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NOTHING BEATS NEVADA: HOW TO PUT A SPIN ON THESE ROAD TRIPS
 
(2023 - Fall/Winter Issue)

Writer: LISA KADANE



The lure of shopping, shows and luxury resorts draws travellers to Nevada’s biggest city, Las Vegas. But beyond the nighttime sparkle of the Bellagio’s fountains or the glow of neon signs, unexpected gems await outside the city limits.

Hitting the open road is the best way to explore Nevada. You’ll soon encounter otherworldly red rock landscapes, funky free-range art, and only-in-Nevada oddities. Here are a few road trip ideas that give a glimpse of Nevada beyond Las Vegas.

EXPLORE A LANDSCAPE OF EXTREMES

A two-hour drive northwest of Vegas brings you to Death Valley National Park, the hottest, driest and lowest elevation spot in the United States. Prepare for the park’s desert scenery with a stop along the way at Red Rock Canyon, a national conservation area that’s just 27 kilometres west of the city. Stretch your legs on trails that take you past red-banded sandstone formations and whimsical Joshua trees.

Carry on to Death Valley and head for Badwater Basin, a vast salt flat that’s 86 metres below sea level. You can walk among the hexagonal salt shapes, formed by water evaporation. Other park highlights include Artists Palette, a drive past hills striped purple, pink and green from minerals in the rocks, and Zabriskie Point, a view over impressive badlands that glow gold at sunrise.

Consider staying overnight in Furnace Creek in order to visit the impressive Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, which are on the way to the Rhyolite ghost town. This mining town went bust and was abandoned in 1920, but its crumbling buildings are some of the most photographed in the west. From here, it’s an easy drive back to the city.

APPRECIATE ART IN UNEXPECTED PLACES

What do painted boulders, stacked cars, and colourful murals have in common? They’re all stops on the Free-Range Art Highway, a road trip between Las Vegas and Reno that passes by unconventional artistry in the middle of the desert.

Make the Neon Museum—a collection of neon signs from iconic Vegas establishments—your first stop before heading out of town. From there, it’s a quick drive to Seven Magic Mountains, where nine-metre-tall towers of painted boulders stand as unlikely sentinels guarding the arid Mojave.

Farther north, the art installations continue along Hwy. 95 in Beatty at the Goldwell Open Air Museum, a sculpture park created by a group of Belgian artists. You’ll be awed by the ghostly figures that compose a life-size 3D version of Da Vinci’s Last Supper.

Your day will get even weirder at the International Car Forest in Goldfield, a collection of old automobiles that have become the canvas. Wander through a graveyard of painted cars that seem to erupt out of the ground. Before your car decides to grow roots and join the metal masterpiece, continue north.

Your final destination is Reno and its hip midtown district that’s alive with public art, including some 100 murals. Instead of driving there in one shot, think about breaking up the trip in Tonopah and staying at The Clown Motel—this creepy inn displays more than 2,000 clown figurines.

QUENCH YOUR THIRST ON THE SALOON CIRCUIT

During silver boom times, miners slaked their thirst at bars located in towns all over Nevada. These historic “Sagebrush Saloons” now serve beer and burgers to road-tripping tourists.

American flags and “Wanted” posters adorn the Happy Burro Chili & Beer in Beatty, so named for the wild burros that roam the town. Order a hot dog or burger topped with chili, and wash it down with cold beer served in a mason jar.

At Iggy & Squiggy’s Junction Bar in Gardnerville (cash only), you can try a “Nevada Martini”—Coors or Pabst Blue Ribbon served with gourmet olives. And be sure to sidle up to Nevada’s oldest bar inside the Genoa Bar & Saloon in Genoa. It’s a heritage brick building on the outside and filled with saloon Americana within—wooden bar stools facing a diamond dust mirror, chandeliers overhead, and vintage photographs crowding the walls.

If these don’t satiate your taste for the Wild West, it’s just another road trip past more surreal scenery to seek out the rest of the state’s saloons.

TRAVEL PLANNER 

Visit TravelNevada.com and search “Road Trip” to plan your own Nevada road trip or book your travel to Nevada with itravel2000 and see itravel2000.com/promotions/nevada

 
 
 
 
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