I've walked from McCarran to the Las Vegas Strip numerous times.
When you land at McCarran International Airport, the famous Las Vegas Strip looks like it's right there. It appears as though you can walk out of the terminal and right into the Luxor hotel (pictured above). So instead of waiting in what can be an interminable taxi line sometimes, why not walk?
Well, let's just say it's not quite as easy as that. But still, walking from McCarran International Airport to the Las Vegas Strip can be extremely rewarding. It's also a nice bit of exercise.
How I Came to Walk to the Strip
On a business trip to Las Vegas one year, I had some time to kill, so I decided to walk from McCarran International Airport to Planet Hollywood, where I was staying. Planet Hollywood is fairly central as far as the strip goes, and the weather was cooperative. It was February and all I needed was a light jacket. I also had a single small, rolling suitcase, which was no big deal to drag along.
I had heard from numerous sources that the walk wasn't exactly pleasant, but I figured it would be an adventure. And after doing it once, the next time I visited I walked from the airport again. If you have the time, it's a good bit of exercise in a town that often finds one sitting for long periods of time.
And although when you land, it seems like an easy walk, it's a lot farther than it appears. You see, the runways sit between the terminal and the Strip. So in order to get to the Strip, you have to walk around the northwest runway. Remember, runways are big.
How to Get to the Las Vegas Strip From the Airport on Foot
The first time I decided to walk from McCarran and asked an airport employee how to go about it, he looked at me like I was crazy. Several employees didn't have the slightest idea where I should even go. Others said it was not possible.
Rest assured—it's possible to walk from McCarran. It's just not exactly obvious. And if it's 110 degrees that day, it's probably not that smart. Otherwise, I find it to be an interesting walk that reminds me that Las Vegas isn't the fantasyland it appears to be from the Strip.
Before you take this adventure, though, I strongly recommend some water and a hat. There's not a bit of shade the entire way.
How Do I Start My Walk?
Once you pick up your baggage, head out to the transportation hub where you can catch a taxi. From here, you'll need to go to the level where people are dropped off. The road that terminates at this point is called Paradise Road and only goes in one direction. Basically, since you're going to be walking north on Paradise Road, you just have to walk against traffic. The key is figuring out how to get to the walking path and then to Paradise Road.
You can't get there easily from the taxi area. The easiest way to get to the walking path is to go to the departures area. Once there, walk due north until you reach the end of the sidewalk. You'll know you're in the right place because all the cars will be coming into the airport. On the west sidewalk, there are some stairs that lead down to the sidewalk that leads out of the airport.
Once you see the cowboy statue pictured above, you'll know you're going in the right direction. The path out of the airport will be fairly obvious at this point. Just keep walking north, parallel to Paradise Road. There's really no other direction you can go. You'll pass the employee parking lot and some rental car lots.
What Should I Expect Walking From McCarran Airport?
To get from McCarran to anywhere on the Strip is about 2.5 miles. Even the closest Strip hotel, like the MGM Grand or Tropicana, is 2.5 miles away.
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Don't Expect a Gorgeous Walk
Compared to most walks, the walk from McCarran to the Strip is flat and boring. However, if you've only ever been to old Las Vegas or the Strip, there's something refreshing about seeing a part of the city where real people exist, live, and work. I also feel like seeing the backs of all these amazing hotels reminds one that glitz and glamour requires a lot of trash removal.
Prepare for Blistering Temps
Also, if it's even remotely hot outside, expect that when you walk it's going to be about 10 degrees hotter than the posted temperature because you'll be entirely on sidewalks near parking lots, and the sun can reflect brutally off those surfaces.
Know That Objects Are Further Than They Appear
Finally, if you've never been to Las Vegas before, keep in mind that everything appears closer to you than it actually is. This goes for every single hotel. You'll be on a sidewalk thinking you want to go into the hotel, and half an hour will go by before you get to where you are going. For instance, if you're on the Strip in front of the MGM Grand and want to get to the Monorail, you'll walk farther than you ever imagined.
Fortunately, if you're walking from the airport, the Monorail is almost as close to you as it is to the person standing right in front of the MGM Grand. Seriously.
Things to Keep in Mind
Once you leave the airport on foot and start heading north, you have to get to Tropicana Avenue at the very least before giving up. At that point, you can conceivably catch a bus to the Strip or call an Uber.
You'll Still Do Plenty of Walking With the Monorail
The closest Strip hotel you can walk to from the airport is the MGM Grand. The Tropicana is right across the street from the MGM Grand, so it's close as well. The significance of the MGM Grand is that it's the southern tip of the Las Vegas Monorail. Thus, you can walk to the MGM Grand and catch the Monorail to another destination.
However, keep in mind that depending on your hotel destination, you could still have significant walking involved. And when I say significant, I mean significant. The Monorail is located at the back of every hotel and if you want to get out of that hotel, you have to walk through nearly every nook and cranny.
If you're feeling invigorated, you can walk past Tropicana Avenue to Harmon Avenue or Flamingo Road. Each of these streets intersects the Strip. Harmon Avenue will take you past the Hard Rock on your way to Planet Hollywood. Flamingo Road will take you to Bally's and the Flamingo. I wouldn't walk any farther than Flamingo before heading west to the Strip.
You Won't Get Lost (But You May Feel Uneasy)
One nice thing about walking from the airport is that it's really hard to get lost since you can see your basic destination easily. If you just head in the direction of one of the hotels, you'll eventually get there.
One not so nice thing about the walk, if you're not the adventurous type, is that it can feel a bit desolate and possibly a bit dangerous. Frankly, I just think it's the fact that desolate sometimes goes with dangerous, but I don't think the walk is dangerous at all. I just think it's real.
You won't encounter gamblers along the way. You'll encounter real people who work and live in Las Vegas. I think Las Vegas is a very safe town and since you're on a major thoroughfare, you'll have high visibility along the way. In other words, you're probably not going to get mugged. Too many cars passing by no matter where you walk.
Reality in Unreality
Ultimately, here's why I like walking from McCarran International Airport.
Being in Las Vegas is like being in an alternate reality. This is part of the strategy Vegas uses to separate you from your money. Spending money is entertainment itself. It's like Vegas makes you happy to overspend.
When you walk from the airport to the Strip, you are reminded every step of the way that there's a huge support system that makes that glitz and glamour possible. You are reminded that these huge, amazing hotels have huge, amazing trash bins behind them that somebody has to empty. You'll see mountain ranges of air conditioning units—a reminder of the energy required to keep all those guests cool.
A Final Satisfaction
Just remember, one incredible satisfaction of walking from McCarran International Airport is the look on people's faces when you arrive at your destination.
"What took you so long?"
"Why do you look tired?"
"Why are you sweating?"
People might ask you questions like that.
"Oh," you will say. "I just walked from the airport." And they will look at you like you're crazy.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Allen Donald