Established in 1931 as a temporary home for the builders of Hoover Dam, Boulder City was intended by the federal government to serve as a model city that would represent a better, brighter future for a nation in the midst of the Great Depression. To that end, Boulder City was established with an anti-gaming ordinance that still stands today.
With more than 1 million visitors touring Hoover Dam every year, Boulder City is today a welcoming green oasis just a few miles away. The hospitable town combines a quaint atmosphere with surprising amenities and attractions, such as the historic Boulder Dam Hotel, which was built in 1933 to host visiting government officials and dignitaries during the dam’s construction. Its Dutch Colonial walls have housed celebrities from Bette Davis to Shirley Temple, business tycoons from Howard Hughes to George Pepperdine, and dignitaries from Archduke Otto Hapsburg to Cardinal Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII. The hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and definitely worth a visit.
Also worth a tour is the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, which walks visitors through the stock market crash, the Great Depression and, of course, the impact of the mighty Hoover Dam. Then there’s the, Nevada State Railroad Museum, plus walkable sections of the original track used to ferry materials from the town site to the dam during construction years.
The layout of Boulder City itself lends itself for an interesting stroll, offering a glimpse of how dam builders lived and how the town was constructed in a distinctly structured fashion to separate citizen classes of the period. Boulder City has also developed a reputation as an outdoor activity center, with an impressive system of mountain bike trails in Bootleg Canyon, aptly named as the place where bootleggers produced liquor during Prohibition. And the town boasts quite the line-up of annual events, including the Best Dam Barbecue, Fourth of July Damboree and Santa’s Electric Light Parade.
Besides the in-town interests, Boulder City is a great launching pad for another nearby wonder. Beautiful Lake Mead was created with the completion of Hoover Dam and is now a recreational paradise for boaters and water-sports enthusiasts. Houseboating, water skiing and wakeboarding are all activities you can find virtually year-round on the lake. On the other side of Hoover Dam, the Colorado River still flows free and offers visitors exciting rafting options.