Mancation 2010
January 3, 2010 4:42 PM   Subscribe

What to do for a few days within a short drive of Vegas?

A few buddies and I have a free couple of days after a conference in Vegas, at the end of January. We're looking to get out of the glitz and have a low-key time doing something along the lines of renting a place near a national park and doing some exploring. Problem is, none of us know the area at all, so I thought I'd see if MeFi can come with some ideas.

No serious hiking, no skiing, and nothing requiring extensive gear or really fat cash.

Bonus points for fitting the theme of 'Mancation 2010'.

posted by slipperynirvana to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hoover Dam.
posted by dfriedman at 4:45 PM on January 3, 2010

I love going to Zion National Park in Utah a few hours east of Vegas. It is pretty cool and has a tiny fraction of the visitors that the Grand Canyon gets.
posted by birdherder at 5:45 PM on January 3, 2010

Zion National Park is about a 2 hour drive up the 15 from Vegas. It reminded me of Yosemite, but with the RED rocks the RGB overload was intense. What I did a couple of years back was drive out to Zion in the late PM, catch some sleep in the NP parking lot, then drive out through Page, check out the free part of Monument Valley north of Kayenta, then grab a room in Kayenta before heading off to Mesa Verde National Park, about 3 hrs east of Kayenta. Checked that out, then drove back to Kayenta and crashed. Then left early in the AM to hit the south rim of the Canyon at dawn, a 4 hour drive from Kayenta. From the Grand Canyon it's a six hour drive back to Vegas, via Kingman and the Hoover Dam.

2 hrs to Zion + 6hrs to Kayenta + 2hs for Monument Valley + 6hrs to Mesa Verde and back + 4hrs to the Canyon + 6hrs back to Vegas = 26 hours of driving in two days. But it was pretty fun.

The only real civilization in that trek was Cortez and Kingman.
posted by tad at 6:00 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Area 51 is about eighty miles northwest of Vegas. There's a great, extremely tacky bar and grill where you can get a good omelet and all the tacky alien souvenirs you'll ever need. Unless you like BOMB HILLARY bumper stickers, don't sit at the bar to eat. Also, sleeping overnight there is a strange, horrifying adventure you will never forget. If you do, bring booze and earplugs.

The town of Ely is six hours from Vegas, up that same road, and has a working steam train museum, chicken fried steak, a couple of good ghost towns, the Ward Charcoal Ovens, and some of the darkest sky-gazing opportunities on the continent, if you are telescope or binoculars types.

If you like petroglyphs and red rock, but can't get all the way to Zion, try the Valley of Fire and the Lost City Museum in Overton. Lazy or hungover mancationers can enjoy this from the car, but if you can walk across a parking lot and up a flight of stairs, you can see petroglyphs.

I'd recommend the Nevada Test Site tour, but they're all full through April already. If you have extra time in Vegas, go see their museum. Or the Pinball Museum. Or the neon sign graveyard. Or, if you're adventurous, visit the showgirl wig shopping section and eat at the Lotus of Siam.
posted by Sallyfur at 6:11 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

China Date Ranch, Tecopa Hot Springs
Amagorosa Opera House are all on the west fringe of Death Valley and just lovely in January. Zion while nice can be a very cold place in winter.
posted by hortense at 7:15 PM on January 3, 2010

Umm..... make that the Eastern fringe.
posted by hortense at 8:07 PM on January 3, 2010

Why leave town? There's the Atomic Testing Museum, The Hall of Fame Pinball Museum (where you can actually play all the machines!).

There's a great aquarium at Mandalay Bay, a super automobile museum at Imperial Palace, the white tigers and dolphins at Mirage....

Great eating in town as well! Not just buffets, but restaurants in town, like Hofbrau Haus and Lone Star steakhouse. Dad also recommends the Noodle Exchange.
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 9:09 PM on January 3, 2010

Death Valley-- they even have tours of some of the sites (Titus Canyon, Racetrack Playa) that leave from Vegas.
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 10:37 PM on January 3, 2010

Great stuff, thanks everyone!
posted by slipperynirvana at 9:43 AM on January 4, 2010

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