Are you considering a visit to Hoover Dam? Here are some things you should know before you go! Hoover Dam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nevada, and for good reason – it’s an amazing sight to behold. The dam is massive, and the power plant is equally impressive. If you’re looking for a day trip from Las Vegas, or if you’re just passing through on your way to somewhere else, make sure to stop by Hoover Dam and check it out! Here is what to know before visiting Hoover Dam!
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Located just 30 minutes from Las Vegas at the border of Arizona and Nevada, Hoover Dam is a fascinating piece of engineering that’s worth checking out. This arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon was built during the Great Depression, to provide jobs and hydroelectric power for the area. The dam, which opened in 1936, created Lake Mead which provides water to Arizona, California, Nevada, Mexico, and a handful of the Southwest’s sovereign indigenous nations.
Today, Hoover Dam is a National Historic Landmark and one of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World. Visitors can tour the dam, learn about its history, and enjoy the stunning views from the top. The Hoover Dam is also a popular destination for families exploring the area. It makes for a good half day trip from Las Vegas or Lake Mead. Best of all, it is free to visit! So, whether you’re looking for history, adventure, or just a fun day out, the Hoover Dam is sure to please.
But before you go, there are a few things you should know. Here are our top tips for visiting Hoover Dam!
What to Know Before Visiting Hoover Dam
1. When to visit Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam is in the Mojave Desert. And it is HOT! That said, it is best to avoid visiting the summer months if possible. In general, the best time to visit Hoover Dam is during the fall, winter, or spring months, before the heat kicks in. Visiting Hoover Dam during cooler months will ensure a more enjoyable visit. Especially if you plan on visiting in the afternoon.
As a family, we have visited the Hoover Dam twice, and both in the summer! In June to be exact! And even for us Sonoran Desert dwellers, we found the heat at Hoover Dam overwhelming. But exercising some precautions, we had a good experience.
If you must visit during the summer months, we have some tips to help you beat the heat! Which leads us to Tip #2!
2. Prepare for the heat
If you are visiting in during the summer months, or any time between late April and early September, get there early! Arriving as early in the day as you can, will ensure that you are exploring the area in cooler temperatures. Get there in the morning! We recommend arriving as soon as it opens. Check out the website for current operating hours.
In addition to arriving early, there are other heat related precautions you can take to keep you and your family safe during your visit.
- Wear light colors
- To protect yourself from the sun, Wear sunscreen, and reapply! A light long sleeve coverup with SPF works well too.
- Bring a hat for added sun protection. It can get very windy on top of Hoover Dam, so make sure your hat has a string or is fitted so that it won’t blow away in the wind.
During our most recent visit on a Sunday morning in June, we arrived at Hoover Dam around 9:30am. When our tour ended at 11am, the tour guide told us that the temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degree Celsius) already. And that the day before that, afternoon temperatures rose to 117 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius)!
It is very hot!
When we visited, there was a cooling station on the Nevada side of Hoover Dam on the west side of the Original Exhibit Building. If you are visiting in the summer months, look for the cooling station to take a break from the heat.
And because of the heat, you will want to remember the next thing on this list!
3. Bring a water bottle
Because it is so hot and dry in the desert, you will want to bring a large refillable water bottle with you to Hoover Dam.
There are plenty of places to refill your water bottle at Hoover Dam, and you will want to do so! Water bottles are allowed on the tours of Hoover Dam and there are fountains inside where you can refill it.
If you happen to forget your water bottle, there are vending machines on Hoover Dam that sell ice cold water. These vending machines are near the restrooms on the dam itself. Bring coins or a card if you want to purchase water from a vending machine. The water from the vending machines is a bit pricey, so plan ahead and bring your water bottle!
When we visited, we brought our water bottles with us but left them in the car! All three of us forgot our water bottles! Not one of us remembered. And we definitely regretted that oversight! We stopped at every water fountain we could find. And we purchased the bottled water, but our larger refillable water bottles would have been a better way to keep hydrated during our summer visit. Don’t make our same mistake! Remember your water bottles!
4. Arrive early at Hoover Dam
When visiting Hoover Dam, you will want to arrive early. Not just to beat the heat by visiting in the cool of the morning. But you will want to plan for the time that it will take to go through security. Every vehicle entering the area needs to go through a security check. The security checkpoint is a mile from the Hoover Dam on Nevada State Route 172.
If you booked a tour and want to be there at a specific time, consider the time spent at line at the security checkpoint when you are planning your trip.
5. Explore the Visitor’s Center
While it is free to visit Hoover Dam and walk across this spectacular engineering feat made of concrete. Unfortunately, it does cost to enter the visitor’s center. Tickets can be purchased online or onsite. We recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time to ensure they don’t sell out. Purchase tickets here.
Is it worth visiting the Visitor’s Center? Absolutely! There are exhibits about the dam’s construction, hydroelectric power, and power grids. There are also hands on interactive exhibits about power supply and demand that are fun for kids and adults alike! Another benefit about checking out the Visitor’s Center is that you get a break from the heat. The Visitor’s Center is in doors and air conditioned.
Despite having visited Hoover Dam a handful of times in my youth and as an adult, our most recent trip was my first time at the Visitor’s Center. I enjoyed the experience more than I expected. Buddy liked it to. Here is what he had to say.
“I liked the Hoover Dam Visitor’s Center. There are a bunch of interactive activities. I do recommend checking that out. But there are a lot of steps, so you will be walking down.”
Yes, there are a bunch of stairs to get down to the Visitor’s Center. However, there are also elevators nearby for strollers and the like.
For tickets and the most up-to-date information, visit the website.
6. Take a tour of Hoover Dam!
Although it is free to visit Hoover Dam, like the Visitor’s Center, it does cost money to take a tour. There are two different tours offered at two different price points. The Guided Power Plant Tour is the less expensive tour. And the higher priced Guided Dam Tour. Both tickets include admission to the Visitor’s Center. The Guided Power Plant Tour can be purchased online, while the Guided Dam Tour is available onsite only.
A few things to note, when you purchase your tickets for the tour, you are not assigned a time. The tours run at certain intervals, and you just show up before your tour. Also, even if you buy your tickets online, you still must wait in line to have them printed onsite.
Two more tips for the tour.
- Keep your tickets easily accessible because you will need to show them at different times on the tour, depending on which tour you take.
- Use the restroom before you go! There are no restrooms on the tour.
When we visited, we did the Guided Power Plant Tour that left at 10am. The tour is short, about 40 minutes, but it is definitely worth it! The tour gave us access to places in Hoover Dam that we would not have otherwise seen. The most impressive thing to me was the amazing sound and feel of the water (yes! You can feel the water vibrating the walls) over the penstock pipe.
Buddy enjoyed the tour too. This is what he had to say.
Buddy’s thoughts about the Hoover Dam Tour
“You watch a movie first and then after the movie you go downstairs and then you step on top of a pipe. Once you are done stepping on a pipe the tour guide will tell you what the pipe is for. (The pipe is a 30-foot diameter penstock pipe that takes water from Lake Mead’s intake towers to the powerplant). Then you go upstairs, and you go into the actual room where the electricity is generated. You can only do that on the Nevada side. And once you are done with that you go outside, and the tour is done. And then you can walk around on the top of the dam and see the Visitor’s Center exhibits.”
“My favorite part of the tour was seeing how the electricity was made.”
One thing to note, the tour takes place in tight spaces. If you tight and crowded places are not for you, skip the tour and stick to the views from above!
7. The Arizona Nevada State Line
Unlike what may be shown in the movies, there is no Arizona Nevada State Line drawn on the middle of the road of Hoover Dam. However, there is a plaque on the bridge in the middle of the Hoover dam that marks the state line. Also, there are the famous Arizona and Nevada Time Towers on each side of Hoover Dam representing each state. But if you were looking forward to a selfie showing off the state lines on the road on Hoover Dam, we are sorry to say that you are out of luck.
Fun Fact: If you visit in the winter, time on the Arizona and Nevada Time Towers will be different as Arizona does not observe daylight savings time and does not change time with the seasons when Nevada does.
Yes, it is free to visit Hoover Dam, however you do have to pay for parking. There is a covered parking garage near the visitor’s center on the Nevada side and two uncovered parking lots on the Arizona side. You will want to bring cash to park as you pay an attendant before you park. Parking is $10 in the garage and in the first lower lot on the Arizona side. If you drive up the hill on the Arizona side, there is free parking in the upper lots. However, these upper lots are a long walk from Hoover Dam, and it would be difficult to do this walk in the extreme heat.
It is best to park on one side of Hoover Dam then walk across and explore the other. And back to tip #2, bring a hat. There is no shade on Hoover Dam.
9. Check out the overlooks and scenic stops along the way
As you are driving into Hoover Dam, there are a few places to pull over and take in some extraordinary views of Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. You can even park and walk across the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge for spectacular views of Hoover Dam. And best of all, these scenic views are free! Ample parking is usually available.
If you stop to take in the views, take lots of water with you and the items you need to protect yourself from the sun and the heat, especially in the summer.
When Buddy was eight, we walked a bit on the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. We also stopped at a look out on westbound I-11 to take in the view of Lake Mead. This time, we stopped at a lookout on eastbound 1-11. However, we did not walk on the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge because of the heat and the 6 hour drive we had ahead of us that day. Overall, we spent about 2 and a half hours at Hoover Dam including the time spent on the tour. It was a lovely stop on the drive home from Las Vegas to Southern Arizona.
- My number one tip is to drink lots of water because it is very hot out there.
- I recommend Hoover Dam for teens. Especially if you are into electricity or engineering. I do recommend it.
As we were leaving Hoover Dam, a lovely elderly lady who was walking past while walking up the steps of the parking garage asked is “Is it great?” I answered, “Yes but stay cool.”
And that is our advice to you! Hoover Dam is a site to behold and definitely worth a day trip if you are in the Las Vegas area. If visiting, stay cool and hydrated and enjoy your time at this concrete wonder.
Are you planning a trip to Hoover Dam? Have you visited Hoover Dam recently? Let us know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed reading this post, you may also like:
- Visiting Vegas with Teens: 5 Fun and Interesting Things to Do
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