9 places to escape to on your Las Vegas vacation

Many people come to Las Vegas and burnout within the first night on the strip. Those are the tourists usually passed out on the floor just in front of the hotel elevator doors. So close, but so far to what should have been the landing pad of the hotel room bed. No worries, dilution of mother nature is the best fix for your next day hangover. With Las Vegas being your current hub, here are nine destinations to escape to.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. Navajo Lake, Utah

From Las Vegas, head North on Interstate 15 till you hit Cedar City and take Highway 14 for 26 miles. A 3-hour drive from Las Vegas will transport you to this remote lake in the middle of the Dixie National Forest. Explore a variety of activities including trout fishing, canoeing, hiking, and trail biking. Navajo Lake has several spots for camping or choose from 11 rustic cabins (full kitchen) provided by the Navajo Lake Lodge. The “Blue Mirror of Heaven” is the native name for this location and is a sight to behold in the fall time when all the leaves are changing colors.

2. Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

A mere hour from Las Vegas, travel North on Interstate 15 and take exit 75 to merge onto the Valley of Fire Hwy. Desert plants and flowers, wildlife, and scenic rock formations are few of the photographic opportunities to enjoy in this hidden valley in the Mojave Desert. If your plans were to get married in Las Vegas, take advantage of this remote location close to the city and away from the crowd. The Valley of Fire State Park provides four different locations for weddings at Seven Sisters, Rainbow Vista, the Visitor’s Center, and The Cabins.

3. Water Canyon Rd, Utah

If you love canyoneering, head north on Interstate 15 to Utah. It is a good idea to pick up supplies in the town of St. George before arriving at Water Canyon. Take Highway 9 East towards Hurricane after passing St. George and then connect with Highway 159 towards Hildale, Utah. Once you reach the town of Hildale, take a left on Utah Ave and a right onto Water Canyon St., which is a dirt road. Parking is available past the small pond on the left. Water Canyon provides an abundance of places to practice your canyoneering skills. Be mindful of dangerous flash flooding in the area during the summer months. If you like drinking spring water, there are few springs towards the top of the canyon trail where you can find locals drinking directly from the source. Driving further down Utah Ave past Water Canyon St. will take you to the local town park where several water springs are tapped off and built into camping sites.

4. Sedona, Arizona

The 4.5-hour drive via US 93 S and I-40 E to Sedona would be my first pick if I only had a few days to escape the Las Vegas strip. Once in town, I suggest enjoying some food before hiking at the local organic vegetarian eatery known as ChocolaTree. The exotic boutique restaurant provides the locals and tourists with some of the best raw medicinal chocolate in the world. Out of all the hikes in Sedona, Cathedral Rock is my favourite spot to photograph and worth the 1.5-mile steep climb. Bring extra water!

5. Dog Beach, Huntington California

285 miles from Las Vegas and a 4.5-hour drive heading on I-15 S you will pass three more major highways via CA-91W, CA-55S, I-405N until finally exiting to Goldenwest St. Drive South to what will be your dog’s favourite beach. Dog Beach is located on the Pacific Coastal Highway between Goldenwest Street and Seapoint Street. The park is open seven days a week from dawn until dark. Dogs can run freely, swim in the surf and play unleashed with other dogs. Be sure not to miss the dog surfing festivals throughout the year at this location.

6. Mount Charleston, Nevada

You can enjoy the hot desert strip in Las Vegas and hit the ski slopes on the same day. The nearby mountain is only 45 minutes away via U.S. Route 95 N. Plan to stay at the Mount Charleston Lodge or choose from a variety of decked out cabin rentals with the option of short term and long term leases. The mountains location is part of the Spring Mountain National Recreational Area that includes several camping areas in Kyle Canyon and Lee Canyon. The Lee Canyon Ski and Snowboard Resort offers daily and seasonal passes throughout the winter months.

7. Grand Canyon, Arizona

The most popular destination from Las Vegas can be explored from a rental car, bus tour, helicopter tour, or even by a railroad in Williams, Arizona via the Grand Canyon Railway. Explorers can reach the rim by lunch time and be back to gambling at night with any of the Air Tours provided in Las Vegas. If modern transportation is not your style of exploration, take a mule tour in the Northern Rim. Note these types of tours can be booked nine months to a year in advance, so prepare accordingly!

8. Amargosa Dunes, Nevada

The Big Star Dune spreads across a 1.5 square mile complex just a 100 miles north-west of Las Vegas via U.S. After passing the junction of Hwy 373 with Hwy 95, keep heading north on the 95 for about 8 miles and turn left on Valley View. Head west for about 2 miles and turn right on any of the dirt roads that head out towards the dunes. There are no mark signs to get to the dunes, but usually, an orange barrel marker will be placed next to the dirt roads. The dunes are home to four protected beetle species, so be mindful when walking around the park.

9. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Located about 17 miles west of the strip via State Route 159, Red Rock Canyon provides a variety of unique geological structures, vegetation, and wildlife in the Mojave Desert. The Conservation Area includes a 13-mile scenic drive, plenty of hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and nature observation. With over 30 miles of hiking trails and plenty of stunning vistas, be sure not leave your camera at the hotel!

What to do in Las Vegas

The excitement doesn’t end at Las Vegas casinos and shows, there are lots of things to do in Vegas. From zip lines and zoos to aquariums and galleries, there’s adventure around every corner. It’s no wonder people from all over the globe plan a yearly Las Vegas vacation.

You can up the adrenaline with machine gun rentals or take a trip around the world’s largest observation wheel, the High Roller. For a peaceful interlude, see the playful side of dolphins at The Mirage's Dolphin Habitat or the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.

Want a fun and unusual way to experience the culture and history of this unique city? Try the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, the Mob Museum and a local favorite, the Neon Museum, where you can see vintage neon signs that have been restored to their former glory.

Make the most of your trip and tap into the excitement of Las Vegas attractions by taking full advantage of all this city has to offer.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Only you can find out if Ft. Lauderdale has all the bells and whistles of Florida that you are looking for this summer. There are wide stretches of beautiful, white sand beaches, palm trees everywhere, and a beachside atmosphere that can rival any other resort destination in Florida. The “Venice of America,” which was given its nickname because of the over 180 miles of canals and waterways, is becoming once again a hot spot for not only couples and spring breakers, but for the whole family too.

While in town explore Fort Lauderdale’s renowned Sunrise Boulevard: Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, paddle boating, cocktails at Blue Martini, the Red Door Spa, shopping, and much more!

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Here you will find many luxury hotels that are so affordable you may want to consider more than a long weekend here on the Jersey Shore. With a long boardwalk filled with fun, food, rides, and souvenir shops, this is the perfect vacation spot for everyone. In Atlantic City, you can lounge on the beach by day and hit up one of the many casinos by night. If you are simply looking for a nice beach atmosphere, check out this unique beach town.

Grand Canyon

This incredible destination and tourist attraction is one of the most affordable in the Western part of the United States. It can be super crowded, but that won’t bother you as you take in this beautiful canyon. With over 5 million visitors per year, the Grand Canyon is a popular family vacation spot. There are many campgrounds and low cost hotels and motels in the surrounding area.

Williamsburg, Virginia

Make summer plans to head to the Virginia Peninsula for not only an affordable place to visit, but there is a lot of colonial history to discover here. There are many good restaurants that are family friendly and low cost, as well as, accommodations that can meet every budget. If you are a shopper, then the Williamsburg Outlets are a must visit. Most of all, you will have a chance to walk in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers.

Las Vegas, Nevada

There are many options of what type of vacation you can experience in Las Vegas, which is why Sin City is such an affordable place to visit. You can experience the casino night life and stay in a lovely suite in one of the many casino resort hotels or you can go for a relaxing spa getaway. Both are super affordable and worth the price tag. There are a lot of family friendly things to do as well, such as check out the Cirque de Soleil performances or head to one the fun, interactive museums like the Neon Museum. Just think as Las Vegas as a huge theme park with something for everyone.

Brooklyn, New York

You can’t beat New York City in the summer, but to save a little money head over to Brooklyn where it is the perfect place to experience city life without the high price tag of Manhattan. Book one of the hundreds of places using Airbnb to make your vacation dollar go further. The restaurants, cafes, bars, and hotels are booming in the summer so you won’t have trouble finding great things to do. The pace in Brooklyn is a lot calmer and you can take a quiet stroll in the morning to grab coffee without the hustle of the streets of New York City.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

There are many ways to make this gorgeous beach area a more affordable vacation destination on the Oregon coast. There are activities for solo travelers and families alike in this quaint, small town. Cannon Beach offers a humming downtown and a sandy expanse that draws castle builders, beach cyclists and clam diggers.

Cannon Beach’s immense Haystack Rock provides the opportunity to explore tide pools, abundant with anemones, sea stars, crabs and much more. Many months out of the year, trained staff from the Haystack Rock Awareness Program are on the beach to answer questions and increase awareness for this marine garden and National Wildlife Refuge.

In the shadow of Haystack Rock, sample fresh crab and clams with sips of local brews and wines before the main attraction: a salmon bake and bonfires. Try your own hand at crabbing in the peaceful Nehalem Bay or clamming from a kayak at low tide, and don’t miss out on exploring Ecola State Park for inspiring views. Wrap up your coastal visit by learning to prepare the local catch and bounty from the experts at North Fork 53.

You may need to rent a beach house here, because lodging is typically full. But with a kitchen you can save a lot of money by not eating out. Do the research first and find a hotel that offers deals when you book during weekdays, so check that out to save some money. Our favorite hotel in Cannon Beach is Surfsand Resort, but it’s a bit spendy. Here’s a list of hotels that start out at $99 a night in Cannon Beach.

Phoenix, Arizona

If you are looking for sunshine all year long and don’t mind the heat, then Phoenix is the place for you. Phoenix has been ranked as one of the cheapest in the country many years in a row by SmartAsset magazine. Round-trip airfare is affordable and so are the hotel accommodations, not to mention the luxurious spas and resorts found in the surrounding area. Go ahead and go west and discover beautiful Arizona.

I recommend staying in Scottsdale, they have a ton of nice resorts. They are always running specials, especially during the summer. You can stay at an extremely nice resort for super cheap.

If flying to Europe or some exotic island isn’t in the cards, hopefully one of these destinations will work for you and you can still find a more cost effective option closer to home.

Escape of the Week: Downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas has always held a special place in my heart.

I remember the first time I ever went to Vegas, fresh off of my ninth grade year in high school. My father drove us down past Fremont Street and the glittering lights and seeing Vegas Vic welcoming visitors to town with an arm raised. Instantly, I was mesmerized.

Then, when I moved to Vegas in 2005, and learn more about the history, particularly of the mob and the town’s earlier days, I became fascinated imagining what my experience in the southwestern town would have been 40 years earlier.

In the years I lived in Vegas, I watched the downtown area be reborn. I watched as the Arts District 18b laid its roots, as local hot spots were born, as the city cleaned up its act and began to embrace the area for what it could be — a burgeoning place for businesses, locals and tourists to all share space.

With Zappos moving in to the old City Hall this month, and my stop there, I noticed a huge change from my last visit: Downtown Las Vegas is alive and oh-so vibrant.

There is something so old-school about heading to Fremont Street and seeing the glittering lights beckoning people into the casinos … the ringing of the slots as the machines “dispense” coins.

The in-your-face marketing of one of Vegas’ biggest sells: getting wasted …

And the neighborhood charm of Fremont East and all of its groovy bars and restaurants (you can read about some of my recommendations here) which have popped up in the past decade.

In fact, some of my best memories of my life in Vegas center around Downtown and the amazing and beautiful memories created there.

Getting there:

From the infamous Las Vegas Strip, simply hop in a cab or bus and head north on Las Vegas Blvd. to downtown. It is a straight shot. If you want to avoid the congestion of The Strip, hop onto I-15 North and exit at either Charleston Blvd. (to check out the awesome arts scene), or take 95 towards downtown and exit at Casino Center. My favorite spots are Fremont East, which is home to Beauty Bar, The Griffin, La Comida, Park on Fremont and other hopping bars and restaurants. Don’t miss Gold Spike. A former casino, today it’s got a sweet bar and fabulous outdoor patio with corn hole and more. To experience Old Vegas, check out the Fremont Street Experience and the casinos there.

Watch the video: $20 Sandwich Front Desk Tip Trick at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas for a Free Room Upgrade

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