No trip to Las Vegas should be complete without paying a visit to the Hoover Dam, just outside of the city. The most popular way to visit is probably via one of the many hundreds of helicopter trips that are available from The Strip, but this time we decided to go by car.
===What Is The Hoover Dam===
The Hoover Dam was completed in 1935 after almost 5 years' construction and was designed to block the Colorado river and to provide low cost water and electricity to the cities to the Southwest of the area. At 726 feet high it is one of the tallest dams ever built and with a 660 feet wide base it is almost as wide as it is high. There is a pretty interesting plaque halfway across the dam that highlights some of the most interesting facts about the dam and its construction - well worth checking out even if you aren't a fact boffin.
If you do fancy a helicopter ride out there, it isn't cheap, but there are many different options that can incorporate a flight over the Las Vegas Strip or even a flight out to the amazing Grand Canyon. It is easy to get a trip as there are so many hundreds of people selling them up and down Las Vegas Boulevard - you can pop into one of the travel shops or even grab a leaflet from someone hawking trips along the pavement. Of course there is also the option of asking the concierge in your hotel who will be happy to help and will be able to give you as much information as you need. Bear in mind though that the helicopter rides often only fly over the dam rather than stopping there, so if you want to actually visit then you are best doing so by an organised coach trip or just driving yourself.
We visited Las Vegas as part of a road trip around the Grand Canyon and so it made sense for us to drive there ourselves. It's about a thirty minute drive from the centre of The Strip and is quite a simple drive along the highway. Once you leave the highway, the route is well signposted so not difficult even if you don't have Satnav. We found road works along the way which are apparently fairly long term so if you are visiting anytime soon bear in mind that there may be delays - although the queues only added about ten minutes to our journey.
When you get there, you can actually drive over the dam itself if you want the whole experience, which involves crossing the state line from Nevada into Arizona. I'd actually recommend parking on the Nevada side of the dam though and walking across because the parking on this side is much more organised and plentiful. There is a huge multi storey car park which has a standard fee of $5 - pretty reasonable I'd say.
===Is It Worth A Visit?===
This is absolutely a yes as far as I'm concerned because the Hoover Dam is absolutely fascinating and quite breath taking as well. There is a trip that you can do that goes inside the dam to the huge wind turbines inside as well as covering the history and the making of the dam. We didn't actually take part in the tour because at $10 per person it just didn't seem worth giving up a lovely day to go inside. It is a shame really because you used to be able to take an elevator to the bottom and step outside on to the platform as part of the tour, which would have offered much better value for money - however as part of the crackdown in security since 9/11, it is no longer an option.
I loved walking across the top of it and looking over the side, much to my husband's horror! The walls lining the dam are extremely thick and there is no fear of falling off unless you are stupid enough to deliberately climb up on to the top. But that doesn't take anything away from the sheer height of the thing - it really is quite something to look over the side. The other great thing about walking across is that you do walk over the state line. There is a little sign halfway across the dam that indicates where the state line is and you may have to wait awhile in order to get to the front of the queue of people that are having their photos taken!
The pavements at either side of the dam are surprisingly narrow and so single file walking is pretty much a necessity. There are plenty of little outposts along the way though where you can stop and admire the views over the side. The road is closed to commercial traffic (online private vehicles are allowed over) so the road isn't too busy either.
===What Else Is There?===
Another reason that the Nevada side is probably the best side to stop is because this is where the visitor centre is located. There is the obligatory gift shop which contains untold amounts of Hoover Dam themed tat. There is also a café that sells mainly fast food although do a mean (and very popular) ice cream!
Just around the corner from the dam is the entrance to the phenomenally huge Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge which has only very recently finished been finished. The massive bridge, which is the second largest in the United States, was created to help with traffic in the area. It offers absolutely spectacular views over the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead beyond. That is if you have the stomach to cross it! I managed to get around a third of the way across the 1900 feet long bridge before I bottled it!
Absolutely. Even if you aren't a massive fan of architecture or engineering masterpieces, the views and sheer heights alone make it an unmissable visit. After all, it is not every day that you get the chance to see one of the seven wonders of the industrial world!