A visit to Hoover Dam, located about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, is a must. An engineering wonder, the dam was built in the 1930’s to stop the flow of the Colorado River, which was wreaking havoc. The water was diverted to Lake Mead – now the largest man-made reservoir in the United States. Seventeen generators keep the dam going and you can choose from a couple of different guided tours to learn about the inner workings of the dam.
The Powerplant tour starts with a 10-minute educational film about the contributions of Hoover Dam and then it’s into the bowels of the generator system, where you’ll learn about how the dam operates. A 70-second elevator ride takes you down 530 feet through the rock wall of Black Canyon to begin a 30-minute guided tour. Afterwards you’re free to visit the observation deck and the Exhibit Gallery, with replicas showing how the dam was built.
If you prefer a longer tour, there’s also the Hoover Dam tour, which offers a more in depth exploration. Both tours include heading to the top to one of four huge 30-foot diameter pipes that transport nearly 90,000 gallons of water each second from Lake Mead to the dam’s hydroelectric generators, as well as viewing of 8 of the 17 huge generators.
The art deco designed floor that is beneath your feet when looking at the generators, is a nice surprise. The Art Deco architecture, which was the style of the day when the dam was being built, leaves its mark.
A day at the dam is not complete with visiting Boulder City’s Historic District. Just a few miles down the road, the Historic District has a quaint small town feel, offering a nice change of pace from Las Vegas and the casinos. However, if you decide to spend more time in Boulder City and have the urge to gamble, there is a local casino – the Hacienda Hotel & Casino. Boulder City is tied to the history of Hoover Dam and was built during the Depression. It was a bold experiment for its time, insuring that the workers at the dam would be housed, fed and able to perform the job of helping build the dam.
Spend some time at the Boulder Dam Hotel and you won’t be sorry. The hotel was built in 1933 to accommodate visiting government and corporate VIP’s who oversaw the construction of the dam. The well preserved hotel has 20 rooms, including an Art Deco Suite with a living room and small kitchenette as well as the Original Furniture Room. The name says it all. The small room contains original furniture from when the hotel first opened.
After exploring the hotel, head to BDH: The Restaurant, located inside the hotel. Enjoy the handmade quiche of the day created in puff pastry. Another signature dish is the Chicken Pot Pie. Both are delicious and well worth a visit for lunch.
Also inside the hotel are also stores, a gallery, a museum, an art gallery, and even a nightclub. The Boulder City Museum takes you back to the day when the dam was being built, showing a film in addition to the exhibit. Regina A Unique Boutique is a lovely second-hand store with women’s apparel. Treasure Times Tearoom serves high tea from 3-6pm on Tuesday. Reservation need to be made at least 48 hours prior. Tea for two is just $10 and $6 for one. Now, where can you find a deal like that?
Classic Hollywood Gems – a store also located in the hotel – sells classic reproductions fashioned after the jewelry worn by the old Hollywood Starlets like of Bette Davis, Betty Grable, Carole Lombard, and Jean Harlow!
Boulder City has a main street, Nevada Way with shops and restaurants – all in walking distance from the hotel. Boulder City’s Historic District is like entering a time warp, in a good way. Think about an overnight stay in Boulder City and a break from the Vegas glitz while enjoying the slower pace of a small town.
What & Where:
Hoover Dam (US Highway 93 South, Boulder City, NV; 702) 494-2517 or toll free 866-730-9097; www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam)
Boulder Dam Hotel (1305 Arizona St, Boulder City; 702-293-3510; www.boulderdamhotel.com)
BDH The Restaurant (1305 Arizona St, Boulder City; 702-293-3510) Open for breakfast & lunch only
Boulder City Art Guild Gallery (1305 Arizona St, Boulder City; 702-293-2138)
Boulder City Hoover Dam Museum (1305 Arizona St, Boulder City; 702-294-1988)
Classic Hollywood Gems (1305 Arizona St, Boulder City; 702-294-0708)
Regeena A Unique Boutique (1305 Arizona St, Boulder City; 702-293-7787)
Treasured Times Tearoom (1305 Arizona St, Boulder City; 702- 293-3510)