17 Best Things to Do in Nevada
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Nevada is a state of extremes. With environments ranging from the snowy alpine setting of Lake Tahoe to the raw beauty of the scorching hot Mojave Desert, you can find things to do that appeal to everyone. Cities like Reno and Las Vegas bring a whole range of indoor activities, along with exciting outdoor attractions.
Aside from exploring the state's natural wonders and attractions, head to Las Vegas and the iconic Las Vegas Strip, where you can find things to do like dining in a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower while watching the Bellagio Fountains show, or gently riding high into the air on North America's tallest Ferris wheel.
If you want to climb (or ski down) some mountains, Nevada has the most peaks in the continental U.S. You can ski in Lake Tahoe at mega-resorts like Heavenly or smaller local resorts like the community-owned Diamond Peak ski area near Incline Village. During the summer, the Tahoe ski resorts operate chairlifts and are open for hikers and mountain bikers.
Hikers and outdoor adventurers will want to do things like hike at Red Rock Canyon in southern Nevada, or take an amazing scenic drive through Lamoille Canyon in the northern part of the state.
Nevada has a lot of ghost towns that can be visited, remnants of the state's mining history. A cool thing to do is to visit the ghost town of St. Thomas, which was abandoned then flooded after the construction of Hoover Dam. Current low water levels have exposed what's left of the town after almost 90 years beneath the water.
Plan your adventures across the Silver State with our list of the best things to do in Nevada.
1. Watch the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas
Most people coming to Nevada head to the Las Vegas Strip to see the scene. While you're strolling along, see the incredible Fountains of Bellagio. More than 1,000 individual, computer-controlled fountains spread out over 1,000 feet are an incredible sight to see. As music plays, (at night a light show works its magic across the lake), the fountains seem to sway to the music and shoot water almost 500 feet into the air.
This is one of the free things you can do in Las Vegas by simply watching the show from the street.
The Eiffel Tower Restaurant inside the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Las Vegas offers a wonderful fine-dining experience, with a French menu, along with truly amazing views over of the Bellagio fountains and the Las Vegas Strip.
It will cost $40 just to reserve a Strip-view window table, but it's well worth it, as that view includes the Fountains of Bellagio fountain show, which happens every 30 minutes. Paris Las Vegas is right across the street from Bellagio Las Vegas, so you have a perfect front-row seat for the fountain show, day or night.
The Vegas Eiffel Tower is a 46-story tall, half-scale, realistic replica of the iconic Paris landmark. It's constructed from steel sections bolted together, just like the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Aside from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, you can take the elevator to the very top, where there is an observation deck, the highest viewpoint on the Strip at more than 500 feet in the air.
The restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week, and hosts a very popular brunch ($59 per person) on Saturdays and Sundays. Prices are reasonable given the experience and view, with entrees starting at $36 (each guest must order at least an entree).
Address: 3655 South Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas
Official site: eiffeltowerrestaurant.com
2. Ride the High Roller in Las Vegas, the World's Second Highest Ferris Wheel
At 550 feet tall, Las Vegas' High Roller Ferris wheel is second only to the Ain Dubai wheel in terms of height. Located at The LINQ Hotel & Experience, the High Roller has 28 individual, air-conditioned pod-like cabins, each of which takes 30 minutes to complete one full rotation. Each cabin can hold up to 40 people.
As you take your 30-minute ride, the views are breathtaking. The capsules give you 360-degree views of the Strip and Las Vegas valley. The views are even better at night, and the ticket prices are higher to reflect that.
A trip on the High Roller is a great thing to do in Nevada with kids, as a ride on the wheel offers both entertainment and education. A self-guided downloadable S.T.E.M. curriculum is available that teaches kids about the math and science behind the design and construction of the massive engineering project.
Looking for other exciting things to do in Las Vegas? While you're at The LINQ Hotel, you can Fly LINQ, the Strip's only zipline. Sail at over 30 miles per hour along a more than 1,100 foot cable, starting from a 12-story tower above a shopping mall right in front of the High Roller Ferris wheel.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in Las Vegas, NV
3. View Hoover Dam from the World's Highest Concrete Arch Bridge in Boulder City
An essential thing to do in Nevada since its opening in 1936, a visit to Hoover Dam continues to impress with its sheer size and how human engineering both controls and works with nature to generate electrical power.
There is a museum, and sightseeing tours of the dam are offered, which take you down inside the structure to see the giant turbines and parts of the power generation process. The tour also takes you to the observation deck in front of the dam, giving you a close-up perspective of the 726-foot-tall structure.
You can walk across the top of the dam for a close-up look, but a great vantage point is from the walkway of the Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. The bridge, which is the highest concrete arch bridge in the world, crosses Black Canyon just in front of the dam. You can get some great photos from the bridge.
You have several options for getting from Las Vegas to Hoover Dam. While most people drive, tours and other options are available. The dam is less than an hour from the city.
4. Drive Down the Las Vegas Strip and Visit the Neon Museum
Among the most popular things to do in Nevada is to explore Las Vegas Boulevard, the iconic Strip. You'll see each resort trying to outdo the others with the most colorful and visible sign and outdoor displays. Now many of the displays themselves are giant digital LED TVs; the origin of the Vegas Strip signage is neon.
The Strip is also a great place to stroll (especially in the cool of the evening) and just people-watch. Bridges and walkways have made most of the walking area traffic-free.
The Neon Museum, located about 10 minutes off the Strip, is where old signs go to die. The non-profit entity was established to collect, preserve, study, and exhibit classic Las Vegas neon and signage.
Start your visit in La Concha Visitors Center, which was formerly the lobby of La Concha Motel, a legendary Strip accommodation. The mid-century modern structure was designed by architect Paul Revere Williams.
There are a few exhibit areas, but the highlight is the massive, almost three-acre sign boneyard, where hundreds of Las Vegas signs and parts of signs dating back to the 1930s sit in various stages of decay or preservation. Some are rusting and decaying, while others are semi-restored, powered-up, and working.
The North Gallery area displays even more old signs, except these are restored and working. Each night, the signs in the North Gallery area are illuminated as part of a sound and light show called Brilliant!, which makes the signs seem to come to life.
For those who want to explore the current signs and neon of Las Vegas, the Neon Museum hosts the Neon Night Flight Spectacular, a helicopter tour of the Strip's incredible digital signs, neon, and lights.
Address: 770 Las Vegas Boulevard North, Las Vegas, Nevada
Official site: neonmuseum.org
5. Explore Valley of Fire State Park
Named for the fire-red Aztec sandstone cliffs that jut out from gray and tan limestone hills, this state park is a must-do for Nevada visitors. Valley of Fire State Park has hiking trails, day-use picnic areas, and campsites.
Aside from the geology and beautiful scenery, the Valley of Fire has a fascinating history of human habitation. The area has been inhabited by humans for more than 11,000 years, based on archaeological finds. On your hike, you can view 2,500-year-old petroglyphs (drawings carved into rock) made by the Indigenous people who lived here.
Valley of Fire State Park is always open; this is a thing to do seven days a week, 365 days a year. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, although campers have 24-hour access.
If you want to stay overnight, you have your choice of 72 campsites, offered on a first-come, first-served basis with no reservations.
6. Hike in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas
Only 35 minutes from center Strip hotels, the Red Rock National Conservation Area is a nearly-200,000-acre protected part of the Mojave Desert. Here, you'll find some of the best hiking trails near Las Vegas.
The colors here are incredible. You'll find mountains, rock formations, and canyons in shades of red and orange due to the iron oxide content of the rock.
Start your visit at the visitor center and then explore one of the 26 hiking trails in Red Rock Canyon. The Lost Creek - Children's Discovery Trail is a relatively easy, one-mile, out-and-back trail, which includes interpretive guides to the area's geology, animals, and artifacts.
Between December and April, you'll find a seasonal waterfall with a natural pool at the turnaround point.
Aside from hiking and camping, Red Rock Canyon has a 13-mile, one-way, self-paced scenic drive, which takes you through the canyon by car, allowing you to stop at different scenic locations or trailheads.
Summer temperatures are extreme and dangerous here; hikes can only be done very early in the morning (you need to be finished by 9am) or in the early evening.
7. Explore an Indoor Botanical Garden on the Las Vegas Strip
Enjoy the work of the Bellagio Resort's team of over 100 gardeners as you explore the Bellagio Botanical Gardens within the Bellagio Conservatory, a 14,000-square-foot indoor garden oasis right on the Strip. The sunshine comes through the glass panels of the ceiling, more than 50 feet above your head.
More than just plants, the space is actually modular, and the entire structure is changed for seasonal displays. Sections of plants, forests, and jungles, along with water features like streams and ponds can be configured to provide different environments, from a rainforest to a zen garden.
Beyond the flora, there is also fauna, like different bird species (and lots of insects). It's a wonderful, free green space to breath in deeply and escape from the sometimes overwhelming energy of Las Vegas.
The theme and entire atmosphere changes with the seasons, starting with an Asian theme for the Lunar New Year in February. Spring is a great time to visit the Bellagio Botanical Gardens as they explode with color. Brown, gold, and orange themes come with the fall, and the holidays bring a winter wonderland complete with snow.
8. Check Out Cool Cars at the National Automobile Museum in Reno
One of the top things to do in Reno is visit the National Automobile Museum. This world-class museum, formerly the collection of Bill Harrah, has more than 200 unique, classic, and historic automobiles.
The collection includes a group of star-owned cars (Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, etc.) as well as cars from current movies like the Fast and Furious. There are also race cars and a large NASCAR collection.
If you visit Reno in September, the city hosts the Reno Air Races, a month-long aviation festival and series of speed and acrobatic competitions. Head to Reno during the first week of August for the annual Hot August Nights car and music festival. For the past 35 years, the event has attracted classic car, muscle car, and hot rod owners and aficionados, who spend the week cruising the streets and attending car shows, auctions, and concerts.
They stage another Hot August Nights festival the last two days of July in Virginia City, a historic mining town about 40 minutes from Reno. This also has music, car shows, and cruise events. It's a smaller, less crazy event than the Reno one, and many people prefer it.
Official site: automuseum.org
9. Stroll along Laughlin's Riverwalk and Visit Don Laughlin's Classic Car Museum
Laughlin's riverside Riverwalk is a pedestrian promenade entertainment zone next to the Colorado River.
There are multiple places to stroll and enjoy the passing boats, along with exercise stations and even performance venues. The area also plays host to frequent food, community, and music festivals, and it's a fun place to get outside and see the Nevada city's natural beauty.
The three-mile-long trail has picnic and BBQ areas, sports courts, and fishing ponds with covered piers that jut out into the water to allow for easy fishing.
Located inside the Riverside Resort, Don Laughlin's (Laughlin's real estate developer founder) Classic Car Museum has almost 100 classic, muscle, historic, and Hollywood cars displayed over three floors. Off-road and 4WD enthusiasts will enjoy the large collection of race trucks and desert racing machines.
A bonus, at this car museum: some of the inventory is for sale, so you can drive home in your own hot rod.
10. Relax and Camp on the Beach at Lake Tahoe
During the summer, Lake Tahoe is a great place to go swimming and relax on the beach. It's also a place where you can camp right on the sand.
The Nevada Beach Campground has a beautiful section of beach (the widest on the lake), basic campground services and amenities, and 54 campsites nestled in the pine trees that line the lakeshore. A few of the campsites are on the sand facing the lake.
You can also reserve day-use pavilions, which are fun for picnics or for a day at the beach if you're staying nearby.
Nevada Beach is a gently curving beach, almost a mile long. It's very wide and a bit quieter than some of the other Lake Tahoe beaches, as there is no marina or boat launch area. People come more to enjoy the lake and scenery.
The Nevada Beach Campground is near the Nevada city of Stateline, which has services, gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, and other necessities.
Accommodation: Best Resorts in Lake Tahoe, CA
11. Visit a Ghost Town
With a long history of mining, Nevada has more than 600 ghost towns. These are abandoned towns, many built during silver or gold-mining booms, where you can explore the empty or decaying buildings and infrastructure.
One unique ghost town that can be visited is St. Thomas, Nevada. The town was started in the 19th century by Mormon settlers and became a very popular stopping point on the trail that connected Salt Lake City with Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, it was located at the bottom of a valley along the Colorado River and ended up under Lake Mead when Hoover Dam was built in the 1930s. Drought conditions have brought very low water levels to Lake Mead, exposing St. Thomas after almost 90 years underwater.
Rhyolite, located about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is another great ghost town to visit. Many dilapidated buildings exist from the town's heyday at the turn of the 20th century, and since the 1980s, modern artists have created outdoor art pieces there.
Fort Churchill is an abandoned Civil War-era army base near Carson City. It's now a state historic park and a very cool thing to do near Reno. Most of the structures and buildings remain, all slowly decaying back into desert.
12. Ski at Lake Tahoe
One of the most popular things to do in Nevada is to get out on a mountain and ski or snowboard. The Lake Tahoe area, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, is one of the world's great winter resort areas.
There are 15 ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area, but only St. Rose is completely on the Nevada side of the border. Heavenly is a unique ski resort in that it sits on the border between two states, and some of the ski runs are in Nevada.
Both ski resorts top out around 10,000 feet (Mt. Rose is 9,700), but Heavenly is about four times as big, with much more skiable terrain and many more lifts and features. Heavenly is also more expensive and much more crowded, so they each offer different experiences.
The Diamond Peak Ski Resort is a smaller community-owned ski area near Incline Village. It's about 8,500 feet in elevation with 30 trails and six lifts. A big draw here are the spectacular views of the lake you get as you ski down the mountain. It's also much less crowded than the larger resorts.
13. Take a Helicopter Tour of the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas
Yes, the Grand Canyon is in Arizona, but several Las Vegas-based helicopter companies offer air tours starting in Las Vegas. You can fly from Vegas to the Grand Canyon in about 30 minutes.
Papillon Helicopters offers the Golden Eagle Air Tour, a Grand Canyon West Rim tour, which takes you from Vegas first to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead for a fly-over, followed by a visit to the West Rim area of the Grand Canyon. On this tour, you don't get out of the helicopter; it's a 70-minute sightseeing flight there and back.
Other tour options include stops, so you can get out and explore the Grand Canyon.
Typical rates for a basic Grand Canyon air tour from Las Vegas are about $400 per person. Slightly cheaper air tours from Las Vegas are available in a small plane, but you have less visibility and the plane cannot hover or deviate from its flight plan as much as a helicopter can.
14. Drive through Lamoille Canyon (Nevada's Grand Canyon) near Elko
This 12-mile-long, u-shaped canyon, which was carved out by glaciers during the last Ice Age, is considered the Grand Canyon of Nevada due to its sheer walls and depth. Head to the Lamoille Glacier Overlook to see the incredible force and impact of the two 1,000-foot-thick rivers of ice that created the canyon and surrounding topography.
Lamoille Canyon is part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, in the Ruby Mountains, Nevada's wettest mountain range. You can hike, bike, camp, and picnic here, and everyone should at least do the easy two-mile hike from the visitor center parking area to Island Lake, another feature created by glaciers, an alpine lake just under 10,000 feet above sea level.
It's also a place you can explore by car. Just take the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway. The 12-mile section of road is one of the best driving roads in Nevada (and the country) as it snakes around the almost-12,000-foot Ruby Dome then rises in the canyon almost 9,000 feet in elevation.
There are roadside info panels that tell you about the flora, fauna, geology, and geography you're seeing. To be safe from extreme weather, the canyon is best explored during the summer and fall.
15. Gaze at Seven Magic Mountains in Jean
Just outside Las Vegas, near the Jean Dry Lake, an artist has created a massive colorful art installation. Set against the muted tans, browns, and oranges of the desert and mountains, Swiss artist Hugo Rondinone has created Seven Magic Mountains. There are seven 30-foot-tall columns of huge boulders, each boulder painted a different fluorescent, DayGlo color.
The site-specific, large-scale art installation is right off the 15 freeway, about 10 miles south of Las Vegas. It's in the Ivanpah Valley in front of three different mountain ranges. The artwork is a bright, beautiful, colorful, creative expression of the human presence in the stark Mojave Desert, just like Las Vegas itself.
It's a great thing to do on the drive from LA to Vegas or from Vegas to LA, as it's just off the freeway, about 40 minutes before you get to (or after you leave) Vegas. There is no charge to visit, it's always open, and no reservations are necessary. On-site signage will inform you about the art and direct you to a phone number with a recorded audio tour you can listen to as you explore the site.
16. Parasail above Lake Tahoe
When the snow melts and the sun heats up the area, people turn their attention from playing in the mountains to playing in and on the lake. Lake Tahoe is a popular place to visit for summer things to do, like waterskiing, wake surfing, and riding Jet Skis. There are many places to rent the equipment for these sports in the Incline Village area.
While it's fun to play on the water, it's even more fun to play above it. Places like Action Water Sports of Incline Village, located across from the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino, offer parasailing experiences.
During the parasailing adventure, you are strapped into a seated sling under a parachute and then pulled behind a boat, attached to the boat by a 1,000-foot-long cable. As the boat skims across the lake, you (alone or with one or two friends next to you) rise up 800 feet into the air, offering spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Bring your GoPro to get some epic photos.
17. Ride on a Steam Locomotive at the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely
The Nevada Northern Railway Museum preserves an original copper-mining railway that operated in central Nevada for over 100 years. Visitors can take a 90-minute ride on a historic standard-gauge train, pulled by a coal-fired steam locomotive.
The museum preserves and operates the original equipment, including steam engines, rolling stock, and even the tracks and stations. The Nevada Northern Railway is in the town of Ely in central Nevada, about 300 miles from Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, or Reno.
Nevada has another train museum in Boulder City, outside Las Vegas, which also has a working historic rail line: The Nevada State Railroad Museum operates the Nevada Southern Railway, which offers rides to the public on weekends. The cars, both open-air and air-conditioned enclosed coaches, are pulled by a big Southern Pacific diesel locomotive, not a steam engine. For an extra fee, you can even ride in the cab with the engineer or in the caboose with the other members of the train crew.
The museum also has other rolling stock on display, two model railroads inside a coach car, and miniature live steamers that can also be ridden.
Address: 1100 Avenue A, East Ely
Official site: https://www.nnry.com/