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A weekend in Boulder City

Boulder City is a town unlike any other in Nevada. Perhaps it’s the absence of gaming — Boulder City is the only town in the state that does not allow gaming — or perhaps it’s the slow-growth ordinance that only allows a few percentage points of growth each year. Whatever the reason, the result is a small town with all the charms of small-town life coupled with bigger-than-life claims to fame: Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and a diner featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”

Lake Mead sprawls on one side of town, and the valley leading to Las Vegas looms on the other. Jagged red mountains rim the horizon and cut into the clear, fresh air (the Vegas smog gets swept away by the omni-present winds before reaching Boulder City).

Brick bungalow-style homes line the streets of the historic district of town, and the Bureau of Reclamation buildings sit prestigiously on a hill overlooking downtown. The Bureau of Reclamation was responsible for building the dam, and its buildings were the anchor for the town’s layout when it was built in the early 1930s.

The downtown shops are the definition of quaint. Even the souvenir shops hawking American Indian crafts and turquoise jewelry add charm to the town. A downtown wine bar, Milo’s Cellar, and a relatively new microbrewery, Boulder Dam Brewing Co., are great after-dark hangouts, and the historic Boulder Dam Hotel with reasonable rates and renovated rooms is the place to stay to get a feel for the town.

Oh, and that diner featured on the Food Network? That’s The World Famous Coffee Cup where you feel like a local sipping a cup o’ joe, tackling a giant stack of pancakes and catching up on the local news (be it from a newspaper or your neighbor at the coffee counter).

Boulder City is also becoming a haven for mountain-bikers drawn to the off-road adventure of Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park, which overlooks the town. The network of downhill and cross-country mountain-bike trails throughout Bootleg Canyon has attracted riders all over the world. One of the trails has been named an “Epic Ride” by the International Mountain Bike Association — a badge of honor bestowed to only 18 trails worldwide so far.

While the mountain-bike park may be for the truly adventurous, there are paved paths for pedestrians and bicyclists alike. The River Mountains Trail is partially completed and offers a great scenic ride around town. When the full 35-mile loop is finished, it will connect Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Boulder City and Henderson. The completed portions right around Boulder City and Lake Mead are easy to navigate, not overly crowded and wonderful routes to sightsee on two feet or two wheels.

There’s a literally breathtaking new reason to trek into Bootleg Canyon — the Bootleg Canyon Flightlines, a series of ziplines that takes riders up to 50 miles an hour down the mountainside.

Because Boulder City is about 30 minutes from Las Vegas, it is perhaps unduly overlooked by visitors, but it is worth the effort to get to and spend a weekend exploring some of Nevada’s most beautiful terrain and fascinating history.

For a good photographic review of Boulder City’s history, check out “Around Boulder City” by Cheryl Ferrence. It is part of the “Images of America” series by Arcadia Publishing that retells important American history in photographs.

  • Posted by Bethany Drysdale on February 08th, 2010