Three Dream Road Trips to Las Vegas for Culture Lovers (2023)

Enjoy art, history, and the great outdoors on these overground journeys from Western cities to The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

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With art infusing every experience at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas—from its spa and hammam to world-class restaurants and stunning terrace views—staying there is dreamy for culture fans on its own. And getting there can be just as inspiring as the destination. Next time you’re planning a visit to the Entertainment Capital of the World, hit the road and make a vacation out of the stimulating stops along the way.

Whether you drive from the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tucson, or Phoenix areas, you’ll pass unique art, fascinating history, and stunning nature on your way to Las Vegas, making for the ideal xenophile road trip. Stop everywhere from authentic taco stands and outdoor art galleries to historic ghost towns and breathtaking national parks. Then, soak up even more culture at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Below, we’ve outlined three ultimate road trips, pit stops included, to help make the most of your next Vegas venture.

If you’re driving from Los Angeles or San Diego...

About an hour or two into your drive, you’ll hit Tio’s Tacos, a family-run restaurant in the heart of Riverside, California’s historic downtown. Stop here for the true-to-tradition food, based on recipes from Michoacán, Mexico and made with only the freshest ingredients, but stay for the half-acre of gardens, packed with folk art created from recycled objects. In addition to scrap-metal fountains and chicken-wire sculptures, you’ll find a chapel constructed from concrete and glass bottles, and a teepee–shaped structure with flowing streams carved into the floor. The funky atmosphere makes dishes like shrimp fajitas, chilaquiles, and whole deep-fried tilapia that much more delicious.

From Tio’s, head north another hour to Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, located off of Route 66 in Oro Grande, California. At this outdoor art gallery, you’ll discover several tree-shaped sculptures made from glass bottles and other vintage items. The artworks are particularly beautiful when the sunlight shines through them, and the bottles even make a soothing sound when the wind blows.

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Visiting Calico’s 1800s-era buildings is like stepping back through time.

A little over 30 minutes northeast of Elmer’s, you’ll happen upon Calico Ghost Town Regional Park in Yermo, California. The Old West mining town was established in 1881 but abandoned around the mid-1890s when silver lost its value. In the 1950s, entrepreneur Walter Knott purchased the site and set about restoring all but five of its original buildings, eventually earning it State Historical Landmark status. Today, visitors can tour the well-preserved town, then hit the shops and restaurants or go hiking and off-roading in the surrounding area.


Continue northeast from Calico for nearly two hours and, when you’re just 10 miles south of Vegas, you’ll see the Seven Magic Mountains looming in the desert. The public art installation, created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, comprises seven towers of brightly colored, stacked boulders, each of which stands more than 30 feet high. A “creative expression of human presence in the desert,” the site-specific artwork makes for a comment-worthy Instagram background before you reach the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.

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If you’re driving from San Francisco or Sacramento…

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The Apple Hill Area yields much more than just apples, from pumpkins to berries and more.

Start by heading northeast, through Sacramento to the Apple Hill Area, a collection of family farms in the greater Placerville region of California. Lining Highway 50, the farms are open year-round, offering everything from pumpkin patches and berry festivals to apple-picking and award-winning ciders depending on the season. It’s a great way to get a literal taste of the area while enjoying some family-friendly fun.

From there, drive south to Yosemite National Park and plan to spend a few days in the glorious Sierra Nevada mountains. Famed for its granite cliffs, ancient sequoia trees, and towering waterfalls, the park offers adventure for all abilities, from hiking to swimming to camping. Challenge yourself with a steep, 16-mile hike—the last 400 feet are via cables—to the top of Half Dome, a granite monolith that looms 4,347 feet above Yosemite Valley, or simply walk to Cook’s Meadow in the valley to catch a glimpse of the famous landmark. You can also get great views from Glacier Point, Olmsted Lookout, or the Tunnel View overlook on Highway 41.

Another spot worth checking out is Tuolumne Meadows, a pristine, sub-alpine landscape of cirques and domes, lodgepole pines, and grassy fields flanking the Tuolumne River. A number of hiking trails, Pacific Crest and John Muir among them, lead from here into the backcountry, to well-known areas like Clouds Rest, Lembert Dome, and Cathedral Lakes. You’ll also want to make sure to see the 620-foot Bridal Veil Falls, which peaks in the springtime. Take the paved trail that leads from the parking lot to the base of the falls and prepare to get sprayed. Once you’ve checked these major sites off your list, continue southeast all the way to Vegas.

If you’re driving from Phoenix, Tucson, or Albuquerque…

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Photo by Tina Bishop

Get a feel for the early desert frontier at Vulture City.

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Head to Vulture City, an abandoned settlement nestled into the Sonoran Desert northwest of Phoenix. Established in 1863 around Arizona’s most successful gold mine, the town thrived for several years until the government closed all non-essential mines in 1942 to focus on war efforts. Today, it’s a window into the lifestyle of the American Southwest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Take the half-mile gravel path through the ghost town to check out faithfully restored buildings like the mess hall and saloon, the brothel, the post office, and the two-story lab once used to assess ore samples.


Next, drive 12 miles north to the town of Wickenburg, Arizona and pay a visit to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum, a nationally recognized center for Western art, history, and culture. Here, you’ll find exhibits of historic Navajo textiles and Western art by women artists, as well as works by such notable artists as George Catlin, Albert Bierstadt, and Thomas Moran. Through life-size recreations of the old town of Wickenburg, displays on the history of the desert frontier, and examples of Arizona minerals, you can also learn more about the region’s gold-mining past.

About 2.5 hours north of Wickenburg, you’ll come across the town of Chloride, Arizona, home to artist Roy Purcell’s famous rock murals. While working as a miner in the Cerbat Mountains in 1966, Purcell painted “The Journey” over 2,000 square feet of boulders up in the canyon on the eastern edge of town, covering the rocks with colorful symbols like the yin and yang, the serpent, and the sun and the moon. The murals have since been restored so they remain vibrant and worth seeing. Take a good, long look, then continue on for 1.5 hours to Vegas.

When in Vegas…

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The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas towers over The Strip.

Just because you’ve reached the city of casinos and nightclubs doesn’t mean the cultural activities have to stop, especially when you’re staying at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The luxury hotel, located in the heart of The Strip, is home to an impressively eclectic art collection and multiple restaurants serving a range of cuisines, providing several opportunities to explore deeper.

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A digital painting of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights makes for inspired dining.

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Start by checking out the sculptures, video installations, and paintings on display throughout the resort—Israeli artist Zammy Migdal’s The Cosmo Wave features 380 elements of scraped and raw metal that represent different feelings and thoughts, while Mark Chatterly’s Conversation installation includes sculptures of dogs. Then, hit up one of the hotel’s old-timey cigarette machines, repurposed to vend mini pieces of art, to grab a souvenir to take home.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the secret pizzeria, a mysterious eatery hidden behind an unmarked door at the end of a hallway on the hotel’s third floor. The standing-room-only spot serves New York–style pies, topped with everything from ricotta to pepperoni or meatballs. There’s even a creamy New York-style cheesecake to complete the experience. For something more elevated, try Rose. Rabbit. Lie. , The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’s modern interpretation of a supper club. A dark, sexy space designed to resemble the rambling rooms of a mansion, the restaurant blurs the line between fine dining and theater, offering dishes like caviar tacos and black-truffle beef Wellington—all served with a side of spontaneous live performances.

Get inspired and discover this artful resort for yourself—book your stay now at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.


Is 3 days in Vegas enough? ›

A 3-Day trip to Vegas allows just enough time for visitors to get a taste of what the city has to offer – and trust us, it has a lot! On a 3-day Vegas trip, visitors can see the flashing neon lights, eat at celebrity chef restaurants, gamble at flashy casinos and visit top city attractions…and that is just on Day One!

What is there to do in Las Vegas for 3 hours? ›

11 Top-Rated Day Trips from Las Vegas, NV
  • Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon | Photo Copyright: Lana Law. ...
  • Hoover Dam. Hoover Dam. ...
  • Death Valley National Park. ...
  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. ...
  • Valley of Fire State Park. ...
  • Zion National Park. ...
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area. ...
  • Joshua Tree National Park.
May 26, 2022

How many days in Vegas is enough? ›

3 days in Vegas is a good amount of time to see the top tourist sites, do a little gambling (I said a little!), and get a little crazy in the clubs/pools. And after your long weekend in Vegas, you'll be ready to go home back to normal life, I promise you that.

What is the best month to go to Las Vegas? ›

The best time to visit Las Vegas is from March to May and from September to November. While you'll find plenty of travel deals throughout the year, the spring and fall shoulder seasons offer the most moderate weather.

What should I do first night in Vegas? ›

  • Start at Mandalay Bay.
  • Tip on Gambling in Las Vegas.
  • Grab Lunch at New York-New York or MGM Grand.
  • Browse Planet Hollywood Casino and Paris Las Vegas.
  • See a Las Vegas Show.

Which city is 3 hours drive to Las Vegas? ›

Cities near Las Vegas Strip within 3 hours
10 minutes:Las Vegas
3 hr 14 min:Williams
3 hr 35 min:Big Bear Lake
4 hr 46 min:Palm Desert
1 hr 56 min:Saint George
10 more rows

What is within a 4 hour drive from Las Vegas? ›

Best Driving Trips from Las Vegas:

Sedona, Arizona- 4 Hour Drive Time. Tempe, Arizona- 4 1/2 Hour Drive Time. Phoenix, Arizona – 4 1/2 Hour Drive Time. Grand Canyon National Park – 4 Hour Drive.

How is the drive from Las Vegas to Zion National Park? ›

The drive to Las Vegas from Zion National Park is a fairly straight shot, with the I-15 S taking you right to the city. The drive takes anywhere between 2 hours 40 minutes and 3 hours 20 minutes, depending on factors like traffic, weather, and which part of Zion you start in.

Are drinks still free in Vegas? ›

Vegas casinos serve free booze to all gamblers. You don't have to sit down at a $100 blackjack table; they'll bring you cocktails at the penny slots. So, if you're planning to get plastered, do it before you hit the clubs. It'll save you $75 a night.

How much does a 3 day trip to Vegas cost? ›

Based on my estimate you can expect to spend about $1,925 for 3 nights. Las Vegas is not cheap, but if you use some of the tips above you can find places to save some money. Or, if you prefer to treat yourself, you can do that too. Las Vegas is definitely a good place to splurge.

What is the cheapest time to go to Vegas? ›

For the cheapest times, visit during the shoulder season of September–November and January–April. You can even find low rates during the summer when the city is at its hottest. However, avoid major holidays and aim for stays starting on Sundays, when the weekend crowds dissipate.

What should you not wear in Vegas? ›

  • Stay away from flip-flops or sandals when going to a casino, nightclub, restaurant, or bar.
  • Forget about jerseys, shorts, tank tops, shorts, and baseball caps when attending formal events.
  • Do not attempt to get into a nightclub wearing sneakers (in most clubs, sneakers are considered forbidden footwear).

What should I avoid in Las Vegas? ›

10 Things to Avoid in Las Vegas
  • High Resort Fees. ...
  • Wearing Uncomfortable Shoes. ...
  • Forgetting To Tip. ...
  • ATM Machines in Casinos. ...
  • Paying Too Much For Cocktails. ...
  • Dehydration. ...
  • Missing Out on Free Entertainment. ...
  • Long Waits at Restaurants.
Aug 9, 2021

Is 4 days in Vegas enough? ›

Is 4 nights in Vegas enough? Four nights in Vegas gives you the time to see the very best of Sin City. Dedicate one day to casinos and partying, another to shopping, one to city sights and a show, and on the final day, head out of town to see the Grand Canyon.

How much does a 3 day trip to Vegas cost? ›

Based on my estimate you can expect to spend about $1,925 for 3 nights. Las Vegas is not cheap, but if you use some of the tips above you can find places to save some money. Or, if you prefer to treat yourself, you can do that too. Las Vegas is definitely a good place to splurge.

Is 2 nights in Vegas enough? ›

The truth is that 2 days in Vegas is an ideal amount of time, as the atmosphere is go, go, go! It will be a busy 2 days of sightseeing, eating, and visual delights as you partake in everything that Vegas has to offer!

Is 4 days in Vegas enough? ›

Is 4 nights in Vegas enough? Four nights in Vegas gives you the time to see the very best of Sin City. Dedicate one day to casinos and partying, another to shopping, one to city sights and a show, and on the final day, head out of town to see the Grand Canyon.

How much is a 4 day trip to Vegas? ›

Typical costs: A three- or four-day weekend for two with meals, shows, gambling and other adventures typically costs about $1,000-$3,000 -- although it's possible to spend a lot less or a good deal more.


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