Las Vegas is known as the city of sin: bright lights, gambling, and booze. However, it is also a great gateway for outdoor adventurers, like ourselves. A quick and inexpensive 1-2 hour flight from the Bay Area can land you in Las Vegas for an easy Bay Area getaway.
We traveled midweek, Tuesday-Thursday for the best flight deals. Check out Spirit Airlines, Frontier, or Southwest for the cheapest flights. Even on weekends you can often score great airline deals to Las Vegas from San Francisco, San Jose or Oakland Airport. For inexpensive hotels, check out one of the many travel sites for options located off of the Las Vegas strip. We managed to find a place for under $50 a night. With your flight and hotel booked, all you need to do is rent a car and you’ll be off on an adventure in no time! Below is an overview of our trip:
Day 1: We arrived in Las Vegas around 4pm, situated ourselves in our hotel and headed out to downtown Las Vegas to check out Fremont Street. Fremont Street is the Las Vegas downtown area with all the iconic Vegas lights, but on a much smaller scale. We started out with happy hour at Park on Fremont. It has a unique hipster/creepy/magical ambiance…you’ll have to see to understand. We enjoyed the $3 wells, $5 craft beers, garbage fries and wings. Skip the Mac & Cheese balls, even though they sound tempting they were pretty bland. The outside patio has a great seating area, but for some real fun go through the gate in the back yard and you’ll find a working see-saw and bar area.
After a couple of drinks, we walked down Fremont street and ended up at Market Street Cafe and enjoyed some seriously yummy Oxtail soup! It was the perfect way to end our night.
Day 2: We left our hotel around 10am and made a quick stop at The Bagel Cafe where we picked up some sandwiches before heading to Death Valley. Our first stop in Death Valley was Mosaic Canyon, where we took a short hike and saw some beautiful formations.
Next on our itinerary was Artist’s Drive. This 9-mile one way loop will lead you through some amazingly colored hills. Make sure to stop at Artist Palette. The pistachio and strawberry ice cream colored mountains will have you in awe!
We continued heading west and stopped at the Natural Bridge trailhead for another quick hike. The hike to the bridge only takes 15 minutes and the trail continues on. We ended our hike here so that we could catch some other sights before the sun set. This is a great hike if you are looking for something short and sweet. Hikers of all levels will be able to see a gorgeous natural rock arch.
Super Bloom was the main reason for our trip to Death Valley. Being the lowest, driest, and hottest location in North America, this event rarely occurs. Super Bloom is the culmination of fortunate weather events from the year before. This year happened to be the first time in 10 years that the valley was blanketed in wildflowers! Heading south, we stopped between the 25 and 26 mile markers on Badwater Road for some great landscape views of the wildflowers. If you’d like to see this, we recommend going soon, who knows when it will happen again!
Tip: Visit in the early morning or in late afternoon when the sun isn’t shining directly and harshly on to the flower fields. We scheduled this stop for late afternoon when the lighting makes the flowers glow more vibrantly.
As the sun began to set, we headed back up north and stopped at Badwater Basin. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 86 meters below sea level. A spring of “bad water” filters in to the basin and slowly evaporates, forming a salt crust several miles wide. It’s truly an amazing sight to see!
After a long day exploring Death Valley, we headed to Las Vegas’ China Town for a hearty bowl of ramen at Monta Ramen, followed by a visit to the strip to watch Bellagio’s famous light/water show and take a look at their indoor conservatory of flowers. Currently, the conservatory is decorated to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Day 3: We started off our morning with a tour of The Neon Museum. They are a non-profit organization that restore old Las Vegas neon signage for visitors to enjoy. The tour is very informative, but you’ll spend most of the time in the sun, so we recommend booking an early tour and wearing lots of sunscreen! This is a fun location for some great photos. You may recognize the Neon Museum from the TV shows, Amazing Race and the Bachelor!
Hankering for a lighter lunch, we headed to Rachel’s Kitchen for some salads, sandwiches and smoothies before driving out to Red Rock.
Red Rock Canyon is a 30 minute drive from Vegas, which makes it an easy day trip for Vegas visitors. The park has a great visitors center (with clean bathrooms!) and offers a great overview of Red Rock. The park has a one-way, 13-mile drive. Along the drive you’ll find access to some great viewpoints as well as many hikes. Make sure not to skip anything you want to see, because you’ll have to drive a full loop to get back to it.
The Red Rock’s are certainly the highlight of the park. We also stopped for a short hike at Ice Box Trail. Unfortunately, the waterfalls weren’t running at the time we went, but it was lovely nonetheless.
The sun was setting, so we headed back to Las Vegas and after a full day sight seeing we were pretty hungry. Hawaiian food to the rescue! Island Flavor has huge portions of bbq meats, poke, mac salad, and everything delicious. This put us in to a nice food coma for the short plane ride back home.
This was first Bay Area Buzz outdoorsy Vegas trip and it certainly won’t be the last. We love that it is such a quick and easy flight from home. Our entire trip cost less than $225 and we had a fantastic time!
Where are your favorite spots in Las Vegas? Let us know by commenting below!