Audacious Las Vegas: 10 adventurous things to do in Sin City
When the average person thinks of Las Vegas, they probably default to images of blackjack tables and slot machines, leggy showgirls, and the proliferation of neon signs that cast a 24-hour glow over Sin City. But there's so much more to Las Vegas than what you see in the opening credits of CSI.
Located smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas is also a great getaway for adventurers, thrill-seekers, and anyone looking for over-the-top experiences designed by grown-ups who never lost their ability to dream big and dream craaaaazy. We're talking about experiences that quite literally take your breath away and leave you feeling giddy in the presence of such ingenuity, such vision, such cojones.
Here, you can put the pedal to the metal in a $265,000 Lamborghini at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, ride the X Scream roller coaster that sits 866 feet above the street atop the Stratosphere Tower, and settle in for a gondola ride through The Venetian's canals—all in the same day. That's Las Vegas for you: Nonstop action. Here are 10 of the most thrilling activities you should consider for your roster of Vegas adventures.
1. True Hard Rock Experience: Running Tour of the Valley of Fire
If you're not the type to take a break from your daily run despite being in the stay-up-all-night-partying capital of the world, this adventure is for you. Get your bum out of bed super early, lace up your running shoes, and head out to the Mojave Desert for a 4-hour running tour through the Valley of Fire State Park, which is exactly the blazing beauty its name implies. Marvel at how the red dirt seems to positively glow under your feet as you run past natural sandstone sculptures cleverly carved by Mother Nature herself, some featuring ancient petroglyphs. Whether you're in training for a marathon or still get winded climbing up a couple of flights of stairs, you'll enjoy this 3- to 12-mile run, which offers plenty of scheduled breaks and stunning photo ops.
2. Raft the Colorado River and Tour Hoover Dam
If you have about 10 hours to spare, take a round trip journey from Las Vegas to the Hoover Dam, the tallest structure of its kind on the planet, on a Colorado River rafting trip with Adventure Photo Tours. You'll start the 12-mile trip down the river at the base of Hoover Dam, which towers 726 feet above your head and will make you marvel at the sheer volume of concrete that had to be mixed for this gargantuan project. You'll spend the next three and a half hours floating gently down the Colorado River with a professional guide, who will make sure you catch a glimpse of the waterfalls and bubbling springs along the way as well as birds of prey soaring overhead and bighorn sheep perched precariously on the walls of Black Canyon. Although you'll be supplied with plenty of bottled water and snacks during the trip, you'll enjoy disembarking on sandy Willow Beach for lunch, followed by a scenic drive back to the dam. Once there, you'll head into the structure for a tour starting at the bottom and concluding at the top, where you'll gaze out in wonder upon Lake Mead, the largest manmade lake on the planet. On the way back to Las Vegas, you'll stop at a local park for one last glimpse of bighorn sheep grazing on sweet grass.
3. Roll Tires Instead of Craps With A Dune Buggy
There's a dune buggy adventure for everyone at Sun Buggy, which is located near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and offers round-trip transportation from the Strip. Intimately get to know the famed Mojave Desert from the front seat of a dune buggy, ATV, or desert racer as you speed across the vast expanse of undulating dunes, kicking up clouds of dust and sending the pit of your stomach to the top of your chest. Engage in a high-speed desert chase straight out of “Vanishing Point” with other drivers in your party. Or, if you're more “Driving Miss Daisy” than “Gone in 60 Seconds,” cruise at a leisurely speed through wide open spaces filled with flora and fauna that you'll only spot if you slow down and look real closely.
4. Comedy Off The Strip: Humor Tour of the Grand Canyon
Visiting the Grand Canyon is one thing, but visiting it on a comedy tour is an entirely different experience, one that will have you laughing as much as you're oohing and ahhing at America's very own Natural Wonder of the World. On Comedy On Deck Tours’ Grand Canyon West Rim Tour a funny and factual guide will lead you on a 11-hour round-trip outing, which includes a whole lotta magnificent scenery on the way to and from the Canyon. You'll enjoy inspiring vistas during stops at Eagle Point Overlook and Guano Point Viewpoint as well as visit a Native American village and the Wild West Cowboy Ranch. For perhaps the best view, step out onto the Hualapai Tribe’s Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass expanse 4,000 feet above the Colorado River.
5. Get High (Up in the Air)
Soaring through the air seems to be an underlying theme in and around Las Vegas. In addition to the proliferation of world-famous, death-defying roller coasters, Vegas offers a number of heart-stopping aerial adventures. How about a Flying Trapeze Experience, the Slotzilla Urban Zipline Experience, or a heart-stopping jump off of the Stratosphere Tower? Better yet, how about all three? First, slip into a harness and enjoy 90 minutes of flying through the air with the greatest of ease during your trapeze lesson at Trapeze Las Vegas. Next, hold on tight as you descend the zip line that starts 114 feet above Fremont Street, on top of the 12-story slot machine-shaped structure known as Slotzilla. You'll travel downward for 1,750 feet at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour, landing on a special platform at the historic Golden Gate casino. If your breakfast is still staying put, top off your airborne antics with a hair-raising, 829-foot controlled free-fall jump off of the Stratosphere Tower.
6. Watch the Sun Rise (and feel good about it)
Once again, it's up, up and away, this time with Vegas Balloon Rides in a hot air balloon that drifts above the city and across the surrounding landscape. To embark on this voyage, you'll meet downtown at dawn and head to the launching pad, where you'll climb into the balloon's basket and stand awash in the bright orange glow as you ascend with the sun. Spend the next hour peacefully gliding along at an altitude of up to 2,500 feet above the desert floor—high enough to get an expansive view of the city and its surrounding landscape but low enough that you can make out plenty of details below, like the ant-like people heading out to nurse their hangovers with a bloody Mary or an ATV kicking up dust as it speeds across the dunes.
7. Get Your Fill of Fremont Street
We try not to use cliches like "off-the-beaten-path," but if ever there was a beaten path, it would be the Las Vegas Strip. Now, beaten paths aren't a bad thing at all—they're usually beaten for a reason. But be sure to venture off the Strip and head east from Las Vegas Boulevard over to trendy Fremont Street, home base of the city's hipsters, for a glimpse of another side of the city. Check out the nightly Viva Vision light show on a 1,500-foot screen suspended 90 feet above the Fremont Street pedestrian mall, get your picture taken with a million bucks in cash at Binion's, and feast your eyes on the world's largest operational fire hydrant, which measures 14.5 feet tall. Sound good? That's not even the half of it.
Perhaps the best reason to venture over to Fremont Street is to enjoy the open-air Neon Museum, a two-acre expanse of more than 150 restored neon signs, including some of the most famous in the city, like the Lucky Cuss Motel, The Silver Slipper, and 5th Street Liquors. Docents are always hanging out at the museum's outdoor exhibition space, known as the Boneyard, and they'll be happy to give you a one-hour tour of the museum and enlighten you on the history of the gigantic signs that helped put Las Vegas on the map.
8. Swim, Paint, or Do Yoga: All With Dolphins
Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage offers three wholly unique activities for dolphin lovers, but you've got to be on top of making reservations, because space is very limited. Start your day with a one-hour yoga session in the underwater viewing area, where you'll stretch, breathe, and practice your poses in the presence of some of the most peaceful animals on earth. If yoga isn't your thing, you and an artistic dolphin can collaborate together on a painting. Get your canvas, pick your colors, and dip the special paintbrush in the paint. Stick it in the dolphin's mouth, and let your new pal go to town creating an exclusive work of art that you can hang up at home. Since no one will believe you when you tell them how you came to access this masterpiece, you'll also get a certificate of authentication and a photo of the experience. If you want to go deep with the aquatic wildlife, become a dolphin trainer for a day. You'll be put to work playing with the dolphins, training them both in and out of the water, and caring for them, all under the tutelage of the lucky pros who get paid to do this highly coveted job.
9. Shark Tank Twist: Swim With Sharks In Mandalay Bay
For those of you who are certified scuba divers and who also think getting in the water with live sharks sounds like a pleasant way to while away three to four hours, Mandalay Bay's Dive With Sharks program is just for you. You'll get a guided tour of Shark Reef, the casino's gigantic, predator-based aquarium that's home to golden crocodiles, moray eels, piranhas, jellyfish, and 15 species of sharks, including sand tiger, Galapagos, and zebra sharks. But the real action starts when you don your anti-shark suit and head into the aquarium. You’ll spend about 45 minutes swimming at depths of up to 22 feet in 1.3 million gallons of water with, most importantly, a higher concentration of deadly sharks than you'll ever find in the wild.
10. Drive a Bulldozer at the Heavy Equipment Playground
Come on, you know you want a taste of the raw, rumbling power behind a Caterpillar D5G bulldozer or a 3I5CL hydraulic excavator. You wanna grind those gears and build a huge mountain of dirt with the ease of stacking blocks. You wanna feel the deep, heavy vibrations of a monster that's capable of digging huge trenches and lifting 2,000-pound tires like they're chocolate doughnuts. That's why you should head on over to Dig This. After you complete a safety lesson, slap on your hard hat, and tie yourself into your yellow safety vest, you'll climb behind the wheel of an industrial behemoth and play a couple of warm-up games like Bulldozer Teeter Totter and Excavator Basketball before being cut loose to dig, push, grind, claw, and wreck stuff to your heart's content.