And, Relax: a Slow-Travel Tour of Vegas and Nevada

There are many ways to experience the slower side of the Las Vegas area, such as kayaking on the Colorado River
There are many ways to experience the slower side of the Las Vegas area, such as kayaking on the Colorado River | © Niebrugge Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Lucy Thackray
1 April 2021

On this away-from-it-all experience, you’ll ditch the Las Vegas Strip and head out to the city’s hinterland for kayaking, horseback riding and stand-up paddleboarding.

It’s tempting to think of Nevada’s Sin City as merely a cluster of twinkling towers in the middle of the desert – a place to drop in for a few days of pure hedonism. But beyond the pool parties and roulette tables, Las Vegas is a destination rich in gentle adventures, food and natural beauty. With so much to explore nearby – from caves and canyons to lakes and valleys – it’s worth factoring in some time to dig a little deeper into the wider area beyond the touristy Strip, as Nevada native Mike Schoenbaechler, vintner at Vegas Valley Winery, explains:

“People who don’t pause to explore the greater area while they’re in town miss out on a lot of fun local businesses, as well as the desert beauty that surrounds us. Try the Artisan Booze District in Henderson, for example. Only 15 minutes from the Strip, it has one winery, three craft breweries and a distillery.”

Alternatively, tap into Las Vegas’s slow-travel scene, with a kayaking tour over glass-like waters, a Wild West-style horse ride at sunset and a serene stand-up paddleboarding experience, all within day-tripping distance from the city and bookable right here on Culture Trip.

Kayaking Black Canyon on the Colorado River, Mojave Desert.
Kayaking on the Colorado River, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, near Las Vegas, Nevada.
You can see miles of untouched landscape on the Historic Railroad Hiking Trail | © hpbfotos / Alamy Stock Photo Go for a peaceful kayak through Black Canyon, on the Colorado River | © Ron Niebrugge / Alamy Stock Photo Lake Mead is a tranquil paradise where you can swim, boat and paddleboard on calm waters | © Niebrugge Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Where to Stay: the Hotel

Vdara Hotel and Spa

Map View
Courtesy of Vdara Hotel and Spa, Las Vegas

With generous suites and a locally famous rooftop pool with glam cabanas, the Vdara really complements a stay in Vegas. Just a stone’s throw from the famous Fountains of Bellagio and the buzz of the Strip, the hotel boasts sparkling skyline views and provides a calm, modern and minimalist base between flights and road trips out of town. Part of the Aria Resort and Casino complex, it’s within walking distance of several of the city’s signature flashy fine-dining experiences – from Jean Georges Steakhouse to beloved New York export Carbone and upmarket Chinese at Blossom – and nightlife fun. After soaking up all the city action and taking a day trip into the desert hinterland, relax in Vdara’s two-floor, 16,000sqft (1,486sqm) spa, with a beauty salon, fitness center and smoothie bar.


What to Do: the Experiences

ToursEmerald Cave Kayak Tour
From $159 per person
7 hours 30 minutes
5 (4)

The natural beauty beyond Las Vegas is often overlooked. “There are so many hikes to take in,” says local Mike Schoenbaechler. “Red Rock Canyon is only 20 minutes from the Strip, and there’s a beautiful, 13mi [21km] loop that can be driven to see the red, mountainous landscapes.” Alternatively, head out on the waters around the Colorado River and Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. This full-day kayaking tour escorts you out to the lake’s sparkling, gem-clear waters for a four-and-a-half-hour paddle, factoring in time to swim, hang out, eat (lunch and snacks provided) and visit a cave on the Arizona side of the river.

ToursWild West Sunset Horseback Ride With Dinner
From $160 per person
5 hours
4.7 (354)

Nevada’s stretches of untouched desert have a true Wild West feel, which is best embraced on horseback. This tour fills your view with rugged mountain scenery and your lungs with fresh wilderness air as you ride horses from a ranch into the Moapa Valley, spotting curly-horned sheep and jackrabbits along the way. Your guides will assess your riding ability on arrival, and there are horses to suit everyone, from beginners to pros. The journey ends with a hearty meal back at the ranch.

ActivitiesStand-up Paddleboard Yoga at Lake Mead
From $55 per person
1 hour 30 minutes

You’ve tried stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), and you’ve tried yoga – but have you combined the two? This Vegas-departing tour whisks you out to the still waters of Lake Mead to test your core strength, balance and composure as you learn to do a combination of poses atop your paddleboard over a 90-minute lesson. You’ll have time to paddle about independently and take in the expansive scenery, too.

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