Roaring ATVs charge up Southwest Desert sand dunes in a storm of golden particles. Miles away, intrepid explorers rappel down the sheer cliffs of the Valley of Fire. Elsewhere, kayakers drift across the placid surface of Lake Mead in the sunset, and passengers inside a helicopter witness the majesty of the Grand Canyon from the breathtaking angle normally reserved for sightseeing birds. These seemingly disparate adventures have one thing in common: the people who imagined them. Each trek was dreamed up by the founders and guides of Awesome Adventures, who see the landscape of Nevada and Utah not as harsh and wild, but as a source of endless entertainment and education. The enthusiastic staffers—who specialize in recreations ranging from rock climbing to whitewater rafting—encourage visitors and locals alike to step outside the bounds of the city and explore exciting new vistas.
It's exhilarating—the rush of adrenaline as you jump from 13,000 feet, free fall, and then glide beneath a parachute back to Earth. Less than a half-hour drive from the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip, Sin City Skydiving creates this experience daily. With more than 12,000 skydives each, the company's FAA and US Parachute Association-certified instructors are the perfect team to plunge newcomers into the sport. They strap themselves to novices during tandem flights and dive out of Cessna aircrafts, controlling every second of the jump while simultaneously setting the record for world's longest hug. For committed students, they lead a combination of ground-based and in-air training that teaches divers to jump on their own.
Vegas Xcursions conveniently packages adventure in the form of tours, rides, games, and eats across swaths of the scenic southwest. Two hours at Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix entices with speeding circuits around four go-kart tracks and rides on four family-friendly attractions. Between photo finishes and rubberneck traffic jams, visitors can nosh on a complimentary medium specialty pizza, 10 hot wings, and a large drink.
Fremont Street Flightlines sends aerial daredevils on a zip-line ride through the kaleidoscopic canopy of the Viva Vision light show at Las Vegas' Fremont Street Experience. The five-block long Fremont Street Experience is a pedestrian mall made up of a 90-foot-tall canopy displaying the world's largest big screen, Viva Vision. An hourly light show, bevy of attractions, and frequent performances make the area a veritable feast of visual and auditory stimuli. Flightlines’ customers are harnessed to the zip line and soar through the space at speeds of up to 30 mph, whizzing as close as 14 feet from the ground on their parabolic trajectory. Up to four can zip simultaneously, making an endearing start to a double date or an awkward end to the remains of a quadruple date.
Taking in the Grand Canyon’s depths, jetting down the Las Vegas Strip in a limousine, and visiting a tiny town in search of its resident poltergeist—guests of Bindlestiff Tours can have these experiences and more. The company’s expert guides create the wide array of southwestern tours themselves, tailoring the itineraries to their personal expertise and their insider knowledge of camera-shy cacti. Their carefully curated trips can last from a single day to three weeks, with longer trips stopping at far-flung landmarks such as Yosemite National Park, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon in a single week. Bindlestiff Tours also aims to protect the natural wonders it celebrates, encouraging tour groups to minimize their environmental impact as they travel by keeping to trails and recycling.
Vroom across the earth's gold- and diamond-filled acne with today’s off-road Groupon: $55 for a four-hour H1 Hummer tour through two Arizona mountain ranges and desert with Stellar Adventures (a $135 value). Stellar Adventures’ exciting and information-packed Four Peaks Trail Hummer expedition takes intrepid explorers on a picturesque trail through Tonto National Forest, known, like the surface of Mars or a new pair of socks, for its rugged beauty.