Easy come easy go: Driving in Las Vegas

In Las Vegas, the Strip is just the tip of the iceberg. Beyond the Strip are natural wonders such as Red Rock Canyon, the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, the Spring Mountains and Lake Mead, as well as desert ghost towns and the man-made colossus Hoover Dam. Also located outside the Strip are some of the city’s best (and more affordable) restaurants; attractions such as the National Atomic Testing Museum, The Neon Museum and The Mob Museum; spots to play, including water parks and golf courses; and sports venues offering NASCAR auto racing, football, basketball and championship rodeo. So if you have a car, why confine yourself to the Strip?Traffic on the Strip, routing off the Strip

One reason might be that coming and going at Strip hotels is such a pain in the patootie, with traffic congestion being the main culprit. It’s a lamentable fact that the Las Vegas Strip, or, more properly, Las Vegas Boulevard South, exists in a perpetual state of gridlock. This is especially true of the two miles between Tropicana and Sands Avenues, with the balled-up epicenter right in the middle at the intersection of the Strip and Flamingo Road. If your hotel is located anywhere along this stretch, exploring Las Vegas beyond walking distance is only slightly less troublesome than losing your luggage. Indeed, because of the hassle factor, most visitors staying in the affected area simply stay put, missing much of what Las Vegas has to offer.

From this part of the Strip, escaping the gaming ghetto in your rental ride is not easily accomplished. In and out is easier at hotels on the west side of the Strip, owing to a network of side streets that accesses the rear of most casinos and connects to four-lane, north–south Industrial Road or Frank Sinatra Drive. Hotels without access to these backdoor roads are Treasure Island, Mirage and New York–New York, though they hook up with east-west roads from which you can access Industrial Road or Frank Sinatra Drive.

The east side of the Strip is not as blessed. Here, from your hotel’s rear or side exit, you have to navigate a maze of tiny roads from which you can make your way to Flamingo Road or north-south Koval Lane, which has its own gridlock issues. LINQ Lane makes getting out of Dodge less complicated but still not easy. If you plan to tour the Las Vegas area by car, your best bet is to avoid this part of the Strip altogether, but if you feel you must be in the middle of the action, coming and going is easier from hotels on the west side. For each side of the Strip, the bottom line is to exit the property to its rear rather than getting on Las Vegas Boulevard South.

The self-parking maze

Other factors make coming and going challenging. One is the complexity of hotel self-parking garages. If Stanley had been trying to locate Dr. Livingstone in self-park at The Venetian, he never would have found him. Most parking structures are multistory affairs arranged in a labyrinth of crisscrossing lanes and confusing ramps. Upon entering the garage, you’ll notice dozens of “Exit” signs. Upon departing, you won’t see any. Some properties such as the MGM Grand are so large that you exit the garage into a spaghetti glop of interior roads from which you must find your way to some thoroughfare you’ve actually heard of. Other points of confusion are legion. For example, when self-parking at The Cromwell on the corner of the Strip and Flamingo Road, you are somehow shunted into the garage at the Flamingo. Here’s a tip: To locate your car when you’re ready to depart, drop pebbles after parking to mark your route into the casino. Alternatively, hope the rental company can find the car when you can’t.

A second factor is the distance from your room to the self-parking garage or lot. Believe me, it can be quite a hike, sometimes taking as much as 15-20 minutes of winding through shops and the casino to reach self-parking. Hotels where you really hope you didn’t leave something necessary in your room include the MGM Grand, Excalibur, Vdara, Caesars Palace, Bally’s, Planet Hollywood, The Cromwell, Rio, Venetian, Palazzo, Westgate and Mandalay Bay, as well as, to a lesser extent, the Mirage, Treasure Island, SLS, Circus Circus and Monte Carlo. Easy access to self-parking can be found at the Cosmopolitan, Wynn, Encore, Tropicana and Bellagio (though here you must enter and exit via the Strip). In all cases, the location of your room in a particular hotel can add or subtract 10 minutes or more.

Where to stay for optimal driving

Many non-Strip hotels make good jumping-off points for exploration. You can’t beat Green Valley Ranch, southeast of the Strip, if Lake Mead, the Colorado River or Hoover Dam is on your agenda. Green Valley Ranch is only a 10-minute drive from the Strip but feels like a different world. Red Rock Casino, with eye-popping views of Red Rock Canyon and the Las Vegas valley, is primo for bikers, climbers, hikers, golfers and road trippers who want to enjoy the unique features of the high-desert canyon land. Not far away and less pricey is the Suncoast, surrounded by golf courses and sporting floor-to-(almost)-ceiling windows with superb vistas of the mountains. Also on the west side and plopped in a golfer’s Eden is the Rampart Casino at The Resort at Summerlin. Though golf is king, Summerlin is also home to a burgeoning lineup of great restaurants, as well as being a top Las Vegas shopping destination.

At the intersection of Blue Diamond Road is the Silverton, providing ideal access to Cottonwood Valley for mountain biking and hiking, several attractions and, a bit to the north, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. As a kicker, the Silverton has a Bass Pro Shop with enough dead animals decorating the store to fill an ark. Great selfie territory, though.

North-south roads to know

  • Las Vegas Boulevard South — the Strip: Connects the Strip to Downtown Las Vegas. Avoid between Tropicana Avenue and Sands Avenue/Spring Mountain Road.
  • I-15: Avoid between the I-15/I-215 interchange and Downtown.
  • Swenson Street (Joe W. Brown Drive): Best north-south alternative on the east side of the Strip. Runs from the airport to East Sahara Avenue.
  • Paradise Road: Tends to clog between the Las Vegas Convention Center and Twain Avenue. Good north–south alternative south of Twain. Leads directly to the airport.
  • Koval Lane: Avoid between Twain and Tropicana from 3 p.m.–8:30 p.m.
  • Dean Martin Drive/South Industrial Road: Best north–south alternative on the west side of the Strip.
  • Frank Sinatra Drive: Parallels I-15 and the Strip and offers easy access to some hotels on the west side of the Strip.
  • South Main Street: Low-traffic alternative for commuting Downtown from the Strip. Intersects Las Vegas Boulevard South at East St. Louis Avenue near the Stratosphere.

East-west roads to know

  • Sahara Avenue: Usually congested at the intersection with the Strip. Otherwise fine.
  • Desert Inn Road: Tunnels under the Strip. Best road for commuting to the west side from the east side and vice versa.
  • Sands Avenue (Spring Mountain Road): Crosses the Strip at one of the more efficient intersections.
  • Harmon Avenue: Currently T-intersects the Strip and doglegs into CityCenter and then crosses over I-15 to the west side.
  • Flamingo Road: Extreme congestion westbound at the intersection with the Strip. Avoid.
  • Tropicana Avenue: Flows well except westbound at the intersection with the Strip.
  • I-215 Westbound, avoid the I-15 North exit.

SOURCE: http://experience.usatoday.com/las-vegas/story/vegas-101/2015/05/13/driving-in-las-vegas-tips-backroads/27234267/