Leaving the bright lights of Las Vegas, you’ll find a different side of Nevada. The neon and skyscrapers give way to sagebrush and sand. The nightlife is less Celine Dion and more crickets and constellations. But rural Nevada has a beauty all its own. It’s the wide-open American West with a history that seems to come to life around each curve in the road.

The state of Nevada is home to more than 70 million acres, most of which is publicly managed as open range, national forests and parks and wilderness marked by breathtaking scenery ideal for hiking and exploring. This unspoiled terrain ranges from glistening snowcapped mountains and deep blue lakes to grassy meadowlands and surprisingly beautiful desert landscapes.

The best way to experience all that Nevada has to offer is to fly into one of the state’s two international airports, Reno-Tahoe International Airport or McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, rent a car and explore the open road for yourself.

Reno is a hub of activity in Northern Nevada, and the pristine Lake Tahoe is just an hour’s drive away.  Traveling the road around Lake Tahoe is the ultimate “Sunday Drive.” While there are several destinations at the lake that make the trip worthwhile, the real payoff is the spectacular natural scenery. The road itself is the destination.

There are several spots to pull over and take in the sweeping views of Lake Tahoe, so be sure to check your camera for film and batteries before you get out of the car.  The Sierra Nevada mountain range is nearly always snow-capped, providing a beautiful contrast to the blue lake and green hillsides.

The “South Shore,” which encompasses Stateline, Nev., and South Lake Tahoe, Calif., is the most populated area on Lake Tahoe’s shore and has everything a traveler could need. Here you’ll find the action of 24-hour nightlife and gaming to luxury spas and alpine skiing.

Lake Tahoe is just one destination within an easy drive from Reno. For western “cowboy” culture, check out Elko about four hours east of Reno.  To discover the rustic charm of historic gold-mining towns, take a drive on U.S. Highway 50, known as “The Loneliest Road in America,” that crosses the middle of the state.

The southern end of the state is also alive with history, adventure and lots of exciting resorts and casinos. Bright lights lure travelers into Las Vegas via McCarran International Airport. But the open terrain and breathtaking landscape lure travelers beyond Las Vegas and into the wide-open expanse of the Southern Nevada desert.

Natural hot springs dot the map of Southern Nevada outside of Las Vegas. There’s nothing quite like sitting under a starry sky with only crickets and the wind to serenade you while you soak in the steaming water.

About an hour from Las Vegas is Valley of Fire State Park, and visitors quickly understand how it got its name as the sun sets and seems to set the rock mountains aflame with brilliant red and orange hues.

Other popular destinations include Laughlin, a popular gaming town about two hours south of Las Vegas perched on the banks of the Colorado River.  Or those who want an out-of-this-world experience can head north toward Rachel near the famed Area 51. Rachel is a hub of UFO sightings and rumored super-secret military aircraft tests.  The road to Rachel is aptly named the Extraterrestrial Highway for its moon-like landscape and stories of alien visitations.

Nevada is the perfect state for hopping in a car and exploring the open road while the sun beats on your face and the wind whips through your hair. There’s a little something for everyone either in the excitement of Las Vegas and Reno or along the quiet western highways.  For more information or to plan your trip, visit www.travelnevada.com.