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Get away for the weekend: A guide to Vegas’ neighboring cities

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Is Las Vegas isolated or is it in the middle of everything?That depends how far you’re willing to drive. If your upper limit is about an hour, then you’ll reach little more than Boulder City and Mount Charleston, interesting places in their own right. But if you’re willing to drive for at least four hours, the Desert Southwest opens up to you.

A four-hour (and change) drive gets you to LA or Sedona. Five puts you in Phoenix or San Diego and six delivers you to Salt Lake City.

But what do you do once you get there? Las Vegas Weekly is here to answer that question. We’ve put together this guide to help you get the most out of a quick trip with the least amount of effort. There’s advice about where to stay, what to eat, where to shop and what to do in these neighboring cities. Whether you’re biking on the beach or enjoying a mountain hike, we’ve got your path to fun. Think of this as a quick-start guide to get the inspiration flowing and hit the road. Or just imagine the trip as an armchair traveler. Either way, bon voyage! —C. Moon Reed

Los Angeles

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Grand Central Market (Courtesy)

The City of Angels is home to 4 million people, a million more than live in the entire state of Nevada. LA contains worlds of things to do and experience, so it's a city you can visit over and over again without repeating yourself ... unless you want to, of course.

Food & Drink

Pick your cuisine and LA has it, from stellar street food to five-star gourmet. In honor of the newly opened Mama Rabbit bar at Park MGM, we recommend visiting Guelaguetza Oaxacan Restaurant, which is co-owned by Mama Rabbit’s Bricia Lopez. Continuing the Vegas connection, check out Eggslut, which has a location at the Cosmopolitan at Downtown Los Angeles’ historic Grand Central Market. The Market offers lots of food options, so you can sample a little of everything. Also check out, the Historic Farmer’s Market, Bottega Louie, Attari Grill and Guerrilla Tacos.

Stay

Check in at these unique, hip and very LA hotels: Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach; Dream Hollywood and the Garland Hotel in Hollywood; Hotel Figueroa and Ace Hotel downtown.

Activities

For an art fix, visit the Getty Center, LACMA, the Hammer Museum and The Broad. For an “only-in-LA” evening, attend a concert or classic film screening at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. To see the stars, visit Griffith Observatory. For something quirky, visit Watts Towers (currently being restored). Enjoy a concert at the outdoor venue Hollywood Bowl. Ride a roller coaster at the Santa Monica Pier.

Shopping

Explore the Arts District Downtown. Bibliophiles must visit the Last Bookstore and Small World Books on Venice Beach. Discoverlosangeles.com recommends the Boyle Heights neighborhood as a shopping spot.

Nature

Rent a bike and pedal along the boardwalk in Venice. Hike on a trail in Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon Park. Jog at the Hermosa Valley Greenbelt or around the Lake Hollywood Reservoir. Go paddling at Marina Del Rey. Indoor Rock Climb at the Sender One gym. –C. Moon Reed

Distance from Las Vegas to Los Angeles: 270 miles, 4 hours via 1-15

San Diego

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Gaslamp District (Courtesy)

A little more than five hours’ drive from our dry desert climate is an ocean paradise where the fish tacos are plentiful and the temperature year-round rarely goes above 75 degrees. San Diego offers something for every lifestyle, but for outdoorsy types, it’s an endless playground of sun and surf, where coastal living is at its best.

Food & Drink:

We now have our own Crack Shack, celebrity chef Richard Blais’ beloved chicken joint, while Barrio Logan’s ¡SALUD! has an outpost at Palace Station. But it’s hard to overstate the flavors that make up San Diego’s culinary palate, including well-regarded spots Dija Mara, Campfire, Galaxy Taco and Sushi Tadokoro.

Stay:

The Gaslamp district is lined with restaurants, bars and clubs, and staying here, with its myriad boutique hotels such as The Bristol or the historic Gaslamp Plaza Suites, will give you a feel for all the excitement of an urban center. If you’re looking for accommodations with a seaside view, check out Inn by The Sea at La Jolla or Hotel del Coronado.

Activities:

The San Diego Zoo is a can’t-miss attraction, but that’s not the only thing to explore in the 1,200-acre Balboa Park, which houses more than 16 museums and a host of recreational attractions. If you’re feeling creative, you can build sculptural masterpiece at San Diego Sand Castles, or pack a picnic and watch hang gliders at Gliderpark.

Shopping:

OB Farmers Market in Ocean Beach is a good spot for fresh produce, while Bazaar Del Mundo in Old Town features colorful gifs from around the world.

Nature:

With 70 miles of coastline, take your pick of beaches—Coronado Beach, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach to name a few—each with a different vibe. —Genevie Durano

Distance from Las Vegas to San Diego: 320 miles, about 5 hours via I-15

Phoenix

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A view of Camelback Mountain (Courtesy)

Located in the relatively lush Sonoran Desert, the Valley of the Sun offers a familiar yet novel experience for Las Vegans. There's shopping, restaurants and pro sports, but the pace is slightly more laid back with a Western chic vibe.

Food & Drink

Take an afternoon stroll down Tempe’s Mill Avenue near Arizona State University and pop into any of the nearby restaurants. With a giant shaded patio, Casey Moore’s Oyster House near ASU is a favorite of professors and students alike. Four Peaks Brewing also has a great patio and great brews. For some dive bar authenticity, grab a drink at Palo Verde lounge in Tempe. There are too many great Mexican restaurants in the Phoenix area to list here, but you can’t go wrong with Frank and Lupes in Old Town Scottsdale.

Stay

Thanks to its year-round sun and mild winter weather, Arizona has long hosted visiting “snowbirds” from the Midwest. That means our neighbor to the south has a robust hotel and tourist infrastructure. There are tons of options, but we recommend: Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale for Mid-Mod cool; the historic Arizona Biltmore, which was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright; and for luxury, the Phoenician.

Activities

The Heard Museum, whose award-winning exhibits promote Native American art, is a must-see. The 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden shows off more than 4,000 cactus species.

Sports:

Visit from late February to late March to take in some baseball spring training. Arizona's Cactus League hosts 15 major league teams, including the Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks, Cubs, White Sox, Athletics, Rockies, Angels, Rangers and Brewers.

Shopping

Explore the small shops in Old Town Scottsdale for some distinctive Western souvenirs. Uptown Plaza in central Phoenix is a shopping spot for unique gifts. Phoenix’s Melrose District is the place to go for vintage finds.

Nature

Hike Camelback Mountain, a natural oasis in the middle of town. Papago Park is also worth a visit. —C. Moon Reed

Distance from Las Vegas to Phoenix: 300 miles, just under a 5-hour drive via U.S. 93

Sedona and Surrounding Towns

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Devil’s Bridge Trail (Courtesy)

Sedonais a high-desert, nature-filled wonderland for hikers, hippies, outdoor adventurers and lovers of luxury. It’s also a great home base from which to explore fun little Arizona towns and attractions nearby.

Perhaps deriving from the location’s astonishing natural beauty, specific areas in and around Sedona—called vortexes (or vortices, if you want to be grammatical about it)—are thought to emit special spiritual energy. A cottage industry of metaphysical practitioners has arisen around this belief. Learn more at sedonaspiritual.com.

Food & Drink

Sample duck carnitas and lamb adobo at the upscale Elote Cafe. For a special experience, try a Vortex Food Tour or an Alcantara Estate Vineyards tasting. Eat some “curious country Italian” at Hideaway House. Enjoy coffee with a view at Pink Java Cafe.

Stay

There are so many Airbnbs in Sedona that USA Today wrote an article about housing scarcity for locals. So you’ve got internet options. If you want to go the traditional route, visit Briar Patch Inn, Alma de Sedona Bed & Breakfast Inn or Oak Creek Cabins.

Activities

Take a spa day at one of the area’s luxury spas. Take a Jeep tour or ride the Sedona trolley. It’s a mere 40-minute drive to the adorable mountainside ghost town of Jerome, where you can shop, visit a saloon and get those Instagram likes. Other cool nearby towns include Prescott and Flagstaff.

Shopping

Visit Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village, Mystical Bazaar, Sedona Main Street and Hillside Sedona.

Nature

Even if you’re a skeptic, visit one of the vortexes for breathtaking views. Visitsedona.com says the best four are Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon. Go for a hike at Devil’s Bridge and snap a photo at Red Rock Crossing. —C. Moon Reed

Distance from Las Vegas to Sedona: 279 miles, 4.5 hours via U.S. 93 and 1-40

Southern Utah

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Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Kanab, Utah (Courtesy)

Your first stop from Las Vegas is St. George, and you’ll notice right away that you’ve entered a magical landscape. The rocks are redder and the air crisper (and maybe a smidge cooler than Las Vegas). But it’s just the beginning of the beauty of southern Utah, where the sprawling canyonlands remind you of the vastness of time. From here, you’re knocking on the door of several national and state parks, protected monuments and gloriously primitive BLM land.

Food & Drink

The Painted Pony in St. George is a favorite of both locals and visitors, while in Kanab, Sego offers New American cuisine and craft beers in an intimate space. In Springdale, Switchback Grille is just the kind of place where you can get a rib-sticking meal before exploring the 2,000-foot gorge that is Zion National Park.

Stay

The Parry Lodge at Kanab has a glamorous history: Movie stars stayed there while filming Westerns during the genre’s heyday. (The doors have nameplates of such stars as John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Barbara Stanwyck and Ava Gardner.) At Bryce Canyon, the Lodge offers comfortable accommodations with nature all around.

Activities

Relax and rejuvenate at the Sagestone Spa and Salon in St. George, catch the Bard’s plays at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, or spend time with four-legged loves at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab.

Shopping

Quaint outfitters dot the parks’ surrounding towns, offering everything you could possibly need for an outdoor adventure. Check out Zion Rock & Gem in Springdale for jewelry made of rocks that can only be found in the area.

Nature

With two national parks—Bryce and Zion—within a couple hours’ drive of one another, and Grand Canyon National Park just a skip away as well, you are literally surrounded by nature. Cedar Breaks National Monument, Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park are other options out of many more. —Genevie Durano

Distance from Las Vegas to southern Utah: St. George (120 miles, about 2 hours), Zion National Park (160 miles, about 3 hours), Bryce Canyon National Park (260 miles, about 4.5 hours)

Salt Lake City

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Wasatch Mountains in Utah (Courtesy)

Nestled at the foothills of the great Wasatch mountain range, Salt Lake City is a powder lover’s paradise, with famed ski resorts Snowbird, Alta, Solitude Mountain Resort and Brighton Ski Resort nearby. But outdoor life here is a year-round affair, with so many hiking trails you’ll never have to travel the same path twice.

Food & Drink

There are many cultural influences that make up Salt Lake’s culinary scene, from Mexican joints to Southern-inspired fare. HSL is a perennial favorite for romantic dining, while Current Fish & Oyster is the place for contemporary seafood in an industrial-chic setting.

Ruth’s Diner has been serving up down-home goodness since 1930, and if you’re craving something sweet, the bakers at Gourmandise specialize in traditional European treats.

Stay

Grand America Hotel was built for the 2002 Olympics and features 24 stories of luxe elegance. For a room with a side of history, the Peery Hotel, built in 1910, preserves turn-of-the-century Early Prairie architecture and classical revival style.

Activities

The Olympic spirit lives on at the Utah Olympic Park, which offers year-round activities including bobsledding, ski jumping, extreme tubing, rock climbing and ziplining. Temple Square, a 10-acre complex in the heart of SLC, is its most popular attraction. Take in a tour or catch a Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance.

Shopping

Shop at the charming Gardner Mill with its vintage houses and buildings, or check out the hip 9th and 9th, an eclectic community of stores and restaurants.

Nature

Don’t miss the otherworldy landscape of the Bonneville Salt Flats, or get up close and personal with stalactites and stalagmites at Timpanogos Cave. For the grandest view of Salt Lake, summit Grandeur Peak, a 6.5-mile round-trip hike that’ll take you 8,300 feet up. —Genevie Durano

Distance from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City: 420 miles, about 6 hours via I-15

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C. Moon Reed

C. Moon Reed never meant to make Las Vegas her home, but she found a kindred spirit in this upstart ...

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