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Stretch Your Las Vegas Convention Trip Into a Real Vacation by:J. Michael Key

Stretch Your Las Vegas Convention Trip Into a Real Vacation by:J. Michael Key

Spring and Fall are particularly busy times in Las Vegas

, as one of the premier business convention destinations in the country. Every hotel and airline serving this desert oasis wants in on the action and there are many travel deals to be found online. The Travel section of the newspaper will often include information on hotel deals and cheap airfare.

Of course, Las Vegas is a reasonable driving distance from maybe 40 million people, so many visitors drive instead of flying. From Southern California you can make the trip in 4-5 hours; some convention participants drive in for an overnight trip, and then back home. Others come for the casinos and shows, with convention and trade show sessions during the days and Las Vegas casino action after hours. The Las Vegas Convention Center is huge and can handle multiple large conventions at once. There are other convention halls in town as well, and they get very busy in the April-May timeframe and again in September-October. The conventions often last 2-4 days.

However, if time permits and you aren't tied to the blackjack tables, there are a lot of great outdoor destinations that you can add to the trip, making it a real vacation. There really is a misperception among many of the millions of Las Vegas visitors, that the Strip and casinos are the only game in town. In fact it's a city with pushing 2 million residents and a wide variety of natural wonders and outdoor opportunities within driving distance. Your family could enjoy the pool and other attractions in town, and then you could head out after the trade show is over.

The first natural wonder that comes to mind when you think about Las Vegas is actually the man-made Lake Mead recreational area. The lake was formed by Hoover Dam, both of which are worth a visit and can be reached in less than an hour by car. By the way, many of the travel deals out there offer great pricing on car rentals. Water sports are the theme at the lake of course. You can camp or stay at a nearby hotel. The dam is 726 feet high and offers breathtaking views. There are tours and a Visitor Center.Stretch Your Las Vegas Convention Trip Into a Real Vacation by:J. Michael Key

Red Rock Canyon is another inviting natural wonder that is truly natural. You can take the 13-mile scenic drive, which offers one cool vista after another; bring your camera to all of these places. In this area is the Bonnie Springs western town, with shoot-outs, saloon, historical features and a dose of touristy shops and restaurants. You'd be surprised how many museums there are to be found in the greater Las Vegas area. Art museums, historical museums, nature sanctuaries and the Liberace museum are just a few of the non-gambling entertainment options.

If you have a full day to spend, take the 5-hour round trip north up I-15 to Zion National Park in Utah. This 229- square-mile park includes canyons created by the Virgin River. There are many beautiful waterfalls. The most famous landmark is the Kolob Arch, which stretches 310 feet. It's the largest natural arch in the world. There is camping, hiking, swimming and tubing. The national parks are among the best travel deals to be found anywhere, with fantastic countryside, fun activities and a minimal entrance fee.

Speaking of national parks, if you can stretch an extra day away from your Las Vegas convention trip, venture further north along I-15 to Bryce Canyon National Park. It also is in Utah. It is probably a 7 to 8 hour round trip from Vegas, so you'll want to spend a night or two in one of the little towns near the park. This park is a bit more off the beaten path, which can be a good thing to avoid crowds, but you won't find as many travel deals to Bryce Canyon. The geography in this park is really amazing, characterized by the colorful limestone that has been carved into arches, spires, cliffs and canyons.

Do not think of Las Vegas as merely the gambling capitol of the U.S.A. It truly is a gateway to a wide variety of outdoor vacation opportunities, as well as in-town museums and cultural opportunities. When you do your online research for travel deals, spend some time investigating these great ways to enhance your Las Vegas trip. Turn that trade show into a vacation.

About the author

Michael is a Southern California native, and has written on numerous topics. Learn more about great Las Vegas travel opportunities at
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