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No two trips to Nevada are ever the same. There are outdoor adventures in the wide open terrain of serene deserts and national parks; cultural deep dives exploring functioning ghost towns and lively sagebrush saloons; and some utterly uncommon activities that will have you wide-eyed with excitement. Whatever you’re planning, a trip to the Silver State is your only chance to enjoy these truly unique experiences.
Dive into Basque culture
This is one of the more unexpected surprises Nevada has to offer and it even catches seasoned travellers off guard. The Basque region in Europe is centered around the northern regions of France and Spain, boasting a unique culture all of its own. It’s noted for its food and, as you can imagine, this core cultural tenement was transported to America when Basque people first arrived in the 19th century. Lamb chops loaded with garlic, hearty chorizo and, of course, Picon punch are readily found in places like The Martin Hotel and the town of Elko. Be sure to stick around for the annual National Basque Festival, which is heading into its 60th year in 2024.
Try an out of this world adventure
Given that Area 51 officially exists now, you won’t be surprised to find locals making the most of the supposed home of extraterrestrial research in America. All that serious government business is for another time, though. What we’re here to share is the parts you can experience for yourself. The fun stuff. Alien-themed restaurants like Little A’Le’Inn, which is also a funky motel you can stay in, are a great place where you can meet truly quirky characters. Then there’s the Alien Research Center and its giant metal alien. There must be something in the (dark) skies above for this obsession to be so commonplace in Nevada. Just make sure you keep an eye out – the truth is out there, after all.
Ain’t nothing but a-RockHounding
We’ll confess that the main reason we initially included rockhounding was because it sounded like the coolest thing ever, based on name alone. Having looked into it further, however, it also warrants an entry on our list as Nevada has a special topography, meaning you can literally find real hidden gems here. The activity boils down to swinging a pickaxe into rocks and searching for all-manner of treasures. The chances are high of getting something rewarding, with turquoise and trilobites in plentiful supply here. You’ll also be exploring wild parts of the Silver State, much like early prospectors did over a century ago.
Visit a lively ghost town
Gold and silver discoveries in the mid 19th century saw a population boom in Nevada and the western states of America. As the mines dried up, international immigrants eventually moved to more established cities, but thanks to Nevada’s dry climate these towns are perfectly preserved and stand as if frozen in time. Today these ‘ghost towns’ have become popular tourist attractions and, in many cases, have seen people return to make their homes here in search of a quieter life from a simpler time. There are more than 600 such towns (more than the number of inhabited towns in the state), dotted across Nevada so you’ll never need to travel too far to discover one for yourself.
Stargaze in complete serenity
With hundreds of miles of untamed wilderness sprawling across the state, the skies above light up at night as soon as you step away from the cities of Nevada. There’s no need for a telescope or fancy equipment, just look up in wonder. There are more than a dozen specified areas where you are guaranteed some of the best conditions for stargazing.
Experience winter sports and summer adventure
There aren’t many places where you can hike through some of the hottest deserts in the world and a few months later hurl yourself down cascading mountain slopes on a pair of skis, but Nevada has the climate and terrain to suit all types of adventure junkies. Off roading is a popular way to explore wide open spaces away from the highways, with two wheels the favoured option when hurtling down tighter ravines and valleys. You can camp and fish in many designated areas across the state, so it really is a case of choosing your own adventure. The fun doesn’t stop when winter rolls around either. In fact it just gets even better. Snowshoeing is a popular way of experiencing the season for non-skiers and those comfortable on the slopes will want to head to the Ruby Mountains for an unspoiled descent on pure white fluffy powder.
Soak up the atmosphere of Nevada’s hot springs
There are more natural hot springs in Nevada than any other state in America, so soaking in one of these relaxing sanctuaries is part of the culture. First-timers and local experts are advised to visit a hot spring resort, where additional spa treatments can be found. These springs have played an important part in the history of Nevada and are as relevant today as they ever were. There are no set rules on proper attire and you can even leave your cowboy hat on if you really want to!
Stay in a haunted hotel
Ghost towns are one thing, but what about a paranormal property you can actually stay in? There are a number of unique places to stay in Nevada, and the fact that the creepy Clown Motel isn’t even one of the scariest says a lot. The Mizpah Hotel, also in Tonopah with the aforementioned clown motel, is an opulent throwback to the early 20th century. You’ll get an authentic Old West experience here, which also includes the chance of bumping into apparitions of gunslingers and slain politicians. The rooms are named around some of the ‘permanent’ guests you’ll be sharing a bed with. The third floor is said to be a hub of spooky activity, so make your reservations based on that information… Are you feeling brave enough to book a stay here? And don’t worry, you can always opt for a room without any apparitions for a completely peaceful night’s sleep…
Explore weird Nevada
If haunted hotels and alien-themed restaurants only scratch the surface of weirdness, you know that Nevada really is a must-visit destination for curious and eccentric explorers. Boulder City has Tom Devlin’s Monster Museum, featuring screen-used props and other paraphernalia, while there’s a giant two story cow known as Big Bovine just mooing on its own outside of Longstreet Inn. Art installations in the desert take on a dreamlike quality and then there’s Coffinwood, a family run business where visitors can tour the coffin themed property and learn more about the completely unique coffins they make to order.
Race on the Bonneville Salt Flats
Live life in the fast lane and make the most of the otherworldly geology on the Nevada/Utah border by taking a trip to the famous Bonneville Salt Flats. Many successful land speed records have been broken here and you can see some of the vehicles that broke records during Speed Week.
For every type of experience you can think of (and many more you couldn’t begin to imagine) take a look at the full list with Travel Nevada.