As summer approaches and Memorial Day weekend draws closer, Las Vegans can expect to see more California license plates on Interstate 15 as visitors take a road trip to Las Vegas. But where can locals go to relax and escape the heat — and maybe the tourists, too?
Here are five ideas for road trip destinations from Las Vegas that take less than five hours.
St. George, Utah
There’s plenty to enjoy in Southern Utah and in less than two hours, visitors can arrive in St. George. The destination is great for those who enjoy the outdoors as it’s near Zion National Park, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area and Dixie National Forest. Or, travel a little further for a day trip to Bryce Canyon National Park or the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Estimated time: Two hours.
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
There’s a not-so-small piece of British history in Lake Havasu City: the London Bridge.
In 1967, Robert McCulloch purchased part of the bridge from across the pond for $2.46 million. The developer of Lake Havasu City thought the purchase would help make the desert community a tourist destination.
Now, visitors go to the city for the bridge as well as for the watersports and special events like the IJSBA Jet Ski World Finals and the Havasu Balloon Festival and Fair.
Estimated time: 2½ hours.
About four hours from the Las Vegas Valley, Flagstaff is a great road trip into Northern Arizona. Stargaze at Lowell Observatory, check out the shopping and open-air markets in the city’s downtown or see spots along the historic Route 66.
Flagstaff can also be a home base to drive an hour south into Sedona or north to Kaibab National Forest, a roughly 1½ hour drive.
Estimated time: Four hours.
Palm Springs, California
If you want to vacation at spot that was popular with old-school Hollywood film stars and the Rat Pack, consider visiting Palm Springs. Visitors can browse vintage shops, art galleries or boutiques at the El Paseo Shopping District. A ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway can also provide a view over the valley at an elevation of more than 8,500 feet. There’s also plenty of options to sit poolside at resorts or visit spas in the city.
Estimated time: Four hours.
San Diego, California
So “less than five hours” might be a little generous, but the 5½ hour drive to San Diego may be worth it for ocean lovers. Visitors can walk along the boardwalk at Mission Beach or head to La Jolla for a surf lesson. There’s also family-friendly attractions at Balboa Park, which is home to the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Natural History Museum and other attractions. Guests can also opt for a glimpse of the San Diego Padres’ home ballpark Petco Park or the USS Midway Museum, located on a historical naval aircraft carrier in downtown San Diego.
Estimated time: 5½ hours
McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.