Like a Rolling Stone
May – June 2015
Like a Rolling Stone
EIGHT GREAT THINGS TO DO IN BOULDER CITY THAT AREN’T JUST SOME DAM JOKE.
BY ERIC CACHINERO
I must admit that I knew very little about Boulder City before visiting—an inexcusable realization considering the town’s importance to United States and Nevada history. Boulder City was once at the heart of one of the most impressive feats of human engineering in the history of mankind, and I’ve never been there—that had to change. And, unsurprisingly, it didn’t take a fortnight in this southern Nevada town to really grasp why people flock there.
Boulder City’s tapestry ties its historical relevance with new-age hipness. A renowned hotel sits just seconds away from a modern brewpub; flowerboxes and statues line the streets of the downtown district that boasts a medley of diners and antique shops. The town is also the only other in Nevada to not allow casino gaming besides Panaca, which sets it even further from the ordinary. As Nevada author David Toll said in his book The Complete Nevada Traveler, “By all means get to Hoover Dam, get to Lake Mead, don’t miss them! But don’t be so tightly focused on the Great Artifact that you miss Boulder City. Anywhere else on the state map, Boulder City would be a 5-star wonder.”
So—taking David’s advice—here are eight great things to do in (and around) Boulder City:
1.THE DAM HOTEL
As the town began to thrive in the early 1930s, the need for an element of luxury became apparent. Queue the Boulder Dam Hotel—a grand building with private baths, air conditioning, and an elegant wood-paneled lobby. Over the years, the hotel walls would see the likes of celebrities, royalty, and tycoons including Shirley Temple, the Duchess of Westminster, and Howard Hughes. Today the hotel hosts a variety of visitors, lending its décor to that of the era in which it thrived. The Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum—located in the hotel and free for guests—gives you a look back to a time that gave the town its lifeblood.
Burgers? Got it. Beer? Yep. Barbecue? Of course. When you visit, take some time to walk Boulder City’s historical district and take in the sights and smells. With many restaurants offering curbside dining, you can easily browse menus as you stroll. The Coffee Cup and the Southwest Diner both serve up traditional breakfast food—omelets, pancakes, the works—in imaginative ways. Jack’s Place offers a great stop for a lunchtime beer and tacos, or a burger, or all three. For dinner, try The Dillinger or the Boulder Dam Brewing Co. Both offer satiating drinks, cocktails, and tasty tidbits.
As you stroll the streets of Boulder City, take some time to look at and read about the statues that line the historical district. Some are a tribute to the town’s past, and some are just for fun. Nonetheless, they add an entertaining element to the town. One of these statutes pays tribute to the unofficially dubbed “toilet paper man”—sometimes even more boldly referred to as the “toilet paper hero.” Voted Top Unusual & Quirky Roadside Attraction in 2014 by hotels.com, this statue remembers…well…the smellier jobs assigned during dam construction, such as the dedicated men who were charged with cleaning and supplying the latrines with fresh paper. If Mike Rowe and the television show “Dirty Jobs” was around in the 1930s, this would be production gold.
A mere 10 minutes outside Boulder City sits a scenic hiking trail worthy of a visit. The path follows the old railroad tracks that connected Boulder City to Hoover Dam, illustrated by the five railroad tunnels encountered while trekking. The trail, which begins at the Lake Mead Visitor Center, is approximately 3.7 miles long (each way) and leads hikers and bikers to the Hoover Dam while offering spectacular views of Lake Mead.
The Boulder Theatre is known for its historical relevance, as well as its modern resilience. Constructed in 1933 by Fox Theatres, it was the only air-conditioned building in town, drawing dam workers in who wanted to escape the sweltering heat. After closing briefly in the 1990s, the theatre has since changed owners and now hosts a film festival, Chautauqua, and ballet performances. The theatre is owned by Desi Arnaz Jr., who purchased it in 1997.
6. ENOUGH OF THE DAM JOKES, ALREADY
Though it seems pretty obvious that Hoover Dam would be included in this list, it would be blasphemous to visit Boulder City and not see the dam if you’ve never seen it before. One way in which people are seeing the dam from great heights is by taking a helicopter out of Boulder City. The sights are incredible, the trip is rewarding, and the feeling of hovering several thousand feet above the dam is unforgettable.
7. OLD BUT GOLD
Window shoppers, history buffs, and collectors will love Boulder City’s historic district, home to six antique stores in walking distance of one another, with a seventh just moments away. Other small shops dot the street, so no matter what vintage you’re after, you’ll find the perfect souvenir.
Once you’ve strolled, shopped, eaten, and cultured yourself in town, Bootleg Canyon—located just five minutes west—is worth checking out. Thrill seekers indulge in the area’s many offerings, in- cluding miles of world-class single track mountain bike trails. And, for those wishing to fly through the air attached to a metal cable, zip lining is also popular in the area, proving once again that Nevada really does have something for everyone.