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Connections: Beyond the Strip in Las Vegas

By Jennifer Ward, 02/10/23, 5:30PM EST


Upgrade your weekend in this entertainment hotspot with our top picks for food, outdoor adventures, and more.

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Every year, runners flock to Las Vegas to run The Strip on the only night of the year it’s closed to traffic. That’s right—it's a race that starts at dusk, with the party going on into the night. Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series Las Vegas is known for the unique chance it provides runners to see the glitzy city from a new perspective. Come for the lights, the costumes, the music and the World’s Largest Running Party—stay for everything else Vegas has up its sleeves. From food to art to outdoor adventures, we promise Vegas is anything but run-of the-mill.  

Jump off your United flight and straight into a weekend jam-packed with activities. With the 5K on Saturday and the Half Marathon and 10K on Sunday, there’s a distance for everyone. And the same goes for filling your downtime—this dynamic city has more to dole out than the nickel slots. 

Are you a foodie, an outdoor enthusiast, or an unabashed lover of tourist “traps?” Work your way through our themes below or pick and choose to craft a custom itinerary that suits you and your crew best.  


Vegas for foodies 

There’s a reason we’re starting with food—we're runners, after all! Pick a celebrity chef and they probably have a flagship in Vegas. The city is a hub for culinary innovation and offers every type of cuisine you can think of, from hole-in-the-wall eateries to Michelin-starred restaurants. With far too many restaurants to mention in detail, we put together a smattering of classics and new additions across the Vegas food scene. 

Breakfast, diner-style: Start your day with Vegas’ answer to the local diner. Peppermill with its neighboring Fireside Lounge, is a nostalgic mainstay on the north Strip. Their massive menu runs the gamut from omelettes and French toast to burgers and steaks. (2985 S Las Vegas Blvd) 

Tacos for lunch: If the lines outside Tacos El Gordo are any indication, the wildly popular tacos are still one of the can’t-miss experiences in Las Vegas. What the cafeteria-style restaurant lacks in style it makes up for in flavor, serving $3.50 Tijuana-style tacos bursting with spice and texture. 

Herbaceous happy hour: Nectaly Mendoza’s off-Strip steakhouse and bar Herbs and Rye is 1920s-style speakeasy meets upscale date spot. Happy hour runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and after midnight — though sometimes it’s all-day, which means your steaks, pork chops, and spicy mussels are likely to be half-priced no matter when you stop in. The cocktail menu here is broken up by decade, which makes sampling even more fun.  

Top-tier dinner picks: Honey Salt on the west side is known for its farm-to-table-inspired fare. Favorites here include the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich and bacon grilled cheese for lunch and banana foster French toast with almond granola and chocolate pearls for brunch.  

Esther’s Kitchen was one of the first successful restaurants to debut in the Las Vegas Arts District, putting the neighborhood on the map as a culinary destination. Serving Italian fare, the restaurant is small but cozy—a frequent haunt among locals. Try the butternut squash tortellini, tossed with brown butter and a hint of espresso for a richness that just works. In a dish of pasta al zucco, pumpkin-shaped noodles scoop up spicy bites of pork sausage and broccoli rabe.  

Every chef in town stops by Mitsuo Endo’s tiny restaurant Aburiya Raku in Chinatown for small-portioned Japanese robata dishes cooked over a charcoal grill. Diners can order a variety of items since most start at $3, or try the omakase with a flight of food chosen by the chef for $75 to $100.  

Tacos El Gordo

Tacos El Gordo

Esther's Kitchen

Esther's Kitchen

Honey Salt

Honey Salt

Get outta town 

If you’d rather spend your downtime communing with nature than combing back alleys for hidden taco joints, Vegas is bursting with options. What many visitors to the city don’t know is that the area is surrounded by mountains, making it a hiker’s paradise replete with trails, canyons, conservation areas, lakes, and natural hot springs. Shake out your race legs with an easy ramble or send your supporters off on something more ambitious—the Las Vegas Valley has something for everyone. 

Red Rock Canyon: Just West of town, Red Rock Canyon offers a respite from the energy of Vegas and boasts numerous hikes for all levels. A road circles the canyon, and each trailhead has a parking lot where you can leave your car to go hike before driving to the next trailhead. At 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long, the Calico Tanks trail is the most popular in the area and offers a great view of Las Vegas. Entrance costs $15 USD per vehicle (or $5 USD if you’re a pedestrian), and the scenic loop is open from 6am to at least 5pm. Other popular trails worth checking out are the Ice Box Trail (2.6 miles/4 kilometers), Keystone Thrust (2.2 miles/3.5 kilometers), and the White Rock-Willow Spring Loop (4.4 miles/7 kilometers).  

A little further: Southeast of town, Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area also offers numerous hikes, is free to enter, and is just a 20-minute drive. Check out the moderate, 4.2-mile Petroglyph Trail and look out for 300 ancient petroglyphs or tackle the challenging Black Mountain Trail, a very steep yet rewarding hike. To the East, Frenchman Mountain is just a 40-minute drive from town and offers the best sunrise views in the area as a reward for a tough climb. This 4.4-mile hike is ranked difficult because of its steepness, so pack your hiking poles. The Spring Mountains to the Northwest are another place to put on your list, especially if you’re looking for more greenery, trees, or shade. Bristlecone Trail provides shaded forest areas with enchanting views of the surrounding mountains. You may also spot many unique plants and wildlife during your hike, including the endangered Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly. 

Hoover Dam & Lake Mead area: The Historic Railroad Trail at Lake Mead takes you through an old, abandoned railroad track dating back to the 1930s. Along this popular trail, you will encounter different tunnels, each with different stories and signs along the trail to inform you about the history. This easy trail is perfect for everyone, and you can even bring your dogs. Another great part about exploring this historical trail is that you will see the gorgeous desert landscape and Lake Mead below. At the very end of the trail, you will have the option to take an elevator down to the Hoover Dam Visitor Center and continue your adventure with a guided tour. ($30 USD) 

The Hoover Dam is a Great Depression-era landmark that was completed in 1936. Damming the Colorado River to create Lake Mead, its 726 feet (221 meter) curved wall took five years and 21,000 men to build. The dam is free to see but the visitor center with its exhibits and observation deck costs $10 USD.  

Nearby Gold Strike Canyon Hot Springs is one of the most enjoyable hikes in Las Vegas, but it is also on the more challenging side. You will encounter a set of eight different ropes which take you down through different boulders, and this is one of the trickier parts of the hike. While hiking, you will see beautiful red rocks, captivating wildlife, and bighorn sheep are also very common on this path. Once you fully descend, you will find multiple hot springs and hot waterfalls around you. If you continue walking, you will end up at the Colorado River which is perfect for cooling off after a hot soak.  

Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon.

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

Off-beat and artsy 

Located just south of Fremont Street, the Las Vegas Arts District is a diamond in the rough frequently overlooked by tourists. Dubbed “the least Vegas neighborhood in Vegas,” here you’ll find the iconic Arts Factory, a 50-year-old warehouse housing galleries, studios, and all kinds of live art events. (Check their website for an up-to-date schedule.) While you’re in the area, grab a refreshing beer at CraftHaus Brewery, or fuel up with an espresso and Latin snacks at Makers & Finders cafe.  

The Metropolitan Gallery Art Museum (formerly known as the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Arts) is a 300,000-square-foot museum home to local and international exhibits. It’s located on top of the Neonopolis mall and boasts a public exhibition space, special gallery areas, and small workshop galleries. You’ll find everything from paintings to sculptures to photography here. The museum has an emphasis on multicultural works and there are often workshops and educational events held here as well. Admission is free. 

Keep your eyes peeled for the spectacular fire-spewing praying mantis sculpture guarding Downtown Container Park, worth a visit if you’re looking for another escape from the usual. Constructed from more than 40 shipping containers, the indie complex offers unique local shops, bars and restaurants such as the Art Box, selling reasonably priced local work, Pinches Tacos, an authentic Mexican spot, and Oak & Ivy whiskey bar. There’s also an event stage and a kids’ play area. 

The Vegas Stratosphere.

The Vegas Stratosphere.

The water show at the Bellagio.

The water show at the Bellagio.

Shark Reef Aquarium.

Shark Reef Aquarium.

Tourist, unleashed 

There’s nothing wrong with trading pricey meals and sweaty hikes for the good old-fashioned touristy haunts—especially if you have family in tow. This includes, of course, taking in one of Vegas’s many world-class shows (like O at the Bellagio, the most definitive display of Cirque de Solieil’s charms). Beyond the entertainment, read on for other museums and attractions that are perfect for passing the time pre- and post-race, and also, just plain fun. 

Offering the best views of Vegas, Stratosphere is the tallest free-standing observation tower in the US. If you’re feeling brave, consider trying the rides at the top. The aptly named X-Scream propels you headfirst 27 feet over the edge of the tower and leaves you hanging 850 feet in the air.  

The outdoor Neon Museum is home to the vintage neon signs that once beckoned you to Vegas’s famous casinos. For each sign, there are displays to read about its story and significance in Vegas history. Daytime admission is $20 USD and nighttime tours cost $28 USD. Make reservations in advance. 

If you’ve got nostalgia for the vintage-style pinball machines of your childhood arcade days, visiting the Pinball Hall of Fame (near The Strip) is a must. After moving to a new location in 2021, this museum now spans 25,000 square feet and is dedicated entirely to classic pinball games. Admission is free, though playing the games does cost money. Make sure you bring lots of quarters! 

As one of the most prestigious sea-life centers in the world, Shark Reef Aquarium is a must-see. Designed to look like a sunken ancient shipwreck, the exhibit allows you to view over 2,000 species of sharks, sawfish, giant rays, endangered green sea turtles, and rare golden crocodiles. The aquarium is in the Mandalay Bay Resort and tickets cost $29 USD.  

Set to its own soundtrack, the man-made volcano at the Mirage erupts finely choreographed fireballs and smoke 100ft into the air from the waters below, turning the waterfall to molten lava. It’s located at the Mirage on the Strip and has been erupting since the hotel opened in 1989. The volcano show happens nightly at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm.  

Also worth checking out if you’re nearby, the Bellagio resort offers a nightly light and water display set to music. The show has 4,792 lights and uses 1,214 water nozzles to send jets of water soaring as high as 460 feet (140 meters) across the 8.5-acre man-made lake in front of the hotel. Check the Bellagio website for showtimes. 

High Roller observation wheel is the largest of its kind in the world. Think slow Ferris wheel in the heart of the city and take a slow-motion spin 550ft above the Las Vegas Strip for unbeatable views of the skyline and desert beyond. A single loop takes 30 minutes.  

United Airlines is the Official Airline of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series. Let United join you on your journey toward the finish line and check out the Rock 'n' Roll Running Series website to find out how you can receive exclusive flight discounts.

Keep an eye on the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas event page for other local Vegas discounts in our Runner Perks section.