Outdoor focused family vacation in Vegas – say what?


Yes, you can do this, moms and dads. Vegas isn’t all about high rollers, dancing at the clubs, partying in the pools, eating all the food, walking the strip, and hitting the sky-high rides at all the hotels. Well, it certainly can be and I’ve done that trip or some version of it many times as a younger 20 something and even to celebrate my 40th birthday with my college besties.

But this year I planned an epic family vacation for spring break to none other than Las Vegas that included none of the things above. I also needed something in driving distance because flying a family of four is not very affordable these days. Then COVID 19 happened and I was forced to reschedule it for October fall break. I’m crossing my fingers we can actually do this trip, but it may be delayed again. That said, I put together some kind of loose itinerary (I say “loose” because I have ideas, not a dated and timed agenda) with some incredible and relatively budget friendly ways to experience Las Vegas and its surrounding areas.

Base camp for families

Because we’re traveling using our gifted-to-us timeshare property, we chose a resort off-strip (yes these beautiful properties do exist) and that has crazy awesome pools with giant slides. It’s a perfect property to entertain the kids on days we wouldn’t plan to be exploring the outdoors and learning a little history about the area. We chose Cancun Resort Las Vegas about 7 miles from the insanity of the strip. I really don’t even like going to Vegas anymore, so if we’re going to do this with the kids especially, this is the way to go. Or choose an Airbnb or VRBO property for even more privacy.

Outdoor exploring – it may not be Disney, but it’s also not Disney prices

For Vegas, the places on my list to visit include the following below, all within a short driving distance and plenty enough to fill a whole day. Many of these activities are free as they are state parks or on public lands. Just make sure you don’t go in the middle of the summer. October – March is the best.

  • Hiking Mt. Charleston – It’s 11,916 feet high. Almost as high as Mt. Humphrey’s here in Flagstaff. So definitely a challenging hike. And okay, maybe we weren’t going to hike to the top with a 6-year-old but definitely hike some of it. I’ve seen the views from the top and it’s pretty incredible. Definitely a high peak of the SW that you should add to your hit list.
  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area – Another beautiful place to hike, bike or camp if you choose.
    • Hiking: There are 26 hikes/trails you can enjoy so depending on the ages of your kiddos, you can find something for everyone. And if you haven’t figured this out yet, you better like hiking for Heather’s Outdoor Exploring Trip of Las Vegas.
    • Mountain Biking: Yes, likely better suited for families with older kids, but a couple of places actually deliver the bikes to you at your hotel so you do need a way to transport them. But you can even do guided tours. What the what? Sign me up. This is another option where you will drop some change, but it’s not Disneyworld prices either! I found one place that runs $60 per bike rental. For guided personal tours, more like $120 per person.
  • Kayaking or SUP Rental at Lake Mead National Recreation Area – This might be the most expensive aspect of our trip but for me the BEST part. You can rent kayaks or SUPs, from a few outfitters, either to book actual kayak tours (found about $120-$180 per person) or just rent a kayak/SUP and go out on your own, which range from $50-$75 per day depending on if you want a single or double kayak. And guess what else? Yep, hiking. And camping too, if you choose to make your trip totally outdoors. Even better, if you can, haul your own kayaks out with you, and then it’s FREE.
  • Hoover Dam Boat Tour – Also another non-free option but well worth it, you’ll learn something and are for small groups. Which is important at this time. But COVID aside, this would be really neat to see the Hoover Dam from the water, right? Dependent on the tour company you’d go with and the type of boat (these are all typically smaller boats) it ranges anywhere from $20 – $70 per person and usually just a couple hours out on the water.

Swimming and relaxing at the resort or house rental

Well, you’re obviously going to pay for the resort or house rental (make sure you get one with a pool), but it won’t cost you any more money to have fun and chillax. The other thing we had planned, to keep costs down, was grocery shopping and make all our breakfast and lunches in our kitchenette. Eating out, even at the resort would add up quickly with 4 of us. Even easier with a house. And honestly, living in the mountains, hanging out in a pool for days on end sounds dreamy since we don’t have that option here.

Vegas + Family + Outdoors = LEGIT VACATION!

So these are just a few examples of how I had pulled together a non-Vegas strip, family-focused, relatively budget-friendly vacation. I’m sure there are many more things to do, and I did research a lot more of free places to take the kids to, but in these COVID 19 times, I’m wanting to avoid those places now since likely they are either closed or I simply don’t want to be around that many people right now, that’s if we make our trip happen in October. Take from it what you will and I wish you luck planning a creative and outdoors focused family vacay.

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Heather Pierce
Born and raised in NJ, Heather left with fire on her heels to attend ASU in Tempe, AZ in 1995, where she obtained a degree in art history, while minoring in both anthropology and French. While at ASU she met her husband Jake and began their loud, crazy, fun filled life together. She’s a full time corporate marketing consultant, freelance writer, is on the board for and chairs the fundraising and marketing committee for Flagstaff Arts & Leadership ACademy, and most importantly, a very hands on and fun mom to two wild boys Zane, age 9, and Van, age 4. They’ve made Flagstaff their forever home since 2010 and Is actively involved in our mountain community, lives for live music, good food and wine, reading books about real life people, and a lover of the outdoors.