mural that says Boulder City in Boulder City, Nevada

15 Best Things To Do in Boulder City

One glance and you just know that Boulder City is special. It’s got that small town charm and oodles of history because after all, Boulder City is known for being the city that built the dam. Yes, that dam – the one of a kind Hoover Dam.

If you love southern Nevada like I do, then these best things to do in Boulder City offers you a chance to learn about the dam construction and how that one event shaped the future of the desert. Put it on your travel list because a visit to Boulder City is a must-do for anyone vacationing in Las Vegas or road tripping to the Grand Canyon from Vegas. Let’s go!

Things to do in Boulder City

Before it was officially Boulder City, this area is where the dam workers were housed. At the height of the project, approximately 7000 people lived there. Nowadays it’s about double that but Boulder City remains a very close-knit community.

Just 25 miles from Las Vegas, Boulder City is easy to get to on the interstate and once there, it’s very walkable. In fact, the best way to explore is on foot. Grab a coffee and peruse the welcoming downtown with its shops, public art and antiques.

In every corner of Boulder City, the pride in the integral part they played in the dam construction is evident. There’s no shortage of reminders all over town. From murals and public art to actual artifacts and items from the dam woven into the landscape.

1. Visit the Boulder Dam Hotel & Museum

Start your Boulder City visit at the Boulder Dam Hotel and Museum. Not only is the hotel pretty famous for its celebrity clientele but the museum onsite offers a glimpse into what life was like during the dam construction. The museum aims to share those stories.

With mostly men involved in dam construction, it’s easy to forget about the families, the women and the children who played a supporting role. What they lived through and put up with in the harsh desert environment is an accomplishment in itself.

Through photographs, artifacts and oral history, the museum takes you on an eye-opening journey of the project and you’ll leave wondering how in the world this group of people accomplished what they did. The sheer will and determination is inspirational.

If your plans include overnighting in town, the hotel offers unique rooms with a restaurant and bar onsite. And the Dam museum is open to the public every day, 7am to 7pm, 7 days week, 365 days of the year.

2. Tour Hoover Dam

After you’ve learned a bit about the individuals who participated in the dam construction, the next thing to do in Boulder City is visit the dam itself. Completed in 1935, Hoover Dam is still one of the most impressive engineering feats of our time.

Built to harness the waters of the Colorado River and stop dangerous flooding down river, the dam took five years to complete and was actually finished ahead of schedule.

Named for Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States, who “as President, took an active part in settling the engineering problems and location of the dam in Black Canyon“, the dam is unbelievably impressive in person.

There are a couple of ways to see the Hoover Dam. The fast and free option is by parking in one of the public lots in Arizona and walking the short distance to Nevada and the dam. Along the way are places to snap photos, see the intake towers and the spillways that were last used in 1983.

For a more in-depth tour of the turbine room and other inner workings of the dam, the Bureau of Reclamation, the government agency that manages the dam, offers tours daily. You can choose from three different options but I highly recommend the guided tour because you see things you wouldn’t if you were on your own.

The Bureau of Reclamation’s website (linked below) has all the up to date tour info. You can also book a tour in person at the dam but tours may not be available last minute during busy season. I suggest booking ahead of time or booking an organized tour from Las Vegas.

3. See the Trains at the Southern Nevada Railway Museum

Before the dam construction, there were no major roads or interstates so the project relied heavily on trains to bring in materials and supplies. The Nevada Southern Railroad was actually built in 1931 just for the purpose of bringing materials to the site.

Once the dam was completed and the lake filled up, the need for the railroad line diminished. Parts of it actually disappeared as the water rose. Seeing a piece of history slipping away, a effort was made by volunteers and the state of Nevada to save what was left of the old line.

Over time, after portions of the railroad tracks were restored, a railroad museum was founded. And later on, a collection of vintage train cars were added. See the historic locomotives, the cabooses and my favorite, a railway postal car, at the Southern Nevada Railway Museum. You can even ride the train on the same tracks that were installed in 1931. 

The museum is open 7 days a week (closed on Nevada holidays) from 9:00am to 3:30pm. Check their website below for an event schedule that includes special Christmas and holiday happenings.

4. Gamble at Railroad Pass Casino

The Railroad Pass Casino has been hosting visitors since 1931 and was the third licensed casino in Nevada – meaning it’s one of the oldest in the state. It’s the longest running casino in the United States. A favorite pastime for dam workers during the construction, a hotel was added to the casino in the 1980’s to attract even more visitors.

Surprisingly, gambling is prohibited inside the city limits of Boulder City. But since the Railroad Pass is actually just outside the city limits and has a Henderson address, you can eat, drink, gamble and sleep your way through this historic stop on this things to do in Boulder City list.

5. Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Once the Hoover Dam was complete and the reservoir began to fill up, a recreation area was created to include the new lake. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, formally known as Boulder Dam Recreation Area, was created in 1947 and is the United States first national recreation area.

The park is huge and encompasses 1.5 million acres of protected land. It’s one of the most diverse parks in the park system. You can hike it, fish it, boat it, paddle it or just drive through it, to enjoy, in my opinion, one of the most underrated parks in the national park system.

A quick way to see a piece of the park from Boulder City is by visiting the Alan Bible Visitor Center and taking a walk on the Historic Railroad Trail that follows the same railroad bed and passes through some of the very tunnels made to carry supplies to the dam.

Southerner Says: Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a fee based park but the Historic Railroad Trail is outside the entrance station. To access other areas of the park, the fee is $25 per vehicle per day or free with an America the Beautiful Pass.

6. See Wildlife at Hemenway Park

The Mojave Desert is full of wildlife. Even in Boulder City it’s easy to spot some. Hemenway Park, near downtown, is a favorite hangout for bighorn sheep in the summer and fall.

Not only do you get some of the best views of the lake driving to the park but it’s an ideal spot for taking a break from the desert heat. There’s nothing more fun than watching the sheep hanging out and just living life.

  • Hemenway Park
  • 401 Ville Drive, Boulder City, NV 
big horn sheep in Hemenway Park Boulder City, Nevada
Big horn sheep in the park in Boulder City

7. Go Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is a big deal in Boulder City. And why not with epic views of the lake from the 34 mile River Mountain Loop Trail? This non-motorized trail circles the River Mountains and connects Boulder City, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Henderson and other areas.

It’s the first endeavor of it’s kind in southern Nevada and offers visitors a chance to take advantage of the gorgeous desert scenery, hopefully see some wildlife and get some exercise all at the same time. Bring your own bike or rent bikes at an outfitter in Boulder City.

All Mountain Cyclery has every kind of bike you could need and the Mountain Rivers Trail can be accessed from right near their store. You could also drive into Lake Mead National Recreation to access it there. Visit the official trail website for more info and a map of the area.

the shadow of a bike on the River Mountains Loop Trail near Boulder City and Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada.
The River Mountains Loop Trail along Lake Mead

8. Get Out on the Water

Boulder City’s proximity to Lake Mead and the Colorado River means plenty of opportunities to get out on the water. If you have the time, it’s a chance to see and appreciate the lake, and the park, from a different perspective.

Boats, and non-motorized boats, are available for individuals to rent at Lake Mead Marina on the Nevada side of Lake Mead and kayaks can be rented at Arizona’s Willow Beach, for paddling on the Colorado River. Both of these sections of the park are beautiful and have camping, restaurants and other amenities available for a fun day trip or a longer weekend getaway.

Another option is an organized tours with outfitters throughout the area. Some of those tours even pickup directly from your Las Vegas hotel.

out on the water of Lake Mead one of the best things to do in Boulder City
A secret cove on Lake Mead – one of the best thing to do in Boulder City

9. Buy a Space Pen

Besides the dam, perhaps one of the most unique things in Boulder City is Fisher Space Pen. Twenty years ago, Paul C. Fisher, changed the pen industry when he invented a sealed and pressurized ink cartridge refill. Because it was so revolutionary, the pen was used in space in 1967 and has been on every NASA manned space flight since 1968.

In fact, the Fisher Space Pen even has its own permanent exhibit inside the Apollo Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center.

Fisher Pen Company moved its manufacturing facility from California to Boulder City in 1976 and you can visit the factory store and buy a space pen right in Boulder City, Monday through Friday, 7am-4pm Pacific Time.

10. Meet a Monster at Tom Devlin’s Monster Museum

I’ll admit, I had never heard of a monster museum before but Boulder City has one. Tom Devlin’s Monster Museum is a museum with everything from scary art and creature suits to vintage cars and custom pieces featuring monsters and props from horror movie history.

The museum is a must stop for anyone who enjoys a a bit of a fright. It’s open 7 days a week from 10am-6pm and if you happen to visit in October, check out their special Halloween events.

11. Sip Craft Beer

Located on historic Main Street in downtown, Boulder Dam Brewing Co. is the perfect place for relaxing after Boulder City sightseeing or a tour. The brewery boasts both indoor and outdoor patio seating and serves a variety of beers ranging from stouts and pale ales, to my favorite, a refreshing German hefeweizen served with its own juicy orange.

Stop in for a delicious dinner or just to sip the afternoon heat away. If you happen to be in Boulder City on the weekend, the brewery usually has live music out on the patio.

A German Hefeweizen at Boulder Dam Brewing Co.
A German Hefeweizen at Boulder Dam Brewing Co.

12. Go Antiquing

As you stroll though downtown Boulder City you’ll notice all the antique stores and vintage shops around town. Here’s your chance to take home a piece of dam history or a special treasured item.

Goatfeathers Emporium, with their huge selection of vintage items, memorabilia and gifts is a good place to start your quest. The Boulder City Co Store is another terrific stop to browse for clothes, trinkets and dam souvenirs. Housed in a historic refurbished building downtown, you can shop and enjoy an expresso while you’re at it.

13. Search for Public Art

Boulder City celebrates the dam and its past with an abundance of public art. You’ll find murals and sculptures dedicated to that history strategically placed all around the downtown area. There’s nothing more fun than just happening up on a surprise mural painted on the side of a building or a sculpture tucked away somewhere unexpected.

For sure, don’t miss the official “Greetings from Boulder City” mural (pictured in the cover photo) and the colorful dam and Lake Mead mural on the Sands Motel building. For even more public art, there’s a Boulder City’s Public Artscape walking trail that features more thirty sculptures located throughout town.

a mural featuring big horn sheep in Boulder City on the Sands Motel
Boulder City Mural on the Sands Motel Downtown Boulder City

14. Eat a Delicious Meal at Coffee Cup Cafe

One of the things I love about a small, community focused town is that there are always plenty of local restaurants. Boulder City has its share of well known fast food chains but the majority of its restaurants are locally owned. And there are so many good ones to choose from.

Take your pick from dozens of outstanding eateries like The Dillinger, best burgers award, Southwest Diner. with their comfort food and homemade pie, and then there’s my favorite, The Coffee Cup Cafe.

Serving all day breakfast and lunch, The Coffee Cup is the perfect early or mid-morning stop before a visit to the dam. Their omelets and breakfast tacos are out of this world. The menu also includes burgers, milkshakes and adult beverages. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with anything you order.

15. Walk Across the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

If you absolutely don’t have time for a dam tour then the next best thing is walking the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge’s pedestrian walk. This remarkable bridge is second tallest bridge in the United States and was constructed to bypass the old narrow highway across the Hoover Dam from Nevada into Arizona.

Not wasting the opportunity, the bridge was built with a pedestrian walkway alongside for the very best views of Hoover Dam, the Colorado River and surround Black Canyon. Don’t miss this fabulous sight and one of the best things to do in Boulder City.

The bridge and walkway are free to visit and there’s a designated parking lot available for visitors to safely leave vehicles. Plus, it’s assessible.

The visit Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Bridge
View of the new bridge from the Hoover Dam

Where to Stay in Boulder City

For such a small town, Boulder City has a variety of amazing accommodations. Besides the aforementioned Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino, closer to the interstate, the more upscale Boulder Dam Hotel, I really like the The Sand Motel with its vintage vibe and remodeled rooms.

The property looks like something you would see on Route 66. Family owned and operated since 1951, all the rooms have refrigerators and microwaves. Conveniently located just steps from restaurants and shopping, it’s perfect for a quick overnight stay in Boulder City.

Final Thoughts on Things To Do in Boulder City

So, there you have it. My list of the best things to do in Boulder City. This doesn’t mean that there are only 15 things to do in this fun little town. Check out Visit Boulder City’s website for more events and seasonal celebrations happening all the time.

A Google Map of these the things to in Boulder City can be found here. Add it to your own Google account by clicking the star at the end of the title. The map includes layers with driving directions as well as the restaurants mentioned here and a few other ones I really like.

Thanks to Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for hosting me on some for some of these activities. As always, even though I was hosted, the experiences and opinions are entirely my own. In full disclosure, my daughter lives in Boulder City now, so I know it pretty well. It’s one of my favorite places to spend time and I think you’ll enjoy it too.

See you on the road!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.