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Though Vegas is designed to make you forget that there is an outside world, it might do you and your pocketbook some good to reacquaint yourself with the non-Vegas realm. Actually, if you're spending more than 3 days in Vegas, this may become a necessity; 2 days with kids, and it absolutely will.

Plus, there is such a startling contrast between the artificial wonders of Sin City and the natural wonders that, in some cases, lie just a few miles away. Few places are as developed and modern as Vegas; few places are as untouched as some of the canyons, desert, and mountains that surround it. The electrical and design marvel that is the Strip couldn't exist without the extraordinary structural feat that is Hoover Dam. Need some fresh air? There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, all in a landscape all the more jarring for the contrast it has with the city.

With the exception of the Grand Canyon, the excursions covered in this section will take you from 20 to 60 miles out of town. Every one of them offers a memorable travel experience.

The Grand Canyon

About 270 miles E of Las Vegas

The geographically challenged among us believe that the Grand Canyon is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Las Vegas and therefore a great idea for a side trip while visiting Sin City. While this may be true from a strictly comparative basis -- the canyon is closer to Vegas than it is to, say, London -- it is not exactly what you might call "close." The South Rim is about 270 miles from Las Vegas via two- and four-lane highways. This equates to a solid 5-hour drive on a good day and an hour or two more than that during peak traffic times. In other words, if you want to take a quick day trip to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas, you better accept the fact that it's going to be a very long day and you won't have much time at the park. An overnight visit or taking advantage of an air tour is probably a better bet.

But if you have the time and the energy, visiting the Grand Canyon is a breathtaking experience. There's a reason why it is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Open year-round, the South Rim is the most popular area of the park and the one that you should visit if you have never been, as it offers the most options in terms of lodging, tours, activities, restaurants, and more. Keep in mind, however, that there are other areas of the park worth visiting. For more information on the North Rim and other Grand Canyon National Park destinations, visit www.frommers.com.

Getting There -- If you're taking your own car, head east on Flamingo Road or Tropicana Boulevard to I-515 S. This becomes NV 93, which crosses over Hoover Dam into Arizona and will lead to I-40 at Kingman. Take the interstate east to NV 64 at Williams, Arizona, and follow the signs north. Drivers should be advised that much of the route to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas is along narrow, twisty roads that can be a challenge and are often jammed with traffic.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.