Forget Las Vegas, See the Wonders of West Nevada

Things to see in Nevada when you’re over the Las Vegas Strip; Reno, Carson City, Silver Springs, and everything in between.

Things to see in Nevada when you’re over the Las Vegas Strip

If you’re not from around the area, you probably don’t realize just how much there is to see and do in Nevada. Everyone visits Las Vegas to see the casinos and myriad culture-shock of crowds along the Strip, but rarely do they ever take the time to see anything else. It’s like going to Disney World. There is so much to take in, you could spend a whole week there and never experience even half of it.

Once you get over the Vegas vibe, don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s nothing left to do or see in the Silver State. It is a beautiful place with a more diverse landscape than most people realize. From desert valleys, to mountainous terrain; deep canyons to breathtaking lonesome highways; this is not the kind of holiday you want to rush your way through.

Things to See in Nevada (besides the Las Vegas Strip)

There’s a fantastic, triangular region in West Nevada that can deliver the most amazing experience, without ever coming close to the fast-paced stress of the Vegas Strip. Whether you’ve been there so many times (or even once) that you’re over the sights and sounds of Las Vegas Boulevard, or you have no desire to step foot into what some consider a cesspool of anxiety, this out-of-the-way Nevada holiday will inspire and relax you to the core, and still provide a chance to do a little Vegas-style gambling. Our adventure starts in…

Reno – The Biggest Little City in the World

Reno Nevada
Now entering Reno, Nevada

Surely you know something of Reno. It is the third most famous gambling city in the United States, after Las Vegas and Atlantic City. What I was surprised to learn over the years is just how few people actually know that Reno is in Nevada. I did a little survey of this among ten purely random people – people I didn’t even know – and only 3 of them knew. Go figure?

Yes, Reno is a city on the western edge of Nevada, situated along the border of California just north of Lake Tahoe. It is quite literally a miniature version of Las Vegas. It even has a mini-Strip – they call it The Row – made up of its three major, inter-connected casinos – Eldorado, Circus Circus and Silver Legacy. There are plenty of other interesting things to see and do in the Midtown District, so take your time and enjoy it. When you’re done there, rent a car and hop on Interstate 580/Highway 395 South, where you’ll embark on a picturesque, 40 minute drive to…

Carson City – Modern Take on a Historical Treasure

Kit Carson Trail, Carson City, Nevada
Kit Carson Memorial - Carson City, Nevada

Carson City is the capital of Nevada, so it’s got a big city atmosphere. However, it’s also got a tremendous amount of historical sights and natural wonders to behold. If you like trains half as much as I do, the Nevada State Railroad Museum is a must. The Kit Carson Trail is a museum and national park all mixed into one – bring a picnic lunch, then head over to the Shoe Tree Brewing Company to unwind. If you’re more interested in the nature scene, Washoe Lake and Skunk Harbor are well worth the visit. Spend the last of your evening at one of the local bed and breakfasts – far better than any hotel you’ll find in the city – then get up bright and early for your next drive to…

Virginia City – A Town atop a Century Old Silver Mine

C Street Virginia City, Nevada - Almay Stock Photos
C Street in Downtown Virginia City, Nevada - Almay Stock Photo

Did you ever see a John Wayne movie? How about Wyatt Earp or Gunsmoke? Better yet, Bonanza – it was filmed on location. Entering Virginia City is like stepping into one of those historical towns, straight out of an old western. The drive out, which takes about half an hour via US-50 East and NV-341 W/342 N, is similar, but is clearly marred by the effects of time and modernization.

For instance, you’ll drive through Silver City, which may sound like something special – and believe me, at one time it was – but is now barely more than a fueling station and diner along an old desert road. Back in 1861, when the Sierra was brimming with silver, this bustling 4-hotel city had a population of 1,200. Now, and for many decades past, the population is listed at around 170 – a Ghost Town since 1869.

From there you’ll pass through the Devil’s Gate, a famously narrow, craggy pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and into Gold Hill, a small town with a similar history of desolation. A minute or two further along sets your destination, Virginia City.

The thoroughfare dividing the boardwalks of downtown may be paved with asphalt now, but the buildings along this stretch still bleed of the past. Remove the colorful but deteriorating paint, and the 150 year old hotels, saloons, and trading posts remain virtually untouched. Make sure to arrive early – by high noon, the Wild West tourists come piling out of the woodwork!

Nevada US-50 – The Loneliest Road in America

Nevada Route 50 Loneliest Road in America

If you still have some time, head back south to US-50 and bear east. Forget destinations – you don’t have one. Your path is one of uncertainty and contemplation. Just keep driving for as long as you feel like it. This stretch of road is what’s known as The Loneliest Road in America. It goes on for miles and miles – all the way to the country’s east coast, in fact – but the Nevada expanse goes on for nearly 400 miles. It can take around 7 hours to reach Utah, but the breathtaking views will last a lifetime.

Of course, odds are you’ll get tired of that drive within half an hour or so, at which point I recommend stopping off in Silver Springs. Once you pass Stagecoach, you can’t miss it. It’s hard to miss anything that exists out here in the middle of nowhere – but again, that’s they beauty of it. There’s not a whole lot to do in this small town, but there is a cozy little Silver Springs Airport that will fly you back to wherever you came from.

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