2 Best Sights in Hoover Dam, Southeast Nevada

Hoover Dam

Fodor's choice

Originally referred to as Boulder Dam, this colossal structure, widely considered one of the greatest engineering achievements in history, was later officially named Hoover Dam in recognition of President Herbert Hoover's role in the project. Look for artist Oskar Hansen's plaza sculptures, which include the 30-foot-tall Winged Figures of the Republic (the statues and terrazzo floor patterns were copied at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Las Vegas).

The tour itself is a tradition that dates back to 1937, and you can still see the old box office on top of the dam. But now the ticketed tours originate in the modern visitor center (or online), with two options. The cheaper, more popular one is the Powerplant Tour, which starts every 15 minutes. It's a half-hour, guided tour that includes a short film and then a 537-foot elevator ride to two points of interest: the chance to stand on top of one of the 30-foot pipes where you can hear and feel the water rushing through to the generators, and the more impressive eight-story room housing still-functional power generators. Self-paced exhibits follow the guided portion, with good interactive museum exhibits and a great indoor/outdoor patio view of the dam from the river side. The more extensive Hoover Dam Tour includes everything on the Powerplant Tour but limits the group size to 20 and spends more time inside the dam, including a peek through the air vents. Tours run from 9 to 5 all year, with the last Powerplant tour leaving at 3:45 pm daily, and the last Hoover Dam Tour at 3:30. Visitors for both tours submit to security screening comparable to an airport. January and February are the slowest months, and mornings generally are less busy. The top of the dam is open to pedestrians and vehicles, but you have to remain in your vehicle after sundown. Visitors can still drive over the dam for sightseeing, but cannot continue into Arizona; you have to turn around and come back after the road dead-ends at a scenic lookout (with a snack bar and store) on the Arizona side.

The dam's High Scaler Café offers fare such as cold drinks, ice cream, and hamburgers.

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U.S. 93, Boulder City, NV, 89005, USA
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Guided Powerplant Tour $15, Guided Dam Tour $30, self-guided visitor center $10; garage parking $10 (free parking on Arizona-side surface lots), Daily 9–5

The Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

The Hoover Dam now has sightseer competition from the spectacular bridge that was built to bypass it. The Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge (named for the popular Nevada governor and the Arizona football star who was killed in Afghanistan) is the western hemisphere's longest single-span concrete arch bridge. It runs 1,905 feet long, and towers nearly 900 feet above the river and 280 feet above Hoover Dam. You don't see much by driving over it—scarcely anything from a sedan—but walking it is quite a thrill. A pedestrian walkway is well separated from the driving lanes, the access path to the bridge has informational signage, and ramps offer an alternative to the steps. There are restrooms in the parking lot (labeled "Memorial Bridge Plaza"), where it can be hard to find a parking space on weekends. (If you can't get a spot, drive a few yards past the parking lot entrance and turn left into the lot for a trailhead on the other side of the road.) Bring water and sunscreen for the walk, and be prepared for broiling summer temperatures; there is no shade.

Remember to take Exit 2 if you want to go to the dam instead of the bypass bridge, or you will have to drive across it and turn back to visit the dam.

U.S. 93, Boulder City, NV, 89005, USA