The most popular day trip from Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is a don’t-miss stop en route to the south rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon.
At what was once the world’s tallest dam, guided tours drop you 530 feet by elevator into the Black Canyon of the Colorado River to visit the mighty hydroelectric generators. Back up top, take a self-guided walk atop the dam, which straddles the Nevada/Arizona state line, or detour to the new bypass bridge, an even more dizzying sight. Allow at least 90 minutes to take a tour and explore.
Gray Line is one of many companies that runs bus tours from Las Vegas, which cost from $60 per person, including guaranteed tickets for the dam tour. If you’re driving yourself, try to arrive before 10:30am or after 3:30pm to avoid the worst crowds. (The last tour tickets are sold at 4:15 p.m.). Some tour operators offer motorized raft floats and canoe and kayak trips along the Colorado River that thrillingly launch from below the dam (reservations required). For chopper rides, Papillon Helicopters offers tours at competitive prices.
Hoover Dam is about a 45-minute drive from the Strip. En route you’ll pass through old-fashioned Boulder City, the only town in Nevada where gambling is illegal. Downtown, the kid-friendly Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum (closed Sunday) has riveting hands-on exhibits about the building of the Depression-era dam. The museum is hidden upstairs inside the historic Boulder Dam Hotel at 1305 Arizona Street.
Hungry? Fuel up at downtown Boulder City’s vintage Coffee Cup diner at 512 Nevada Way, where waffles with mix-and-match fillings are insanely good. The nearby Boulder Dam Brewing Company pulls some decent pints, but the pub grub is tasteless.