When people say Nevada, the first thought that comes to mind is Las Vegas. While the city is home to America’s most famous sinful playground, the state is surprisingly a delightful destination for outdoor recreation.
Leaving the gambling and live shows behind, Nevada’s most famous natural landmarks include Lake Tahoe, the Black Rock Desert, and the Mojave Desert. An eclectic mix of activities makes Nevada an interesting place. Adults often flock to Las Vegas, though the city is becoming more family-friendly.
Away from the cramped sidewalks of the Strip, Nevada’s unforgettable landscape awaits. Dry and arid, life nestles itself amongst the rocks and in the most unexpected places. Ideal for wandering, the state caters to a myriad of travelers.
Desert oases like Reno and Las Vegas will help you beat the heat, however, it’s in the small towns and desolate areas that you will experience Nevada’s authentic side. Nevertheless, and without a doubt, Nevada will dare you to unleash your wild side.
Livin’ La Vida Nevada
Visit Nevada’s Top Towns and Cities
History of “The Battle Born State”
Nevada’s harsh climate has played an important role in the state’s history. In the late 1700s, settlements were only established along the Utah border. Run by Mormons, the settlements remained small in size until silver was discovered in 1858. Mining became a way of life in Nevada, and the appearance of the precious metal led to many boomtowns.
While desolate, the landscape was filled with fortune as many people moved west in an attempt to get rich. Mining was the first major boost to Nevada’s economy and popularity. By the first half of the 20th century, many boom towns had gone bust. Gambling became the alternative and essential activity that helped keep the economy alive.
In 1931, gambling was legalized throughout the state. Gambling before legalization did occur, however, it was the passing of new laws that allowed Las Vegas to grow and prosper. While there are gambling venues throughout the state, Las Vegas has become a world-famous destination.
Drawing attention away from Reno, Sin City has become Nevada’s most important empire. Today, gambling taxes alone generate 1/3 of the state’s revenue.
Capital City of Carson City
Forgotten in the shadow of Las Vegas, Carson City is the capital of Nevada. Less busy than Vegas, Carson City is the place to be if you want to explore Nevada’s natural beauty. Minutes from Lake Tahoe and close by to Reno, the city has some of Nevada’s best-kept secrets. Founded in 1858 and named after the famous mountain man Kit Carson, Carson is historic, adventurous, and fun.
Local museums will tell you about the state’s history, or you can experience a part of it for yourself by visiting the casino. With a few 16+ casino venues, Carson City is a bit more family-friendly. Travelers who find themselves in Carson during a specific season should check the city’s event schedule.
Yearly events like the Wine Walk, Levitt Amp Concert Series, and the Nevada Day Parade are consistent highlights for locals and visitors.
Just outside of the city, you can visit the great outdoors and take a hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains or Great Basin. Lake Tahoe is also nearby. With its vibrant blue color, the lake has become a hotspot for boaters, hikers, and even skiers.
Not as famous or crowded as Las Vegas, Carson City is a great place to venture when you want to skip all the tourists. More laid back in nature, the city is a fun place to explore with friends and family.
Las Vegas, aka Sin City
If you had to name one place in Nevada as the jackpot, Las Vegas sweeps in to claim the title. Absolutely Nevada’s most famous, visited, and fantasized city, this world-renowned destination features luxurious hotels and mega-casinos. However, there’s also a residential-side and plenty of other reasons to visit the state’s largest city.
The Strip is the city’s highlight and the center of all the action. Stretching for just over 4 miles, the Strip packs a lot of fun into a small area. The Luxor, Excalibur, Venetian, MGM Grand, Bellagio, and Caesar’s Palace are just some of the Strip’s legendary hotels and casinos. Additionally, there are plenty of establishments to enjoy some of the state’s most famous meals and drinks.
Many of the resorts are also host to some of Vegas’ biggest live shows. Cirque du Soleil, Penn and Teller, and concerts are the top three choices for Las Vegas entertainment. While age may limit some of the activities, younger tourists are being welcomed into the city.
Leaving the neon lights behind, the landscape surrounding Las Vegas will lead you on an epic adventure. Multiple canyons, jagged rocks, the Hoover Dam, and 6 ski resorts within 4 hours of the city can be a welcome relief from the chaos of Vegas.
Off-road adventures begin in spectacular canyons like Bootleg, Red Rock, and Lee. With an activity for every season, these outdoor hotspots have unlimited potential. Bikers are frequently spotted in Bootleg Canyon, while climbers conquer the crevices in Red Rock Canyon. For snow-loving adventurists, Lee Canyon provides epic slopes for skiers and snowboarders.
Travelers are frequently drawn to the lights of Vegas, and everyone should experience the city at least once. However, don’t forget to take a gander at Las Vegas’ impressive landscape too. In Vegas, fun is endless whether you’re inside city limits or just beyond its boundaries.
Reno, The Biggest Little City in the World
Once on the verge of going bust, Reno has shaken off the dust and revamped its image. Nicknamed the “Biggest Little City”, Reno has come to life with new energy. Cute boutiques and contemporary restaurants have drawn in the crowds who are looking to settle outside of Vegas.
With less glitz and glam, Reno has become a haven for independent artists. A few dozen galleries and street art sculptures have put Reno on the international map for unique crafts. Festivals, guest exhibitions, and museums are the best way to view various art mediums. The Reno Sculpture Fest, held annually in May, is also a hit.
Similar to many of Nevada’s cities, nature is waiting just around the corner. The Truckee River runs through the heart of Reno, and its powerful white water has long attracted kayakers and rafters. Gentle rapids make the river a fun place to spend the day.
Only 63 miles away from Lake Tahoe, many visitors set their sights on Reno before heading off to the lake. The close proximity means that visitors can easily base themselves in the city before heading to the lake for a day or long weekend. Small but mighty, Reno is Nevada’s hidden gem. In a central location to all the action, it deserves a spot on your destination list.
Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert
The epicenter of free spirits, the Black Rock Desert has become famous because of the annual Burning Man Festival. Erected only for the event, Black Rock City becomes overcrowded by thousands of people who flock to participate in the multi-day festival. While art is the major focus, live performances take place daily.
For a long time, Burning Man was left to Bohemians and hippies. Now, the event has become a magnet for Hollywood and Silicon Valley’s most elite celebrities, influencers, and moguls. Burning Man tickets are expensive, though, for many, the price is worth the experience.
Selling out quickly, anyone interested should be ready to adhere to the festival’s 10 principles as well as be prepared for the sandy terrain. Being a “no money” event, guests must pack everything they need or rely on bartering and gifting to gain supplies.
An absolute behemoth, the Hoover Dam sits on the Colorado River near the border of Nevada and Arizona. Built to help harness a much-needed resource, the dam is made of concrete and regulates the largest man-made lake in the US. Initially, construction was delayed, but it started during the Great Depression. Despite the unstable economy, the dam was completed in 1935.
Visitors to Hoover Dam can tour the area and see a unique view of the structure from the canyon rim’s observation platform. A visitor center and exhibits detail more about the Hoover Dam’s history and construction.
While you may not realize it, most of Nevada’s tourist attractions are in the Mojave Desert. Covering parts of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, the desert is a popular destination for outdoor activities.
Las Vegas sits in the Mojave Desert, and as we well know, the city is a star. Other highlights in Nevada’s portion of the Mojave include Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Area 51.
Strangeness in the Desert at Area 51
Classified and restricted, Area 51 is located in Nevada. The site is part of a larger military facility, which is owned and operated by the US government. Visiting the area is heavily restricted, though that hasn’t stopped the lore from building around Area 51. Lights, aliens, and UFOs are all common claims by Nevada’s residents who live in the area by the military base.
Extreme government warning signs are placed around the border, and the base is watched by private armed guards. Recent headlines exploded with the “Storm Area 51” event. While it’s not recommended that you even attempt to enter Area 51, tourists can instead hunt for extraterrestrials in the nearby towns or recreation areas.
Surrounded by farmland and close to Area 51, Rachel is the closest outpost. Not much is in Rachel, but that doesn’t hinder visitors. The Little A’Le’Inn is the town’s hotspot, and it sells Area 51-related merchandise. If you really must see Area 51, you can drive up to the front or back gates, just know that trespassing is a big risk, and you should steer clear of crossing the borderline.
Visiting the gates is at your own risk, and many people report being watched or intimidated by the guards. Instead, you can enjoy the remote area by sticking close to Rachel and gazing at the stars under a clear desert sky. Just maybe, you’ll see a UFO.
The Loneliest Highway 50
Road trips are a part of Nevada’s culture and the best way to view the state. US Highway 50 is a popular tourist attraction in Nevada, even though it is mostly desolate. Known as the “Loneliest Highway in America,” US 50 leads to spectacular views of the state. Navigating past small towns, mountains, and valleys, the road is a surprising attraction.
Those looking to do a cross-country road trip can take US Highway 50 from Maryland to California, crossing the entire state of Nevada in the process.
While silver and gold put Nevada on the map, it’s the state’s everlasting shine that continues to fuel its popularity. Boasting activities for everyone, you can live the highlife in Vegas, unwind in the desert, or check out the art scene in Reno. With award-winning cities, multi-million-dollar attractions, and miles of open land, Nevada is the epicenter for extreme adventures.
Get the most out of your trip to the Silver State by visiting one of Nevada’s mineral hot springs.
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