Liz Devine in Las Vegas

Beyond the Neon of Vegas: Discovering Nevada Nature

Last month I had the pleasure of being part of a group of LGBT tour operators hosted by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority and the Nevada Commission on Tourism. Although Las Vegas has often been voted a top gay destination for leisure travellers, we were invited to discover Nevada beyond the neon of the strip.

We started with a group photo under the famous Vegas sign, and a night-time helicopter tour of the famed Las Vegas strip, swooping over bright lights and new construction cranes. Vegas continues to grow despite the sluggishness of US tourism overall. The days of bargain basement hotel rates are over, as their occupancy rates are generally over 80%, and Vegas remains the country’s top convention destination.

I stayed at the Luxor – known for the big pyramid out front that apparently can be seen from space. The hotel and mid-sized casino was easy to navigate, with several Starbucks conveniently located at central meeting points. The first morning I was awake at dawn, and delighted to discover the magical view of Treasure Island from my window. Did i feel like I was in Disneyland for adults? You bet!

For our first day of adventure we headed northeast of Vegas, to hike in the Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada’s oldest state park. Its name is derived from the red sandstone formations that formed from shifting sand dunes 150 million years ago. Extensive erosion enhanced by areas of petrified wood has created an other-worldly landscape, with 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs depicting the lives of Basket Maker people and the Anasazi Pueblo farmers.

From fire to water, we journey to Calville Bay and tour luxury houseboats that can accomodate a reunion of all your exes, then have a relaxing lunch while we cruise Lake Mead and check out the Hoover Dam. We look way up; at 726 feet, it’s the 18th largest dam in the world.

The day concludes with a performance of the legendary Jubilee! The original Vegas showgirl production boasts 85 performers – both topless and covered – 1,000 different costumes, and 8,000 miles of sequins.

I’m off to bed early to prepare for the scariest adventure of my life.

Given the option of a lazy rafting tour down the Colorado River, or a once in a lifetime experience of flying in a harness at up to 55 miles per hour on 4 separate zip lines that cover just over a mile and half of the Mojave Desert, I pick …

At Flightlinez we start with flight school orientation, are fitted with our own personal harness (oh my!), and head for the hills. From the summit of Red Mountain, 3800 feet above sea level we see breathtaking views of Las Vegas Valley, Lake Mead and the Eldorado Valley. On my first exhilirating run I plunge 450 ft in 15 seconds, my heart in my mouth. By the fourth and last zip I am a pro leisurely enjoying the sights of the Valley. On our final day we wind down with a tour of the spectacular Red Rock Conservation Area, and visits to spa resorts that are perfect for those who want to enjoy Vegas hospitality beyond the strip. Evening entertainment includes a Jersey Boys show and a trip to the newest gay Vegas attraction, Drink ‘n Drag, for a few games of bowling with service by adorable Drag Queens. Only in Vegas!

by Liz Devine on 06/26/2012 in Sightseeing