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Free Admission to Arizona Museums with the Culture Pass

Posted by on Nov 4, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Culture Pass Kiosk

You can get free passes to over 30 museums and attractions if you have a library card from Maricopa County or Pima County, Arizona.

Culture pass
Heard Museum

How to Check Out a Culture Pass

The program is called the Culture Pass, and it works like this:

  1. Visit the Culture Pass kiosk at a participating library.
  2. Pick the pass you’re interested in. There will be cards for all the available passes – it’s first-come, first-served.
  3. Check the pass out with your library card. You will be exchanging the card from the kiosk for a receipt-like slip of paper, which is your actual ticket in.
  4. Go to the museum! Each pass is good for free general admission for two people one time. You have one week to use it before it expires, but you don’t have to return anything to the library.

You may be able to search the library’s catalog online to see ahead of time what’s available.

If you live in Maricopa County, you can get a library card from any of the County’s public libraries. Only ASU students can check out Culture Passes from ASU libraries, although alumni and community members are eligible for cards with limited access to other ASU library resources.

Culture Pass Arts Destinations

Some of the Culture Pass Arts Destinations we’ve enjoyed (with or without a pass):

Culture Pass Performances

More recently, the program has also expanded to include performances. It works basically the same way. Certain plays, ballets, operas, and symphony concerts will have Culture Passes available a couple weeks ahead of time on a first come, first serve basis.

These include performances from…

…and lots more!

Outside of Maricopa County

The Sedona Public Library also has passes for Northern Arizona destinations, like Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Route 66 Museum in Kingman, and the Sedona Heritage Museum.

Pima County Public Library branches have passes for Tucson destinations like Tohono Chul Park, Tucson Museum of Art, and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, as well as performances by Arizona Opera, Tucson Symphony, and UA Presents.

I believe there are similar programs at some libraries outside of Arizona. If you know of one, let me know!

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Smithsonian: Air and Space Museum and Mitsitam Café

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Smithsonian American Indian Museum
Cafe at Smithsonian American Indian Museum

Cafe at National Museum of the American Indian

While I could have easily spent a full day at the Smithsonian American History Museum, a D.C.-area friend had recommended the Mitsitam Café at the Smithsonian American Indian Museum as a “little known gem.” I decided to make my way there for lunch.

Mitsitam cafe
Smithsonian Native American Museum

The cafeteria serves native-inspired foods that span the American continents. I got a buffalo burger and fry bread.

Smithsonian Native American Museum

The menu also includes options like wild rice and ceviche.

DC Museum cafe

This is definitely a place I’d like to come back to and try more things!

Smithsonian space museum

National Air and Space Museum

When I walked down Independence Avenue to the south entrance of the Air and Space Museum, I was discouraged to see a line over 100 feet long to get in. I had started back toward our hotel, when I looked back and saw that the northern entrance – along Jefferson Drive – didn’t seem to have a line! Sure enough, about five minutes later I was in the museum!

Air and space museum

So keep in mind that there is more than one entrance, especially since, as Stephanie later told me, the Air and Space Museum is the most popular of the Smithsonian museums.

Amelia Earhart

Immediately upon entering, I saw display spaces festoooned with replica and original air and space craft – a lunar landing module, the “Spirit of St. Louis,” the front half of the fuselage of a 747, rocket nozzles as big as my living room.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum: plane

In the past I had wanted to be an astronaut, so I was particularly intrigued by the exhibits showing relics of the U.S. space program in the 60s and 70s – toolkits, suits, windowed hatches, flight manuals, and the like. There’s even a very official and ornate “certificate of merit” presented to the first chimpanzee sent to space by the U.S., which I found both ridiculous and moving. While I was certainly impressed by the spacecrafts themselves, oddly, it was these historic bits of ephemera that captivated me the most.

image

The guided tour moved a bit too slow for me, so I bailed out to cover more ground.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Marty met up with me about an hour into my museum visit, so that was a nice surprise. We toured the World War II fighter aircraft exhibit together. I especially appreciated the naval aircraft display that replicated both the deck and interior of an aircraft carrier.

Air and space museum

Unfortunately, our time soon ran out at the Air and Space Museum. We went to the food court with the biggest McDonald’s I’d ever been to. There was a large seating area and lots of windows to let in light. Fortunately, we went as the day was winding down, so we didn’t have to wait in line long.

National Mall sunset

I enjoyed sitting in the gradually-emptying mega-McDonald’s and debriefing the museum sights with Marty.

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Smithsonian: American History Museum

Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

Smithsonian American History Museum

I arrived at the National Museum of American History just in time for a guided tour. The group was small – only me – but the docent/tour guide was still more than happy to take me on the full tour.

It started with a walk through the first floor exhibit on the history of transportation in the US with early trains and automobiles on display.

Transportation Smithsonian - American history museum

My tour guide mentioned that, at any one time, there is way more stuff in storage at the Smithsonian than there is on display.

Julia Child's Kitchen - Smithsonian - American history museum

One thing that’s always out, however, is Julia Child’s kitchen, rebuilt piece by piece. It reminded me of the end of the movie Julie and Julia, where a scene in this historic kitchen fades into today’s museum display.

Uniform at Smithsonian - American history museum

Combat Zone

One standout section for me was the display on the history of war in the United States. It was more realistic than idealistic, providing insight into the enormous human toll war has had on our country.

I was also profoundly moved by a display of items left at the Vietnam Memorial including notes from loved ones and friends. I looked at the dates of the “boys” that died. Some of them were born about the same time as my father. I thought about all the friends, fathers, and uncles that those in my generations never grew up knowing.

Smithsonian lunch counter

Counter Protest

A section of the lunch counter from the Greensboro sit-in during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s was on display, somewhat unceremoniously, in a clear space between larger exhibits. If I hadn’t known it was a display, I might have just thought it was a closed (and very dated) snack stand.

When I saw the placard and description, I stood there a long time, trying to imagine how it would have been to sit there in protest years ago.

It’s easy to idealize the moral stands of the past; with the benefit of reflection and history, most would agree the Greensboro sit-in was necessary. However, in the moment, with hostile people around clamoring for “peace and order” and to “stop trespassing,” it would have been easy to flinch or doubt oneself.

National Mall

History doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s made up of the mundane things of life, uncertainties and all. I stared at the lunch counter and marveled in its reality. It was gathering place with ugly pastel-colored seats. A place where people sat down to eat and drink coffee. A place where people sat down to protest a kind of oppression I will never know.

With the voices of so many marginalized populations still asking for a place at the table to speak, it doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago.

 

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Make a Plan to See Smithsonian Museums in D.C.

Posted by on Aug 17, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

Smithsonian visitor center castle

If you’re traveling to Washington D.C. for the first time and your list of things to do includes “see the Smithsonian,” you might be in for a surprise.

The Smithsonian Institution is not a single sight you can check off in an afternoon. It’s a collection of 19 different museums of varying sizes, research centers, gardens, galleries, and a zoo. There’s just way too much stuff to see it all in one trip, let alone a day.

In fact, a couple of the museums aren’t even in D.C., they’re in New York. A few more are scattered throughout the D.C. metro area. However, most of them (13 or so) are clustered right around the National Mall.

I’m calling them the “Mall Smithsonians” for short.

National Mall

In the coming weeks, Phillip will be sharing what it was like inside the Mall Smithsonians he was able to visit during our short D.C. trip – specifically, the American History Museum, Air and Space Museum, and café of the Native American Museum.

But, first, I wanted to give you some practical information about how to tackle the Mall Smithsonians.

Depending on how much time you have, you’ll probably want to pick 1-3 museums and prioritize the parts of each you want to see most. Choosing what you’re interested in is the easy part, though. Figuring out how to get there, when you can go, and where you can eat or find wifi or store your stuff gets a bit more confusing.

So here are some tips to help you make the most of these Mall museums.


DC

6 Things to Know about the Mall Smithsonians

1. Admission is free.

Donations are, of course, accepted and appreciated.

Since you’re not tied to paying a daily entrance fee, you can be more flexible in how you experience the museums.

You don’t have to spend the whole day in one museum…

  • If you’re short on time, stop in for an hour or two. Or just long enough to see whatever you were dying to see before leaving town.
  • If you’re tied up during the day (with business, a conference, or other obligations), check the hours. You may be able to do an evening visit.
  • Go museum hopping, seeing just the exhibits you’re most interested in at each.

You don’t have to see it all in one day…

  • Take your time checking out a museum you’re particularly interested in. Come back the next day if there’s more you want to see.
  • Instead of one long day, break a visit up into two weekday afternoons or weekend mornings, when crowds are typically lighter.
  • Leave when your (or your kid/s, travel companion/s, etc.) energy begins to wane, knowing you can pick up where you left off after a nap, a change in activity, or another day.

There are a few activities that do require free or paid tickets (like the IMAX theaters), but these are the exception rather than the rule.

Smithsonian visitor center castle

2. They’re open daily.

Mall Smithsonians are typically open every day, unless it’s Christmas (December 25) or if they’re closed for renovation.

  • Most have opening hours from 10am to 5:30pm (exceptions below).
  • In addition, some have extended hours on certain days or close early for special events. Double check the Smithsonian Special Hours Calendar to see what’s up before you go.

3. Large bags are not recommended.

  • Some museums (noted below) have storage lockers available for smallish items (like maybe under-your-airplane-seat sized bags).
  • For larger luggage, ask if you can leave it where you are/were staying (most hotels and Airbnbs will allow guests to store luggage before check in or after check out).
  • Otherwise, your best bet is the Tiburon Lockers Baggage Check Counter at Union Station, Gate A ($6/hour). (From there, you can take the DC Circulator to the Mall.)

4. You’ll need to go through security as you enter.

  • Bags will be checked either by hand or X-ray machine, even if you’re planning to store them in a locker.
  • During peak times, this can cause lines, especially at the Air and Space Museum. So, even though you don’t have to pay admission, you may have to wait to get in.

DC Museum cafe

5. Many of the museums have a café or food court.

  • You can also bring your own food for a picnic on the Mall’s lawn or in the Portrait Gallery’s courtyard.
  • As long as everything is sealed up well, you can carry food and water with you in your bag or store it in a locker.
  • Map of food vendors on the National Mall – with menus. Or check the list below.

6. Parking: don’t count on it.

  • None of the Mall Smithsonians have their own designated parking.
  • The Smithsonian Parking Map (PDF) lists other local lots.
  • Consider alternative transportation, like the DC Circulator (which stops near all the Mall-area Smithsonians) or the Metrorail (which has a stop – literally called “Smithsonian” – that exits onto the Mall itself in the middle of a bunch of museums.)

With this in mind, driving (and attempting to park) in the area may be more trouble than it’s worth – unless you need a place to stash your oversized luggage (see #3).

 

Air and Space Museum

Museum by Museum Guide

Here are the Smithsonian museums located around the National Mall listed geographically, roughly west to east – from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol Building (Smithsonian National Mall Map PDF).

I’ve gathered information about each to help you with planning:

  • Nearest Metrorail stop/s and where to exit*
  • Nearest Capital Bikeshare rental station/s and station number/s*
  • Hours (if different than 10am to 5:30pm)
  • Important things to note (closed to the public, requires a timed ticket, etc.)
  • If there are cafés (or food courts, carts, kiosks, etc.), wifi, storage lockers, and/or bike racks on site.
  • Other features (garden, planetarium, etc.)

*More info in our post on transportation tips for the National Mall!
Washington DC

On the Mall –

National Museum of African American History and Culture

1400 Constitution Avenue, NW

  • Metro: Federal Triangle or Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: 15th St & Constitution Ave NW, Bike station 31321
  • Requires timed ticket.
  • Café

National Museum of American History

1300 Constitution Avenue, NW

  • Metro: Federal Triangle or Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: 10th St & Constitution Ave NW, Bike station 31219 or Smithsonian-National Mall / Jefferson Dr & 12th St SW, Bike station 31248
  • Cafés on lower level and 1st floor
  • Wifi in Welcome Center and cafés (free)
  • Lockers available
  • Bike racks outside

National Museum of Natural History

10th St. and Constitution Ave., NW

  • Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: 10th St & Constitution Ave NW, Bike station 31219 or Smithsonian-National Mall / Jefferson Dr & 12th St SW, Bike station 31248
  • Butterfly Pavilion – tickets $6. Free admission on Tuesdays with timed ticket.
  • IMAX Theatre – tickets required (about $9-15/adult).
  • Cafés on ground level, food carts outside
  • Lockers available
  • Bike racks outside (Constitution Avenue entrance)

Freer Gallery of Art (Asian art)

Jefferson Dr. and 12th St., SW

  • Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: USDA / 12th & Independence Ave SW, Bike station 31217 or Smithsonian-National Mall / Jefferson Dr & 12th St SW, Bike station 31248
  • Closed to the public until October 14, 2017.
  • Lockers available

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Asian art)

1050 Independence Ave., SW

  • Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: Independence Ave & L’Enfant Plaza SW/DOE, Bike station 31633
  • Closed to the public until October 14, 2017.

National Museum of African Art

950 Independence Ave., SW

  • Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: Independence Ave & L’Enfant Plaza SW/DOE, Bike station 31633
  • Lockers available
  • Bike racks outside (between African Art Museum and Sacker Gallery, outside Haupt Garden gates on Independence Avenue)

Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle)

1000 Jefferson Dr., SW

  • Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
  • Bikeshare: Independence Ave & L’Enfant Plaza SW/DOE, Bike station 31633 or Smithsonian-National Mall / Jefferson Dr & 12th St SW, Bike station 31248
  • Smithsonian Visitor Center
  • Daily hours: 8:30am – 5:30pm. It opens earlier than the other museums, so you can start there and get oriented.
  • Café, food carts outside seasonally
  • Wifi (free)
  • Bike racks outside

Hirshhorn Museum (international modern and contemporary art)

Independence Ave. and 7th St., SW

  • Metro: L’Enfant Plaza (Maryland Ave. exit)
  • Bikeshare: L’Enfant Plaza / 7th & C St SW, Bike station 31218 or Independence Ave & L’Enfant Plaza SW/DOE, Bike station 31633
  • Sculpture Garden – open 7:30 a.m. to dusk
  • Café (dessert and coffee)
  • Wifi (free)
  • Lockers available
  • Bike racks outside

National Air and Space Museum

Independence Ave. and 6th St., SW

  • Metro: L’Enfant Plaza (Maryland Ave. exit)
  • Bikeshare: Maryland & Independence Ave SW, Bike station 31243
  • Open until 7:30pm on select dates.
  • Entrances on Independence Avenue and the Mall/Jefferson Avenue. If lines are long at one entrance, try the other.
  • IMAX Theatre – tickets required (about $9-15/adult).
  • Planetarium – tickets required (some shows are free, others may be about $9/adult).
  • Observatory
  • Food Court (First Floor-East Wing), food carts outside
  • Bike racks outside
  • Wifi (free)

National Museum of the American Indian

4th St. & Jefferson Dr., SW

  • Metro: L’Enfant Plaza (Maryland Ave. exit)
  • Bikeshare: Maryland & Independence Ave SW, Bike station 31243
  • Café, espresso bar
  • Wifi (free)
  • Bike racks outside

 

Walking in DC - treasury

Near the Mall –

Renwick Gallery (contemporary craft and decorative art)

1700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

  • Metro: Farragut West or Farragut North
  • Bikeshare: 17th & G St NW, Bike station 31277
  • Barrier-free access at 17th Street entrance.

Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery

8th and F Sts., NW

  • Metro: Gallery Place-Chinatown (9th St. exit)
  • Bikeshare: 7th & F St NW/Portrait Gallery, Bike station 31232
  • Both museums are inside the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
  • Daily hours: 11:30am – 7pm
  • Kogod Courtyard – bag lunches allowed.
  • Café
  • Wifi (free)
  • Lockers and self-check coat room (near the F Street Lobby) available

National Postal Museum

2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE

  • Metro: Union Station (Mass. Ave. exit)
  • Bikeshare: North Capitol St & F St NW, Bike station 31624
  • Lockers available
  • Bike racks outside

National Mall, Washington DC


Have anything to add? Did you use this on a trip to D.C.? Leave a comment and share your experience!

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7 Vegas Things to Do Off the Strip

Posted by on Dec 30, 2016 in Craft, Travel | 0 comments

UNLV

When we took our road trip to Las Vegas, our brief Bellagio Fountains visit was the most time we spent on the (in)famous Strip, where the supersized casino-resort properties (and, yep, lots of places for weddings) are clustered.

Sangria at firefly

Instead, we played retro arcade games, found some art, explored the desert, and ate some really good food.

Seven magic mountains

So, if ginormous casinos aren’t your thing, read on for awesome places to go in Downtown, near UNLV, and outside of the city altogether.

Bin 702

Downtown Las Vegas

Just north of The Strip is Downtown Las Vegas, which was built first, with casinos along its historic Fremont Street in the wild west days before Nevada was even a state.

Today Downtown includes the area between Washington Avenue and Sahara Avenue, Valley View Boulevard and Eastern Avenue. There is an effort underway to make it more welcoming and walkable, as well as focused on arts and small businesses.

You can still find casinos downtown too. Several of them are linked by the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian walkway, such as Binion’s (home to a free-pull slot machine) and Golden Nugget (home to a waterslide that goes through a shark tank).

Downtown Las Vegas

Downtown Parking

There are several paid parking lots in the Downtown area.

If you’re parking or staying on The Strip, you can take the Deuce bus from there to Downtown. ($8 fare for unlimited rides during a 24-hour period.)

Downtown Las Vegas - Container Park

1. Stroll through Downtown Container Park.

What it is: Three storeys of shipping containers repurposed into locally-owned stores and restaurants surrounding a central plaza and Treehouse playground.

Where: 707 Fremont Street, Las Vegas

Parking: Llama Lot and Fremont Street Experience parking garage (mentioned above) are each about .25 mile away, and you’ll save a few bucks over the Container Park’s own lot ($3/hour). Less money parking means more for things like cheese boards and bath bombs.

Hours:

Shopping Center –

Monday – Thursday: 11am to 9pm
Friday – Saturday: 10am to 10pm
Sunday: 10am to 8pm

Restaurants + Bars –

Monday – Thursday: 11am to 11pm
Friday – Saturday: 10am to 1am
Sunday: 10am to 11pm

Downtown Las Vegas - Natural Earth Cosmetics
We liked…

  • Art Box for jewelry and artwork from 35 local artists.
  • Natural Earth Cosmetics has handmade natural bath products and cosmetics, knit wash mitts, and other unique gift items – most of it handmade by the owner Michaela.
  • Bin 702 for delicious and adorable montaditos (mini-sandwiches).

Downtown Las Vegas Container Park
Tips:

  • Phillip wanted me to remind you not to miss the second and third floors. There is more food, more jewelry, clothing, and a cool pet store with reptiles, fish, and seahorses.
  • On the second floor next to The Perch, there’s what looks like a gallery container with a few places to sit, some local artwork, and a view overlooking the courtyard and stage. It may actually be the smoking section and not a gallery. However, when we were there, people were hanging out, eating, and watching the costume contest happening on stage, but I don’t remember seeing anyone actually smoking.
  • The Fire Mantis sculpture in front of the entrance periodically lights up, plays music, and shoots flames from its antennae.
  • Kappa Toys has their own custom pogs and slammers.

Downtown Las Vegas Container Park

2. Find restored historic signs in Downtown’s outdoor Urban Gallery.

What it is: As far as I can tell, this is not a single spot but several outdoor installations.

Nine of the Neon Museum’s vintage signs have been restored to working order and installed around Downtown, including at the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian walkway. Since they’re outside on public streets, you can visit them anytime. Just download a map of their locations and go on a self-guided tour.

Along the way, you’ll probably spot other public art like Bordalo II’s Meerkat mural on the side of an old bus or the world’s largest working fire hydrant in front of a doggy daycare center.

Downtown Las Vegas

Where: Downtown Las Vegas, especially around Las Vegas Boulevard (See PDF map.)

Parking: Fremont Street Experience parking garage or any of the Downtown Parking options above.

Hours: Always open.

Cost: Free.

Xeriscape

Around UNLV

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) is east of The Strip and directly north of McCarran International Airport. One of the items below is actually on campus, while the other two are nearby.

Barrick Museum UNLV

3. Visit the Marjorie Barrick Museum at UNLV.

What it is: Small art museum with rotating exhibits inside a former gymnasium.

Where: 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas

Parking (PDF map):

  • Lot I (metered, $1/hour, right outside Musuem)
  • Visitor Lot V (metered, $1/hour)
  • Lot S (free, about 0.7 mile from Museum)

Hours:

Monday – Friday: 9am to 5pm (Thursdays until 8pm)
Saturday: 12 to 5pm
Closed Sundays

Cost: Free. Suggested contribution: $5.

UNLV

We liked…

Current exhibitions –

  • In Transition: Ceramic figurines of women in different stages of life from pre-columbian Mesoamerica, South America, and Central America. September 6 – March 30, 2017.
  • Edward Burtynsky: Oil: Photo series on the effects of oil extraction and consumption around the world. September 23 – January 14, 2017.

The ArtBar, where you can create your own art in response to the work on display.

A xeriscape entry garden wraps around the outside of the building with pathways through desert plants.

 

Pinball Hall of Fame

4. Play games at the Pinball Hall of Fame.

What it is: Not-for-profit, volunteer-run arcade of working (mostly) vintage pinball machines and games like Pac-man, Tetris, and Star Wars.

Where: 1610 E. Tropicana, Las Vegas (North side of Tropicana between Maryland Parkway and Eastern Avenue, about 1.5 mi from The Strip.)

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours:

Sunday – Thursday: 11am to 11pm
Friday – Saturday: 11am to 12am

Cost: Free entrance. Games are 25 cents to $1.

Pinball

We liked…

  • Playing pinball! We enjoyed the analog machines, as well as the newer movie- and t.v.-themed ones (The Lord of the Rings, Gilligan’s Island, etc.).
  • Indulging our nostalgia for video games we grew up with.
  • Phillip found some quirky old mechanical games, including one where you fly this little metal spaceship and one with a dancing clown that creeped me out.

Vintage arcade game

Tips:

  • Machines are old and finicky and may eat your quarters. Let the attendant behind the counter know which game it is right away, and they’ll attempt to fix it or refund you.
  • There are change machines near the back.
  • Contrary to rumors that they’re about to close, the Pinball Hall of Fame is actually in the process of expanding into a bigger facility down the street.

Firefly tapas

5. Enjoy small plates at FiREFLY* Tapas Kitchen & Bar

Where: 3824 Paradise Road, Las Vegas

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours:

Monday – Thursday: 11:30am to 1am (Happy hour 3pm – 6pm, 11pm – 1am)
Friday – Saturday: 11:30am to 2am
Sunday: 10am to 1am (Brunch 10am – 2pm)

Firefly tapas

We liked…

  • Sangria, croquettes, bacon-wrapped dates, merguez – everything was so good and reminded me of the flavors of Spain!
  • We ordered a few (5ish) tapas to share. The small plates were great for sampling a variety of things and made a great lunch.

Outside of Town

Red Rock Las Vegas

6. Explore Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Where: 3205 State Route 159, Las Vegas

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours:

Visitors center –
Daily 8am to 4:30pm

Scenic drive –
Daily 6am to 5pm

Cost: $7/vehicle for entry to Visitors Center and scenic drive. Red Rock Scenic Overlook is outside of the fee area, so I believe it’s free to stop there.

Red Rock

We liked…

  • 45-minute scenic drive loop with plenty of places to stop, check out the view, hike, or picnic (see below).
  • Visitors Center with a great picture window and extensive exhibits outside.

Tips:

  • There’s a desert tortoise habitat outside the Visitors Center, when it’s not too cold for them.
  • We had no cell service out there.
  • While the scenic drive was beautiful at every turn, if you were suuuper pressed for time, you could at least stop at Red Rock Scenic Overlook. You won’t get to see everything, but it would be better than missing out altogether.

We had hoped to squeeze in a quick hike and/or picnic, so I picked out a few options, and then didn’t have time to do either. Anyway, here’s what I found.

Red Rock, Nevada

Easy hikes (and trail map numbers)

  • Overlook Trail (22): Paved, wheelchair-accessible path leading to the top of a small hill with a view of Red Rock Canyon. 0.25 mi.
  • Lost Creek Children’s Discovery Trail (8): Goes from the Lost Creek parking area to a seasonal waterfall. 0.7 mi.
  • Moenkopi Loop (1): Loop from the visitor center with fossils and panoramic views of the Wilson Cliffs. 2 mi.

Red rock

Picnic areas:

There are 4, and all have tables, trash cans, and nearby restrooms.

  • Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center Picnic Area: West of the Visitors Center parking area (with access to Moenkopi and Calico Hills trails).
  • Willow Springs Picnic Area: About halfway around the Scenic Drive (with access to Lost Creek and other trails).
  • Red Rock Scenic Overlook Picnic Area: On State Route 159 with access to Red Rock Scenic Overlook Trail. Some covered tables.
  • The Red Spring Picnic Area: On State Route 159 on Calico Basin Road, two miles east of the Visitors Center. Covered tables.

Seven magic mountains vegas

7. Drive out to Seven Magic Mountains.

30-foot-tall stacks of neon-painted boulders in the desert, a large-scale art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone on display through May 2018.

Where: 10 miles (about 30 minutes) south of Las Vegas off I-15 near Jean Dry Lake.

  • Take Exit 25 at Sloan Rd.
  • It’s on the way to Los Angeles.
  • If you’re headed to Phoenix or just about anywhere else, it’s not on the way, but we thought it was worth the detour!

Parking: Free lot on-site.

Hours: Daily, sunrise to sunset (recommended).

Cost: Free.

Seven Magic Mountains Las Vegas

We liked…

  • Seeing the vibrant colors against the muted landscape.
  • Experiencing art large enough to crush us.

Seven magic mountains

Tips:

  • You can get some background information from either the signage near the parking lot or by calling (702) 381-5182 (English or Spanish).
  • There are no restrooms, water, tables, benches, shelters/shade covers, or anything else on the site. Just you, the art, and the elements in the open desert.
  • The closest public restrooms are 5 miles away in the town of Jean.
  • It was very windy the day we were there. A woman showed up with a yoga mat but didn’t stay long because it was so dusty. Plan for the weather. Don’t plan on doing yoga.

French pastry

Bonus

A few more Off-Strip eatery options:

  • Delices Gourmands French Bakery (3620 W. Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas) – Stopped here for a pastry and coffee.
  • The Sparklings (8310 S. Rainbow Boulevard, Ste. 100, Las Vegas) – This is where our friend’s wedding was, so we didn’t visit during normal restaurant hours, but it seemed like a neat place.
  • KJ Kitchen (5960 Spring Mountain Road, Chinatown, Las Vegas) – Our Las Vegas friends’ pick for “real Chinese food.”

There are also lots of places to stay that aren’t on The Strip. We opted for a great little Airbnb casita rental near Red Rock. [UPDATE: You can get $35 off your first Airbnb stay and help us keep traveling by signing up via my referral page.] 

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What are your Off-Strip tips?

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