Stipulated: the perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series, The 4hr. Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.
Getting There: Surf Air
If you travel around California or to NYC often, consider Surfair. They service a ton of flights to Vegas, and it’s 1,000 times more comfortable than flying commercial. Plus, you can avoid the long lines and traffic at LAX.
Stay: The Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino
Most of the action in Downtown Vegas is on Fremont Street, which is a block from the new Downtown Grand. The rooms are ultra modern and pop with color. They have jet-powered marble tubs, large, plush beds and dark-out curtains to ensure you can comfortably sleep one off. The pool is massive and nowhere near as packed as the pools of The Strip. Plus, you can order meaty cheeseburgers and buttery lobster rolls from your chair. The casino has all the games of chance you could want, including a serious sports book (football season is nigh).
Chef Natalie Young is a local favorite in Las Vegas. She’s from St. Louis, and brought that region’s flare for soul food to Downtown before anyone else was even considering the hood. Talking deviled eggs and shrimp and grits. The sort of greasy deliciousness that’ll set you right for the day.
Hike: Red Rocks Canyon
Looking at Vegas as purely a city of sin is a tad clichéd. Especially when you consider that Red Rocks Canyon Park, located just outside of town, offers 27 stunning trails that loop through, over and around massive canyon walls. There are Petroglyphs. There are waterfalls. There are also longer hikes that scale peaks. For our money, we’d either do the Keystone Trust, a 3.5-miler through the geological sites of the park, or the La Madre Springs, a 2.5-miler that runs next to a year-round spring creek.
Dance: Life is Beautiful
At the end of September (22-24), the Life is Beautiful Music Festival will take over Downtown Las Vegas. If you’re a music lover, this is for you. Muse, De La Soul, Pretty Lights — the list is long and eclectic. If you’re not a music lover, consider avoiding these dates, as Downtown will be very busy.
Dinner: Le Thai
Le Thai is to Las Vegas what Night Market isto Los Angeles: super flavorful Thai street food that’ll make you sweat. And you won’t feel like you’re getting gouged when the check comes.
Late night: Commonwealth
If you’re feeling frisky and want to dance to some DJs without those horrendous lines at The Strip casinos, head to Commonwealth. It’s on Fremont, serves delicious mixologized cocktails, and is open until 3 a.m.