Beyond the Neon Lights: 17 Unforgettable Things to Do in Nevada

Alright, let’s talk Nevada. No, it’s not just about Las Vegas and its glitzy casinos.

It’s a place where the desert meets the mountains, where neon lights blend with starry nights, and where history is etched into the very landscape.

It’s the underdog of the travel world, often overlooked for flashier destinations, but here’s the truth: Nevada has a hell of a lot to offer.

From the urban allure of Reno to the tranquil beauty of Lake Tahoe, Nevada is a state of contrasts, each corner revealing a new surprise.

So, let’s ditch the stereotypes and dive into the real Nevada, the one that’s been waiting to wow you all along.

Here are 17 must-do things in Nevada that will make you wonder why you didn’t visit sooner. Buckle up, it’s going to be a wild ride!

1. Hoover Dam: A Marvel of Engineering

Let’s kick things off with a bang. The Hoover Dam isn’t just a dam; it’s a testament to human ingenuity.

Standing at over 700 feet tall and stretching 1,244 feet across the Black Canyon, this colossal structure is a sight to behold. But it’s not just about the size; it’s about the story.

The Hoover Dam was built during the Great Depression, providing jobs for thousands of workers and symbolizing hope in a time of despair. So take a tour, learn about its history, and marvel at this man-made wonder.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US, which was formed by the damming of the Colorado River.

Traveler’s Tip: The Hoover Dam is about a 45-minute drive from Las Vegas, making it a perfect day trip. Just remember to bring your camera; the views are spectacular.

2. Las Vegas: The Entertainment Capital of the World

No list of things to do in Nevada would be complete without mentioning Las Vegas.

But Vegas isn’t just about casinos and nightlife (though there’s plenty of that, too). It’s a city that’s constantly reinventing itself, offering everything from world-class dining and shopping to thrilling shows and attractions.

Take a stroll down the iconic Las Vegas Strip, catch a show at one of the many theaters, or try your luck at a casino.

And if you’re looking for a break from the hustle and bustle, head to the Neon Museum, where you can explore the city’s history through its iconic neon signs.

Traveler’s Tip: Vegas can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. So take your time, plan your itinerary, and don’t try to do everything in one day. And remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

3. Lake Tahoe: A Natural Paradise

If you’re looking for a change of pace, head to Lake Tahoe.

Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this crystal-clear lake is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.

In the summer, you can enjoy activities like hiking, biking, and water sports, while winter offers skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

And no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the lake and its surrounding mountains.

Traveler’s Tip: Lake Tahoe straddles the border between Nevada and California, so you can easily explore both sides of the lake. And if you’re a fan of winter sports, don’t miss the chance to hit the slopes at one of the many ski resorts in the area.

4. Reno: The Biggest Little City in the World

Reno may be smaller than Vegas, but it’s got just as much to offer. Known for its vibrant arts scene, Reno is home to a number ofmuseums and galleries, including the Nevada Museum of Art and the National Automobile Museum.

The city also hosts several events throughout the year, such as the Reno River Festival and the Great Reno Balloon Race.

And if you’re feeling lucky, you can try your hand at one of the city’s many casinos.

Traveler’s Tip: If you’re visiting in the summer, be sure to check out Artown, a month-long arts festival that takes over the city every July.

5. Valley of Fire State Park: A Geological Wonderland

Just an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, the Valley of Fire State Park is like stepping onto another planet.

Known for its striking red sandstone formations, the park offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

Be sure to check out landmarks like the Fire Wave, a swirling sandstone formation that’s become an icon of the park.

Traveler’s Tip: The Valley of Fire can get incredibly hot in the summer, so be sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection. And keep an eye out for wildlife, including bighorn sheep and desert tortoises.

6. The Extraterrestrial Highway: For the Sci-Fi Fans

If you’re a fan of all things extraterrestrial, you won’t want to miss Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway.

This stretch of State Route 375 has become famous for its proximity to Area 51, a top-secret military base that’s been the subject of numerous UFO sightings and conspiracy theories.

Stop by the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel for some alien-themed souvenirs and a bite to eat.

Traveler’s Tip: While the Extraterrestrial Highway is a fun and quirky attraction, remember that Area 51 is a military base. Trespassing is strictly prohibited, so stick to the highway and enjoy the alien-themed fun from a safe distance.

7. Great Basin National Park: A Hidden Gem

Often overlooked in favor of more famous national parks, Great Basin National Park is a hidden gem that’s well worth a visit.

The park is home to the Lehman Caves, a stunning cave system that you can explore on a guided tour.

You can also hike up Wheeler Peak, the second highest mountain in Nevada, or stargaze in one of the darkest night skies in the US.

Traveler’s Tip: If you’re planning to camp in the park, be sure to reserve a campsite in advance, especially during the summer months.

8. The Neon Boneyard: A Piece of Vegas History

The Neon Boneyard is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of Las Vegas.

This outdoor museum is home to over 200 retired neon signs, each one a piece of Vegas history.

Take a guided tour to learn about the signs and the stories they tell about the city’s past.

Traveler’s Tip: The Neon Boneyard is particularly stunning at night, when the signs are lit up. Be sure to book a night tour for the full experience.

9. The Mob Museum: A Look into Vegas’s Past

The Mob Museum, officially known as the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, offers a fascinating look into the history of organized crime in the US, and its impact on Las Vegas.

Through interactive exhibits and artifacts, you’ll learn about famous mobsters, the law enforcement officers who tried to bring them down, and the ongoing battle against organized crime.

Traveler’s Tip: The Mob Museum is located in downtown Las Vegas, so it’s a great stop if you’re exploring the area.

10. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area: A Desert Oasis

Just a short drive from Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a desert oasis that offers a welcome respite from the city’s hustle and bustle.

The area is known for its stunning red rock formations and diverse wildlife, making it a great spot for hiking, rock climbing, and bird watching.

Don’t miss the 13-mile scenic drive, which offers stunning views of the canyon.

Traveler’s Tip: Red Rock Canyon can get busy, especially on weekends. Try to visit on a weekday if possible, and arrive early to beat the crowds.

11. Mount Charleston: A Mountain Escape

If you’re looking to escape the desert heat, head to Mount Charleston. Located in the Spring Mountains, this area offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and skiing in the winter.

It’s also a great place to spot wildlife, including deer, wild horses, and even the occasional bighorn sheep.

Traveler’s Tip: The temperature on Mount Charleston can be significantly cooler than in Las Vegas, so be sure to dress appropriately.

12. The Pioneer Saloon: Step Back in Time

Located in Goodsprings, the Pioneer Saloon is one of the oldest bars in Nevada.

Step inside and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time, with its rustic decor and historic memorabilia.

The saloon is also known for its ghostly residents, so if you’re into the paranormal, this is a must-visit.

Traveler’s Tip: The Pioneer Saloon is about a 30-minute drive from Las Vegas, making it a great option for a day trip.

13. The Atomic Testing Museum: A Blast from the Past

The Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas offers a fascinating look into the history of nuclear testing in Nevada.

Through interactive exhibits and artifacts, you’ll learn about the development of atomic weapons, the impact of nuclear testing on the local community, and the legacy of the atomic age.

Traveler’s Tip: The museum offers a virtual reality experience that lets you witness a nuclear test, complete with a simulated shockwave. It’s a unique and educational experience that’s well worth the extra cost.

14. Fly Geyser: A Man-Made Wonder

Fly Geyser is a man-made geothermal geyser located on private land in Washoe County.

While it’s not open to the public, you can see the geyser on a guided tour through the Fly Ranch nature reserve.

The geyser is known for its vibrant colors, which are caused by thermophilic algae.

Traveler’s Tip: Tours of Fly Ranch are offered by the Burning Man Project and must be booked in advance.

15. The International Car Forest of the Last Church: An Artistic Oddity

Located in Goldfield, the International Car Forest of the Last Church is a unique art installation that features over 40 cars, trucks, and buses, each one painted with colorful murals and planted in the ground.

It’s a quirky and photogenic spot that’s well worth a visit.

Traveler’s Tip: The Car Forest is located off the beaten path, so be sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection.

16. The Lost City Museum: Discover Nevada’s Ancient History

The Lost City Museum in Overton offers a glimpse into the ancient history of Nevada.

The museum is located near the site of an Ancestral Puebloan settlement, and features artifacts and replicas of the dwellings found there.

It’s a great place to learn about the indigenous cultures of the Southwest.

Traveler’s Tip: The museum is located near Valley of Fire State Park, so you can easily visit both in one day.

17. The National Automobile Museum: A Car Lover’s Dream

Located in Reno, the National Automobile Museum is a must-visit forcar enthusiasts.

The museum features a collection of over 200 cars, ranging from vintage models to modern supercars.

Each car is displayed with information about its history and significance, making this more than just a car showroom.

Traveler’s Tip: The museum offers guided tours, which are a great way to learn more about the cars and their stories.


So there you have it, 17 must-do things in Nevada that go beyond the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or just looking for a unique adventure, Nevada has something for you.

So pack your bags, hit the road, and discover the hidden gems of the Silver State. And remember, no matter where your travels take you, make sure to check out our other guides on for more travel tips and insights.

Whether you’re planning to visit the bustling city of Chicago or explore the natural beauty of Colorado, we’ve got you covered. Safe travels!

David Kingston

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