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Trapped in Vegas? Day trip escapes from Sin City

If you came here looking for little-known secrets of Sin City that may actually help you stomach a place you currently loathe, you've come to the wrong place. Don't get us wrong -- Las Vegas is a real hoot if you're into certain things. Things like mind-blowing shows, more live music than you can shake a stick at, gambling galore and some of the world's best eateries. But believe it or not, Vegas isn't the end-all destination for every traveler. It's also not the best destination for business travelers, but as I've personally found with covering the Consumer Electronics Show, sometimes your job just lands you here. Thankfully, there's loads to see and do just outside of Vegas, and if your company pays to get you into McCarran International Airport, you might as well use any available downtime to your advantage.

Despite the local government's best efforts to clean things up in southern Nevada and make Las Vegas more of a "family friendly" destination, there's still a good deal of unbecoming aspects that are impossible to avoid. Driving on Paradise Road and seeing glorified advertisements for call-girls isn't exactly the greatest way to start one's morning, and frankly, there's only so much alcohol to be drank, cigarettes to be smoked and money to be lost. If you've found yourself bored with the so-called Entertainment Capital of the World, we've got a few drastic diversions that are all just a day trip away -- all of which are markedly cheaper than indulging in yet another played-out show or overpriced restaurant. Read on if you're dying to escape.

Road Trip Tips: researching and planning to pinch pennies

Let's face it: road trips are becoming less and less common in America. We've got (near) record-high fuel prices, a pressure on us to work more and take less time off (thanks, recession) and more entertainment options than ever before close to our homes. Put simply, road trips aren't nearly as easy to take as they've been in the past, but they're just as awe-inspiring today as they've always been.

If you've been looking to burn a few weeks of banked vacation, spend a bit of quality time with your family, see a few long-lost relatives elsewhere in the country and mark one or two more of your Bucket List items off, there's no better way to accomplish all of that than by packing your Winnebago (or whatever vehicle resides in your garage) and hitting the highways. Despite what you may believe, you just might have enough in savings to pull off your dream road trip, and we've got a few tips beyond the break that'll save you bundles along the way. Just be prepared to put in the legwork during the "planning" phase.

Why you should visit National Parks in the off-season

So, you missed out on those fee-free weekends at the National Parks last year? Don't sweat it -- you didn't miss much. As with anything that's both free and open to the public, those weekends drew huge crowds. And while gratis is always nice, fighting the crowds is decidedly not. The way we see it, America's pristine National Park system is best enjoyed with as little ambient noise as possible. After all, entering these parks gives you a chance to really connect with nature and to simply soak in some of the most beautiful regions of the country. Good luck trying to soak anything in with hordes of tourists surrounding you, kids wailing about their PSP battery dying and crowded roadways leading to the entrance.

For better or worse, most National Parks turn into circuses (or zoos, if you prefer that visual) during the warmer months. Particularly in the flagship parks (Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Zion, Great Smoky Mountains, etc.), the summer months lead to bumper-to-bumper traffic, waiting lines at scenic pulloffs, and a general sense of frustration. Call us crazy, but that doesn't exactly sound like the ideal National Park experience.

Thankfully for you, there's a solution. Go now.

5 little-known, must-see sites on a Southwest road trip

So, you've settled on the American Southwest as your next road trip destination. Congratulations -- you've made a sound choice indeed. Picking one of America's most storied regions to ramble around in is the easy part, but selecting the routes and spots to see is a bit more difficult. You've always got the obvious choices - Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks, for instance -- but it's the offbeat gems that really stick with you long after you dust off your boots, hang the cowboy hat and return the rental car.

We recently embarked on a 3,600 mile journey that crisscrossed the Southwest, touching parts of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. The cliché stops were nothing short of awe-inspiring, but we found five must-see areas along the way that showcased exactly what this region of the country is all about. Read on if you're eager to get your wheels turning.

  • Four Corners, USA

Blogger Darren Murph

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Darren Murph. . .

Where was your photo taken:
Just below South Point Park on the very southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, which is unequivocally my favorite state in America. It's the southernmost point of the entire United States, which gave me a great sense of pride when seeing the (not technically) Southernmost Point Buoy in Key West.

Where do you live now: Raleigh, North Carolina, y'all!

Scariest airline flown:
A Continental flight from Newark to Raleigh in late 2003. I'm fairly certain we flew directly through one of the most turbulent thunderstorms this world has ever seen. Extreme drops in altitude, terrified flight attendants and a lady beside me that "came to Jesus" during the voyage to really cap things off. If I'm being completely honest, it was the only time in the sky where I had a very genuine fear that I may not land in one piece. Oh, and I've flown Ryanair as well -- no sweat there!

Favorite city/country/place:
I'm going to take some liberties with this one. My favorite city in the world is Köln, Germany. There's nothing quite like stepping off of the train, hanging a left and being greeted by the towering Cathedral (or Dom, as it were). The entire city is awe-inspiring, and the aged beauty and warm locals give it a leg up over the more well-known Berlin. My favorite country is the United States of America. I've yet to encounter another nation where cowboys, nomads, beach bums and mountaineers all feel at home, and the sheer amount of variety makes it a treasure trove for explorers. I can cruise the Highway to Hana and call a moose my friend in Denali National Park without ever needing a passport -- not bad, eh? I just can't settle on a favorite place, so here's two: the gorgeous isle of Maui and the snowmobiler's heaven that is Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

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