One Way to Spend Your Day in Vegas

Get your day started with some fresh air and a little exploring. Head to the northwest area of Vegas and take a hike at Red Rock National Conservancy. The trail is a one-way, 13-mile loop through a national conservation land area, and it is absolutely stunning. Whether you hike or drive, the entire time, you’re surrounded by vibrantly shaded rocks and geologic formations― all perfectly preserved.

About 180 million years ago, Red Rock National Conservancy looked quite a bit different than it does today. The sea once covered the land ranging from Southern Nevada all the way to the Colorado Plateau. Over time, the sea receded, and the Earth’s crust pushed up to form mountains. The area was home to plants and wildlife until the Jurassic period when everything dried up, and all the loose sand from the seafloor formed one of the largest range of dune fields to ever exist. At the time, the area looked somewhat like the modern Sahara Desert in Africa.

Heavy winds shifted sand that piled up to more than a half-mile deep in some spots. The area was constantly changing. The wind carried sand from one dune to the next, transforming the landscape dramatically.  Eventually, underground water stole away the red color of the sand dunes and left behind calcium carbonate― which is what we see today. The sand dunes were compressed with the help of time and water and shifted along with the Earth’s crust. This can be seen today in what is called “cross-cutting curves”― curved or angled lines in the rocky hills and funky geologic formations.

Besides the spattering of succulents, these formations are otherwise uncovered and perfectly visible to hikers. It allows you to walk through time. Each angled line, each shift in color, and each piece of compressed sand tell the story of the millions of years it took to create such a beautiful world.

Red Rock Canyon got its name from the vibrant red rocks that come from a process of oxidation. These red stones are known as Aztec Sandstone, and they cover the cliffs and hills of the canyon. Although this type of rock is quite hard, be careful around them to avoid damaging them. We want these beautiful rocks around for future generations to enjoy.

I find this area magical. The canyon is quiet, peaceful―  with soothing warmth and the subtle breeze flowing through the air. It’s restorative: the stillness of the desert.  It can stop the busiest mind in its tracks.

It’s wonderful to think that all this beauty is only a short plane ride away. It’s less than an hour and usually under one hundred dollars from the Santa Maria Public Airport if you’re flying with Allegiant.

When visiting, make sure you take your camera, plenty of water, and comfortable shoes. You will see plenty, even if you decide to just cruise the winding road. If you’re comfortable, though, I highly recommend that you get out of the car and wander around a bit. The desert is full of surprises. I’m always amazed at the amount of vegetation that thrives in the desert.

The variety of cacti is amazing. When venturing out to get a closer look, I can almost assure you that you’ll see other things that draw your interest. I stumbled upon one of the most beautiful flowering cacti I have ever seen. It was perfectly round, about the size of a beach ball, and covered in a web of pink and red spikes. Best of all, it was topped with a lovely yellow flower. Spring, by the way, is the perfect time to venture into the desert. The cacti are full of surprises― full of flowers you may never have seen!

On your walk, you might even find more than flowers to appreciate. There are plenty of critters running about, dedicated rock climbers making their way up steep cliffs, and much more. I even found a memorial rock hidden along the trail: a sweet message about the loss of a loved one. It’s amazing to see love stored in stone.

After you’re done exploring, the best thing to do is to get some delicious food. Head over to Lago Restaurant by Julian Serrano at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. Every part of this restaurant is a delight. We were seated at a table that looked out over the Bellagio Fountains, with a glass railing being the only thing keeping us from the water. Our dinner was accompanied by streams of sunlight dancing across the subtle waves, with ducks swaying gently back and forth. From our table, some of Vegas’s most stunning attractions are so close, you can practically touch them. The Eiffel Tower, Paris Hotel, Bally’s, The Flamingo, Planet Hollywood, and The Cosmopolitan are the perfect backdrop for the fountains. Every thirty minutes, music fills the air, and the fountains dance in rhythm to the song. It’s an enchanting sight to behold.

Inside the restaurant is stunningly sleek, with lots of glass and reflective surfaces that make the place feel spacious and upscale. Gold, marble, silver, and green surround you― as do the servers, carrying trays of gorgeous cocktails and perfectly plated meals. An array of gorgeous chandeliers pepper the ceiling. They trail light down upon the guests seated in plush chairs and enjoying some of the best food Vegas has to offer.

My first course was a Mozzarella Caprese salad: fresh, creamy cheese, sliced cherry tomatoes, bright and flavorful basil, with a drizzle of olive oil. It was perfect. My husband had an Al Salamino Piccante Pizza, which was a wood fire personal pizza topped with piquant pepperoni and fresh mozzarella cheese. Simple, but very tasty.

For the main course, we ordered the Surf & Turf, which was deliciously tender― melt in your mouth― filet served with sauce, half a lobster tail, and a lobster claw. All of it was divine and made even better by a slight drizzle of melted butter.

By the way, Veuve Clicquot Champagne always pairs well with lobster.

For the best part of the meal, dessert, we had a rich and creamy cheesecake, topped with whipped cream, raspberry, a chocolate swirl, and served with sorbet. It was heavenly― as was the limoncello. A citrus almond cake served with lemon bavarois, clementine gelee, and limoncello sorbet that was to die for.

After a long day of hiking, these treats were well earned― topping off an absolutely perfect day in Las Vegas.

(Donna Polizzi is a world traveler, Virtuoso travel advisor, and founder of Keys 2 The Coast.  Keys 2 The Coast is a trusted resource on the best places to wine, dine, and explore. Stay tuned for new and exciting places to visit locally and beyond. Follow us at Keys2theCoast.Com or Facebook Keys2TheCoast.)

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