Mining, gambling, prostitution, and nuclear weapon testing are not the usual tourist draws, but Nevada proudly embraces all four as they represent the roots and foundation of this unique destination. Las Vegas is front and center, but travelers who dig beneath the dust and rocks of the desert will find a whole lot more.
Nearly every visitor to Nevada comes to play in Sin City, or Las Vegas as it’s formally known. There’s no denying the star power and sheer madness that permeates the Strip, but gamblers who prefer a more subdued atmosphere can try their luck at the casinos of Reno far in the northern corner of the state. Besides gambling, Nevada is a great place to explore true Western cowboy towns like Elko, beautiful Victorian mining towns like Virginia City and even ghost towns at Ely.
Nevada makes a significant portion of its economy from tourist dollars, so you can expect a solid infrastructure throughout the state that caters to travelers. Las Vegas is by far the hub of the luxury amenities with upscale dining, nightlife, entertainment, and lodging. Reno comes in a distant second, but is still a comfortable place to visit if the outdoor recreation of Lake Tahoe is calling your name. Residents pride themselves on their pioneering independence, but are generally very welcoming to travelers.
If you have time to explore, there’s a lot more to Nevada than Las Vegas. It’s true that most of the state is barren desert wasteland, but pockets of stunning natural beauty await in the Ruby Mountains outside of Ely and the Great Basin National Park. Both of these mountain wilderness areas boast superb uncrowded outdoor recreation all year round. Just outside of Reno, Lake Tahoe offers 18 ski resorts for winter fun and plenty of hiking and water sports in summer.
The sheer desolation of Nevada means that public transportation has never been a priority. Like the pioneers before you, you’ll have to rent a car from the airport or one of the big cities. Unless you plan to spend your entire trip prowling the Vegas Strip, you’ll find that a vehicle is necessary to do any kind of sighseeing, which is certainly true if you want to get out of the cities into the red rock desert or the alpine national parks.
- Try your luck in Las Vegas, America’s number one destination for round-the-clock fun and entertainment
- Wander the main drag of historic Virginia City, a silver mining boom town that put Nevada on the map in the 1800s
- Ski at one of the 18 resorts in Lake Tahoe, one of America’s most beautiful alpine lakes
- Interact with cowboys in the town of Elko, a genuine Old West town with a creative flair
- Explore the ghost town of Ely, another former mining center, while hiking the beautiful Ruby Mountains
- Catch a Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas and be dazzled by impossible acrobatics
- Combine gambling with outdoor recreation in Reno, home to the Truckee River
- Plan a few days of secluded mountain recreation in the Great Basin National Park, a beauty of alpine lakes, caves and the highest peak in Nevada