Here is part 2 (numbers 6 through 10) of my Top 10 Free Things To Do In Vegas as written by a Las Vegas local. You can read the first half here.
6. Lake Mead – Back Way In
Lake Mead is awesome. It is the only real water you will find in Vegas (ok, so we have the ‘LAKES’ area, but they are more man-made ponds you don’t want to go into because they don’t recycle themselves and there are lots of birds and ducks doing their business in it. Lake Mead was created when the Hoover Dam was built on the Colorado river and the backlog of water created this lake. There are a few ways in, and really common touristy spot if you go down through Boulder City near the dam, but there is a sneaky back way in that every time I have been is free (on the road, if you go down, there is a toll at some point, but its been closed every time I have gone, I don’t even know if its open.)
It’s a bit of a drive to go this way because you have to take street roads with lots of lights. You take Lake Mead exit off whichever highway is closest to you and head east. Past the city, and up the mountain it opens up (similar to the west side when heading to red rock) and suddenly you are in the middle of nowhere with gorgeous red rock formations and little ‘wash’ streets (they flood when it rains…so check the weather, if its supposed to rain DO NOT GO DOWN THESE ROADS! you could get yourself in trouble quick…but since it almost never rains here you are pretty good).
Some of the wash roads you can drive down, some are paved-ish, some are just dirt, some you have to park on the street and walk a few miles down. but if you look south-ish while driving, you can see the water. just take anyone of these side roads and you will come to a back way into Lake Mead. the scenery is gorgeous. Not every way you can actually get into the water (well,you could, it’s the getting out of the water part that may be difficult). But the scenery is beautiful, the air is usually a little cooler because of the water (but take lots of drinking water with you as the temp only drops close to the water and it’s still wicked hot here in the summer. This is a beautiful place to go hiking, photographing and enjoying the scenery.
You can also camp down a couple of the roads. Google maps also shows the roads (even if you just see a path with no name). As you drive by each, you can see easily which are accessible by car, 4-wheeler, or foot only. The drive itself is just gorgeous.
7. ANY PARK IN VEGAS
Vegas is FULL of parks. Every couple of miles on any road you seem to run into a park of some sort. These parks range in size and environment (some grassy, others desert) many have fields for sports, tracks to walk around, or playgrounds.
Google maps shows the parks quite well, and the satellite view is great for seeing if the park is just a desert landscape, or has trees, baseball fields, grass knolls, etc. The DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION is a great website to see parks in your area, and they are super helpful and friendly on the phone if you have any questions about any of the parks or events that take place in them.
8. INSERT COINS AND THE EAST FREMONT BARS
The Griffin, Beauty Bar, Emergency Arts, and the new INSERT COINS are super-fun places to have drinks, see shows and musicians, and at INSERT COINS you can play old school arcade games and dance the night away to 80’s music or whatever they have playing that night. INSERT COINS has an 80’s night every Wednesday night, and the best 80’s dressed gets a FREE bottle of booze. This is the new place of awesomeness in this area of Fremont that is quickly building back up to the popularity it had during its heyday (but with new, modern styles of bars and distractions). So this isn’t free if you want drinks, but the fact you don’t have to pay a cover to enter, and can check out the place for free is pretty freakin awesome!
9. Lone Mountain and the Random Free Hiking Spots
Vegas has tons of random free places to park your car and go hiking.
Just head either East or West out of town and drive towards the mountains. Eventually you will hit some spot where you can park and start hiking up hills and mountains. Calico basin (where Red Rock Canyon is – see number 5), is one of these random free parking spots. Also 2 more I know of is west at the end of Cheyenne (on the west side of 215) and a few blocks north at the west end of Alexander St. There are also a few on the East side heading towards the back way into Lake Mead.
Also, once you are out of the city, you can pretty much park your car in the side of the road anywhere and go hiking. I’ve done this many times with no problem. You will see cars just parked on the edge of the road and sometimes you see the owner up a hill, or down a valley, or probably off in the gully out of view.
JUST TAKE WATER WITH YOU!!!!! This is a desert people. Even if it’s not super hot, it is super dry out here and you can go from feeling fine to super-over-dehydrated in an hour!
Also, if you plan to really go into the mountains east or west, it’s a good idea to let someone know where you are, or talk to the Parks Dept. because we do have mountain lions here. I’ve never seen one, and they are not really in the more common areas, but we do have them, and I have met people who have done some deeper hikes into the mountains and have run into them (luckily from a distance).
Basically, if you want to do some deeper, more intense hiking, don’t be a dumbass and use some common sense…but have fun. There is so much outdoor hiking, rock-climbing, and bouldering to do here in Vegas. ITS AWESOME!
10. BIKE RIDING
Vegas is FULL of places to go biking once you get out of the city. (I don’t recommend bike riding in the city.
Locals call bike riding in the city ‘the desire to get maimed by cars’. but once you get out of the city you will see bike trails on the roads and you can ride on the streets around the mountains.
On the west side, in Summerlin (a part of Vegas) the roads open up and every morning you see a ton of cyclists out on their bikes. You can also go towards the mountains (RED ROCK and LAKE MEAD areas) and see tons of professional racing cyclists, mountain bikers, etc.
The views are gorgeous, the riding is amazing, and the open air, and peaceful nature of the areas is unbelievable, compared to the crowds and bustle of the main city only a few miles away.