Las Vegas has so many bars, restaurants, shows, and other cool stuff, you may never want to leave. Yet don’t underestimate the appeal of a good road trip. Vegas is in the middle of the desert, but it’s within easy driving distance to a wide variety of compelling destinations. So take a break from whatever’s going on this weekend and fill up your gas tank (or charge your Tesla) for a drive to one of the most intriguing getaways in and around Nevada.
Cedar City, Utah
Distance from Vegas: 2 hour, 45 minutes Cedar City is a great jumping-off point for exploring the great outdoors in Southwest Utah.The largest town in Iron County is close to Brian Head, one of the most convenient ski resorts to Las Vegas with a high elevation that ushers in the season quickly. Drive through the scenery of the Dixie National Forest (especially beautiful with the fall foliage) to reach the colorful cliffs and sweeping views of the Cedar Breaks National Monument. Hikers also love the Kanarra Creek Slot Canyon, which leads to two waterfalls. Cedar City itself has a college town vibe (thanks to the presence of Southern Utah University) and calls itself “Festival City, U.S.A.” due to its schedule of big events. The Utah Shakespeare Festival is the big draw during summer, but fall brings the New Harmony Apple Festival and Cedar Livestock & Heritage Festival. Find an amazing Airbnb near Cedar City
Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 30 minutes The heat and bugs in Tecopa are unbearable during the summer, but once the temperatures drop in fall, it’s a perfect time to check out the quirkiness of this tiny California destination. Just outside Death Valley, Tecopa isn’t quite a ghost town, but you’ll see signs of its history as an old supply route and railroad community. Just take a peek inside the bars of a rundown jail. Las Vegans come here to disconnect. There’s no cellphone service and barely any landlines. It has the most breweries per capita in the United States-as long as you understand it’s two breweries for about 60 people. Tecopa Brewing Company has killer BBQ. Death Valley Brewing is next to Steaks and Beer, which serves charred ribeyes and local organic sides (with no website or social media). Yet the most popular attractions in Tecopa are the natural hot springs at two resorts (Delight’s and Tecopa Hot Springs) and the China Ranch Date Farm, home to a small museum and bakery. Find an amazing Airbnb near Tecopa
Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 45 minutes At first glance, there doesn’t seem like there’s much going on in Beatty. Sure, the chili at the Happy Burro is a must-try and the Sourdough Saloon is good for a stiff drink, but the old railroad town is a great starting point for a drive through Death Valley National Park-much more bearable this time of year after the scorching heat of summer. Drive in deep enough, and you’ll reach Badwater Basin, the lowest, driest, hottest point in North America. You’ll also stumble across otherworldly rock formations, sand dunes, Star Wars filming locations, and the salt formations left behind by an evaporated lake at Devil’s Golf Course. Aside from Death Valley, Beatty is close to the ghost town ruins of Rhyolite and the weirdness of the Goldwell Open Air Museum. With a travel time of less than two hours, Beatty is a great day trip from Vegas, but if you want to spend the night, check out the renovated rooms at the Stagecoach Hotel & Casino. Find an amazing Airbnb near Beatty
Mt. Charleston, Nevada
Distance from Vegas: 1 hour Here’s a road trip that’s quick and easy, but still feels a world away from Las Vegas. Mt. Charleston, the highest peak in the Spring Mountains, is just northwest of Sin City. The elevation is a welcome change of pace from the desert valley floor any time of year, but the colder months are when business picks up. The Lee Canyon ski and snowboard resort is hosting its second-ever autumn season through the end of October with hiking, disc golf, archery, axe-throwing and chair-lift rides to soak in the views of the surrounding Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. There’s usually enough snow to kick off the winter ski season by early December. The loss of Mt. Charleston Lodge in a recent fire hit the community hard, but plans are already in the works to build the restaurant back better than ever. Its on-site cabin rentals were unaffected. You can also book a room at the Retreat on Charleston Peak (formerly the Resort on Mt. Charleston), which has a bar and restaurant. Find an amazing Airbnb near Mt. Charleston
Distance from Vegas: 6 hours Solvang is in the heart of California’s Central Coast wine country, but feels like an Old World European village. That’s because the city was settled by the Danish, who embraced their heritage with a charming downtown area full of vintage Scandinavian architecture that’s heavy on windmills, spires, and towers. Enjoy a flight at a wine tasting room or a slice of kringle from one of five authentic Danish bakeries. The dining scene is on a major upswing, thanks to Sear Steakhouse, which has its own farm for fresh local ingredients, and Coast Range, where oak-grilled steaks and carefully sourced seafood are served alongside cocktails and spirits. Even better-Solvang isn’t overwhelmed by chains, tacky gift shops, or large resorts. Stay in the heart of downtown at a boutique hotel like The Landsby or spend the night a few miles away at The Inn at Zaca Creek, which has a hillside pool, farm-to-table restaurant, and six quiet suites that feel like a true retreat in wine country. Find an amazing Airbnb near Solvang
Distance from Vegas: 4 hours, 30 minutes Fall and winter are perfect for visiting Sedona. It’s far less busy and crowded, allowing you to social distance to the fullest with more than 300 miles of hiking and biking trails. Sedona is known for its Native American history, bed-and-breakfast accommodations, and art galleries. The town also carries a certain sense of mysticism-said to be in a vortex with the energy of nature especially strong in four locations: Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon-all easy to reach without shelling out cash for a tour guide. Just south of Sedona is the Verde Valley, where the old mining towns of Cornville, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, and Jerome each have their own charm and character. Follow the “wine trail” with 25 tasting rooms between them. Find an amazing Airbnb near Sedona
Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 30 minutes Describing Laughlin as a mini-Vegas on a river isn’t entirely off base. Both towns-less than a hundred miles apart-are known for casinos, entertainment, and bright neon lights. But Laughlin is less chaotic with a small town feel and employees who actually do recognize regulars by name year after year. The dining and nightlife is lowkey and low pressure. Yet the character of the town is best shaped by its location along the Colorado River, which separates Nevada from Arizona. Aside from a few outdoor concerts at the Laughlin Event Center, the town gets a little more quiet towards the end of the year. Not much action on the river, but you can still take water taxis from one hotel to another and board guided boat tours and dinner cruises. The drop in temperatures makes hiking a little easier, especially beyond Christmas Tree Pass (perfectly named for this time of year) at Grapevine Canyon, where you can explore a dried river bed and examine petroglyphs-drawings on stone walls left behind by Native American tribes hundreds of years ago.
Lake Havasu, Arizona
Distance from Vegas: 2 hours, 30 minutes Lake Havasu is the best island getaway within a three-hour drive of Vegas. Breaking up the Colorado River between Arizona and California, the vacation town definitely has a quirky side. The waterfront is decorated with scaled-down replicas of historic lighthouses from around the country and the island connects to the mainland with a brick-by-brick restoration of the same London Bridge that crossed the River Thames in the late 1800s. The landmark is the centerpiece for the annual Festival of Lights, which runs from late November to early January and includes a boat parade and half-a-million holiday lights. Winter Blast in February is nearly as colorful, drawing top professionals from the Western Pyrotechnic Association to show off their skills with an elaborate fireworks presentation above SARA Park.
Distance from Vegas: 4 hours While the Grand Canyon is often associated with summertime family vacations, the largest hole in America takes on an engaging mystique when sprinkled with snow during the winter months. It’s easiest to visit from Las Vegas by helicopter, although the bumpy four-hour road trip to the West Rim is considerably less expensive. It also allows you to explore on your own time frame, whether learning about the Hualapai Tribe’s Indigenous history or sticking around to stargaze after the sun goes down. No visit is complete without testing your anxiety on the Skywalk-a bridge with a see-through bottom that hangs over the edge of the canyon. Spend the night in your own cabin or glamping tent. Find an amazing Airbnb near the Grand Canyon
Distance from Vegas: 4 hours When someone says “road trip” and “Las Vegas,” in the same sentence, nine times out of ten, they’re talking about Southern California. So hop in your car and start driving southwest on Interstate 15. You’ll hit Baker (stop for gas), Barstow (stop for Starbucks), San Bernardino (keep going) and finally, Los Angeles. But what makes the trip worth the drive is going all the way to Santa Monica to finally see the coast. Of course, you can always play tourist in Hollywood, check out the L.A. restaurant scene, or just see what’s going on over the weekend. Half the fun in driving to SoCal is seeing all the weird roadside attractions along the way, like the World’s Tallest Thermometer or Lake Dolores (a creepy abandoned water park that will give any ghost town a run for its money). Find an amazing Airbnb near LA
Distance from Vegas: 45 minutes A quick drive from Vegas, Boulder City is the closest town to the Hoover Dam and has a small tourism industry based around the engineering masterpiece. (Tours are on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, but outdoor viewing areas recently reopened. So check in for the latest details before visiting.) Boulder City is also one of the few Nevada communities where gambling is illegal. So if you need a fix, stop while driving down on U.S. 93 and play a few slots at the Hoover Dam Lodge. However, the casino-free Boulder Dam Hotel (with a Hoover Dam museum in the lobby) offers a more satisfying sense of history. Boulder City is a great homebase for hitting the water at Lake Mead, although experienced hikers may prefer to trek through Gold Strike Canyon to reach the hot springs near the Colorado River (which were closed during summer, but are now back open for the milder seasons). For outdoor fun, hang out with the bighorn sheep at Hemenway Park or grab a seat on the patio at Milo’s Cellar for wine, the Dillenger for burgers, or Jack’s Place to drink a beer and watch a game. Find an amazing Airbnb near Boulder City
Distance from Vegas: 1 hour, 30 minutes Mesquite, about 95 miles northeast of Las Vegas, tends to market itself as a more laid-back alternative to Sin City, but it’s really a casino town for the party animals who live right across the border in Utah. A vintage vibe is felt in the tableside food presentations at Katherine’s Steakhouse or the seven golf courses squeezed within a few miles of each other. Interact with exotic animals at Camel Safari or go off-roading with an ATV. Yet half the fun of a road trip to Mesquite is getting there. Detour off Interstate 15 and take one of America’s most scenic drives through the Valley of Fire State Park before reconnecting later. The bright, dramatic sandstone formations almost appear to be on fire when the sun hits them just right. Hence the name. The red sand at Rainbow Vista creates a life-on-Mars feel, so it’s no wonder parts of Total Recall were filmed there back in the ‘80s. Find an amazing Airbnb near Mesquite
Distance from Vegas: 4 hours Ely may be small, but it’s rich in history and Old West character. About 250 miles north of Vegas, the mountain community has some of the best fishing and hunting in the state, although the winter months are better suited for snowmobiling and sledding. Check out the ice carvings on Cave Lake during the annual Fire & Ice Festival and join Santa on board the Polar Express, a vintage coal-fired train at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. Great Basin National Park is one of the least-visited (and thus, more quiet) national parks in the country. You can still stargaze with minimal light pollution, but the popular Lehman Caves tours are currently on hold. Downtown Ely has an easy charm throughout the holiday season, especially during the Festival of Trees in early December. The best accommodations are the historic Hotel Nevada, the tallest building in the state when it opened in 1929, and the Prospector, a quirky, contemporary retreat with playful lobby decorations and a pet-friendly casino. Find an amazing Airbnb near Ely
Distance from Vegas: 7 hours Despite its proximity to Reno, Lake Tahoe is deserving of a road trip all by itself. After a summer full of boating and watersports, the largest alpine lake in North America eagerly shifts into winter-mode with the largest concentration of ski resorts in North America. Much of South Lake Tahoe is built around the Heavenly ski resort with a gondola taking guests up the mountain from Heavenly Village-a shopping, dining and entertainment district by the main road. North Lake Tahoe is more residential, especially Incline Village, where exclusivity is part of the charm. The best way to play tourist is by booking a room at the Hyatt Regency, which feels like the world’s largest log cabin with a private beach and fire pits by the pool for roasting s’mores. Skiers will be more interested in the nearby slopes of Mt. Rose or Diamond Peak. Royal Gorge is the largest cross country ski resort in the United States, although you may be happy to just snowshoe in Chickadee Ridge in Tahoe Meadows, where you can bring birdseed and let chickadees eat straight from your hand. Find an amazing Airbnb near Lake Tahoe
St. George, Utah
Distance from Vegas: 2 hours St. George is the first place Las Vegans run into after cutting through the northwest corner of Arizona and crossing the border into Utah. The city combines a charming downtown area with a thriving art scene, and proximity to four state parks-including the bright red sandy beaches of the Sand Hollow reservoir. But outdoor explorers will be most excited to know St. George is the largest city outside Zion National Park, one of the most colorful examples of rock formations, sweeping cliffs, and waterfalls in Utah. The infamous Angels Landing is a 2.5-mile hike with steep and narrow pathways. It comes with a warning sign that mentions the number of people who have died on the trail. Balance out all that outdoorsy stuff with the independent restaurants, art galleries, and shopping of downtown St. George. The Painted Pony and Wood.Ash.Rye. are the top spots for dinner and drinks.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than eight years. His work has also appeared in Travel + Leisure, Trivago Magazine, Sophisticated Living, Modern Luxury, Leafly, Las Vegas Magazine, and other publications. He fills up the gas tank before crossing into California. Follow him on Twitter@rkachelriess.
You can’t be all things to all people. Yet a new Italian restaurant strikes an intriguing balance between authenticity and inventive touches while helping to shape the identity of a new community in the booming Southwest Valley of Las Vegas.
Basilico Ristorante Italiano is now open at Evora, a master-planned apartment development still under construction that won’t be finished for at least five years. The 160-seat restaurant follows the vision of chef Francesco Di Caudo, a Sicily native who draws on his heritage and experience throughout Italy to build a compelling menu based on traditional techniques and modern ingenuity.
“I come from a country where farm-to-table is nothing new,” says Di Caudio, while emphasizing the importance of ingredient sourcing and simple, straightforward flavor combinations.
Just look at the appetizers. Americans are used to eggplant parmesan that’s breaded and fried without restraint. Di Caudo sticks to a traditional Sicilian recipe with the vegetable sliced thin, sizzled in a pan, and layered with tomato and basil. No mozzarella. On the other hand, the Smoked Cigar is destined to be a signature showstopper. Duck, foie gras, and porcini mushrooms are packed inside a thin, cracker-like shell, presented in a box, and dipped into a glass ashtray. The “ash” in the centre is a black sesame and truffle mix. Don’t be shy about double dipping.
The risotto is bound to be another conversation piece. The recipe uses Carnaroli rice, a starchy grain from North Italy that produces a creamy texture, balancing the saltiness of a parmesan broth with a sweet splash of chestnut honey. The real surprise is the inclusion of Lavazza espresso, manipulated to crackle in your mouth like Pop Rocks candy.
All pastas are made in-house, from a parsnip cavatelli to a lamb and thyme tortellini in a broth filtered from braised prosciutto. Some dishes have a subtle Asian influence, including a hamachi crudo with pomelo (similar to yuzu), Hokkaido scallops with oxtail, and a planned octopus braised in dashi. The flavours come to life inside a sharp, contemporary dining room with deep red chairs and stone, wood, and marble touches. The wine collection is dominated by Italian labels, with a few California and Oregon picks thrown in to round out the list. Bottles are on display near the front entrance and inside illuminated square shelves. “It looks like a fancy restaurant, but when you sit down, I want you to have fun,” adds Di Caudio.
The bar is the heart of the restaurant, ready to serve up to 16 people inside and dozens more via accordion-style windows that open wide to a covered patio. The outdoor space, temperature-controlled with overhead fans and heaters, effectively extends Evora’s open-air plaza with dramatic water and fire features. It’s a natural spot for tastings and special events with a covered stage for live music. Evora is rolling out in four phases, with the first 342 apartments ready by fall. There could be as many as 1,400 when it’s all said and done. Rent begins at around $1,800 for studios and one-bedroom units and goes up to $4,000 for two-story top-floor residences with a loft and Strip views. The community will include swimming pools, pickleball courts, a putting green, a dog park, firepits, EV charging stations, and pavilions equipped with audio and video features.
“Basilico matches the demographic for our apartments,” says Danny Sorge of Digital Desert Development, the company behind the community. “The term ‘youthful sophistication’ has been thrown around about the restaurant and Evora as a whole. It brings something new to the area.”
The development follows a deliberate strategy to have the commercial tenants in place before the first residents move in, occupying a stand-alone building that strikes a commanding presence on the corner of Patrick Lane and Buffalo Drive. Lemon Tree Cafe & Market is already open as a European-style grocery store with plenty of room to sit down with a sandwich and glass of wine. Keep your eyes peeled for Taps & Barrels (a self-service beer hall), Tachi Ramen, and EVOQ hair salon in the months ahead, with more businesses to come. The timing couldn’t be better. The Southwest Valley is on fire right now, with the Durango hotel and casino and UnCommons mixed-use development taking shape as new attractions in 2023. The Bend, a long-promised shopping and dining district, has been in a holding pattern for years but holds promise in an area where everything is getting bigger and better.
Meanwhile, the team behind Evora is staking a claim with Di Caudio running the kitchen at Basilico. The chef’s recent collaboration with Chef Oscar Amador helped Anima by EDO score a recent James Beard Award nomination and reputation as one of the best new restaurants in Las Vegas. Di Caudio first came to Las Vegas to work at Zeffirino at the Grand Canal Shoppes-a gig he expected to last about six months before returning home. Instead, he stuck around and continued to build his reputation at culinary destinations like Sinatra at the Wynn and Ferraro’s off the Strip.
Ultimately, Basilico will be a restaurant to keep an eye on as it develops under Di Caudio’s guidance. The menu will shift and evolve based on the chef’s preferences and the availability of seasonal ingredients. Di Caudio is also planning a smaller menu and social hour for the bar area and a reasonably priced tasting menu with around 10 dishes served family style.
Rob Kachelriess has been writing about Las Vegas in Thrillist for more than nine years. In addition, his work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Leafly, Supercall, Modern Luxury, and Luxury Estates International’s seasonal publication. Follow him on Twitter @rkachelriess.