The Best Weekend Getaways from Las Vegas Right Now
Pack your bags and check your tires. Time for a road trip.
There are certain advantages to living in the middle of the desert during winter. You've got great scenery, the temperatures are mild, and there's no chance of getting stuck in the snow during an overnight traffic jam. That means you're free and clear to leave the bright lights of Las Vegas and hit the highway for a road trip and weekend getaway. From ski destinations to quirky desert towns and everything else in between, the following towns and cities are calling your name for a quick and easy vacation.
Distance from Vegas: 4 hours, 30 minutes
It's the perfect time of year to exchange one big city for another. Both Las Vegas and Phoenix are known for dry desert heat in the summer, but Arizona's largest destination has a slightly less miserable winter season. So drive south and check out everything Phoenix has to offer. The grid-like street system is easy to navigate, especially when exploring the awesome new downtown restaurants that opened last year. Make sure to stop by the Pemberton, a mixed-use space for outdoor drinking, dining, art, and shopping. Old favorites deserve your attention as well, including Chris Bianco's iconic Pizzeria Bianco, which isn't just one of the best pizza joints in Phoenix, but in the entire country. Mill Avenue in Tempe (near Arizona State) continues to have a reputation for entertainment, restaurants, and nightlife, but don't overlook the growing party scene in downtown Gilbert. Prefer something more serene? Take advantage of the mild temperatures and hike Camelback Mountain (named after its hump-like peak) with sweeping views of the city as your reward.
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Distance from Vegas: 6 hours, 30 minutes
Ogden is an enticing ski destination for road warriors looking for an engaging winter escape. The town, just north of Salt Lake City, is a hub for three ski resorts—Powder Mountain, Snowbasin, and Nordic Valley—and is often compared to what Park City was like 50 years ago. Translation: it's overloaded with charm without being completely overrun by tourists. Ogden has a fascinating history of mob activity, crime, and speakeasies, which thrived during the Prohibition era while the rest of the squeaky-clean state went in the opposite direction. Today, Ogden has transformed into a family-friendly destination, but continues to relish its own distinct identity as the most diverse city in Utah with compelling arts, drinking, and dining scenes. Spend plenty of time at the art galleries and live music venues on 25th Street to balance out all those hours on the slopes.
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Distance from Vegas: Three hours
With Omicron on the rise, getting lost in the desolate central regions of Nevada may have more appeal than usual. Camping out near one of the state's many historic ghost towns probably isn't the answer, so find the right balance with a visit to Tonopah. The small town has two very different overnight accommodations to choose from: a creepy Clown Motel (next door to a cemetery) or the historic Mizpah Hotel. Both places are said to be haunted. Just make sure to visit the Tonopah Historic Mining Park (an outdoor museum dedicated to Nevada's gold and silver rush) and load up on beer and barbecue at Tonopah Brewing Company. Yet half the fun of visiting is the road trip itself. Stop along the way in Goldfield, often described as a "living" ghost town with historic Old West architecture and the International Car Forest, a bizarre art installation of beat-up automobiles sticking out of the ground.
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Cedar City, Utah
Distance from Vegas: 2 hour, 45 minutes
Cedar City is an ideal jumping-off point for exploring the great outdoors in Southwest Utah. The largest town in Iron County is close to Brian Head, one of the most convenient ski resorts to Las Vegas with a high elevation that ushers in the season quickly. Drive through the scenery of Dixie National Forest to reach the colorful cliffs and sweeping views of the Cedar Breaks National Monument. Hikers also love the Kanarra Creek Slot Canyon, which leads to two waterfalls. Cedar City itself has a college town vibe (thanks to the presence of Southern Utah University) and calls itself "Festival City, U.S.A." due to its schedule of big events, although you'll have to wait until summer for the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
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Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 30 minutes
The heat and bugs in Tecopa are unbearable during the summer, but once the temperatures drop in fall and winter, it's a perfect time to check out the quirkiness of this tiny California destination. Just outside Death Valley, Tecopa isn't quite a ghost town, but you'll see signs of its history as an old supply route and railroad community. Just take a peek inside the bars of a rundown jail. Las Vegans come here to disconnect. There's no cellphone service and hardly any landlines. It has the most breweries per capita in the United States—as long as you understand it's two breweries for about 60 people. Tecopa Brewing Company has killer BBQ. Death Valley Brewing is next to Steaks and Beer, which serves charred ribeyes and local organic sides (with no website or social media). Yet the most popular attractions in Tecopa are the natural hot springs at two resorts (Delight's and Tecopa Hot Springs) and the China Ranch Date Farm, home to a small museum and bakery.
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Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 45 minutes
At first glance, there doesn't seem like there's much going on in Beatty. Sure, the chili at the Happy Burro is a must-try and the Sourdough Saloon is good for a stiff drink, but the old railroad town is a great starting point for a drive through Death Valley National Park—much more bearable this time of year after the scorching heat of summer. Drive in deep enough, and you'll reach Badwater Basin, the lowest, driest, hottest point in North America. You'll also stumble across otherworldly rock formations, sand dunes, Star Wars filming locations, and the salt formations left behind by an evaporated lake at Devil's Golf Course. Aside from Death Valley, Beatty is close to the ghost town ruins of Rhyolite and the weirdness of the Goldwell Open Air Museum. With a travel time of less than two hours, Beatty is a great day trip from Vegas, but if you want to spend the night, check out the renovated rooms at the Stagecoach Hotel & Casino.
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Mt. Charleston, Nevada
Distance from Vegas: One hour
Here's a road trip that's quick and easy, but still feels a world away from Las Vegas. Mt. Charleston, the highest peak in the Spring Mountains, is just northwest of Sin City. The elevation is a welcome change of pace from the desert valley floor any time of year, but the colder months are when business picks up. The Lee Canyon ski and snowboard resort is in peak season with chair lifts providing gorgeous views of the surrounding Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The loss of Mt. Charleston Lodge in a recent fire hit the community hard, but plans are already in the works to build the restaurant back better than ever in 2022. Its on-site cabin rentals were unaffected. You can also book a room at the Retreat on Charleston Peak (formerly the Resort on Mt. Charleston), which has a bar and restaurant.
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Distance from Vegas: 4 hours, 30 minutes
The winter months are perfect for visiting Sedona. It's far less busy and crowded, allowing you to social distance to the fullest with more than 300 miles of hiking and biking trails. Sedona is known for its Native American history, bed-and-breakfast accommodations, and art galleries. The town also carries a certain sense of mysticism—said to be in a vortex with the energy of nature especially strong in four locations: Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon—all easy to reach without shelling out cash for a tour guide. Just south of Sedona is the Verde Valley, where the old mining towns of Cornville, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, and Jerome each have their own charm and character. Follow the "wine trail" with 25 tasting rooms between them.
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Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Describing Laughlin as a mini-Vegas on a river isn't entirely off base. Both towns—less than a hundred miles apart—are famous for casinos, entertainment, and bright neon lights. But Laughlin is less chaotic, with a small town feel and employees who actually do recognize regulars by name year after year. The dining and nightlife is lowkey and low pressure. Yet the character of the town is best shaped by its location along the Colorado River, which separates Nevada from Arizona. Aside from a few outdoor concerts at the Laughlin Event Center, the town gets a little more quiet in the winter. Not much action on the river, but you can still take water taxis from one hotel to another and board guided boat tours and dinner cruises. The drop in temperatures makes hiking a little easier, especially beyond Christmas Tree Pass at Grapevine Canyon, where you can explore a dried river bed and examine petroglyphs—drawings on stone walls left behind by Native American tribes hundreds of years ago.
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Distance from Vegas: 4 hours
While the Grand Canyon is often associated with summertime family vacations, the largest hole in America takes on an engaging mystique when sprinkled with snow during the winter months. It's easiest to visit from Las Vegas by helicopter, although the bumpy four-hour road trip to the West Rim is considerably less expensive. It also allows you to explore on your own time frame, whether learning about the Hualapai Tribe's Indigenous history or sticking around to stargaze after the sun goes down. No visit is complete without testing your anxiety on the Skywalk—a bridge with a see-through bottom that hangs over the edge of the canyon. Spend the night in your own cabin or glamping tent.
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Distance from Vegas: 4 hours
When someone says “road trip” and “Las Vegas,” in the same sentence, nine times out of ten, they're talking about Southern California. So hop in your car and start driving southwest on Interstate 15. You’ll hit Baker (stop for gas), Barstow (stop for Starbucks), San Bernardino (keep going) and finally, Los Angeles. But what makes the trip worth the drive is going all the way to Santa Monica to finally see the coast. Of course, you can always play tourist in Hollywood, check out the L.A. restaurant scene, or just see what's going on over the weekend. Half the fun in driving to SoCal is seeing all the weird roadside attractions along the way, like the World's Tallest Thermometer or Lake Dolores (a creepy abandoned water park that will give any ghost town a run for its money).
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Distance from Vegas: 45 minutes
A quick drive from Vegas, Boulder City is the closest town to the Hoover Dam and has a small tourism industry based around the engineering masterpiece. (Tours are on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, but outdoor viewing areas recently reopened. So check in for the latest details before visiting.) Boulder City is also one of the few Nevada communities where gambling is illegal. So if you need a fix, stop while driving down on U.S. 93 and play a few slots at the Hoover Dam Lodge. However, the casino-free Boulder Dam Hotel (with a Hoover Dam museum in the lobby) offers a more satisfying sense of history. Boulder City is a great homebase for hitting the water at Lake Mead, although experienced hikers may prefer to trek through Gold Strike Canyon to reach the hot springs near the Colorado River (which were closed during summer, but are now back open for the milder seasons). For outdoor fun, hang out with the bighorn sheep at Hemenway Park or grab a seat on the patio at Milo's Cellar for wine, the Dillenger for burgers, or Jack's Place to drink a beer and watch a game.
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Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Mesquite, about 95 miles northeast of Las Vegas, tends to market itself as a more laid-back alternative to Sin City, but it's really a casino town for the party animals who live right across the border in Utah. A vintage vibe is felt in the tableside food presentations at Katherine's Steakhouse or the seven golf courses squeezed within a few miles of each other. Interact with exotic animals at Camel Safari or go off-roading with an ATV. Yet half the fun of a road trip to Mesquite is getting there. Detour off Interstate 15 and take one of America's most scenic drives through the Valley of Fire State Park before reconnecting later. The bright, dramatic sandstone formations almost appear to be on fire when the sun hits them just right. Hence the name. The red sand at Rainbow Vista creates a life-on-Mars feel, so it's no wonder parts of Total Recall were filmed there back in the ‘80s.
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Distance from Vegas: 7 hours
Despite its proximity to Reno, Lake Tahoe is deserving of a road trip all by itself. After a summer full of boating and watersports, the largest alpine lake in North America eagerly shifts into winter-mode with the largest concentration of ski resorts in North America. Much of South Lake Tahoe is built around the Heavenly ski resort with a gondola taking guests up the mountain from Heavenly Village—a shopping, dining and entertainment district by the main road. North Lake Tahoe is more residential, especially Incline Village, where exclusivity is part of the charm. The best way to play tourist is by booking a room at the Hyatt Regency, which feels like the world's largest log cabin with a private beach and fire pits by the pool for roasting s'mores. Skiers will be more interested in the nearby slopes of Mt. Rose or Diamond Peak. Royal Gorge is the largest cross country ski resort in the United States, although you may be happy to just snowshoe in Chickadee Ridge in Tahoe Meadows, where you can bring birdseed and let chickadees eat straight from your hand.
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St. George, Utah
Distance from Vegas: Two hours
St. George is the first place Las Vegans run into after cutting through the northwest corner of Arizona and crossing the border into Utah. The city combines a charming downtown area with a thriving art scene, and proximity to four state parks—including the bright red sandy beaches of the Sand Hollow reservoir. But outdoor explorers will be most excited to know St. George is the largest city outside Zion National Park, and one of the most colorful examples of rock formations, sweeping cliffs, and waterfalls in Utah. The infamous Angels Landing is a 2.5-mile hike with steep and narrow pathways. It comes with a warning sign that mentions the number of people who have died on the trail, just make sure to apply for passes, which are available via a lottery system until January 20. Balance out all that outdoorsy stuff with the independent restaurants, art galleries, and shopping of downtown St. George. The Painted Pony and Wood.Ash.Rye. are the top spots for dinner and drinks.
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