Hoover Dam: Let the dam jokes begin

Posted By Allison on May 8, 2012


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Hoover Dam is located about 30 minutes south of Las Vegas, Nevada and it’s a “dam” good family-friendly attraction in a city that is not known for its family attractions. It’s educational too!

Hoover Dam straddles the Nevada-Arizona state line, and it used to be part of the main highway through that area. It is easy to spend an hour or more just walking on and around the dam itself. The state line marker is a popular photo op and it’s fun to get a good look at Lake Mead on one side and then wonder at HUGE drop down the concrete wall on the other. I imagined bungee jumping or sledding down it like James Bond, but got over that quickly.

There is a statuary on the Nevada side where you can get an idea of just how challenging Hoover Dam was to build and how many lives were lost for it. There is a gift shop with lots of the usual items, plus some Area 51 souvenirs, and a snack bar. 

We considered taking one of the tours, but skipped it this time. I would like to say that our kids were enthralled by the whole experience, but they were grumpy at first, and we decided to keep our visit short. As often happens, they were enjoying our stop at Hoover Dam by the time we were done.

After you’ve explored the top of the dam, drive back on the Nevada side about a mile to a parking lot near the new Colorado River Bridge. This bridge, which was completed in 2010, spans the gorge in front of Hoover Dam and enables Highway 93 traffic to bypass it. The bridge is an engineering feat on its own and there is an informative foot path up to the bridge and a pedestrian walkway across it. You can get great photos of the bridge from Hoover Dam and of Hoover Dam from the bridge. Standing over that much air was a little unnerving for me, but still pretty neat.

Our family visited Hoover Dam on the last day of the Las Vegas leg of our Spring Break vacation. We set off with sketchy directions and no GPS, but it turns out that Hoover Dam is easy to find. Take U.S. 93 south from Las Vegas and you can drive across the dam in about 30 minutes. There is a security checkpoint, but even on a busy morning, it didn’t take us much time to get through.

That said, I do recommend getting there early if you are visiting Hoover Dam during peak times, like spring break. We visited before lunch and the lines through the checkpoint and into the parking lots visibly increased during our stay. I asked an employee if the crowds were normal and was told that Hoover Dam receives about 1,500 visitors on an average day, but during Spring Break they expect about 4,000 per day.

Tips for a quick trip to Hoover Dam with kids. It's just minutes from Las Vegas! tipsforfamilytrips.com

Good to Know

Where: Hoover Dam is located approximately 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, on the Nevada-Arizona border. From Las Vegas, take US Highway 93 to Nevada State Route 172.

When: Open year-round except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. Parking garage open from 8 am – 5:15 pm. Visitor Center opens at 9 am. First tour at 9:25 am.

How Much: It’s FREE to walk or drive across Hoover Dam and the Colorado River Bridge. However, there is a charge for parking, the visitor center and tours:

  • $10 for parking. If you don’t mind walking, FREE parking is available farther up on the Arizona side.
  • $10 per person (ages 4 and up) for the visitor center
  • $12-15 per person for 30-minute Powerplant tour (includes visitor center)
  • $30 per person for 1-hour Hoover Dam tour (includes visitor center)

How Long: 1-2 hours without the visitor center or a tour

Amenities: Free access to restrooms, gift shop and cafe.

Website: www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/

Planning a trip to Las Vegas?

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Allison
Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.

21 Comments

  1. I’ve seen the dam as I’ve flown into Vegas but never drive. I think it would be a very interesting outing. I love the first photo.

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    • Thanks! That sign is funny, isn’t it? Hoover Dam is an easy half-day excursion from Las Vegas and I enjoyed it even more than I expected to.

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  2. Back in 1998, my wife and I took the top-end “Hard Hat Tour” of the dam, and got to keep our plastic “fedoras” as a souvenir. Alas, I think that particular tour was canceled after 9/11.

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    • It did feel like some things had changed since 9/11. I’m sure the security checkpoint is a product of that event. There are still two different dam tours, though probably not the same tour as yours, for visitors who want an inside look.

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  3. I’ve always thought that this would be a fun day trip from Vegas! Not sure that I could do the pedestrian walkway though – I get a bit freaked out on the glass floor at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto!

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    • Glass floors in a tower would make me anxious too, but I think that the view from this bridge was worth it. Walking across the dam is not scary, so be sure to make the trip if you get the chance!

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  4. we did this trip from Vegas one day and it was great. I didn’t realize how much of a history lesson we would also get but it was great learning about how the dam came to be.

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    • I agree. We got more from it than we expected, even without taking the tour or seeing the visitor center.

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  5. We stopped by there on our way to Vegas once – no tour either though. It’s impressive how huge it is! Your pics show that much better than mine from back then 🙂

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    • Thanks! That new bridge helped us get a shot that wasn’t possible a couple of years ago, because it’s definitely not my photography skills.

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  6. I used to live in Vegas back when there was no security check point to drive over the Hoover Dam – I bet that takes time to get through. There was no problem just pulling over in the TWO parking lots (free) and walking the dam – funny to hear how things have changed!

    Make sure to link this up with Friday Daydremin’ too – this is perfect! Thanks!

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    • Will do. Thanks! The checkpoint slowed us down a bit, but we were there early enough that it only took a couple of extra minutes, even on a busy morning. There were some cars pulled over for more extensive checks, but I don’t know if that was random or not.

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  7. Hoover Dam is top on our list of places to visit when we make it out West. My teens would really enjoy the tour but I’m not sure that they would have when they were younger. I’d love to walk onto the bridge and snap an amazing photo, but I’m terrified of heights and afraid I’d hyperventilate or pass out right there. 🙁

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    • LOL. Perhaps you could delegate that photo op to one of your kids.

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  8. Awesome photos! I saw Hoover Dam as a kid but haven’t been back since. When my daughter gets a little older I’d love to take her there. I read somewhere that kids under 8 aren’t allowed somewhere there? Maybe it’s just on the tour…

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    • That’s how it was for me too. I don’t recall any restrictions on taking my young kids on a tour, but it could have been the longer tour that we wouldn’t have considered anyway, or the older tour Dick Jordan mentioned. As Tonya mentioned, older kids are probably going to enjoy the tours more than younger children.

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  9. This is awesome! I am actually just looking at this because I am doing a project for School on the Hoover Dam, during the Great Depression. I hope to visit here someday! It’s a long trip from Oregon, but I bet it’s worth it!

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  10. “Let us find the dam snack bar.” ~Zoe in Titan’s Curse by Rick Ridorian

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  11. Hay Tyler! That’s good your are doing research on that dam. I hope you could make a visit there as soon as possible, and yap it would be worthwhile.
    Hoover dam is in itself one of most promising and wonderful attractions of Southwest area of United States. I visited there during my las vegas sunset helicopter tour(GetBusTours) along with my bests friend. Throughout that tour we really had seen amazing and worthwhile sky views of that region. After completing our tour we landed on Lake Mead. That is one of most promising attractions of Hoover dam which is known as a creation of that dam. There a visitor could enjoy fishing, boating, swimming and other water activities. I really had unforgettable experiences there. After reading your article my all memories are so fresher now, thanks for that lovely sharing…..

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