Google+ Las Vegas: An ideal desert playground | Travel & Happiness I by Jenn Smith Nelson

Las Vegas: An ideal desert playground

Millions of people come to Vegas every year, mostly to gamble and gawk, but they can add wellness and adventure into their mix. The city and surrounding areas are ideal urban and desert playgrounds for on and off-the-ground adventures that have nothing to do with entertainment, gambling or debauchery.

Get your OM on

Yoga in the Sky involves a yoga class on the High Roller ferris wheel as it turns. (Courtesy of Caesars Las Vegas)

Yoga enthusiasts can zen out

168 metres above the city with a one-hour session inside the High Roller ferris wheel, equipped with headphones to better hear the instructor and a spectacular bird’s-eye view. Instructor Nancy Tep took our group through Silent Savasana’s Yoga in the Sky. “I’d recommend yoga on the wheel to anyone, even if they are afraid of heights as it goes slowly,” says Tep.

Enjoy downtown sights

With the RTC Bike Share program, visitors to Las Vegas can head to the sights on two wheels.

“Most people get to know Vegas by foot,” says RTC Bike Share’s bicycle and community outreach coordinator Ron Floth, “but biking is an easier way to cover a lot of ground.” Las Vegas’ bike-share program launched in September 2016 in the area known as “the Old Strip”. Cruise by sights such as Vegas’ first hotel, the El Cortez, cool public artwork, old neon signage and quirky Downtown Container Park.

Zip through a canyon

Guide Robert Macanany zooms along one of four ziplines in Bootleg Canyon.

Bootleg Canyon, a 30-minute drive outside the city, is home to Flightlinez, a zip-line experience with four crazy-fast and exhilarating zips. The sheer velocity of the first run made one rider’s eyes tear. Called Bunny Slope, it starts at 1,097 metres in elevation and clocks in at 113 km/h. While enjoying the fast views from above, we also shed a few tears of laughter, thanks to the instructor’s well-rehearsed jokes.

Get an even higher view

A helicopter tour with Papillon Grand Canyon covers famous landmarks, such as the Hoover Dam.

“You simply cannot see the canyon better any other way,” says pilot Taylor Clarke of Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters. Cruising 1,220 metres above sea level at 130 km/h, we ooh’ed and ahh’ed during an hour-long Golden Eagle Air Tour in Boulder City. We learned about mountain geology while coasting above Lake Mead and the Colorado River, lava domes and the iconic sights of Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.

Hike your way up

A hike of Calico Tanks Trail in Red Rock Canyon offers incredible views.

A guided hike at scenic Red Rock Canyon was the perfect activity to take in the desert mix of bright red rock, mounds of tan earth and white snow-covered mountain peaks. During our hike at Calico Tanks Trail, a 20-kilometre loop, we traversed up and over boulders, taking plenty of Instagram-worthy pictures. Visitors can book a guided hike through the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa.

Kick up desert dust

The sun goes down during an ATV tour in Nelson, Nev., which features the perfect desert terrain for the vehicles.

After following a desolate road, we arrived at Eldorado mine in Nelson, Nev., a recreated town on private land. We were there with Awesome Adventures to rip it up on ATVs. The progressively hard trail we followed consisted of many dips and turns and left us wide grinned, smelling faintly of gasoline and covered in desert grit. It was pure adrenalin-filled fun. 

Practice your swing

At indoor golf range Topgolf Las Vegas, guests can tee off and refuel with a pint and a meal.

Back in the city, we took a drive of another sort, at indoor golf range Topgolf Las Vegas. In an environment that feels more bowling alley than golf green, grabbing a pint and an 8 iron is the thing to do. Then aim to drive a ball and hit a target inside a large netted area. Not a golfer? No problem, says Jeff Klein of PR Plus. “The majority of people who visit aren’t.”

When you go

Get there: Various airlines fly direct to Las Vegas.

Stay: The chic and uber-modern Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is near great shopping and dining options, and offers sassy interior design with spacious suites that overlook the Bellagio fountains. Grab a healthy morning shake or cold pressed juice at the Juice Standard in the hotel.

Eat: Enjoy an Italian lunch at cosy Giada in the Cromwell hotel, seafood at Estiatorio Milos in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, and delicious handcrafted cocktails alongside farm-to-table offerings at both Sage in the Aria Resort & Casino, and Harvest by Roy Ellamar at the Bellagio Las Vegas.

Book a hike: Guests of the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa can book a guided hike of Red Rock Canyon through the hotel. After hitting the trails, relax in the hotel’s luxurious Spa Aquae, try a meditation session in the Zen Gardens, or enjoy personal concierge service at no charge.

Relax: The Spa at Mandarin Oriental offers a detoxifying Chinese foot massage.

Do your research: Visit

Disclaimer: A version of this story originally appeared in the Toronto Star. I was hosted by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which didn’t review or approve this story.



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