cyclists and wildlife. On a time crunch and of course thirst for the most epic landscape photos, our crew hit up Calico Tanks trail. With a distance of just 2.5 miles and rated as “moderate” on the difficulty scale, it’s a great trail for families or those wanting a relatively short intro to Red Rock Canyon because it combines all the elements that make Red Rock famous – a colourful mixture of sandstone, a hidden water pocket and an awesome view of Las Vegas. Open daily between 8am – 4pm. Entrance into the conservation area is only $7 per vehicle and free for cyclists and hikers who park and leave their cars at the loop.