Main Street in Ely, Nevada. Editorial credit: Sandra Foyt /

8 Lovely Small Towns To Visit In Nevada This Summer

Sure, Las Vegas is fun and has much to offer, but that is just a tip of the Nevada experience. Beyond the crazy nightlife and endless gambling in "Sin City," the Silver State boasts a surprisingly charming small-town scene waiting to be explored. Scattered across gorgeous Western landscapes, from jagged mountains to sprawling deserts, lie quaint destinations preserving rich cultural roots and heritage.

This summer, escape the casinos and bustling Strips for a change of scenery among these lovely small towns to visit in Nevada for a fresh and fulfilling experience. Their rustic downtown corridors awaken a nostalgic simplicity, while scenic surroundings instill peace and a sense of solitude. Nevada has a more relaxed side, preserving treasured locales, histories, and hospitality off tourists' radars. A short visit is the ideal getaway from fast-paced fantasies into Nevada's true heartland roots and delights.

Virginia City

Main Street in Virginia City, Nevada.
Main Street in Virginia City, Nevada. Editorial credit: M. Vinuesa /

Virginia City traces its beginnings to the 1800s when the mining boom drew prospectors in droves. Sitting just southeast of Reno, this tiny village has a well-preserved cluster of Victorian structures that got the whole town listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Walking down its quiet streets is a nostalgic trip down memory lane, as antique treasures like the Historic Fourth Ward School Museum take you back to 1878 when Nevada produced its first two senior graduates. The town also hosts the Mackay Mansion Museum, which offers a glimpse into Victorian-era Virginia City with its period furnishings while exciting guests with rumored hauntings.

Outside the history, the vibrant local performance art scene invites tourists to enjoy entertaining live shows at its historic venues, such as Piper's Opera House. The Virginia City Outlaw Theater also presents family-friendly shows centered around the town's Western heritage.


Hotel Nevada in Ely, Nevada
Prohibition-era hotel and casino, Hotel Nevada in Ely, Nevada. Editorial credit: Sandra Foyt /

This picturesque alpine community in White Pine County features a rich railway and mining heritage that tourists will understand when exploring its top attractions. It was established as a station along the Pony Express and experienced a mining boom when copper was discovered in the territory. Today, you can delve into Ely's railroad history at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum, which harbors old artifacts and archives and holds old-school tours on antique steam locomotives for guests. However, the White Pine Public Museum provides a broader perspective of the region's past, focusing on the history, culture, and communities that have called Ely home through the years.

Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park is an exciting 700-acre preserve that allows visitors to mix their love for history and the outdoors. Constructed in the 19th century, it stands out for its dramatic beehive-shaped ovens. Ely is also famous for its annual festivals and events, highlighted by the sustained music throughout the Ely Summer concerts in the Park.


Downtown Eureka, Nevada.
Downtown Eureka, Nevada. Image credit Sandra Foyt via Shutterstock

One of the most impressively mining towns in the American West, Eureka delights with its dense cluster of historic buildings and small-town charm. The quaint downtown district is highly pedestrian-friendly, inviting visitors to discover its antique treasures. Along Main Street, the Eureka County Court House dominates the skyline with its gorgeous architecture and a rich legacy dating back to the 19th century. The same applies to the Eureka Opera House, known along Main Street for its rustic yet elegant interior and for hosting entertaining live performances.

The Eureka Sentinel Museum preserves the town's printing heritage just behind the Eureka Courthouse. It served as the headquarters of the local newspaper and houses insightful archives from the pioneering periods in Eureka. For a break from monotony, visitors can try the Eureka Underground Tunnels walking tour, which allows them to explore 150+ year-old tunnels.


A scene from Austin, Nevada
A scene from Austin, Nevada. Image credit: Jasperdo via

With a tiny population of just about 20 residents, Austin is technically a ghost town, but this does not detract from its rustic charm. This Lander County community has an impressive mix of tourist attractions inviting exploration at a snail-like pace. It is home to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, where adventurers can immerse in the wilderness along secluded desert trails across its 1,500-acre expanse. A short distance from town, many tourists like heading to Spencer Hot Springs when in Austin for a dip in the healing water from the ground and an opportunity to revel in the tranquility of the area.

When not exploring the great outdoors, visitors can peruse local history at the Austin Historical Society Museum. This incredible facility exhibits artifacts about ranching, mining, and people, offering a glimpse at the bustling community that called Austin home during its heyday.


Lovers Lock Plaza in Lovelock, Nevada.
Lovers Lock Plaza in Lovelock, Nevada, where couples symbolize their love by attaching a padlock to an “endless chain.”.Editorial credit: EWY Media /

From captivating railway history to exciting mining heritage and cozy outdoor scenery, Lovelock charms newcomers with its diversity of experiences. This laid-back northern Nevada town boasts a storied past, beginning with the first settlers coming to town in the 1840s. Today, you get a feel for its history at the Marzen House Museum, an 1874 homestead with a collection of mining, agriculture, and Native American artifacts. There is more history to uncover at the mystic Lovelock Cave. This archeological jewel offers a beautiful hiking adventure, exposing a unique piece of local history.

Outdoor recreation opportunities abound at the vast Rye Patch State Recreation Area. Covering almost 2,400 acres, the preserve hosts a 22-mile-long reservoir and offers activities like camping, hiking, fishing, and kayaking. Lovelock also hosts popular events throughout the year, and the Lovelock Street Fever Car Show and Shine in June is a must-experience for car enthusiasts.


Aerial view of Genoa, Nevada
Aerial view of Genoa, Nevada.

Set in the foothills of the scenic Sierra Nevada Mountains, Genoa is one of the most historical towns to visit in Nevada. It was founded in 1851 as the first settlement in the region, expanding to form the state of Nevada. Its beautiful historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and harbors a treasure trove of historic homes with gorgeous Victorian architecture. The Genoa Courthouse Museum is a notable landmark in town, being a mainstay since the 1860s. Meanwhile, the Mormon Station State Historic Park is a beautiful open space and the site where Mormon settlers took refuge along the California Trail.

Genoa is lush in greenery as it is rich in history. Stepping outside, golf enthusiasts will fancy playing on the shiny greens of Genoa Lakes Golf Club, featuring stunning views of the Carson River. Furthermore, ardent outdoorsmen can slip into their favorite trainers to tackle the scenic River Fork Ranch Trail System.


Downtown in Caliente, Nevada
Downtown in Caliente, Nevada. Editorial credit: travelview /

Nicknamed "Nevada's Rose City," Caliente is known for its thriving wild rose population and multiple state parks, providing the ultimate escape for outdoor adventurers. The Kershaw-Ryan State Park invites tourists to participate in various recreation activities across its canyon landscape. Covering 265 acres, it hosts beautiful hiking and equestrian trails and provides opportunities for camping, rock climbing, and picnicking. More wilderness adventures await across the 2,000-acre Beaver Dam State Park. Boasting a stunning landscape with streams, waterfalls, and boulders, it is tailored for isolated hiking excursions to take advantage of the park's serenity.

While roaming the open spaces, you can discover a surreal historic landmark at the Elgin Schoolhouse State Historic Site. The deserted school, which dates back to 1922, offers a window into the life of rancher's children who were schooled there.


Downtown Stateline, Nevada.
Downtown Stateline, Nevada. Image credit Ken Lund, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With access to the toasty waters of Lake Tahoe, Stateline promises fun aquatic-based adventures that will add a spark to your summer vacation. The town offers multiple outdoor recreational spaces, starting with the Lam Watah Nature Trail to Nevada Beach. This relatively manageable outback trail stretches 2.7 miles and is perfect for easy-going hikes through meadows, forests, creeks, and lakeshores. Meanwhile, Kahle Park offers a family-friendly recreation space with multiple facilities for all ages, ranging from ball fields and playgrounds to a sled hill.

The scorching summer conditions in Stateline will make you want to cool off by venturing into the open lake. Luckily, the town's local outfitters, including Day Go Adventures, organize relaxed kayaking and canoeing excursions for tourists on the calm waters of Lake Tahoe.

The Takeaway

These picturesque towns to visit in Nevada let visitors escape the hustle of large cities into soothing rural rhythms of life. Whether surrounded by mesmerizing mountain vistas, sitting along scenic lakeshores, or enveloped in striking desert landscapes, each destination exudes authentic Western charm. Slowing down allows one to savor the cultural flavor found on quaint main streets, in local museums showing roots running deep, and through friendly conversations with residents dedicated to preserving community character. This culminates in the ideal summer vacation!

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. 8 Lovely Small Towns To Visit In Nevada This Summer

More in Places