Did you know that there are lots of free things to do in Las Vegas that aren’t on the strip?
People from all over the world visit Vegas, i.e. “The Entertainment Capital of the World”, to gamble, to shop, to dine, to admire the resort-style hotels, to experience the nightlife and shows, and to see some of the best photo spots in Las Vegas. But for some of us, we’d rather spend our time away from the hustle and bustle, and see beyond the strip.
Let’s start with the basics: where to stay and where to eat during your visit.
*P.S. this post contains some affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase.
Where to Stay Near Las Vegas
Should you stay on the strip in Vegas? We don’t think so. We stayed one night at the Boulder Dam Hotel in Boulder City, Nevada and spent around $125. This was way cheaper than any of the alternatives directly in Las Vegas and on the strip.
A Broad Recommendation: Book through hotels.com. They offer great deals and give you one free night for every ten nights you complete. I also use Rakuten at the time of my purchase to get cash back.
Since we were here on a longer road trip – starting from Las Vegas and stopping at all of the Utah national parks, Lower Calf Creek Falls, the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, and Page, Arizona along the way – we had a rental car, which made staying outside of Vegas accessible to us.
The Boulder Dam Hotel was born from a vision of “what Boulder City needed”. It became a popular spot with visitors to the Hoover Dam (then called the Boulder Dam), as well as famous business people and movie stars. At the time, the hotel boasted such amenities as private baths, air conditioning, and more.
In 2005, the Boulder City Museum and Historical Association restored the hotel after decades of lack of occupancy, ownership changes, and renovations; it has since become the highest-ranked accommodation in Boulder City. This charming, boutique-style hotel was probably our favorite of our entire Southwest USA road trip!
Within the hotel itself is a restaurant, lounge, museum, art gallery, gift shop and more. But its location in the heart of a vibrant and artsy historical town is what makes this hotel so special.
Where to Eat Near Las Vegas
We enjoyed dinner at the Boulder Dam Brewing Company our first night in Boulder City. The service was great, the food was yummy, and there was live music. We were also able to sit outside, which was a relief since strict Covid precautions were still in place at the time. Plus, this place was right across the street from our hotel; very convenient!
After dinner, we stopped by Cleveland’s Lounge, located inside our hotel, and had a couple of drinks. Again, there was live music, and the saxophone player was coincidentally from Houston just like us! We bonded with him and his wife and got to request a couple extra songs.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, which was also quick and delicious.
Although we didn’t try it ourselves, the Coffee Cup Cafe is world famous and very popular. It was even featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives!
What to Do Near Las Vegas
Next, let’s talk about what to do outside of Las Vegas. There are lots of places to visit near Las Vegas by car. Our favorite things to do in or near Las Vegas are off the strip and mostly outdoors.
Explore Boulder City
Created to host Hoover Dam construction workers, Boulder City is a municipality located about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
It’s quite charming, so we spent some time after breakfast walking around and exploring the area. Everywhere we looked, there was a new sculpture! The area also offers lots of cute shops, cafes and bookstores.
Tour the Hoover Dam
If you’re staying in Boulder City like we did, a visit to the Hoover Dam is a must!
The Hoover Dam is a National Historic Landmark located on the Arizona-Nevada border in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River; and, it’s “a testimony to a country’s ability to construct monolithic projects in the midst of adverse conditions”.
The now world-renowned structure was authorized by Congress in 1928. It was later built from 1931 to 1936 (during the Great Depression) with goals to control floods, to produce hydroelectric power and to provide irrigation water.
Such a structure had never existed before, and its construction required a massive effort from thousands of workers. There was a lack of facilities near the site, and summers were brutal; more than one hundred men lost their lives during the construction.
Originally named after President Herbert Hoover, the dam was dedicated in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose administration changed the name (temporarily) to Boulder Dam.
Since then, it’s been rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders and has become a major tourist attraction, bringing in nearly one million visitors each year.
Hoover Dam is open daily from 5 am to 9 pm; the visitor center is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day).
It’s possible to visit for free (like we did!). However, there are also several tour options, each of which is inclusive of the former. The Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour is $10 and includes immersive exhibits that detail the history of Hoover Dam, as well as a 360-degree view of the dam, the Colorado River, Lake Mead and the Hoover Bypass Bridge from the Observation Deck.
The Guided Powerplant Tour is $15 and includes the Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour in addition to taking you through the original construction tunnels, to eight of the commercial generators in the Nevada Powerhouse, and to a viewing platform that overlooks a 30-foot-diameter penstock.
The Guided Dam Tour costs $30 and includes both the Guided Powerplant Tour and the Self-Guided Visitor Center Tour. Additionally, you’ll take the original elevator to the top of Hoover Dam and get a view of the Colorado River through the inspection ventilation shaft.
Hoover Dam doesn’t have a street address, but we didn’t have any issues finding it on Google Maps. The coordinates are N 36.016222, W -114.737245 just in case you need them.
There’s a large parking garage (on the Nevada side) and a parking lot (on the Arizona side), both of which cost $10. Sorry, but unfortunately, parking isn’t free!
Visit the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign
Getting a photo with the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign is another popular (and free) thing to do in Las Vegas off the strip.
Commissioned by Clark County and built and installed by Western Neon in 1959, the 25-foot-tall Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions – woah!
The sign was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 and was added to the State Register of Historic Places in 2013.
When Betty Willis, the sign’s designer, died in 2015, Clark County commissioners declared May 5th “Betty Willis Day”.
Although a popular tourist attraction now, this spot hasn’t always been so easy to visit. Prior to 2008, photographing the sign was risky, as there was nowhere to park. Luckily, there have been ongoing site improvements since then to include the creation of parking spaces, loading areas for buses and limousines, crosswalks, traffic signals and more.
The sign is located at 5200 Las Vegas Boulevard South and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Make sure to get here early, or you’ll be stuck waiting in line for a while like we did. We waited around 30 minutes for our quick photo opp.
A Broad Recommendation: plan out your photos beforehand and bring a tripod along instead of relying on someone else to take your photos. There will likely be folks onsite asking for payment to take your photos, and you may even run into some Elvis impersonators. Be sure to tip these folks if you engage with or take photos with them.
Admire the Seven Magic Mountains
Another fun and free thing to do near Las Vegas is to visit the Seven Magic Mountains. If I’m being completely honest, visiting this exhibit was one of the driving forces behind planning our entire Southwest U.S. road trip!
Created by renowned Swiss artist, Ugo Rondinone, Seven Magic Mountains is an art installation located in the middle of the desert outside of Las Vegas. It features several 30- to 35-feet-tall multi-color totems made from locally-sourced boulders. These are similar to the stone cairns that mark the way for hikers on trails and travelers traversing unfamiliar landscapes.
According to the Seven Magic Mountains website, Rondinone chose this particular location, as “physically and symbolically mid-way between the natural and the artificial: the natural is expressed by the mountain ranges, desert, and Jean Dry Lake backdrop, and the artificial is expressed by the highway and the constant flow of traffic between Los Angeles and Las Vegas”. He invites visitors to “contemplate the desert space and its history of human intervention”.
The location is also significant in that it’s near Jean Dry Lake, a place that’s integral to the history of Land Art in the American West and where artists Jean Tinguely and Michael Heizer placed their artwork.
The address for Seven Magic Mountains is S Las Vegas Blvd. You’ll need your own transportation to get here, since no tours go to this location. When you arrive, park in the designated parking lot, and follow the unpaved walking path that leads to the sculptures.
During your visit, leave no trace, take your trash with you and clean up after your pet; yes, they’re welcome but must be on a leash! And, don’t climb on or disturb the sculptures in any way.
Preferred visiting hours are from sunrise to sunset; camping isn’t allowed.
Day Trip to the Valley of Fire State Park
Located just one hour from Las Vegas, the Valley of Fire State Park is a great day trip spot! It offers unparalleled panoramic vistas, scenic drives, hiking trails, petroglyphs, and more. It’s Nevada’s oldest and largest state park and hosts more than 40,000 acres of red Aztec sandstone formations.
The park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset; the visitor center is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm.
You’ll want to spend at least a half day here to experience all that the Valley of Fire has to offer. If you’re looking for more information about what to do here, we’ve got you covered in our blog post, How to Visit the Stunning Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.
Other Day Trips from Las Vegas
Beyond the Valley of Fire State Park, Las Vegas is also a great starting point for lots of other day trips. If you have more than a couple of days here, you may want to try one of these ten incredible day trips from Las Vegas.
What other recommendations do you have for things to do near Las Vegas? Leave us a comment below!
Pin this post, so you can refer back later!
XOXO Travel A-Broads
Ive always dreamed of the Seven Magic Mountains!! is it possible to visit without a car (i.e. any public transport?). Sadly I don’t drive 🙁 🙁
The Seven Magic Mountains was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit this area! Sadly, I didn’t read about any public transportation that will take you here, and I believe that tour groups aren’t allowed. You could always look into Uber/Lyft or ask a friend who drives to come with you though.
I have never been to Las Vegas, but it’s on my list. I love your guide because I am all about discovering beyond big cities. There’s nothing better than exploring lesser-known destinations. I would love to visit Boulder City.
I’m the same way! I prefer less crowded destinations and being outdoors. I hope you can visit soon; I’m sure you’ll love it 🙂.
I have to admit, all the things I most want to see in Vegas are away from the strip! There are so many cool hikes and spots like the seven mountains…I am way more interested in them compared to the commercial areas. So yeah, this post is totally my cup of tea.
p.s. Your road trip to all the parks sounds fantastic to me!!
I totally agree with you! I’m not much of a gambler, and I prefer being outside in nature too. I’d love to go back and see more of this area – there was a lot of hiking we didn’t have time for and of course, the Grand Canyon! And, we had SUCH an amazing time on our road trip! It was a lot of driving, early mornings, and hiking but all totally worth it 🙂.
LOVE Boulder City and the Hoover Dam! It should be a required stop for anyone going thru Las Vegas. Thanks for the great write up!
Totally agree! I’d love to go back to the Hoover Dam and do one of the tours too!
I’ll probably be driving through the Vegas area in the fall and will need this handy list of free things, thanks!
Yay! I hope you have a nice and safe trip! Please let me know if you end up checking any of these spots out 🙂.
Lots of great ideas here. 7 Magic Mountains is a cool stop. I wish we could have stayed longer and gotten some nice photos like you did, but it was sooo cold since it was approaching dusk and no one wanted to stay!!
Ahh, that stinks! I hope you can go back soon. I’d love to go back again closer to sunrise when *hopefully* it’s a little less crowded. We tried our best to get some shots without people in them, but it didn’t work out too well for the most part, haha.
Love this guide – I love exploring cities through the free things one can do there. Definitely saving this and coming back to it later 🙂
So happy to hear that! I hope you can visit soon 🙂.
We were just in Vegas and didn’t get a chance to visit Boulder City. I was disappointed we didn’t get the chance to see the town I heard described as quaint. But I am looking forward to next trip and will save your post for future reference.
I hope you get to visit Boulder City soon! It was a great place to stay!
While Las Vegas has so much to offer – this shows that there is even more to do around the city! Great guide!
Thank you! I actually think I enjoyed the activities outside of Las Vegas more than on the strip.
You captured lots of interesting sites around Vegas that look like more fun than the big casinos. I’ve been to Vegas times, usually as a stop on a longer road trip, and would prefer to stay at the historic Boulder Dam Hotel. Thanks for the tip! I would also especially like to visit the Valley of Fire State Park and Hoover Dam. Thanks for such a helpful post!
It’s my pleasure; I’m happy to hear you found it helpful! We really enjoyed staying off the beaten path, and the Boulder Dam Hotel was seriously so cute! I hope you can visit soon 🙂.
It is a great guide for Las Vegas visitors who want to get out of the city. I love your tips and ideas. Thanks for sharing!
My pleasure! I hope you’ll find them useful on your next visit!
So happy to find out that you can visit the Seven Magic Mountains for free, I’ve always thought it was a paid site. Thank you so much for these suggestions! 🙂
Yes! It’s completely free and so is parking! I hope you can visit soon 🙂.
I loved this post! I’ve been to Vegas many times but only as girls trips. I would love to go back with my husband. I’ve saved this post because there were so many things I missed. I’m also desperate to get to the 7 magic mountains!
I’m happy to hear that you found it useful! I hope to go back to Seven Magic Mountains again when it’s less crowded – that was my only disappointment of this whole trip! I hope you can visit soon 🙂.
I love the idea of escaping the hustle of Las Vegas and looking further afield outside the city. The Valley of Fire looks especially appealing!
We loved Valley of Fire! That was definitely our favorite out of this list 🙂. I enjoyed being outside of the city a lot more than I’ve ever enjoyed staying in Vegas too.
Las Vegas is indeed a great place to visit. I have been here and enjoyed the Hoover Dam as well. That image of the Valley of Fire state park looks awesome! Guess I have to make a second visit to enjoy whatever I missed out here. 🙂
I hope you can make it back out there soon! I’d love to go back and do some of the tours at Hoover Dam myself.
Las Vegas really is a fun place even if you don’t gamble. I go to Hoover Dam too late to get a tour but just walking the area was amazing (I do love that art deco statue). I would spend time on Lake Mead as well.
I’d love to go out on a boat on Lake Mead next time! We didn’t get to spend much time there at all.
I’ve never been interested to visit Las Vegas really as I’m not a gambler but it’s nice to see there are other things to do, especially free things after people have become broke haha. The Fire State Park looks cool!
I’m not a huge Vegas fan either, but it was the perfect city to fly in and out of for our Southwest U.S. road trip, so I had to find some fun activities to do around here!
There are some cool things to do in Las Vegas for free! Awesome!
Yes, we really enjoyed our quick visit!
Vegas is one of my favorite places to visit, but I’ve never been to Boulder City. I’ll have to check it out soon. Thanks for sharing.
We really enjoyed staying in Boulder City and away from the hustle and bustle of Vegas. I’ve been to Las Vegas several times, and it was a nice change of pace to explore and stay off of the strip for a change 😊.
You’ve inspired me to think about to trip to Vegas again. Staying just outside really appeals to me and Boulder City looks great. I also didn’t realise the Valley of FireState Park was only an hour away, amazing!!
I’m so happy to hear that! I’m not a huge Vegas fan, so I was keen to find other places to explore outside of the actual city (we flew in and out of Las Vegas for our longer Southwest U.S. road trip, so we were already going to be there anyway). We really enjoyed Boulder City and its charm! There are so many other places to see that are an hour or less away too; these just scratch the surface of all there is to do in this area believe it or not!
Thanks for sharing this list. It’s nice to see other things in Las Vegas that are not casino related. I would love to see the Valley of Fire State and the Seven Magic Stones. Both look stunning.
That was my exact thought behind this post! I’m not a huge fan of the Las Vegas strip, since I don’t really gamble and I don’t like crowds, haha. And, I thought it’d be fun to explore the surrounding area, since we were flying in and out of Las Vegas for our Southwest U.S. road trip. I hope you can visit soon!
Thanks for such a helpful post! Always looking for affordable things to do for my trip to Las Vegas next year, can’t wait!
I’m happy to hear you found it helpful! I hope you have a fabulous visit and get to do some of these things beyond the strip!
I’ll admit it, I am intrigued by the colorful Seven Magic Stones as well and would probably plan a detour there on my way through Nevada.
Originally, I had read that they were going to remove the art installation, so I ended up planning this whole trip around that, then they announced the contract had been renewed 😂. I’m grateful though because we had such an amazing road trip that I may not have planned otherwise!
Who would know there are so many great things to do near Las Vegas. Seven Magic Mountains are on the top of my list… would love to take some photos there 😍
That was on the top of my list too 😉. I totally should’ve planned it out better though and visited when it was less crowded, but the rest of our itinerary was just so jam-packed that midday on Saturday was the only time we had to visit. I’ll have to go back for better photos!
Visiting Magic Mountain and the LV sign are a classic must-go-to instrammable moments. Great round up.
Agreed! Next time, I’m going to plan my visit to Seven Magic Mountains better though; it was so crowded when we finally made our way there.
I have been to Las Vegas more times than I can count. But oddly enough, I never went to Hoover Dam. After reading your post, I definitely want to check it out!
Same here (until this trip)! This is the first time I’ve actually explored beyond the strip, and I never realized how much more there was to do in the area! Next time, I’d like to visit the Grand Canyon too.
Thanks for sharing this list! Las Vegas can be expensive in terms of hotels, food, and casinos, so it is definitely nice to find a few free activities in the area. I have not yet been to the Hoover Dam, but it is on my list.
We enjoyed our visit to the Hoover Dam, but I think next time, we will splurge and do some of the tours. It would be interesting to get to see the ins and outs and learn more about the history of the dam.
Thanks for this informtive list! Will save it to Pinterest for my visit to Vegas.
My pleasure! I hope you have a great visit!
There is so much more to do in LV than just gamble…and who need there are so many FREE ways to explore…thanks for the inspiration.
Exactly! We probably wouldn’t have visited Vegas at all if our Southwest U.S. road trip didn’t require us to fly in and out of that airport, but we’re happy we did now that we found other things to do there off the strip!