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Things to Do

The Ultimate Las Vegas Trip Without The Las Vegas Strip

Posted June 28, 2022

A woman wearing a coral tank top and sunglasses sits in a kayak with a man in a baseball cap, grey shirt and dark shorts on open water.

Jennifer Graven

Jennifer lives in Orlando, Florida, with her boyfriend, Will, and her pup, Wally. She’s a designer by trade but dabbles in all things creative. Her creativity is at its finest while planning international excursions, outdoor adventures and surprise date nights for her besties and boyfriend. She’s an explorer by nature and enjoys the outdoors as much as she loves tasting her way through a new city.

While The Strip is a very cool experience — and one of the main reasons people love Las Vegas — there are so many things to do outside The Strip, too.

Seeing the Grand Canyon is a bucket list vacation for many travelers. Add Zion National Park and Vegas fun — plus, a handful of unforgettable stops along the way — and you have the vacation of a lifetime.

The focus of my own Las Vegas trip with my boyfriend, Will, was to have some incredible outdoor adventures and find the best spot to spend New Year’s Eve together.

A woman in a blue light jacket, knitted hat and backpack stands next to a man in a cream pullover and red knitted hat with a walking stick in a red rock formation.Zion National Park, Utah

We accomplished that mission, and now we’re sharing the ultimate Las Vegas itinerary with you, so you can see everything both the city and beyond have to offer.

With Vegas as our home base, we stayed at Desert Club Resort, just off The Strip, because it’s the ideal, centrally located spot for big-city fun and desert adventures.

We got to head over to the Grand Canyon and loop back around to Vegas just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

A woman and man wearing black jackets stand outside of the Caesars Palace Casino during the night.Caesars Palace

The week after Christmas was a very ideal time for us to go. With a slow period at work and low visitor traffic — plus, the opportunity to hike two national parks in the snow — it couldn’t have been any better than that.

If you’re able to go this time of year, we highly recommend it, but our itinerary can easily be adapted to explore year-round, too.

Here’s how we combined Vegas fun with outdoor adventure on our trip…

Day 1: Caravan to the Grand Canyon

A woman wearing a white fleece jacket and magenta knitted cap stands next to a man in a blue-grey fleece jacket with a black knitted cap on a hiking trail near a rail-guard overlooking the Grand Canyon.The Bright Angel Trail is a hiking trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

When our flight arrived in Vegas, we wanted to get right to the action, so we hopped in our rental car and headed straight for the Grand Canyon.

If you’re more of the home-cooked-meal type like us, there’s a huge Wal-Mart in Kingman on the way.

You can put in a pick-up order, stop and grab your groceries without much added time on the five-hour drive.

We arrived at Bright Angel Lodge a couple hours before sunset, parked our car in the lot and hopped right onto the Bright Angel Trail.

We only hiked a couple miles, but the views were stunning and even better during sunset. The best part is that the trailhead is right on the lodge’s property, so we were only a five-minute walk away from the trail to our room.

Day 2: Grand Canyon Hiking & Views That Make You Say “Ooh Aah”

A woman wearing a white fleece jacket and magenta knitted cap stands next to a man in a blue-grey fleece jacket with a black knitted cap on a hiking trail near a sign that reads, ''OOH AHH Point' overlooking the Grand Canyon.

This was our one full day in the Grand Canyon, so we made sure to take advantage of this incredible Arizona national park.

We woke up early and headed to the South Kaibab Trail, known for its notable lookout spots: Ooh Aah Point, Cedar Ridge and Skeleton Point.

We hiked 3 miles down into the canyon (6 miles roundtrip with 2,500 feet of elevation gain) as far as we could knowing the hike back would be a pretty steep incline.

We found the perfect view of the Colorado River to share some sandwiches while taking in the stunning scenery, being impressed by the people hiking much farther than us with all their camping gear and contemplating whether taking the donkey ride into the canyon was a good idea or not.

A group of travelers riding donkeys journey on a hiking trail overlooking the Grand Canyon.South Kaibab Trail at the Grand Canyon

We survived the hike back up and even had some elk waiting for us on the walk back to the car.

Then we treated ourselves to some fine dining at the El Tovar restaurant that evening, which was only a 10-minute walk along the canyon edge from our room.

Overall, hiking the Grand Canyon in the snow is pretty unbeatable.

Day 3: Road Trip from the Grand Canyon to Zion National Park

A snow-covered red rock formation looms above a road with a silver suv driving straight ahead.

On day three, we went from one national park to another. We woke up early to leave for Zion, which for many, may be a 6-hour drive, but for us, it was the ultimate road trip.

We planned a jam-packed day to see all the best spots along the way, but on the way out, we made sure to take a quick stop at Desert View to get one last vantage point of the Grand Canyon from a new perspective.

The drive from the Grand Canyon to Zion National Park is one of the coolest sights, as you watch the landscape evolve and change in front of you, mile by mile.

No trip through Page, Arizona, would be complete without visiting the famous slot canyons. Most people visit the famous Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, which we learned must be booked VERY far in advance and is the reason we weren’t able to get tickets.

But after some quick research, we learned that Canyon X is right down the road and equally as amazing, and most importantly, less crowded. (All of the canyons are located on Navajo Indian Tribal Lands, so a guided tour is required to enter them.)

Left: Red rock formations known as 'slot canyons.' Right: A man and women in blue-grey and white fleece jackets and knitted caps stand in-between slot canyons.Canyon X in Page, Arizona

Walking through the narrow slot canyons, watching the morning sun beam through was a gorgeous sight and like nothing I’ve seen before. The ribbons carved into the sandstone by the flowing water make for gorgeous photos.

After our tour, we took a short 15-minute drive over to the city of Page to grab some lunch. And after a mere 9-minute drive down the road, we arrived at Horseshoe Bend.

It’s a picturesque view where the Colorado River makes a horseshoe-shaped bend in the canyon. It’s about a 0.75-mile walk down a paved path to get to the center of the bend.

Depending on how long you want to stay, you can climb rocks on both sides, allowing you to get views from just about any angle. In warmer months, you can rent boats and jet skis to get in the water, too.

The Horseshoe Bend, where the Colorado river formed red rocks into a horseshoe formation, has dark clouds above it.Horseshoe Bend near Page, Arizona

After Horseshoe Bend, we hit the road again. After about 1.5 hours, we made a pitstop at Thunderbird Restaurant in Carmel Junction to try some of their famous “Ho’made Pies.”

Just 15 minutes away, we entered Zion National Park and were in awe as soon as we drove in.

It was blanketed in snow, and I remember saying, “This is the prettiest place I’ve ever been,” within two minutes of arriving.

After only 15 more minutes driving through the park, we reached the Canyon Overlook trail. This 1-mile out-and-back is a short but sweet trail, perfect for stretching those legs after riding in the car.

We were lucky enough to hike this trail during sunset and it was honestly the perfect first hike in Zion.

A friend of ours does national park tours for a living, and with as many parks as he’s visited, he said the drive leaving the Canyon Overlook trail, heading through the tunnel towards Springdale is “the prettiest drive in America.”

A man wearing black pants, jacket and a grey knitted cap walks along a trail where a woman in black pants, jacket and cap are surrounded by snowcapped red rock formations.

And boy, was he right. The switchbacks after the tunnel have absolutely beautiful views of the park, and if we’d stayed in Zion longer, I would’ve insisted we drive it again.

Pro tip: Put your phone on the dash, record a video of your drive and enjoy.

We celebrated the end of the day by grabbing a beer at Zion Brewpub, doing some souvenir shopping in the village just outside the park entrance and checking into our room at the Zion Canyon Bnb.

Day 4: Breathtaking Birthday Hiking in Zion National Park

A man and woman wearing knitted hats, fleece jackets, and holding walking sticks stand in front of a snowcapped mountain range.

The fourth day of the trip was not only my birthday, but also my favorite day of the entire trip. We hiked our hearts out — turning in a little more than 9 miles total — trying to see as much of Zion as possible the one day we were there.

We started with breakfast made by a chef at the Zion Canyon Bnb, which is included with your stay and is one of the top five breakfasts I’ve ever had.

We drove a short 5 minutes down to the park entrance and made sure to get on the shuttle into the park early.

We started with the most challenging and most beautiful hike of the day. We took the West Rim Trail to Scout Lookout, which also happens to be the base of the famous Angel’s Landing.

It was snowy and icy that day, so we decided to leave the challenging Angel’s Landing hike to the braver hikers.

A woman in an aqua pullover, knitted cap and holding walking sticks stands near a waterfall.Upper and Lower Emerald Pools

We had a backpack full of PB&Js and snacks, so we spent the day buzzing around to as many trails as our legs could handle, including the Watchman Trail and the Upper and Lower Emerald Pools where you can see several waterfalls.

We certainly made the most of one day in Zion National Park, but next time we visit, we’d love to hike the Court of the Patriarchs and the famous Narrows, which is usually a day in itself where you rent wading gear.

After an unforgettable two days in Zion, we made our way back to Las Vegas to finish our trip at Desert Club Resort.

Day 5: Exploring Desert Club Resort and Las Vegas

After all the adventure in the first four days, it was nice to wake up in a big, luxurious bed and one-bedroom deluxe villa.

Like our last stay at a Holiday Inn Club Vacations® resort (Orlando Breeze Resort in Orlando), we had a huge villa with a full kitchen, dining room, fireplace, patio and large bedroom and bathroom.

The resort is just a few minutes from all the action: casinos, restaurants and shows — you name it.

Table with sunglasses and fruity drink near outdoor pool at Desert Club Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.Desert Club Resort in Las Vegas

One of the cool things about Desert Club Resort was all the activities we could do on property every day. There’s always something going on to get into — not to mention, multiple pools and hot tubs open late so you can relax after a long day around town.

We were hoping to start our day by seeing the Hoover Dam, which was only 45 minutes away, but unfortunately, it was closed during our visit. You should definitely go if you’ve never been!

We love visiting new disc golf courses while we travel, so we grabbed our discs and headed to Mountain Crest Disc Golf course, about a 30-minute drive away. It was a nice, easy, confidence-building course that would be perfect for beginners.

A woman wearing a grey pullover, white cap and holding a blue frisbee disc stands next to a man in a black pullover and red knitted cap holding two frisbee discs near an outdoor disc golf basket.Mountain Crest Disc Golf Course

The next stop on the list was Valley of Fire State Park.

To be honest, we had low expectations coming from Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, but Valley of Fire did not disappoint!

The park is named after the gradient colors of red swirling throughout the rock formations. You can see natural arches and even ancient petroglyphs carved into the sandstone.

We explored for hours and didn’t even see half the park. You could easily spend a full day here.

A woman wearing a grey pullover, black tights, sneakers and blue knitted cap stands between two red rock formations.Valley of Fire State Park

We ventured into the city during the evening and went to the Meow Wolf experience. It’s an immersive, psychedelic, mind-bending art experience set in an alternate dimension.

It’s extremely unique and experiencing it the right way can take several hours. We recommend grabbing drinks beforehand and leaving the kids at home for this one.

Day 6: Golf, Gourmet Meals & Vanderpump Cocktail Garden

With all the outdoors, hiking and activities “out of the way,” there was only one thing left to do … party it up in Vegas on New Year’s Eve! (And try to forget how much we would wind up spending on New Year’s Eve in Vegas.)

After a much-needed morning of sleeping in, we grabbed our clubs and headed to Angel Park Golf Club to start the day.

This was golf with a view; it has a fun layout that featured canyon and mountain scenery on almost every hole, plus its fair share of elevated greens and tee boxes to keep you engaged.

The course offered a great value at $85, considering it’s an Arnold Palmer design.

A man in a maroon shirt, black pants and black knitted cap uses a driver club on a golf course with a blue sky and snow-capped mountain range in the distance.Angel Park Golf Club

Now, this is the part where we do get into exploring The Strip a little bit. If you’re like us, you might find it really nice to break up all the adventure with some high-end, classic Vegas experiences.

And since we were there on New Year’s Eve, we just had to go for it.

We started the night by walking over to Caesars Palace, stopping to grab a quick view of the Bellagio Water Show along the way.

We devoured a 4-course meal at Gordon Ramsay’s Pub restaurant. A killer prime rib was a great way to build a base layer before a night of cocktails. It had super good food; highly recommend it if you’re in Caesars Palace.

Left: The exterior view of Caesars Palace casino and the Bellagio fountain show at Las Vega, Nevada. Right: A woman and man dressed in black stand outside of a restaurant with a marquee that reads, 'GORDON RAMSAY'.

After dinner, we hit the slots, tried our hand at a little roulette and blackjack, quickly made some money, and then lost it. But hey, you’re paying for the entertainment factor (at least, that’s what we told ourselves)!

We ended the night at Vanderpump Cocktail Garden with several nightcaps. They have very unique and refreshing hand-crafted cocktails in an indoor garden setting where you can watch the buzz of the traffic at Caesars Palace walk by.

It was the perfect celebratory end to our Las Vegas trip and beginning of our new year. This really was the trip of a lifetime, and we’re already planning part two.

Left: Two handcrafted cocktails in martini glasses placed on a table surrounded by a faux tree and its foliage. Right: A woman dressed in black stands next to a man in grey jeans, and black-grey jacket and t-shirt stand in a restaurant with foliage.Vanderpump Cocktail Garden

We hope to do a similar vacation with all-new destinations, where we can fly into Vegas and make a similar loop to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, Petrified Forest, Bryce Canyon and maybe even hop over to Moab to see Arches National Park and Canyonlands.

And of course, book-ending our Las Vegas trip with some luxury and relaxation at Desert Club Resort.

Vegas truly does feel like a gateway to all the national parks and wonders of the west.

We hope our itinerary gives you some ideas to get out there, have yourself an adventure and have an amazing resort like Desert Club waiting for you at the finish line.

A woman in a magenta knitted hat, grey fleece jacket, aqua pullover and black tights sits on a red rock formation overlooking the Horseshoe Bend.

Our guest bloggers are compensated for their writing contributions and honest opinions.

All information is subject to change. This article is a curated guide and is neither sponsored nor considered an official endorsement. Please be sure to check information directly with any/all tours, guides or companies for the most up-to-date and direct details.

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A woman wearing a coral tank top and sunglasses sits in a kayak with a man in a baseball cap, grey shirt and dark shorts on open water.

Jennifer Graven

Jennifer lives in Orlando, Florida, with her boyfriend, Will, and her pup, Wally. She’s a designer by trade but dabbles in all things creative. Her creativity is at its finest while planning international excursions, outdoor adventures and surprise date nights for her besties and boyfriend. She’s an explorer by nature and enjoys the outdoors as much as she loves tasting her way through a new city.