Hit the Road, Jack…during JCK Las Vegas

Relaxation in Las Vegas does not have to mean just a week of clubs, gambling, and eating. Step outside for a breath of fresh desert air and see the sights that the area surrounding the city can offer. If you plan on taking guided tours, some advance reservations may be needed.

The first step in planning a day-trip is getting a rental car. There are tons of places to do this in Vegas; however, if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, for instance a Ferrari, Viper, Porsche, Hummer or Luxury SUV, why not try one of the ultra exotic or luxury car rentals. Here’s a few of the closest ones: Dream Car Rentals, 877-373-2601 at 3734 Las Vegas Blvd South, down past the Aladdin and before the Monte Carlo, www.dreamcarrentals.com. Close to McCarran International Airport is Las Vegas Exotic Car Rentals, at 5030 Paradise Rd., 866-871-1893, www.vegasexoticrentals.com.

Rental Agencies at the McCarran International Airport include: Avis, www.avis.com, 800-230-4898; Dollar, www.dollar.com, 702-739-9507; Savmor, www.savmorrac.com, 702-736-1234; Advantage Rent A Car, www.us-rentacar.com, www.advantage.com , 702-798-6100; Hertz, www.hertz.com, 702-736-4900; Thrifty, www.thrifty.com, 702-896-7600; Alamo / National, www.nationalcar.com, www.alamo.com, 877-222-9058; Budget, www.budget.com, 702-736-1212; Enterprise, www.enterprise.com, 800-736-8222; Payless, www.paylesscarrental.com, 702-736-6147.

Homesick for your Harley ®? Thinking about cruising The Strip? Then pick up the phone and call Las Vegas Harley-Davidson Rentals at 877-571-7174. They offer most of the 2008 Harley-Davidson® motorcycles from each model family. If you don’t want to go it alone, large group rides and guided tours may also be arranged with advance notice. Available recent model Harley-Davidson ® motorcycles at Las Vegas Harley-Davidson, 2605 S. Eastern, 702-431-8500. Go to www.lasvegasharleydavidson.com for more info.

Once you have your vehicle, get out and do some touring. Below is a list of a few of the sights Las Vegas has to offer.

Valley of Fire State Park is located 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas, via Interstate 15, on exit 75. The Valley gets its name from red sandstone formations jutting up all over its surface. Ancient rock art, petrified wood and other artifacts are scattered throughout the valley, a testament to a history of settlement by prehistoric peoples. There are campsites, picnicking amenities and hiking activities in the park, along with many unique and beautiful rock formations to view. Please see www.parks.nv.gov or call 702-397-2088 for more information.

The Hoover Dam is located 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas on US Highway 93 at the Nevada-Arizona border. The dam was built during the Depression, in an effort to reign in the power of the Colorado River, and was completed in less than five years. The Visitor Center is open every day from 9 am – 6 pm, with a $7 parking fee, cash only. Tours are offered all day, or pedestrians and most passenger vehicles can cross the dam on their own. See the Bureau of Reclamation’s website at www.usbr.gov or call them 866-730-9097 for details. The Hoover Dam created Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake and reservoir in the United States. Modern human technology created this lake oasis in the dry Mojave Desert. The lake provides water to Southern California and Nevada. Activities at the lake include kayaking, swimming, boating, hiking and fishing. Paved roads lead to all major sites, and a map can be found at www.nps.gov/lake.

Less than an hour’s drive from the Strip is Mt. Charleston. At an elevation of 11,918 feet, the air is markedly cooler than the desert and the mountain offers panoramic views of the valley. The air is at least 25 degrees lower on most days. Mt. Charleston is located 35 miles northwest of Las Vegas, on US 95, then west onto State Route 157. The mountain is perfect for a quick day trip, with picnicking, horseback riding and hiking. Lodging and food is available at Mt. Charleston Lodge (www.mtcharlestonlodge.com, 800-955-1314) and Mt. Charleston Hotel (www.mtcharlestonhotel.com, 702-872-5500).

15 miles west of Las Vegas, visible from the Strip, lays the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The Wilson Cliffs, also called the Keystone Thrust, large red sandstone rock formations, are ideal for hiking and rock climbing. The highest point is La Madre Mountain, at 8,154 ft. The canyon is home to desert bighorn sheep and the desert tortoise, and plant-life such as the Joshua tree and Mojave yucca. The area provides a 13-mile scenic drive, back-packing, camping and bicycling. For more information please see www.redrockcanyonlv.org or call 702-515-5367.

And, perhaps the most famous attraction in the region, the Grand Canyon in Arizona is about 250 miles from Las Vegas. According to www.govegas.about.com, “Take highway 93 south from Las Vegas to Interstate 40 east to highway 64. The trip takes about 4 1/2 hours and takes you right over Hoover Dam.” The Grand Canyon was created slowly over the millennia as 277 miles of the Colorado River carved a chasm 4 to 18 miles in width, and in some places up to a mile in depth. The breathtaking views can be taken in by hiking, mule or horseback riding, camping, rafting down the Colorado River or on various guided or self-guided tours. The most accessible way to see the canyon is from the South Rim, at which there are several lookouts. Please also visit the National Park Services site or call the general visitor information line at 928-638-7888.

If traveling on your own in the desert does not appeal to you, try one of the following tour companies, top-rated on Citysearch.com. The Grand Canyon Tour Company, 888-512-0075, at 4343 North Rancho Drive. Choose to travel by bus, airplane, train, or helicopter, among other modes of travel, to the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead, and more. Black Canyon Raft Tours will take you by raft through the Black Canyon on the Colorado River. 800-455-3490; 1297 Nevada Highway; Boulder City, NV. For something more challenging, try Rebel Adventure Tours, featuring white water rafting. 702-380-6969, 713 E. Ogden Ave, Suite D.

If you’d prefer to just relax, or see a show, see our coverage here, here and here