Nevada is home to deserts and state parks, with many towns dotting the pristine landscapes. These eight small towns offer a unique experience with a myriad of attractions and outdoor adventures that will suit any taste. It's a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip.
The lively little town surrounded by many hot springs was originally named "Calientes". It is a beloved nature-escape of scenic sights and deep roots in the Wild West. One can dine and spend the night at the unique Union Pacific Train Depot fifty-room inn, joined with a 1923 old railway switching yard. Tourists also enjoy the rebooted local museum, library, and town's government bureau on-site. Caliente is home to the wondrous Nevada State Park with endless outdoor adventures and bountiful wildlife sightings.
The town is renowned for seasonally-blooming bushels of roses blending scenically with the historical buildings along the streets. The atmospheric strolls are pleasing to all senses and attract many artists for inspiration within a small-town atmosphere. The nearby hot springs bring many wellness-seekers into town, while the active find their respite at the Kershaw-Ryan State Park recreational area. There is hiking, volleyball, swimming, camping, picnicking, and other outdoor pursuits right at the doorstep.
Ely was originally a stagecoach station for the Pony Express that boomed with the discovery of copper in 1906 into a popular tourist destination today. The town is bountiful with attractions, including the Nevada Northern Railroad Museum with epic rides on the Ghost Train "Old Ely", and mining district tours from Ely to Robinson via a ride on a railroad. Art fans adore weaving through the stunning 11-block art section in-town with historically-themed paintings and sculptures that tale-tell about the region's past. The year-round line-up of interesting free events includes fishing derbies, festivals, sheepherders' galas, and sculpture competitions.
There are many state parks around town with ample fishing, swimming, and boating opportunities surrounded by a scenic paradise. The Cave Lake National Park, Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historical Park, and the Great Basin National Park feature a unique set of activities for diversified fun in the outdoors. The avid explorers enjoy visiting the Lehman Caves, along with venturing the Island Forest Trail and the Bristlecone Pine Trail. The Lexington Arch is great for photo-shoots, while the active can conquer the Wheeler Peak summit. Ely is part of the renowned region with clear night skies, and prime destination for campers, stargazers, and astro-photographers.
Genoa was first settled in 1851 around the Carson River Valley in the eastern feet of the Sierra Nevada range. The scenic Highway 206 leads into the hotspot town with Wild West charisma, and the state's oldest Genoa National Historic District. The downtown is full of vintage-style shops, homes, and old-school eateries, such as the state's oldest saloon from 1853. The immensely beautiful Lake Tahoe, is set just to the east of Genoa, with ample of land and water outdoor pursuits.
Nature lovers enjoy strolling through the Mormon Station State Historic Park with sightings of mule deer, and the statue of Snowshoe Thompson who is the father of California skiing. There's also his grave at Genoa Cemetery near town. The annual Candy Dance Art and Crafts Fair attracts artists since 1919 with works by West Coast artisans. One can also buy famous handmade candy from the locals for a little treat or a souvenir to bring home. The historical Hanging Tree marks the hanging site of Adam Uber, who allegedly murdered labor union teamster, Hans Anderson.
The small railroad town close to Reno was historically a mere stop for settlers on their way to the west coast. Lovelock offers a lovely getaway into nature within scenic surroundings of grassy meadows and watering holes. The in-town features one of the only two round houses in the United States from the early 1900s. Lovelock is also the ultimate destination for non-stop festivals with socializing, eating, and drinking right on entertainment-laden streets. There's the most popular Portuguese Festival, the Frontier Days for history fans, and Lovelock Street Fever Car Show for auto enthusiasts.
Couples enjoy seeing Lovers Aloft balloon races and partaking in the traditional Chinese custom from many places around the world that holds a special meaning in town with a complimenting moniker. Lovebirds can "lock-a-lock" with their names and tie it to one of the green pillars throughout the city to attract good fortune in their relationship. They can also "anchor their love" to the endless chain at the Lovers Lock Plaza behind the Court House.
Minden is a carefully-planned town today that was founded as a tiny locale near the V&T Railway station. It offers plenty of attractions and entertainment options for any taste, including two popular Casinos, the lively Dangberg Home Ranch Historical Park, as well as the SoaringNV with flights over plains for adrenaline junkies. The quaint town is full of old-Americana charm, wander-worthy historic downtown area, and streets full of centuries-old houses and brick buildings.
Minden is an idyllically charming town within Carson Valley that is thoroughly enjoyed by tourists from all walks of life. The local inn from the early 1900s hosted many Hollywood starlets who fell in love with the unique in-town vibe like nowhere else. At the heart of Minden, there's the atmospheric Minden Park with a bandstand and gazebo surrounded by lush greenery. The acres of scenery provide for the best fresh-air picnics and seasonal events during fall for an imminent visit.
Rachel is set off Nevada Highway 375, known as the Extraterrestrial Highway. The town was founded recently in 1973, and named after a child who was born in the valley and died too soon in 1980. There is a local cemetery and a memorial park honoring baby Rachel. The town is renowned for otherworldly attractions, with features in TV shows, movies, and even a game. It is home to only 75 residents, along with fleets of nationwide tourists who hope to find luck and spot a UFO. Rachel is set proximately to Area 51, where many claim to feel transported into another realm with an eerie vibe.
The town's Little A'Le'Inn hotel and restaurant with a "Welcome Earthlings" sign is a hub for chasers of paranormal activity. The streets brim with evidence-capturing devices and themed shops with alien souvenirs for a little charm to bring back home. The "normal" extremely popular activities in Rachel include geocaching and the 28,000-acre Mount Irish Wilderness Area that offers fantastic hikes with wondrous limestone formations and bighorn sheep.
The charming town is set exactly in-between Las Vegas and Reno with some 2,500 residents. There are streets full of various historic shops, along with the Historic Mining Park, Central Nevada Museum, and the famous Clown Motel that features a portrait of Chucky's doppelganger. The lobby of the hotel brims with clowns, which is a delight to some and worst fear-come-to-life, for others. The five-storied Mizpah Hotel was the tallest building in the state until 1929, where guests claimed to have seen a ghost of the "Lady in Red", whose death at the hotel is veiled in mystery.
The scenic Table Mountain Wilderness region offers a great refresher from the creepy-crawly theme with bountiful active pursuits, recreation, and relaxation in the great outdoors. Sight-seekers love touring the nearby turquoise mines that are the only of their kind in the nation. Moreover, visitors can keep anything they find following a "day of manual labor" for a souvenir, such as the common bright blue gems.
The charming small Virginia City brims with sites and fabulous entertainment that nod at the town's Wild West heart. The famous Comstock Lode is one of the nation's largest mining camps with tons of attractions and sights on-site reminiscent of the gold rush in the mid-1800s. The V&T Railroad rides transport one right into the "golden age", while the old Chollar Mine offers fantastic sights to explore. There are also walking and trolley tours around town. Highway 341 from Reno to Virginia City is a scenic drive with a breathtaking panorama of the region's mountainous landscape.
Virginia City is also one of the nation's most haunted towns, in a fun way. People claim to spot ghosts gambling, getting inebriated, cleaning weapons, and destroying a saloon. The wonderful downtown boasts restored board sidewalks on the main street lined with Victorian-era buildings. There are also street spectacles, including the re-enactment of a cowboy shootout. The Silver Queen Hotel is another interesting place to visit or stay, along with the Mackay Mansion, and the town's cemetery.
These towns offer a breath of fresh air from the Strip in Las Vegas with many experiences of Nevada's whole other side. One will have the most fun hearing ghost stories and feeling part of the Wild West and mining history during the most memorable visit.