Table Of Contents
What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Nevada? Las Vegas? Gambling and bright lights? Stage shows and performers? Maybe you just think desert and barren land? What if I were to tell you that everything you’ve seen and heard about Las Vegas, all the TV and movie highlights or friends’ social media posts of crazy trips to the city, were actually giving you the barest speck of a glimpse into all that is the state of Nevada? That everything you thought you knew about visiting the area was about as substantial as the desert mirages you’d expect to find there?
Sure, there’s glitz and glamour, chaos and crazy times to be had when you visit Las Vegas. It’s a city that never sleeps (literally) and offers something for almost any traveller or tourist. It’s one of my favourite places to visit and yet in the eight (count them: EIGHT) prior trips I’ve made to Nevada, I hadn’t once stepped outside the bright lights of the Vegas Strip. In all those visits, with all I saw and did, I missed out on some of the most spectacular sights and some of the most incredible experiences imaginable.
5 Reasons to Travel the State of Nevada
Nevada, from the busy streets of Vegas to the small towns and desert stretches, is by far one of the most remarkable places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. If I thought Vegas was the destination that would burrow its way under my skin and leave a lasting impression, I was wrong. It was the whole darn state that was waiting to make its way into my heart and memory.
Sure, there’s no place like Vegas and it’s a guaranteed good time but there is much more to Nevada than Las Vegas and these are just five of the things you won’t find while walking the strip which happen to be some of my favourite parts of the state.
Mind Blowing Landscapes
If you expected arid desert to be a common theme in Nevada, you’d be correct, but the desert stretches of sand, rock and cacti, are speckled with greenery like the sage brush and Indian rice grass that grows wild and regularly across the state. The stark contrast between sand and shrubbery, rock and lakes, is a strong reminder of the beauty and power of nature. It may be hot. It may be dry. But life still thrives and creates some stunning views along with it!
You’ve got the mountain ranges and valleys that are absolutely spectacular and each unique in their own way offering some priceless photo opportunities. These give way to the bodies of water like Lake Mead, Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake that have become popular destinations all year round.
There’s pretty much something mind blowing to see around every bend of every highway. Turn off to Cathedral Gorge State Park and see one of the most fascinating natural phenomena in the slot canyons and spires that fill the area. Make another stop at Great Basin National Park and walk through geologic time in the Lehman cave system. Oh, and if you look in the distance, off Highway 50, you’ll see Sand Mountain, a beautiful sand dune that looks like a breaking wave frozen in time as if waiting for a surfer to come paddle up to it for a ride.
If you’re not looking to go too far off the beaten path, there’s the more popular sights like Red Rock Canyon and The Grand Canyon which, though well-known, are perfect examples of the sights that await if you travel outside the city limits.
Peace & Tranquility
Sometimes you just need to escape the overload of the city and relax. Getting out of the populated areas and driving into the state, especially along Highway 50 which is also known as The Loneliest Road in America, will have you finding some peace and solitude. Here you’ll get in tune with all that nature just mentioned and have some time for reflection and thought.
It’s a pretty perfect place to take a road trip too. Though the stretches of road can be long from town to town, there is so much to see while you drive and you’ll definitely be staying alert and aware the whole time. There’s really no better place you’ll find to stay in the moment and unwind.
Nevada is a state made for reflection. Where else can you find such a striking disparity between the elements and such variation, yet convergence, of landscapes? Drive for a stretch and clear your mind or stay for a while in one of the small outlying towns and immerse yourself in the quieter, slower pace.
Small Town Charm
Speaking of small towns, each one you stop in while exploring Nevada will have you learning what the term “small town charm” really means. Scenic and quaint, welcoming and friendly, you’ll find yourself embraced by the people you talk to as you relax into the often traditional settings around you.
Here is where you’ll find those mom and pop shops that have long gone to the wayside in larger cities. You’ll find a place where everyone knows everyone, or can at least point you in the right direction, and where most people are interested in your story as much as they are excited to share their own.
We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in Austin during our time in the state and found ourselves chatting into the night with the owners in their front yard as a campfire blazed. The only sounds were the creatures of the night, the breeze in the trees, the crackling of the wood in the fire and our voices as they carried into the dark around us. It was peaceful, it was charming and we had a great time getting to know the people who called this small town ‘home’.
The other great thing about small towns in Nevada is the history you’ll find there. There’s a strong connection to the past in many of the stops you can make throughout the state. Old buildings maintained or restored become gateways to times long ago and you’ll often find great pride in these places by the people who live in each town.
You’ll find an old courthouse in Pioche which is said to have cost (what would be the equivalent of) 1 million dollars to build from 1870 to 1937 and holds records, photos and artefacts from its prime when Pioche was a perfect example of the Wild West – lawless & corrupt.
Stopping in McGill will have you passing the McGill Drugstore Museum which ceased operating in 1979 and essentially remains as it did the day its doors were closed. Walking through the front door is like stepping back in time and even if you don’t remember some of the brands and products from the past, there’ll be some familiar names that are still around today!
Whether it is natural or human history the list is extensive: the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Area 51, almost all of Eureka itself, the many Petroglyph areas throughout the state, the Lehman cave system, Cathedral Gorge and so many other stops throughout the whole of Nevada will have you glimpsing history in a variety of ways – geologic, natural, anthropological. It really is amazing how much history you can unearth throughout the state!
Food & Drink
It’s true Las Vegas has amazing food at pretty much every turn, but this isn’t unique to just the restaurants in that city. It’s safe to say that all of Nevada knows what it is doing with the food it is growing (yes growing), cooking and serving.
It seems as though no matter where you stop, the food you find will be pretty spectacular. We had some wonderful Southern home cooking and comfort food at a local restaurant in Caliente. It was rich and hearty but it was delicious and our first run in with chicken fried steak had us wanting more!
Our stay at the bed and breakfast ended with, well, breakfast in the morning which was the most gourmet French toast we’ve ever seen. We’re talking cream cheese and strawberries between two thick pieces of French toast, covered in more strawberries and glaze with whipped cream to top it off! Homemade and decadent, it was one memorable breakfast!
Moving to some of the larger towns, like Fallon will have you experiencing what can only be described as a culinary movement. Since its one of Nevada’s agricultural areas, there seems to be a focus on providing quality and fresh ingredients – whether grown locally or sourced by nearby California – in brilliantly prepared and plated dishes. We ate at The Slanted Porch while there and their farm-to-table menu, with a genuine appreciation and respect for the ingredients used, was something you’d expect to find in the upscale restaurants of larger cities.
And it doesn’t just stop at food. Fallon is also home to one of the wineries of Nevada – Churchill Vineyards. Not only do they produce wine, they also have Frey Ranch, a distillery that is creating some impressive spirits – from start to finish – right on the same property.
You definitely won’t be finding a shortage of good food and drink as you navigate your way through Nevada.
A Trip To Remember in Nevada
So if you’re planning a trip to Las Vegas, you may just want to extend it a bit and make some time to get outside the city and explore. Enjoy the beauty of Nevada, find some time to reflect, meet the locals and learn about the incredible history that can be found all over, and fill up on spectacular food you otherwise wouldn’t find without breaking the city limits and seeing all that Nevada has to offer. Believe me, while “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” what happens in Nevada will stay fondly in your memory long after you leave.
Want to explore Nevada? Find out more about the state and all the amazing things to do and see on the Travel Nevada site! Our experiences in Nevada wouldn’t have been possible without them!
Keep this post for later or share with others on Pinterest – just hover over one of the images below and click “Pin it”!