Las Vegas may not be known for being a city of moderation, and the surrounding landscape is no exception. To the west you’ll find Death Valley – home to hottest recorded temperatures and the lowest point of elevation in North America – and to the east lies the incomparable majesty of the Grand Canyon, but one of the Southwest’s most impressive man-made sights is just a few miles to the southeast of Vegas – the Hoover Dam.
When you’re deeply ensconced in the bright lights and excitement of Las Vegas, it’s easy to forget that this imposing landmark is less than an hour away from the Strip. But more than one million people visit the Hoover Dam each year, and once you see the gracefully sloping concrete curve of the dam, it’s pretty clear why the Hoover Dam is such a big deal.
Here are seven reasons why you should visit the Hoover Dam:
1. It's super close to Las Vegas.
The Hoover Dam is only a short 30 minute drive from Vegas, which makes it the perfect half-day getaway from the bustle of the Strip. Explore the Dam in the morning, and return to Las Vegas with more than enough time to make your dinner reservations or take in that show you’ve been looking forward to!
Check out our Hoover Dam tours from Las Vegas.
2. It's a great destination for families.
Las Vegas may not be the first destination you think of when you’re planning a family vacation, but there’s no denying that Sin City is ideally located for visiting a veritable smorgasbord of family-friendly attractions like the Hoover Dam. With a number of tour options available, the Hoover Dam is both educational and entertaining, making it the perfect excursion for your family’s Vegas adventure.
3. It’s one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world.
The Hoover Dam may seem unimpressive to those who have never seen it, but for those who have, it’s clear why it’s considered one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world.
Topping out at 726 feet above the Canyon floor and stretching 1,244 feet across Black Canyon, the Hoover Dam was the tallest dam in the world when it opened in the 1930s. The Hoover Dam is an “arch-gravity” dam, which means it’s thicker at the bottom (660 feet thick, to be exact) and thinner at the top (where it’s only 45 feet thick). It took 6.6 million tons of concrete to construct – that’s enough concrete to pave a two-lane highway that stretches all the way from New York to San Francisco – and it required a specialized, intricate cooling system to build. Without this cooling system, the Dam would still be cooling and solidifying today.
4. Lake Mead. Enough said.
Lake Mead is the nation’s largest – and arguably most picturesque – reservoir, covering 248 square miles and capable of holding 28.9 million acre-feet of water. What’s an acre-foot? The equivalent of about 325,000 gallons of water. That’s a lot of water.
Take a Lake Mead Cruise and see it for yourself.
5. It's got great photo ops.
Fantastic photo opportunities are almost as abundant as concrete at the Hoover Dam. Here are some of the most popular:
- The state line marker: Stand in two states at once!
- The Colorado River Bridge: Officially called the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, this shapely structure is the longest single-span concrete arch bridge in the Western hemisphere.
- Lake Mead: Turn to the northeast for stunning vistas of picturesque Lake Mead, then turn around and prepare yourself for the sheer concrete drop of the Dam on the other side. The downstream side of the Dam is best viewed from the air, but it’s impressive from any viewpoint.
- Winged Figures of the Republic: These unique sculptures are some of the largest monumental bronze structures ever cast in the United States – the shells alone contain more than four tons of statuary bronze! According to the artist, the winged figures express “the immutable calm of intellectual resolution, and the enormous power of trained physical strength, equally enthroned in placid triumph of scientific accomplishment”. You can’t miss them.
- Vintage charm: Art deco-inspired motifs featuring Native American images of animals, plants, and climactic events decorate the Dam’s many towers and spillways.
6. It’s on the way to the Grand Canyon.
7. You can explore the inside of the Dam.
Jump on one of the Hoover Dam’s informative tours and journey deep into the heart of the Dam.
The shorter Power Plant Tour will drop you 530 feet into the Dam where you can view the hydroelectric generators, while the longer, more immersive Hoover Dam Tour will give you an opportunity to explore the passageways within the Dam.
Visiting the Hoover Dam
Las Vegas may be known for its lavish casinos, extravagant shows, and enormous buffets, but Sin City is more than just America’s premier party destination. Just a few minutes outside of Vegas’s city limits lie a number of unique and educational landscapes and landmarks, like the Grand Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and the Hoover Dam.