Aerial view of Boulder City, Nevada.

8 Picturesque Small Towns In Nevada For A Weekend Retreat

Life can get busy, with bills to pay and families to provide for. That is why a weekend retreat—taken as often as possible—can be therapeutic and help us recharge. Because of Las Vegas, the Entertainment Capital of the World, Nevada is often associated with casinos and a vibrant nightlife. Unknown to many is that the Silver State is home to a charming collection of small towns, many of which are quiet, slow-paced, and picturesque. If you are looking for the most picturesque small towns in Nevada for a weekend retreat, check the options below, including gems such as Boulder City and Ely. 

Boulder City

Boulder City and Lake Mead in Nevada.
Boulder City and Lake Mead in Nevada.

Located just 26 miles from Vegas ( 10 miles from Henderson), Boulder City is incredibly cute and can make for a quick weekend retreat. While it may seem like a Vegas suburb, it has made an effort to stay quaint — and maintained its endearing small-town feel. Established to shelter those constructing the Hoover Dam, part of Roosevelt's New Deal infrastructure projects, this Nevada charmer today brims with an Art Deco aura that is hard to miss. You can stay at the Boulder Dam Hotel, which is smack in the middle of town, and use it as a base to explore the town's myriad of attractions. Start your adventure on the first floor of this hotel, the location of the small but intriguing Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum. For some retail therapy, Boulder City's historic district, with its delightful array of cafes and shops, is the go-to place. However, for some outdoor fun and adventure, the Historic Railroad Trail, Lake Mead, and the Black Canyon Water Trail can easily fill up a weekend itinerary. 

Virginia City

Virginia City homes nestled in the foothills of the Virginia Range.
Virginia City homes nestled in the foothills of the Virginia Range.

Home to less than 1,000 residents, Virginia City is as close to a living Old West town as anyone can get, especially in Nevada. Secreted in the picturesque Virginia Range about 20 miles south of Reno, Virginia City was the site of one of the most significant mining discoveries in the history of the United States. The Comstock Lode was — at the time — the richest silver deposit in the nation. It would draw entrepreneurs from across the country and gift the town its moniker of "the richest city in the world." As money started flowing in town, so did saloons start springing up. Many of these saloons remain and are open for tours, including the cryptically named Bucket of Blood, a typical Old West bar so-called because of its history of violence. Numerous buildings, including the amazing Mackay Mansion Museum, can give one a sense of this town's 19th-century wealth. Mark Twain published many of his stories in Virginia City, and his memory is honored by such joints as the Mark Twain Saloon, which serves awesome cocktails along the boardwalk in the laid-back Comstock Lode Mining District.


Main St. business district, Jarbidge, NV.
Main St. Business District in Jarbidge, Nevada. Image credit: Kelly Klaas via

Probably unlike any town you've ever seen, except perhaps for Tahoe when uncrowded, Jarbridge is the quintessential definition of "picturesque." Set in the backdrop of massive trees and steep canyon walls, Jarbridge is as stunning a town as any can be — and just as isolated. The "Canyon of the Evil Giant," once thought to be the abode of a marauding cannibal, for a while played a role in keeping Jarbridge relatively isolated and uninhabited. But gold and wealth, whose pursuers can brave any danger or peril, soon saw the town bustling with activity. Today, mining operations continue but on a much lower scale. First-time visitors — by exploring the town's former brothels, the Historic Jarbidge Jail, and the Jarbidge Community Hall — can get a feel of Jarbridge's storied past. Anglers will love the fact that alpine lakes and numerous rivers encircle Jarbridge.


Downtown Yerrington, Nevada. Image credit: Ken Lund via

Home to about 3,100 residents, Yerrington could just be the most all-American town in the state. The old Yerington Post Office, whose construction coincided with the onset of the Second World War, with its beautiful 1941 mural, is an excellent example of New Deal art. Yerrington sits at the intersection of US 95A and Nevada State Route 208 and features an awe-inspiring desert scape that can only capture the fascinated attention of a first-time visitor. You will love exploring the town's many casinos, including the Dini's Lucky Club Casino, which styles itself as the "oldest family-owned casino in Nevada." The Lyon County Museum, with its thoughtful displays and exhibits, provides fascinating details of Yerrington's history. Besides, the beautiful Walker Lake is in Yerrington's backyard and offers outdoor fun and adventure. If driving, you will not want to miss the Walker River Scenic Drive.


Austin, Nevada.
The charming town of Austin, Nevada. Image credit: Jasperdo via

This Nevada eye candy deserves a visit if only to explore the Toquima Cave, which, for its thousands of ancient Native American pictographs, is one of the most extraordinary caves in the United States. Austin is also called the "City of Churches. St. Augustine's Catholic Church, a feature of the town since 1866, is the oldest standing Catholic church in Nevada. The walls of this church are made of brick and are about 20 inches thick. Sagebrush saloons dot the area, including the rustic Lucky Spur Saloon in Kingston, about 27 miles from Austin. Also, you can catch a glimpse of a Nevada-mined turquoise at Jason's Art Gallery or refresh yourself at the nearby Spencer Hot Springs — amid spectacular views of the Toiyabe National Forest.


The beautiful town of Baker, Nevada.
The beautiful town of Baker, Nevada. Image credit: Famartin via Wikimedia Commons.

Baker is home to numerous natural wonders, including Lehman Caves, whose unique ecosystem is home to more than 300 rare rock formations. This cave, with its endless array of dazzling stalagmites, is among the most beautiful caves in the world. But even without Lehman Caves, this funky little town, the last stop on America's Loneliest Road, can still hold first-time visitors in a trance-like state. Book a room at Stargazer Inn, located at the end of the road that enters the Great Basin National Park. You can then explore the Great Basin's ancient bristlecone pines as you step into an other-worldly realm of spellbinding beauty. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, which features a pristine view of nature's raw beauty, is a not-miss. Do not forget to savor the taste of some delicious homemade ravioli at the Sugar, Salt & Malt Restaurant.


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

While just about 1,000 residents call Genoa home, this Nevada gem plays host to a charming array of beautiful Victorian buildings and is among the prettiest towns in the state. Genoa sits at the base of the Sierra Nevada Range (the eastern slope) and had its start in the 1850s as a trading post serving wagon trains. Named for Christopher Columbus's Italian birthplace, Genoa's downtown area is a historic gem and is famous for hosting the oldest bar in Nevada. Genoa Bar & Saloon opened its doors in 1853 and is known to have been patronized by Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant, and Johny Cash. Reputed to be the oldest permanent settlement in Nevada, Genoa hosts the Mormon Station State Historic Park, where a statue of Snowshoe Thompson stands. For perspective, Snowshoe Thompson is known for delivering mail on skis across the dangerous, snow-swept mountains around Lake Tahoe in the middle of the 19th century and has been called "the most remarkable mail carrier in the world." At the Genoa Courthouse Museum, you will learn fascinating details about this historic town, including Snowshoe Thompson's unusual diet while delivering mail.


Lincoln Highway passing through Ely, Nevada
Lincoln Highway passing through Ely, Nevada. Image credit: trekandphoto -

Partly because of the rainbow trout-stocked Cave Lake, the spellbinding beauty of the surrounding wilderness, and the best-preserved main yard complex remaining from the steam railroad era, Ely should be on any list of the most picturesque small towns in Nevada. Home to a population of just under 4,000, Ely is small and quaint — and, hence, offers a more authentic and intimate vacation experience. But Elly is also neat and unspoiled. A first-time visitor can step back in time at the Ely Renaissance Village, and learn stories about the area's first migrants, miners, and nomads. Should hunger pangs begin to set in, the delectable sandwiches at Economy Drug & Old Fashioned Fountain should come in handy. For a cozy place to lay your head, you cannot go wrong with Prospector Hotel & Gambling Hall.

There is a time for the dazzling allure of a big city — and a time for the intimate and authentic charm of a small, laid-back town. Small towns, because they are often more slow-paced and quiet, are fantastic venues for weekend retreats. You can spend days sans the endless whirl of cars and the suffocating hassle and bustle. Fortunately, if seeking just such an experience, Nevada boasts several options. Small, picturesque towns such as Boulder City, Jarbridge, and Virginia City are among Nevada's most appealing and can be excellent venues for weekend retreats.

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