Whether you live in Las Vegas or are here visiting, you can still go out and have fun. With the closing of casinos imminent, it’s up to all of us to find our own outlets, reinvent what it means to be adventurous, and get creative. Here are a few ideas for those who can’t stay indoors.

valley of fire
Valley of Fire State Park is just one of many extraordinary attractions within a short driving distance of Las Vegas. (Image: Don Graham)

I don’t know when it will come, but at some point during this “social distancing” thing, many of us are going to go stir crazy.

This is especially true if you live in Las Vegas, like me.

We’re used to going out and having fun. We’ve grown accustomed to casinos, restaurants, and world-class entertainment within a short drive. We’re spoiled by instant gratification.

Let me be very clear: I fully support and encourage following every recommendation and guideline put out by any authority. The draconian measures of social distancing, and, in some cases, “self-quarantining” are sure to save many lives. I beg everyone: Please follow them.

But let’s also be realistic. Many of us are going to go outdoors. We will leave our homes and drive places. Some destinations — such as grocery stores and medical facilities — are mandatory. Others, such as amusements are optional.

Fortunately, Las Vegas is blessed to have some really cool places closeby. Everything about these spots is positive. I think many readers might enjoy them if they can get outside and are willing to have an adventure.

In recent years, I’ve discovered a few amazing places that I want to share. Each destination is easy to reach from Las Vegas. So, if you’re a local resident or are just visiting, these are very doable. Best of all, they’re safe and cost next to nothing!

Option 1: Hike at Red Rock Canyon

Distance from Las Vegas: 5 miles

Time Required: A few hours (or more is optional)

Don’t be put off by the word “hike.” I promise — it’s not that difficult. There are many leisurely walks through the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Some take no more than an hour. Others are more challenging and can take up to a full day. The option is yours.

The main thing is — the views out here are magnificent. More like breathtaking. And, since it’s March, the weather should be great this time of year. The same goes for April and May. So, even if this health crisis continues for months, Red Rock Canyon will be there waiting to welcome us.

The many times I’ve been to Red Rock Canyon, it’s seldom crowded like a city attraction. Sure, several hundred people might be at the canyon at one time. But they are spread out across many miles. So, there’s virtually no threat going out and doing something that’s fun and good for you — walking and hiking.

Here’s my report of an amazing hike I did a few years ago with a friend, Nick Christenson. Nick knows these trails very well, so I was glad to have him as my guide. If you’re interested in learning more, please read this column, and if you really want to find out where to go, share the discussion on Facebook. Either Nick or I will be glad to address it. Read: Taking a Hike: The Other Side of Las Vegas.

Option 2: Visit the Valley of Fire State Park

Distance from Las Vegas: 50 miles

Time Required: 4 to 5 hours (can be done in a half-day)

Valley of Fire is about an hour’s drive to the northeast, about halfway to the Utah border. It’s a pristine setting with lots of rock formations and natural beauty.

There’s no urban development out here, meaning no hotels or gas stations. The natural splendor is what makes Valley of Fire so attractive. The park is located next to an Indian reservation, which has a tobacco shop at the main cut off from the highway onto a single-lane road, which takes another 10 miles, or so.

I’ve visited this park many times, usually with family or out-of-town guests. Everyone I’ve gone with enjoys the quiet solitude combined with the beauty of the unusual landscape.

Unfortunately, I have not written about the Valley of Fire in the past. So, instead, I will provide this link to their official website.

Option 3: Take a Drive to Death Valley (Dante’s View)

Distance from Las Vegas: 120 miles

Time Required: 8-10 hours (full-day)

People hear “Death Valley” and they think of unbearable heat and barren desert. But it’s not that way at all. Or, I should say, it’s much more than that.

One of the park’s best-kept secrets is an amazing landmark that overlooks the vast natural treasure, which is about a two-hour drive from Las Vegas. This is one of the best day-trips you will ever take from this city. For reasons inexplicable, I’ve met very few Las Vegas residents (or anyone else) who has done this wonderful mini-vacation. Don’t be like them! Do it!

Remember, during this period, we want to be cognizant of “social distancing.” Well, a visit to Death Valley is about as socially distanced as it gets. The closest you will come to other people here might be cars on the other side of the highway.

This article I wrote about Dante’s View will give you some idea of what awaits those to make the drive. Trust me, it’s worth it. And, once you’re there, it’s a nice spot to get out and spend a few hours. The view never gets old.

Warning: There is no food or services out here, so please make sure you’re well-fed and stocked up before heading out. Oh, and the area is totally safe. You just need to make certain you have plenty of gas and don’t leave hungry, because you won’t find a fast-food place around for 50 miles. And that’s what makes it so wonderful.

Try Dante’s View. This is an amazing experience. Read more: Dante’s View: A Great Vegas Getaway

Stay Safe, Volunteer, Embrace Opportunity

There are more places to visit than just these. Utah has some astonishing parks within a reasonable distance. Of course, it’s also okay just to go outside and take a walk.

I understand these are unusual times. For everyone. We’ve never been in a spot like this before. I encourage those I know and those I haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet to stay safe. But also — please volunteer and help when and where they can.

Just as important … I also think it’s vital to live a little and enjoy life.

Visiting one of the parks within driving distance is a breath of fresh air and a very responsible way to take advantage of this disruption of our normal lives.

The best way to appreciate Las Vegas right now might be to leave it, if for only a few hours or a day.

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