By No Vacation Required, on May 7, 2013

Angels in Sin City

“I just won $30,000,” said the guy in our Las Vegas hotel’s elevator. Before we could start a round of high-fiving, he dropped his next bomb. “But, I’m still down a few thousand dollars.”

It was in that moment that we both decided just how happy we were that Las Vegas has all sorts of other distractions to keep visitors entertained outside of the casinos – especially when the chips are down. As a matter of fact, since that particular visit, we’ve made several casino-less, booze-free trips to Vegas. Yes, it’s true, you can be an angel in Sin City.

Any getaway dedicated to relaxation should start with a terrific hotel spa. Our favorite is at Canyon Ranch, located inside the Venetian and Palazzo hotels. Anyone who has been to a Canyon Ranch spa knows that they do health and wellness right. The success of their flagship property in Tucson prompted them to open up several satellite spas, expanding to Las Vegas in 1999. Boy, are we glad they did. 

Are you sitting down? Canyon Ranch in Las Vegas measures in at 134,000 square feet. In addition to the requisite treatment rooms, it’s filled with boutiques, a fitness center, dining, and, our favorite, a variety of spaces in which to simply chill out. Take your pick of relaxation options – from traditional dry heat saunas and aromatic steam rooms to multi-sensory rain showers and heated loungers. If you go, be sure to try out the Igloo. Don’t let the cold air scare you away. The experience within makes it well worth a try after heating up in other areas.

Another spa worth a try is the one at Wynn, our favorite hotel in Las Vegas. With Encore, Wynn’s sister property next door, you actually have two spas to choose from. Both are fantastic and quite similar, but we typically opt for the Encore version.

The spa at Encore

Although not as expansive as Canyon Ranch, Encore Spa is no less bliss inducing. The treatments are among the best we’ve had, and the relaxation spaces are the types that make you want to redesign your home to mimic them. After a good morning workout, we enjoy hanging out around the common area fireplace with cups of coffee and magazines.

Unfortunately, you can’t spend an entire visit to Las Vegas in a spa. Even on a tranquility-focused getaway, activities await. During a recent visit, we made the short trip from Las Vegas to Hoover Dam. It’s well worth visiting this architectural masterpiece that sits just 30 miles away. As a matter of fact, Las Vegas would likely not exist were it not for the power provided by Hoover Dam.

A trip to the dam really is a must-do. In addition to being a visual treat, it’s one of America’s proudest engineering feats. Did you know that Hoover Dam has been designated as an official engineering wonder? Back during the Great Depression, the dam was constructed to harness the power of the Colorado River. It now provides the electricity that serves well over one million people in Nevada, Arizona, and California. When you arrive back in Vegas, you’ll have a whole new appreciation for the gazillion lights that make the Strip it’s own kind of wonder. 

Viewfinder Tip: Take at least one day trip off the strip.

Another worthwhile day trip from Las Vegas is out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. As outdoor enthusiasts and hiking fanatics, we can’t get enough of the area’s colorful sandstone formations. Shades of orange, green, and red provide the backdrop for a number of hikes. That and the fresh, crisp air alone are reason enough to make the trip.

During our last visit, I was so mesmerized by the wildlife and foliage – lizards, hawks, cacti, and primrose among them – that I ripped my shoe on the edge of a sharp rock while exploring. This provided a good excuse to get back to the city and into the spa. I can smell the peppermint and feel the “snow” in the Igloo as I write. It’s time to go back.

What do you do in Las Vegas outside of the casinos?