Just outside the bright lights and endless nightlife of the city of Las Vegas, there’s another destination. You won’t find any slot machines, and it’s definitely more low-key than Sin City, but it has its own fun and funky desert vibe. Located less than 30 miles from the Las Vegas strip, Boulder City, mostly known for its proximity to the Hoover Dam, is a step back in time, offering visitors not only outdoor adventures including tours of the dam and water sports on Lake Mead, but also quirky shops, great restaurants and even a few aliens if you’re so inclined!

Where to Stay

You’ll find a wealth of well-preserved historic hotels, with options to stay close to outdoor activities like the Hoover Dam, or classic, mid-century motels in the heart of town.

Just outside the city, The Hoover Dam lodge was established in 1958 but has all the modern amenities you could want or need. The property has several restaurants and bars, an outdoor pool and even a casino if you really want to gamble. Best of all, it overlooks Lake Mead and is just a few miles from the dam.

If you want to stay where the action is, the historic El Rancho Boulder Motel sits directly on the main highway that runs through Boulder City, and is within walking distance to restaurants, shopping and park areas. There is a large, outdoor pool, free parking and if you’re traveling with a fur baby, dogs are welcome.


There are quite a few good restaurants here, from informal dining to more upscale options. For a casual meal, The Coffee Cup Café, best known for being featured on the Food Network series “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” offers a hearty breakfast and lunch. Or if you want something a little fancier, head next door to Milo’s Cellar, where you can enjoy happy hour tapas or leisurely dinners, with more than 350 wine selections to go with your meal. For those visitors with a sweet tooth, check out Chilly Jilly’z for a Dole Whip or shave ice, or enjoy something from their brunch menu.


You could spend a whole day antiquing at the Historic Town center, with shops on nearly every corner. Stop in at Back in Time Antiques for some vintage finds, or you can purchase locally made arts and crafts at shops such as Square 1 Gallery or Bloom. Looking to enjoy a snack while you shop? Boulder City Co. Store has coffee, pastries and lots of Boulder City logoed merchandise.

The Outdoors

Hoover Dam is one of the most well-known tourist spots near Boulder City, and with good reason. Built in 1935, it was the largest dam in the world at the time, and it stores enough water in Lake Mead to irrigate 2 million acres. There are daily tours available of the dam and surrounding areas, although they are currently closed at this time due to the coronavirus.

If you want to get outside and enjoy the beauty of Lake Mead, you can rent boats, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. There’s also the Historic Railroad Trail, the only remaining legacy of the Hoover Dam railroad, which brought in supplies to build the dam. The trail takes you through five of the original tunnels and goes all the way to the dam itself.

The Unusual

There are definitely some wild, wacky and simply unique places that can only be found in Boulder City, and it wouldn’t be a worthwhile visit if you didn’t check some of them out. The Flying Saucer Area 52 pays homage to all things UFO, with alien-themed gifts and souvenirs, sci-fi memorabilia and even some Star Wars items.For horror aficionados, Tom Devlin’s Monster Museum features a large collection of props and creature suits straight from the big screen, as well as a gift shop selling t-shirts, masks and costumes from your favorite scary movies.

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About Jody Ellis

Jody Ellis is a freelance writer who specializes in beauty, health, travel, fashion and social justice. She is currently part of a fellowship with Community Change, a non-profit focused on writing about social policies that impact low-income families. Her work has appeared in publications such as LennyLetter, Huffington Post, BBC Future Planet, Civil Eats and Eater.

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