The Drive: Las Vegas to Boulder City

A growing segment of the Las Vegas tourist market (before the lockdown) was tourists’ wanting to spend part of their vacation off the Strip.  To get away from the bright lights, the crowd, and the touristy things.  To grab a rental car and go see something new and exciting. Explore and discover.

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Las Vegas to Boulder City

What started out as a company town to house the workers building Hoover Dam, has turned into a nice easy getaway from the hustle-bustle of Las Vegas. In fact, they like to say “Boulder City. A world away for a day”!

The first thing you realize when you are sitting in downtown Boulder cIty, enjoying one of the many shops, restaurants, and cafes, is that it doesn’t seem like you are just a skip down the highway from the gambling mecca of the world.  It’s a town stuck in a different era and to many visitors, that’s a nice place to be. A town of 16,000 people sitting literally on the shores of Lake Mead.  One of the largest man-made lakes in North America.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area was the first National Park to be designated for recreational purposes.  It was created from the backing up of the Colorado River when they built Hoover Dam during the Great Depression.

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The Journey

We like to start at a familiar landmark. The “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. heading south on las Vegas Boulevard. Otherwise known as “The Strip”. Heading away from the mega-resorts and fancy clubs.  heading off into the real “Las Vegas”

Jumping on the 215 East. On your left, you will see the Las Vegas skyline as well as some of the airplanes coming and going out of McCarren International Airports. In the far background is downtown Las Vegas and to the left front mountains, you will see Nellis Air Force Base. Home to the Thunderbirds.

Once you jump onto the new Interstate 11 South, you will crest a hill and see Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino. This is as you are moving to the right lane to exit onto Boulder City Parkway. This is the oldest legally operating casino in the State of Nevada. Gaming License #4.

Boulder City is Born

In 1928, at the start of the Great Depression, Las Vegas was the only thing around A railroad stop of 2000 people.  Once they decided to start to build the Hoover dam and creat Boulder City to house the workers, it would be a two-hour drive to the base camp.  Today, it’s a simple 30-minute drive.

At its peak during construction, Boulder City housed 5,000 workers and their families. More people lived there then lived in Las Vegas! After the construction was complete, the population dropped for a while.  In 1969, it became its very own city. They revoked the ban on alcohol but maintain the ban on Gambling. Boulder City is one of only two towns in Nevada where gambling is illegal.

Coffee Cup Cafe

The first business licensed to operate in the company town was the Coffee Cup Cafe. It is still in operation, just a little further down the street from its original location.

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Watch Your Speed, Enjoy the Scenery

The one thing I would caution you on is the speed limits. Boulder City is a pedestrian-friendly little town and a lot of people are not really paying attention to the traffic. So beware of the changing speed limits as you are coming into town!

The downtown area includes the movie theater. Originally called Fox Movie Theater. It was the only building in town that had that new fangled thing called air conditioning in it.  Right before that is the Historic Bould Dam Hotel that also houses the Hoover Dam Museum. Just past the theater, you turn right and there will be Boulder Bowl. An eight-lane bowling alley!!

As you pass through the historic downtown area, there are a lot of little shops to visit and restaurants to enjoy.  As you continue past the downtown area, you start to crest a hill. The brick housed on the left was the original manager’s houses and was meant to be permanent when built in the 1930s.  The rest of the housing came later in small spurts of growth.

You crest the hill and get your first view of Lake Mead.  Lake Mead was the reservoir that was created by the building of Hoover Dam and was the very first Nation Park designated for recreational usage.  Its formal name is the Lake Mead Recreational Area. Follow the road down to the highway and you will soon find yourself heading towards the Hoover Dam and the Arizona State line.

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Posted by Mark Anthony

Mark Anthony is The Vegas Tourist! Popular Tourism Ambassador, a frequent contributor to Las Vegas forums as well as travel media and bloggers. Loves to help people discover new things to see, do and experience while visiting Las Vegas and Beyond!

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