You live in Canada, and you’ve always wanted to take your kids to see the United States. Of all the states, Nevada appeals to you most, primarily for Las Vegas.
Although mostly known for its gambling, Vegas can be more family-friendly than you’d think.
How do you get to Las Vegas from Calgary?
To drive from Calgary to Las Vegas, you’ll pass through Montana, Idaho, and Utah before reaching Nevada. It’s essentially a straight shot down through the western US and is best driven in five or even six-day increments.
Before you hit the road, I highly recommend checking out this guide, as it will tell you everything you need to know about road tripping to Las Vegas from Calgary.
I’ll share a preferred route, help you predict your drivetimes, and recommend attractions both in Vegas and on the way.
The best route from Calgary to Las Vegas
Considering yours is a cross-country road trip, if you’re in it for speed, you’re better off flying instead.
Driving to Las Vegas when you depart from Calgary is going to take you upwards of five or six days. The driving stretches can get rather long, and you need to break them up with activities and overnight stays.
If you don’t, you’ll have very cranky children!
Without further ado, here’s the preferred route from Calgary to Las Vegas.
Calgary to Glacier National Park
I would recommend waking up bright and early on Day One of your road trip, as you’re going to drive for a good, long while before you reach your first destination.
From Calgary, you’ll drive straight south to Glacier National Park. This stretch should take four and a half hours without heavy traffic.
Glacier National Park is a state park in Montana. Situated among the Rocky Mountains, the park is 1,583 square miles.
The valleys and peaks here stretch all the way to your home border of Canada.
If you and your family are into hiking, you can traverse about 700 miles of varied hiking trails.
Some of the trails even take you to Hidden Lake, which is by far one of the most beautiful spots in the entire park.
Glacier National Park is ideal for camping in an RV or travel trailer. Of course, you can always rough it in a tent if you want a true camping experience.
You can also go cycling here and backpacking. Just do be forewarned that dangerous creatures like grizzly bears call Glacier National Park home as well.
Take a rest for the night in the park so you can recharge your batteries for tomorrow’s drive.
If you’d rather not rough it, you’ll find plush accommodations such as hotels around Glacier National Park.
Glacier National Park to Shelby
From your tent or RV, the first rays of the morning sunlight probably awoke you.
You’ll be ready to pack up your stuff, gather the kids, and leave Glacier National Park.
Next, you’ll head to Shelby, Montana by driving east for about three hours.
This city in Toole County offers history museums, art museums, theaters, and even the Shelby Safari. That one ought to pique the kids’ interest for sure!
Shelby to Butte
Your tour of Montana ends in Butte, which is a four-hour drive from Shelby if you drive straight south. Try to time your drive to avoid traffic if you can.
Butte is the perfect combination of outdoor natural wonders and historic sites such as museums.
If you find that you and the family are debating what to do in this part of Montana, don’t fret too hard.
After all, you’ve driven for upwards of seven hours already. It’s time to give it a rest and find some lodging in Butte.
Whatever you don’t have time to do today, there’s always tomorrow!
Butte to Idaho Falls
Ah! Don’t you feel so much better after a good night’s sleep? I bet!
Now it’s time to hit the road again, as you’ll next drive to Idaho Falls from Butte.
As a name like Idaho Falls might have indicated, you’re no longer in Montana anymore. Instead, from Butte, you’ll drive straight south for three hours to reach northern Idaho.
Idaho Falls is named after the gorgeous waterfall in the area. The Greenbelt trails and the Snake River are nearby natural wonders that you and the family should behold if you can.
You can also explore Idaho Falls’ zoo, history exhibits, or museums, so there’s a lot here to occupy the family!
Idaho Falls to Salt Lake City
When you feel like you’ve gotten your fill of Idaho Falls, you’ll drive for another three hours until you get to Salt Lake City.
From Idaho to Utah, it’s yet again a straight shot down.
As the Utah capital, Salt Lake City offers no shortage of family fun and entertainment.
You can visit history museums, the zoo, or even the Utah State Capitol building if you’re into history and politics.
Salt Lake City also has plenty of gardens and parks.
For your third night, I would recommend finding a hotel in Salt Lake City and giving the whole family a much-needed reprieve from additional time in the car.
Salt Lake City to Beaver
As you wake up to a stunning Salt Lake City morning, you’ll continue driving through Utah, this time reaching Beaver.
The drive from Salt Lake City to Beaver is three hours as you drive southwest through the state.
Beaver offers so many attractive views among its various peaks, parks, mountains, and reservoirs.
If your kids have a lot of pent-up energy, take them exploring for an hour or two, then get back in the car and go.
Beaver to Zion National Park
In southwestern Utah is your next destination, Zion National Park. You’ll drive straight south to get here from Beaver for roughly two hours.
Zion National Park features the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive if you want to see some of the best parts of the park by car.
You can also explore trails by foot that take you along the red cliffs and the Virgin River. That river leads to the Emerald Pools with a breathtaking hanging garden and several waterfalls.
Zion is an ideal spot for backpacking, cycling, bird-watching, climbing, hiking, horseback riding (only in March through October), and viewing nature. You can also camp here.
As for whether you should stay the night, I’ll leave that up to you. It’s not a far stretch to Las Vegas from Zion National Park, after all.
That said, if you need a place to rest, you’ve certainly found a good one!
Zion National Park to Las Vegas
From Zion National Park, drive about two and a half hours southwest of the park and you’ve officially reached Las Vegas, Nevada!
How long will it take you to get to Las Vegas from Calgary?
There’s a reason why I recommend so many stops when driving from Calgary to Las Vegas.
The whole drive takes approximately 18 hours and 41 minutes!
If you keep it to just three to five hours in the car at a stretch, maybe six or seven at the most, you shouldn’t feel overly fatigued behind the wheel and the kids shouldn’t start pestering you about when you’ll be there.
You will have to expect the trip to take longer than 18 hours for a few reasons.
For one, there’s traffic, which is simply unavoidable.
Second, and most importantly, is that you’re crossing the border from one country to another.
You’re going to need the proper documentation to get in, and you could be held up for a while. It’s hard to say how long it will take but be ready for the delay.
Family-friendly destinations on the road to Las Vegas
I’m a big proponent that it’s as much about the destination as it is the journey. That’s why I want to recommend you various activities to do besides checking out the state parks on your route.
These family-friendly activities will enhance your trip, keep up everyone’s spirits, and provide amazing new memories the whole family will cherish.
- Carousel Rest Area of Shelby
Here’s a rest stop unlike any other!
The Carousel Rest Area of Shelby features a full merry-go-round that was originally built in 1936 and has since been lovingly restored in 2018.
The carousel boasts ride-on animals with hand-painted details and 900 working lights. Let your kids take a spin and they’ll surely be happy.
- Cut Bank Farmers Market
Fuel up with fresh produce and food at the Cut Bank Farmers Market in nearby Cut Bank.
The fun, inviting atmosphere of the farmers market welcomes visitors to explore the various wares available here.
Besides fresh fruit and veggies (which are in abundance, by the way), you can also shop for yard sale items, jewelry, baked goods, herbs, and plants.
- World Museum of Mining
The World Museum of Mining is a memorial and museum that was established in 1965.
Spanning 22 acres, you and your family can explore The Orphan Girl Mine Yard or see a recreation of Hell Roarin’ Gulch.
There’s also a fascinating rock and mineral room as well as a dollhouse and doll exhibit.
- Our Lady of the Rockies
Butte’s own Our Lady of the Rockies is a statue built in honor of the Virgin Mary.
Situated at the top of the Continental Divide, the statue is 90 feet and can be seen from some locations around Butte.
Only Pegasus and Dragon, the Statue of Liberty, and the Birth of the New World statues are taller than this one!
- Historic Clark Chateau Museum & Gallery
For yet more Butte history, you and the kids can always stop by the Historic Clark Chateau Museum & Gallery.
The chateau was built by William A. Clark, a copper magnate, in 1898 for his son. The design was inspired by the French chateaus that William had seen when he honeymooned there.
You can set up a guided tour to learn about the full extent of the home.
Idaho Falls Destinations
- East Idaho Aquarium
Declaring itself “Idaho’s most interactive exhibit,” the East Idaho Aquarium does indeed live up to that name!
Besides the exhibits dedicated to sharks, bearded dragons and iguanas, and creatures that occupy rivers and oceans, there are a variety of interactive exhibits throughout.
Kids can play with the birds or touch and feed a stingray.
- Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park
The Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park is another phenomenal destination for families in Idaho Falls.
Here is an overview of the exhibits offered:
- South Africa (with macaws and flamingos)
- North America (with golden eagles, pelicans, and otters)
- Australia & New Guinea (with kookaburra, New Guinea singing dogs, and wallabies)
- Asia (with snow leopards, red-crowned cranes, and sloth bears)
- Africa (with lemurs, penguins, zebras, and lions)
The zoo also features a Children’s Zoo on the premises where kids can watch pigs splash and play in mud, feed sheep, or pet goats.
- Idaho Falls River Walk
See the Snake River when you stroll along the Idaho Falls River Walk. This five-mile walk is quite a treat, especially in the fall when the trees begin to turn stunning colors.
Salt Lake City Destinations
- Natural History Museum of Utah
For a fun day of adventuring in Salt Lake City, the Natural History Museum of Utah surely won’t disappoint.
The permanent exhibits are as follows:
- Poetry Path
- Utah Features
- Our Backyard
- Past Worlds
- Great Salt Lake
- Gems and Minerals
- First Peoples
- Native Voices
The rotation of special exhibitions changes all the time, ensuring that whenever you go back, you’ll never see the same thing twice!
- Hogle Zoo
If you have yet to take your kids to a zoo on the route between Calgary and Las Vegas, the Hogle Zoo will surely make up for that.
The zoo is home to mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, arachnids, and other fascinating creatures.
The exhibits here will take you all over the “world,” so to speak, as you visit:
- Europe & Asia
- South America
- North America
- Small Animal Building
- Asian Higlands
- Rocky Shores
- Primate Forest
- African Savanna
- Redwood Drive-in Theatre
A drive-in theater is not something that most modern kids get to experience.
For one night, kick it old school at the Redwood Drive-in Theatre and give your kids a taste of a bygone era.
The films here are always changing, but it’s not so much about what’s playing as it is watching a movie in the car under the stars!
- Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum
Wrap up your day in Salt Lake City at the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum.
As of this writing, the museum just added a dinosaur exhibit that’s sure to wow your little ones.
Besides that exhibit, which is called I Dig Dinos, visitors can also explore exhibits like the Honey Climber (where kids can pretend they’re bees), Water Play (with a 38-foot water table!), The Garden, and the Story Factory & Sensory Room.
- Delano Peak
Beaver’s Delano Peak is a mountain in the Fishlake National Forest.
Delano Peak is an excellent spot for hiking, climbing, or renting a mountain bike.
- Little Reservoir
Only 10.8 miles of Beaver is the Little Reservoir Campground within Fishlake National Forest.
Here, you can camp out for the night or enjoy some biking, fishing, and hunting.
In the winter, the Little Reservoir is an exceptional place for ice fishing.
What can you do around Las Vegas?
As I said earlier, Las Vegas is about more than gambling, drinking, and debauchery. Family thrills and excitement await!
Here are some places and attractions that you shouldn’t miss now that you and the kids have arrived in Vegas.
Las Vegas Mini Grand Prix Family Fun Center
The Las Vegas Mini Grand Prix Family Fun Center lets your kids be little racers as they compete on a track to see who can cross the finish line first.
There’s more than simply go-karting, of course.
The Family Fun Center has indoor amusement rides such as the Super Fun Slide, Dragon Roller Coaster, Tornado Twister, and Dive Bomber Airplanes.
Each costs a separate ticket to ride.
There’s also an onsite arcade and food and drinks aplenty.
You and the kids can chow down on pizza, sandwiches, tenders, wings, and desserts.
Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay
The Shark Reef Aquarium in Vegas’ Mandalay Bay is open daily between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., so there’s always room to slot it into your itinerary.
At the aquarium, you and the children can witness over 2,000 animals, from Komodo dragons to piranhas, green sea turtles, rays, and many exotic sharks.
For additional fees, the kids can partake in the Shark Reef Stingray Feed or the Shark Reef Shark Feed.
Discovery Children’s Museum
Discovery is the best way to learn, especially at the Discovery Children’s Museum.
The museum consists of two floors full of adventure, education, and fun.
Exhibits abound such as the Discovery Lab makerspace, the mini city called Eco City, Toddler Town, Water World, and the Fantasy Festival with the Riseman Family Theatre, a medieval castle, and a larger-than-life pirate ship.
Hershey’s Chocolate World
What kid wouldn’t love a visit to Hershey’s Chocolate World?
The 13,000-square-foot store features over 800 candies and chocolates from Hershey’s. You and the kids can stock up on enough candy to last a lifetime!
When you’re finished at Hershey’s Chocolate World, head over to the Coca-Cola Store on the Vegas Strip.
The store has a Coca-Cola Fountain on the second story that lets kids and adults enjoy more than 12 international flavors you can’t get anywhere else.
Driving from Calgary to Las Vegas is quite the adventure, but one that I promise you and the kids won’t ever forget.
Along the way, be sure to pepper in lots of exciting stops before you reach the glitz and glamor of Vegas!