A short drive from Las Vegas can transport you into pristine desert surrounded by dramatic red rocks, on top of a mountain or boating on one of America’s largest lakes. Who says that gambling is the only thing to do here? The following best city escapes from Las Vegas will prove otherwise. (Be sure to check the park Web sites for any entrance fees or operating hours.) — Diane Quinn

Anything you need for your favorite water sport can be rented in one of three full-service marinas at Lake Mead. (Credit: nps.gov)

Lake Mead Conservation Area


The Mojave Desert may be the driest place in North America, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy water sports! Anything you need for your favorite water sport can be rented in one of three full-service marinas. Land lovers can retrace history and follow the track remains of the railroad that was instrumental in building Hoover Dam. If you’re lucky, you’ll see mountain sheep along the way. If you make it to the end, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view very few people ever see. To get there, take the 215 beltway East to Henderson and Boulder City. Then, just look for Hoover Dam and Lake Mead marina signs.

Floyd Lamb Park

9200 Tule Springs Road
Las Vegas, NV 89143

Three connected lakes with lush vegetation make this one of the best city escapes from Las Vegas. Even as thermometers explode in summer, relax on expansive grass areas with tall, shady trees, and watch the antics of several dozen wild peacocks that roam around the historic area. If you want to teach your kids to fish, this is the place. Just be sure to obtain appropriate fishing licenses. Floyd Lamb Park is located northwest of Las Vegas, near U.S. Route 95 and Durango Boulevard.

Mount Charleston, Nevada


At 11,918 feet, the Mount Charleston area is actually a quaint mountain community that grows much larger in the winter. Ski Lee offers downhill action, or take your sled for an afternoon of fun in the snow. During the summer, temps up there make it worth the trip. Take a picnic, camp overnight, horseback ride, hike or just enjoy a casual lunch outside at either the Mount Charleston Hotel or the Mount Charleston Lodge. Both offer overnight accommodations and dining. Mount Charleston is approximately 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Follow Route 95 North to State Route 157 and turn left.

Red Rock Conservation Area


It’s difficult to believe that this stunningly beautiful natural jewel exists so close to the glitz and neon of Las Vegas. That’s why it’s one of the best city escapes from Las Vegas. The newly designed visitors’ center is a fascinating place for both kids and adults to spend time. If you don’t care about any usual outdoor park activities, then just hop in your car and take the 13-mile scenic drive. The Red Rock Conservation Area is just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip via West Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159.