IT'S ALL ABOUT the show, right? Las Vegas has something for everyone. Walk the strip, see some strippers. Walk a little further, bikini-clad girls are offering you a ride in a helicopter. Saunter inside a casino, and the soundtrack of lost money greets with you the jingle-jangle of nickle slots and fantasy payouts.
Sandwich boards advertise $10 tees. Street artists perform Sinatra and Bennett. Drug addicts sleep on the sidewalk – the middle of the sidewalk – and we step over them like they are used gum.
We take selfies with Cher imitators and the weird balloon at Paris Las Vegas. The Bellagio fountains make us look for Danny, Rusty and Saul.
The hustle is always on. The show never stops. The lights never go out.
Unless you head west about 30 minutes and discover the outdoor playground that is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Here, you can breathe freely. You may step over a lizard rather than a junkie. The light show is the sunset and the twinkling twilight above rather than the blinding LCD displays burrowing away at your brain.
There will be selfies, but not with Cher. And the soundtrack isn't about lost wages. If you're in the right spot, at the right time, the soundtrack is silence.
Red Rock Canyon offers 195,000 acres to explore. It has 26 marked trails, and a 13-mile one-way loop you can drive or bike. There are plenty of stops along the way. If you like climbing, bring your gear. There's something for every level, including boulders and sheer cliffs. There's even a developed campsite nearby.
Geology highlights include Aztec Sandstone that dates back more the 190 million years; limestone that was the floor of an ancient sea bed; dinosaur tracks from meat-eating therapods; and the Keystone Thrust Fault, which saw ocean plate subduction some 65 million years ago. I know, ocean plate subduction!
Red Rock Canyon is really a wonder, and you can make it a day trip or longer. In a single outing, we did the Calico Hills, Calico Tanks, Dale's, and the Fire Ecology trails. And if you can't hit everything you want (we didn't), your escape from Sin City is just a short drive out of town.
Some say the best drinks are the ones that are free. If you subscribe to that theory, welcome to nirvana. But we strive for greatness, so when in Vegas, drink a Vegas Bomb. Whether you're poolside at the Tropicana playing swim-up blackjack or chillin' at the Velveteen Rabbit, prepare to get jiggy with the Crown Royal/peach schnapps/cranberry juice/Red Bull fusion. You'll be disco-ballin' to the BeeGees 'til the sun comes up.
If nature's awesomeness 30 minutes outside Vegas isn't nuclear enough, take in a Vegas Golden Knights game at T-Mobile Arena. There is no professional sports experience like it. Oh, and don't nap on pre-game. It's the show within the show.