Vegas is a party city. You knew that well before reading this guide. But if you need a little fresh air and some time away from the slot machines, we've got suggestions.
In the summer, it gets hot in Vegas. Really fucking melt-your-skin-omg-I'm-being-boiled-alive hot. You can stay indoors and enjoy the glory of air-conditioning, or hit up a pool party at any of the big hotels. Some of the biggest DJs on Earth regularly spin at these parties (Calvin Harris, Skrillex, Tiesto, etc.), so they don't come cheap. Depending on the time of day, a ticket can set you back anywhere from $40 to $100. But Vegas is a promoter's city, and promoters get paid by how many people they bring in. It's rare that locals pay to get in. Do your homework. Comb through social media for some contact info. You can always shoot a promoter a text or an email ahead of the party to ask for free tables or entry, especially if you have a large group. A lot of times bottle service or free drink tickets will be included. Just make sure everyone who comes tips the hostess/server at least $20 when the party's over. And don't harass the promoter day-of or expect to sweet talk your way in once the party has started. They have shit to do.
Las Vegas is surrounded by desert, and deserts mean sand dunes. The nearest dunes can be found about 30 minutes away from the Strip near the Nellis Air Force Base. As far as sand dunes go, these aren't the most majestic, but it's still pretty fun to hop on an ATV and ride around.
Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon is made up of numerous hiking trails that range from "a toddler can do this" to "Am I gonna die?" There's also rock climbing, horseback riding, and other outdoorsy stuff. Marvel at the beauty of nature, but try not to be an idiot by attempting to reach the highest point when the sun is its most aggressive. Unless you're one of those hyper-prepared nature freaks, you will dehydrate and melt into a puddle of death. Stick to early mornings and late afternoons.
What's more patriotic than visiting the Hoover Dam? We can think of at least ten things, but if it was good enough for the Griswolds, it's good enough for you. An estimated 112 people died to make this thing, and the construction kept the city of Las Vegas from succumbing to the Great Depression. Mostly, it's just an impressive and massive structure. Go and be inspired by what man can build. But don't do any of the boring-ass tours. We don't care how impressive the structure is. No one needs to stare at the Hoover Dam for two hours. Ever.
Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort
Oh, you didn't know Las Vegas was settled by Mormon missionaries? Surprise! The Old Mormon Fort is considered a state park, but it's so tiny, we drove past it for years and never even knew it was there. Based on the guest book, it seems like they don't get a ton of visitors on the regs. We mostly like sitting at one of the picnic tables and staring at the weird adobe structure while eating some hangover-easing lunch. Then we pretend that we're, like, way knowledgeable about LV history. It'll cost you a whopping $1 to get in. You've spent $1 on worse things.
Shopping on South Main Street
People love to go on and on about how Las Vegas is soooooo great for shopping, but those people are usually hitting up stores on the Strip or at the local outlet mall that they could easily find back home. South Main Street is covered with vintage and antique shops (Retro Vegas, Vintage Vegas Antiques, Martin's Mart Thrift Shop) with well made, cheap, and occasionally irresistibly weird finds.
On the first Friday of every month, Downtown Las Vegas hosts art walks, vendors, food trucks, and live music throughout the area. It's a great way to get a quick taste of what the creative locals are up to. Make sure to check out the Arts Factory, where especially interesting exhibitions tend to take place.
If you look in the distance and see a snow-capped mountain, you're probably looking at Mount Charleston. It's the highest point in Clark County and offers hiking and some pretty crappy skiing. The view on the mountain is spectacular, and if you're into camping, that's an option. Or just drive the hour back to your hotel room on the Strip. Whatever.