Just a 30-minute drive outside of Las Vegas is the charming small town of Boulder City. The city has fewer than 15,000 people but boasts oodles of art deco infrastructure, robust antiquing, access to awe-inspiring views — and really good food. If you’re making a visit to Lake Mead or the Hoover Dam, it’s worth stopping into the city’s center for the day. But there’s also enough here to see, do, and eat to dedicate a full day to exploring. There’s a coffee shop with a cult following, and ice cream parlor that sells nostalgic candy, easy trails with dreamy views, outside beer gardens, and really great burgers. Here’s how you can spend 24 dam-good hours in Boulder City.
Breakfast: Southwest Diner
Start your day bright and early at Southwest Diner. Open at 7 a.m., stop in for diner favorites with a southwest flair. Dig into a pork chili verde omelet, a breakfast burrito stuffed with eggs, mushrooms, green chilies, and cheddar cheese, and a heaping chili relleno breakfast casserole with potatoes and a thick slice of homemade banana bread. Cold beverages here are served in Mason jars and hot drinks come in charming terra cotta planters with handles.
Morning Pick-Me-Up: The Coffee Cup
This family-owned coffee shop got its start in 1994 and it has since evolved into the Coffee Cup, a locals’ favorite that gained an international following after a feature on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” This bustling cafe gets its beans from Colorado River Coffee Roasters, just right for a hot cuppa or an iced coffee.
Morning Activity: Walk the Historic Railroad Trail
A visit to Boulder City is incomplete without a trip to Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam. One way to take in both sights is to journey along the Historic Railroad Trail. An easy walk or a brisk bike ride, this 3.7-mile trail used to bear railroad tracks for trains to carry stone to the dam site. Now a flat, broad walkway, the trail hugs the side of a cliff overlooking the blue water of Lake Mead. Pass through the five tunnels to reach the top level of the Hoover Dam visitor parking area, which gives way to an awe-inspiring view of the historic dam below.
Lunch: The Dillinger
The Dillinger’s burgers are so good, they alone make it worthwhile to drive from Las Vegas to Boulder City. These burgers a no joke — big, but also well-proportioned, generously topped, and completely craveable. Take the Baby Face Nelson, a burger topped with baked Brie cheese, greens, and fig marmalade. The Executioner is a juicy burger on grilled sourdough bread and topped with grilled onions, jack cheese, and thousand island dressing. Wash it all down with any of the local beers on tap.
Lunch Dessert: Grandma Daisy’s Candy & Ice Cream Parlor
This old-timey parlor serves ice cream and candy from the 1920s through the 1950s. There’s modern candy, too. But stop in for homemade fudge, brittles, chocolates, toffee, barks, caramel apples, and ice cream.
Afternoon activity: Antiquing
Boulder City is a trove of great antiques. Shop for everything from furniture and vintage clothing to vinyl records and home decor. The delight of shopping at Sherman’s House of Antiques begins on the sidewalk of this corner store, where wooden hutches and statues of the Blues Brothers spill out onto the curb. Venture inside to find a labyrinth of themed rooms for all things antique.
Mid-afternoon snack: Chilly Jilly’z
Satisfy a post-shopping sweet tooth with a bowl of creamy, refreshing Dole Whip at this casual eatery. The bakery also makes pastries and bread on-site. Or get something more substantial like a smoothie or a salad.
Drinks: Boulder Dam Brewing Co.
As the sun starts to set, take to the shady beer garden at the Boulder Dam Brewing Co. for beer and live music. The rotating menu offers a wide selection of light and dark beers, many locally brewed. Order the house hefeweizen with an orange slice and settle into an outdoor table for primo people-watching.
Dinner: Fox Smokehouse BBQ
The small town of Boulder City shows out with impressive barbecue over at Fox Smokehouse BBQ. The brisket here is a crowdpleaser — tender and full of smoky flavor. The burnt ends are moist and fatty, just right for pairing with the spicy barbecue sauce. And don’t skimp on the sides. The cornbread is sweet, the mac and cheese creamy, and the collard greens fried and crispy.
Late Night: Beer Zombies
The spacious patio here is perfect for enjoying outdoor drinks. Order a draft brew at the bar, or explore the beer fridge for choices like the Astronomy Ales Spa Day kolsch, brewed with lime and cucumber or the Fremont Dark Star oatmeal stout. For something lighter, the house watermelon cider is lightly sweet. The dog-friendly patio often has entertainment like a live band, food truck, and patio games.