There are infinite mind-blowing adventures you should be striving to snatch in the Silver State, from bagging some of the tallest peaks in the most mountainous state in the lower 48 to kicking back in a natural hot spring in subzero temps, hiking into the best known pictographs in North America to belaying off the biggest, best outdoor rock climbing gym in the whole damn world, or dropping a new line at the highest base in the Tahoe region. Those you’ve got to work for a bit, but the kooky stuff? Most of it’s sitting right here waiting for you. We got our game tight in that arena.
If you’ve been lucky enough to have crossed over that beautiful border, I’d be willing to put it all on red, betting you’ve experienced some #WeirdNevada—whether you wanted to or not. After all, it’s all around us… deliciously unavoidable. Let’s see, a creepy-ass clown themed hotel that lies adjacent to a cemetery full of miners who met their fate in a mining disaster over a 100 years ago? GOT IT. The largest man-made crater in the world? Yep, totally in Nevada. A “forest” of perfectly balanced junk cars, giant fluorescent rocks stacked in the Mojave, an entire highway devoted to little green men, and a sovereign nation smack dab in the middle of a rural town. NO DOUBT! The world’s largest taxidermied polar bear, an entire official museum exhibit memorializing the Las Vegas Showgirl, and Mark Twain’s bathtub? Oh yes, we got all that too. Embrace it, and participate.
Bust out that DSLR and get ready to break the internet with your Instagram feed. Don’t even try to pretend you don’t want to get up all up in some of that #WeirdNevada.
1. A "FOREST" OF CARS IN GOLDFIELD
Down to participate in dragging some old broken down cars into the desert and making them into art? Then you, my friend, need to grab yourself some spraypaint and hightail it to Goldfield. On land that was formerly part of the “Last Great Gold Camp in Nevada,” three German families purchased different plots of land for the novelty of owning a piece of the American West. Then a modern day desert renegade posted up on the land and developed an unconventional art gallery with his buddy. Together, they curated funky old cars considered to be plain junk and pumped new life into them by creating interactive exhibits. Most cars you see at the International Car Forest of the Last Church are perfectly balanced in some way or another, either propped against a giant boulder or stacked on top of each other or even straddling a natural crevice… and of course painted by anyone who wants to participate, pros and amateurs alike.
2. THUNDER MOUNTAIN: A COLLECTION OF RANDOM STUFF FOUND IN THE DESERT, THEN GLUED TOGETHER TO FORM A MONUMENT
Ok, well maybe cemented together. If you’re traveling down I-80, this is assuredly a stop worth stretching your legs at, and I bet will be one you’d have to try hard to forget about. Maybe you’ve even caught a glimpse of it already and just didn’t know it… you’re blowing down the highway covering some serious ground, see a structure worthy of a Cormac McCarthy novel on the side of the road and think to yourself, “What did I just see??!” Believe it: this is an actual attraction—one you can totally go inside and check out for yourself—and you’ve got Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder himself to thank for it. After being offered a job anywhere in the nation in exchange for plat maps (they’re a thing), his Imlay presence was a happy accident after his car broke down on the side of the road. His methodology in creating Thunder Mountain was simple: live completely off the land, using some next level resourcefulness. Everything you see [and trust me, there are a ton of buildings and sculptures going on] was made out of something found on the side of I-80 or somewhere near it, repurposed into structural materials, and fused together with cement for some not-so-typical amusement.
3. FIREWORKS, AMATEUR TAXIDERMY, AND A SMALL-BUT-MIGHTY FIREWORKS MUSEUM
Honestly, what more do you need out of a trip to Nevada? From dining to recreation, you can have similar experiences in just about any state, but when it comes to Battle Mountain’s Roller Coaster Fireworks Outlet, there simply is no comparison. This whole #WeirdNevada thing? It IS the culture, and boy howdy, is Roller Coaster Fireworks Outlet right on the money. Between the personal advice straight from the [taxidermied] horse’s [grinning] mouth to the boundless variety of fireworks, the Cassorla brothers are sure to leave a mark, but in a good way. After relocating to Nevada from New York, this proprietor duo have devoted every essence of their being to selling some badass explosives, while making sure you leave aware of all the laws surrounding them (no matter where you plan to set ‘em off). They’ll hook you up with the right setup to light your fire, point you in a direction where you can actually test ‘em out, and show you historic and not-so-legal-anymore fireworks from days past in their small but impressionable fireworks museum. Oh, and don’t be shy about their go at taxidermying a cat, horse’s head, and real-life chupacabra. Talk about an afternoon to make those memories go boom.
4. EXTRATERRESTRIAL HIGHWAY EXPERIENCE
With less than a total of 200 cars a day on the ET Highway, you could say there’s room for that wild imagination of yours to run wild. From start to finish, there are a series of #NVBucketList-worthy experiences you should be striving to bag while rambling down this lonely stretch of road. Grab some road tripping snacks and “Drop Your Toxic Waste at the Cleanest Restrooms in Area 51” at the start of your journey at ET Fresh Jerky [think flavors like Turkey Terrestrial Teriyaki]. Cross your fingers in hopes that the Alien Research Center is open for a quick souvenir, pay homage to the legendary Black Mailbox memorial, and commit to a Nevada rite of passage by snapping a pic of yourself laying down in the middle of this infrequently traveled route. Just do yourself a favor and don’t forget you’re laying in the middle of an actual highway or, despite the odds, you could end up with a shot like the one pictured above. No matter how the shot ends up, it’s ALWAYS worth it.
5. ...AND THE ENTIRE TOWN OF RACHEL
Don’t think that the zaniness of the ET Highway ends when the pavement does. This tiny, off-the-beaten-path Nevada town is the ONLY thing located along this famed route, so you’re basically required to stop and check it out… and the only establishment to do is the Little A’Le’Inn. You know that movie Men In Black? You know, the part where crazy aliens look like regular people? Yeah, that’s kind of what this place is like—the characters you meet and the stories they tell are unlike any other. Between motorcycle clubs, military personnel, people with exotic accents from faraway places, or the guy who lives up the street, the people in this place know how to spin a yarn. Pony up to the bar for some hard-to-beat convo with locals, order up an Alien Stout and don’t be afraid to get chatty. At this very weird Nevada favorite, you’re sure to go home with more stories than souvenirs [but you can snag those here too].
6. SENSORY OVERLOAD ON FREMONT STREET
Just like the experience itself, it’s tough to really figure out where to start on this one. OK, imagine the Las Vegas Strip. Even if you haven’t made it there yet, it’s easy to picture, based off what you’ve seen in the movies, right? Bright lights, interesting people by the thousands, live entertainment, loooooads of loud noises, and a blatant legalized open container standard you just can’t fight. Well, you can take all that, and multiply it by a bazillion and you’ve got Fremont Street—AKA the OG of Downtown Las Vegas. Long before the Strip, there was Fremont Street… the original main drag where people ranging from Frank Sinatra to Elvis were spotted on the regular. Oh, and mobsters, too. LOTS of mobsters. Today, the street is open to pedestrian traffic only and enclosed by infinite LED lights [highest concentration on Earth], which has seductively preserved a Vintage Vegas vibe paired with the most bizarre street performers you’ve ever seen in your life. When walking down this throwback streetscape, picture Transformers channeling a Chippendale vibe, scantily clad Showgirls of the non-professional variety, yoked out Hercules, and deranged Cupid impersonators trying to earn a quick buck for a posed picture with them. It’s weird, but so totally a notch in your Nevada street cred belt that I know you’re dying to earn.
7. APPLE II DOOMTOWN AND THE J.C. PENNY MANNEQUIN CREW
Plan ahead and get organized, because the Nevada National Test Site Tour is one you’re going to want to be part of. To say this mega-historic site that was [and still is] critically important to National Security is very seriously guarded is the understatement of the millennium. Surprise, surprise: this totally IS a tour that’s open to the public; you just have to be on the ball. Every year, they announce upcoming tour dates that are totally FREE. You just have to pay attention and sign up. And when you do, it’s hard to not be romanced by the incomprehensibly alluring Apple II test site. Maybe you remember back to your high school history class, learning of staged homes that were totally nuked while nationally televised? Yeah, THAT’S APPLE II. Back in the 50s when above-ground tests were still going down out there, scientists were trying to figure out how atomic blasts would impact real, live communities. So what did they do? Built an entire series of homes made of different building materials, spaced different distances from ground zero and stockpiled them with working appliances, filled the pantries with food, and even parked working cars in the driveway. They wanted to make this as realistic of possible, so to up the ante, the government partnered with J.C. Penny to outfit the homes with mannequins dressed in their company swag, staged in typical lifestyle scenes. What’s left of these mannequins are in the museum downtown, but walking right up to houses that survived the blast is unlike any other: humbling and terrifying all at once. Plan out the tour, you won’t be sad you did.
8. ALMOST DRINKING THE KOOL-AID AT DIANA'S PUNCHBOWL
Only a few miles from the geographic center of Nevada is where you’ll find it: a gigantic yet unassuming boiling cauldron in #middleofsomewhere Nevada, masked as nothing other than a pile of dirt. To the trained eye, you’ll know this is the Doctor, Lawyer and Indian Chief of hot springs… if only they were safe enough to enter without literally boiling to death. Although this place begs for the ultimate soak, it’s true: it’s unsafe to enter. If you managed to gracefully land the 30-foot fall from a sheer 90-degree drop off, good luck dealing with the water—it’s just below boiling point. Not the biz. But this “Journey to the Center of the Earth” style spring is worth checking off the list to say the very, very least. At high noon when the sun’s just overhead, the place is nothing short of desert-mirage type stuff. A Caribbean-esque sparkling shade of blue with unknown depths will definitely feed that wild imagination of yours—a prehistoric megalodon has to be jumping outta this thing any second. Despite some serious temptation, any hot spring aficionado will know to embrace the code on this one.
9. ROCK AND ROLL ALL NIGHT... AND PUTT-PUTT EV-E-RY DAY
KISS ARMY, UNITE! Time to be a “Strutter” with that putter because, folks, we have ourselves a real-deal mini golf course entirely devoted to the American rock band KISS. Sometimes it is too good to be true. [This time it’s 1000% real.] Tucked inside the Rio, visitors can expect to get down in a full scale KISS experience sure to reinvigorate the senses. From the neon and blacklight displays to the non-stop KISS soundtrack, from trivia to the rock ‘n’ roll wedding chapel, it’s safe to say that this place sets the mood for even the bougiest music enthusiasts. I mean, Gene Simmons’ oversized tongue even rolls out of an interactive display, taunting you into refining that putting stroke. After you play the 18 holes, go back through the course to drink in some serious museum-quality memorabilia, like Eric Carr’s Porsche, every KISS album since inception signed by every member, and an original 70s vintage KISS pinball machine. Oh, and “Shout It Out Loud” on those feeds to instigate some serious IG FOMO. With a place this over-the-top, how could you honestly resist?
10. A VERY SCI-FI TUFA SITUATION AT PYRAMID
It’s hard to realign myself when joking, but it’s true: if you want to see what the bottom of the ocean looks like, come to Nevada. In this case, it’s very much true. To the untrained eye they may just appear to be boring rock formations… but the landscape surrounding Pyramid Lake is so. much. more. This ancient lake [along with a few other lakes in Nevada] is what’s left of a 21,000 year-old prehistoric sea—Glacial Lake Lahontan. Over the course of thousands and thousands of years, the landscape changed in a very serious way… mainly with a drastic drop in water level. What once were completely submerged under water slowly became more and more exposed over time and, today, are completely above ground altogether. What’s part of a mountain to us today was probably the bottom of the dang sea back then… total mind blower, right? But the thing is, these aren’t just basic rock formations; they’re TUFA FORMATIONS. These crazy, otherworldly type formations going on take shape in lakes with a high alkalinity—or a “soda lake.” Tufa forms when it’s covered in water [meaning this all went down ages ago—think 26k years], but happens when underwater springs pump out calcium-saturated water. When the spring water meets the alkaline water, the calcium and carbonate salts go haywire and form this crazy limestone situation—TUFA. If ya don’t know, now ya know.
11. THE REPUBLIC OF MOLOSSIA
Guys, there’s an entire independent nation inside Nevada that I bet you’ve never even heard of, and you can bet your sweet bippy it's nothing short of a delicious dose of #WeirdNevada. Dayton is a town that’s most commonly associated with old-timey sorta Wild West stuff… the Pony Express, part of the Loneliest Road in America, and the site of Nevada’s first gold discovery. But a random, sovereign nation, smack-dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood? Never even saw it coming. Loaded with the craziest quirks like an official customs station, a national instrument and its own postal service, Kevin Baugh and his wife Adrianne formed the Republic of Molossia decades ago. Aside from the Harmony Province in Dayton, the Republic of Molossia has wrapped its mitts around land in Pennsylvania, southern California, a giant chunk of the Pacific Ocean floor, and about 50,000 square miles on planet Venus. Now officially referred to as His Excellency President Baugh and Madame Adrienne, this duo welcomes visitors to their sovereign nation by appointment. Bring a passport to be stamped… get into it. Just be sure you leave your incandescent light bulbs, catfish and onions at home—those contraband items will be strictly confiscated at customs.
12. WINNING A SUPER BOWL THAT HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH FOOTBALL
Remember that Atomic Test Site stuff I was describing above? How you need to get on a tour STAT to enjoy a bevy of crazy bucket list-worthy stuff and all of that? Yeah, well I’m about to hit you with another reason to get on top of that tour schedule: the Nevada National Test Site is also home to the LARGEST MAN-MADE CRATER IN THE WORLD. Dial up Google Maps and you’ll see this thing in the upper right chunk of the very locked down test site. Aside from being as close to Area 51 as you possibly can with a visit to Sedan Crater, you can stand near the rim of a 320-foot crater that was created after 104 kilotons went boom. This thermonuclear explosion moved 12 million tons of earth… an underground explosion that would replicate a 4.75 magnitude earthquake. Tons of fallout resulted from this big ass explosion; it wasn’t even safe to enter the bottom of the crater for 7 months after the detonation due to radiation exposure. Although this test certainly left its mark it wasn’t all bad… this uncannily redefined landscape provided NASA a choice training ground for lunar missions. Why? There’s nothing in America more similar to the lunar landscape than Nevada’s craters, natural or otherwise. But that comes later [if you’re impatient like me, jump to #33].
Atomic testing left a weird mark on Nevada… this weird subculture emerged and continues to be totally fantastic. Bars, hotels, all kinds of businesses opened up claiming they had the best poolside view of atomic bomb testing on the horizon and it WORKED. An entire Miss Atomic Bomb beauty pageant even materialized, crowning beautiful women as “Miss Atomic Blast.” That in itself is super flipping amazing, but get this: Nevada gets another fat brag because the bikini debuted at these pageants for the very first time in history. It’s true, though this belly button-exposing garb was first revealed Paris and NOT well received, the clothing designer outfitted pageant contestants striving to be Miss Atomic Blast. Specifically, the bikini was first shown during a 1946 beauty pageant showcasing the “four triangles of nothing”...an homage to a highly covered nuclear test named Operation Crossroads that went down earlier that year… on the Bikini Atoll of the South Pacific.
13. WARNING: DON'T EAT THE LIBRARY PASTE
Hey, who knows, maybe he died doing what he loved? I don’t know if it was the library paste that mutilated him or if no one truly knew who this dude was. But bottom line? Some guy slurped down enough glue during Goldfield’s gold boom to kill him. It’s totally sad that someone lost their life to such a silly snack, but the fact of the matter is this: this tombstone is just ONE of the graves with a gut-busting epitaph. Remember, this was back when it was acceptable to actually spell out what led to your demise. While most other Nevada cemeteries deliver by describing ill-fated mining accidents or death by ambush, actually dying from library paste and then having it broadcast on your grave for all of eternity is a game changer. See this offbeat headstone and other colorful passing inscriptions at the historic modern-day cemetery in Goldfield.
14. TOWERING DESERT DAYGLO
By now, you should get it: when it comes to art in Nevada, it’s far from the norm. We march to the beat of our own, uhhh, palette, and things start to get to a point where it’s too good to resist. Let’s be honest; your car will probably naturally veer toward the exit as you try to figure out just what in the heck is going on out there in the otherwise natural Mojave desertscape, but if it doesn’t naturally take over, grab a hold of yourself and exit quick-fast in a hurry. The reason? The delightful dayglo you’ve eyed on the horizon is Seven Magic Mountains—an exclusive art installation that’s entertaining the masses on borrowed time. Other than being the perfect backdrop for an IG-worthy post, this temporary installation is a pretty baller engineering feat, to boot. Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone is the man behind this southern Nevada color explosion, and went to extravagant measures like sourcing and shaping native boulders before carefully stacking them just perfectly. The impressively distributed, massive amount of weight is compelling enough to merit a visit, but the vivid colors Rondinone integrates is another dose of Nevada neon sure to garner some immediate Insta-attention.
15. TOMMYGUNNING YOUR WAY INTO A DELICIOUS VINTAGE VEGAS MOBSTER VIBE
If you’ve ever felt the surge of adrenaline ripping through your body like a freight train from hell after firing a live action Tommy Gun, can somebody please fill me in? Yeah, didn’t think so. Not much else compares to firing a gun that even trained professionals caution you about. “Pull the trigger and hang on for the wild ride” are real things staffers at The Gun Store are coaching you. Lucky for me [and all of us, TBH], the burly-built staff dudes are there to stand strong bracing your shoulder as you Rambo your zombie apocalypse target to smithereens. If a Tommy Gun isn’t enough juice for you to get your rocks off, not to worry. You can pull back just about any trigger you can imagine at The Gun Store, like an Uzi, AK-47, or Desert Eagle Five-Oh. But if I were you, I’d start with the Tommy Gun, because VEGAS.
16. CALLING ALL ROAD TRIP GURUS
Fancy yourself a ride-or-die road tripper? Maybe you’ve dipped your big toe in the Loneliest Road, or gotten deep into some off-grid bliss on the Rubies Route. BUT. A road trip that’s sure to deliver a dose of #WeirdNevada every step of the way? The Burner Byway as a whole is pretty out there, considering it’s chock-full of Burning Man sculptures from years past, an official Burner hostel and random Shrek-shaped statues beckoning everyone “home.” But the real cherry on top is the storied Guru Road, adjacent to the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada. If you’ve been living under a rock, this is where 70k people cut loose at Burning Man each August. Like Reno, a bit of an unintentional counterculture emerged leaving a traces of Black Rock City magic and, in this case, we have DeWayne “Doobie” Williams to thank for that one. Guru Road’s collection of desert-style art was Doobie’s brainchild, delightfully oozing funk out of each weathered crevice. On Highway 34, aka Guru Road, visitors can drink in a slew of motivating sentiments, a tribute to Elvis, stacks of old appliances, the “Desert Broadcasting System,” and quite an assemblage of curated animal skeletons. Do I sense an #NVRoadTrip coming on?
17. SEQUINED, FEATHERY GOODNESS
When it comes to official state entities, I am failing to think of any other museum in existence that has an entire wing devoted to SHOWGIRLS. Can I get an amen? It’s true, even our official Nevada State Museums pack a punch, because honestly, where would Nevada be without properly glorifying these glittery goddesses? Showgirls are to Vegas like the Statue of Liberty to New York. Totally synonymous and I, for one, am all for it. At the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas, visitors can get an endearing lowdown on all the Nevada greats, but one particular exhibit swinging for the fences is the Showgirls, Showgirls, Showgirls. Breaking down the importance of this Nevada icon, one sequin at a time, this mega-unique exhibit hashes out the beauty, artistry and of course over the top, in-your-face extravagance behind Vegas’ longest running Parisian cabaret-style shows. Peruse photographs that have been locked down in archives until now, actual stage costumes worn by performers, and personal stories straight from these showstopping babes themselves.
18. FEAR FACTOR: NEVADA EDITION
If the creepy clown vibe isn’t enough to spook your run-of-the-mill, stable-minded person, the historical cemetery entombed with those who perished in a mining accident might just be the ticket. Oh yeah, and it’s not just the fact that you can literally step out of your hotel room and into a cemetery, the miner ghosts are supposed to haunt the dang place, too. So where is that you can pay to have this freaky experience for yourself? Only in Tonopah, baby, at the illustrious Clown Motel. When visiting, brace for life-size clown statues in the hotel lobby, and dozens upon dozens of clown figurines everywhere in sight. Oh yeah, and you can even get your very own clown nose for a couple bucks. If that’s not enough to send you running for the hills, count on some eerie clown portraits hanging over your actual hotel bed staring down at you, as you try to catch some shuteye. YEAH. Directly adjacent to this trucker-hailing accommodation, guests can peruse the century-old cemetery—the final resting place for 14 young men who died in a horrid mining accident. Whether it be a spirit reminiscent of IT, or an angry miner, there sure are enough stories coming outta this place to substantiate a serious haunting. We’ll let you be the judge of that one.
19. COFFIN IT UP AT COFFINWOOD
With a name like Coffinwood, I totally get it. You might be sizing this place up as a straight up gloomy bummer. In all honesty, what else would you expect? It’s overwhelmingly magnetic... but with such a focus on death, it’s gotta have a sad vibe, right? Man oh man, how it couldn’t be more of the opposite situation happening in this quiet Pahrump neighborhood. Meet Bryan and Dusty Schroering, the masterminds behind their charismatic coffin-themed business: Coffin It Up. Inspired to make actual coffins for people who were getting reamed by exorbitant funeral industry costs, this impressionable husband and wife duo opened up shop with one mission in mind: to make all the custom coffin-shaped swag you can ever dream of… coffins for human and pet burial included. Bringing the old-school, 6-point coffins back to life, Bryan has been commissioned by some pretty fancy celebs to make one of a kind pieces. Jeff Hanneman of SLAAYYERRR hired Bryan to make some custom coffin-shaped furniture for his home, and one time a coroner challenged Bryan to make him some coffin-shaped luggage. No item is out of the question—Bryan is a true artist and has some bad ass carpentry skills to prove it. Coffinwood itself is what they call their home and property—which mind you, can be seen from outer space. All the specially designed coffin-shaped structures are a dead giveaway. Tour Bryan’s workshop, peruse the pet cemetery, check out their award winning hearse collection and hey, even say “I Do” on a not-so-common wedding ceremony in a church none other than the official “Church of the Coffin,” of course. Did you honestly expect anything less?
20. A CHOICE AFTERLIFE FOR YOUR FAV PAIR OF KICKS
People pulling over on the side of the road and tossing their shoes on a random tree? Like hundreds of pairs of shoes among other random relics? Yeah, been happening for decades. NBD. It all started with a pair of newlyweds returning home after tying the knot in Reno. They got in their first major fight as husband and wife, flipped out on the side of the road, some terse words were exchanged, and someone had to walk home… without any shoes. Push came to shove and they made up, returning to the tree every anniversary to commemorate making it another year by tossing another pair of shoes up on the tree. Well, that’s the way the story goes anyhow... Oh, and it’s not just an very strange tradition that’s persevered all these years—the real shoe tree was cut down by vandals in 2010. It didn’t take long for outraged locals and visitors alike to spring into action, decorating the nearest tree with decades worth of poor unfortunate soles. Like laying in the middle of the ET Highway, this little diddy is one of the greats… quite simply a Nevada rite of passage. Check it out, embrace its weirdness, and most importantly participate.
21. THE GHOSTS OF GOLDWELL
As if the most photographed ghost town in the entire dang state amped up by the largest and oldest still-standing bottle house in the world aren’t enough to reel you in... hang on tight because it’s about to get even better. Rhyolite is one of those places where you get a serious bang for your buck in just about every way I can come up with. Western heritage, amazingly picturesque ruins with photo ops galore, an idolized lady of the night, and super cushy access to Death Valley National Park. But then there are the famed Ghosts of the Last Supper—one of those places you see in photos and say “WHOA, where the F is that?!” And guess what? When you show up, this thing totally delivers, too. To me, it’s insane to think about artist Albert Szukalski’s brainchild sitting in the very hot Nevada elements for over 40 years, looking like they were just installed. He’s the man behind the lego-looking woman, prospector and penguin and other installations, but the Goldwell Ghosts are, without question, the main event. Modeled after Leo Da Vinci’s actual Last Supper, Szukalski created this interpretation using real people as models. What does that mean? Standing inside the molds is actually a possibility for a spooky snap. Up the ante even more, and show up during the annual Perseid Meteor Shower for a real face-melter of an evening.
22. CHANNELING SOME REAL DEAL OCEANS ELEVEN VIBES
If you are under the impression that Nevada’s gold mining days are a thing of the past, you’re sorrreelllyyyy mistaken, suckaz. Obviously we are sometimes called the Silver State because we produce boatloads of silver, but I bet you’d be surprised to find out that the State of Nevada is still ranked as a top five gold producer in the whole dang world, going toe to toe with entire nations. It’s fun to think those mining days are gone, but the reality of it is they’re far from over. We’re still out here producing hundreds of tons of gold each year. Though the largest known gold nugget in the world was discovered in Australia [another of those top five producers], the Hand of Faith nugget was sold to none other than Vegas’ Golden Nugget Casino. Call it a hand, but to me, this thing looks more like the size of both my arms put together. It was discovered in 1980 using a metal detector [crazy, right?] and a place to hit up when you’re on Fremont, cause if you’re down here i know you’re already knee-deep in that #WeirdNevada.
23. A SUMMER OF '69 VISIT FROM CHARLIE MANSON AND HIS GANG OF NUT JOBS
Juuuuuuuuuuuust before Manson’s murderous brainwashing kicked into high gear in the fall of 1969, he and his clan of misfits were frequent visitors of southern California and Nevada deserts. I mean it makes sense, right? Their bizarre philosophies were rejected by anyone of sound mind in metro areas (besides certain Beach Boys…), so they retreated to places with little to no population where they could really go full-bore cray-cray. There’s still so much spiritual solace out there to be enjoyed without going off the deep end, but it’s no secret that Manson’s cult hung out in some Nevada desertscapes right before the killing sprees started. Death Valley is a common one for sure, but he and his devotees allegedly made it out to Belmont—one of the best ghost towns in the entire state—for a multi-week camping bender. At the time, neither Nevada State Parks or the Friends of Belmont Courthouse had stepped in to preserve the Belmont Courthouse, but the place was under the watchful eye of a full-time caretaker. Story has it that he and his cult following showed up, were promptly greeted with the business end of a shotgun, and redirected to Pine Creek Campground in Monitor Valley. They didn’t actually spend the night at this storied icon, but he did manage to leave his killer John Hancock before hitting the trail.
24. ELKO'S WHITE KING
Nevada is definitely a long place from anywhere that you can actually see a polar bear in the wild, which makes this entire situation that much stranger, IMO. Right in the middle of the Last Great Cow Town in America stands a glass-encased 10-foot-4-inch taxidermied polar bear—the world’s largest to be exact. Weird, right? So how in tarnation is this thing in the middle of a place where it doesn’t belong, where you can’t actually see one in the wild? The White King was killed in Alaska by an Eskimo hunter at some random time decades ago that no one can really nail down. It was a long time ago... let’s leave it at that. When it was bagged, it weighed in at a whopping 2,000 pounds and got shipped to Denver to be taxidermied by some dudes called the Jonas Brothers (not those ones), confusing the masses for all eternity. It was, and still is thought to be the largest dead polar bear on the planet. The capper? The White King can be admired inside the Commercial, which just so happens to be Nevada’s oldest casino. #recordsonrecords.
25. PINBALL HALL OF FAME
So many machines of so mannnny vintages. Just when you thought that the slot machine was the only light-up, thrill inducing game to play in Nevada is right where this whole thing starts to go sideways because that’s straight-up false. You, my friend, have forgotten about the Pinball Hall of Fame, which is totally within walking distance of the Las Vegas Strip. Here, expect to flip out over the world’s largest collection of pinball machines in the world—a staggering 152 tables of all vintages, and 54 arcade machines, too—ranging from early woodrails and wedge heads to brand spankin’ new releases… from ultra-rare or experimental designs (Cactus Canyon… Pinball Circus!) to classic universal favorites (Twilight Zone, Addams Family). It truly is impressive and off-kilter all at the same time. All I’m saying is, if you have a game in mind, these dudes have probably got it. Better yet, if you fancy yourself a pinball connoisseur (a pinhead, but in a polite way), you can totally make your fury official by joining the rankings of the 206 registred Pinball Hall of Famers. Bring quarters or exchange your greenbacks for pockets full of ‘em.
TravelNevada PRO TIP: This is not some hip Seattle game bar! (Or any kind of bar!) Leave your booze in your room or risk getting kicked out.
26. OH, JUST A 12,000-YEAR-OLD POOL OF WATER THAT MAY CONNECT TO OTHER PARTS OF THE EARTH THAT WE CAN'T FIGURE OUT. NBD.
I get it, it sounds like i’m blathering on about some legit sci-fi sorta stuff straight off the silver screen, but I can back that this place is not only real but not as remote as you might think. Part of the Death Valley National Park, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is where you’ll find the entrance to DEVILS HOLE. This thing is on serious lockdown because it just so happens to be home of the first species ever added to the Endangered Species List and the world’s rarest fish, but I’ve already geeked out on that elsewhere. The entire fish thing is brag-worthy on its own, but there’s something about this dang cavern I can’t turn my laser focus away from. In the grand scheme, the opening is tiinnnyyyy—only about 8 by 60 feet. The earth opened up 60,000 years ago, and it became an isolated pool with the Devils Hole Desert Pupfish about 12k years ago. The thing is, the water in this thing is so crystal clear, that, together with the limestone walls create just about every color of the rainbow. The water itself? What scientists call fossil water… meaning it’s taken 15,000 years to travel underground to this very spot. The tiny opening is enough reason to probe what lies beneath, but here’s the kicker: we as humans can’t understand just how deep the thing is… as in people have gone missing and never returned, and no one has ever discovered the bottom. Researchers think it could be connected to other parts of the world, too. In 2012 a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Mexico [a place that’s 2,000 miles away, mind you] created a tsunami here. All that, annnnd this was allegedly another one of creepy ol’ Charlie Manson’s hangouts, too.
27. THE NEON BONEYARD
What happens when old-school Vegas casinos are torn down, or that throwback vintage sign that was impressive in the 60s is suddenly no longer “cool” in the 90s? They accumulate in random places. Whether it be in some dark, cobweb covered corner of a Vegas casino, in some dude’s garage, or split up by random letters and sold in an out of the way thrift store, these unusual [but very important] threads of Nevada history tend to split up if someone’s not keeping tabs on them. And in this case, this very specific thread is under the watchful eye of the folks at the Neon Museum in downtown Las Vegas. Many of these deliciously retro signs were sold off to random people in other states, fell victim to time, or were repossessed by YESCO altogether… that is, UNTIL the Neon Museum became, well, the Neon Museum. Thankfully, some very smart curators realized that these works of industrial art were part of Nevada’s DNA… if they were stripped from Nevada, it would be a total loss. Born in 1996, the Neon Museum has been saving literal tons of these vintage signs from an unsavory fate ever since. Some have been brought back to their original glory and are working again in downtown Las Vegas [thanks to a lot of funding and special care], while others are stored in what is a fully tour-able BONEYARD. In the museum, visitors can expect to pursue working and non-working signs anywhere from a few feet to several stories tall, all while getting a complete historical rundown from a museum expert. Whether you’re drinking in some neon at this must-see, or coming across it in the “wild,” it’s safe to say we’ve got the neon market cornered in all the right ways.
28. A SINGING SAND DUNE
You’re traveling an otherwise particularly isolated stretch of the Loneliest Road in America, come ‘round the bend, and there it is: a gigantic, totally out-of-place mountain of sand. I’m talking 6 stories tall and several miles long… just like someone came out there with, oh, several hundred dump trucks worth of sand as a pet project. WTH? Yeah, a #WeirdNevada qualifier for sure. This thing, believe it or not, is what’s left of a gigantic, prehistoric glacial lake [really an ocean by most standards] that covered most of northern Nevada about 12,000 years ago. The water dried up over time, and a lot of its sandy beachline accumulated in one place—right outside Fallon on Highway 50. As if the sight of it alone isn’t crazy enough to merit a visit, it’s home to a very specific type of butterfly found nowhere else on the planet: the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly. PLUS, it’s the site of a former Pony Express Station that was uncovered in recent history after decades of being totally buried in sand. Oh, and this thing sings. Gigantic mountains of sand are not super rare [there are several in Nevada alone], but what makes Sand Mountain a bit off kilter is the fact that she groans… and is one of only a few in the world with this stellar quality. This natural sound phenomenon can reach 105 decibels, lasting as long as several minutes.
29. DIG THIS! BULLDOZER PLAYGROUND
Ok, so maybe the only type of earth you’re moving at Sand Mountain is what’s kicking up behind you as you tear around the super bowl. But what if you want to move some seriously amounts of material without securing your spot on an archaeologists hit list? Then Dig This! Bulldozer Playground is your jam. Because who doesn't want to go out for a rip in giant tractors digging up massive amounts of earth on a trip to Sin City? Talk about a perfect way to unleash the fury behind those casino losses. Besides, if you say you want to go big in Vegas, you have to do it on all fronts… in this case, it just happens to include heavy machinery. Yeah. As nutty as it sounds, you can roll up to this place with zero heavy equipment operating experience, choose your rig, and go to town. Plain, yet delightfully simple. Hey, they’ll even pick you up from your Air B&B or hotel and bring you here. Wrap those digits around the wheel of a bulldozer, excavator, track loader, or get down to it and opt for the “Aggression Session”... where you can actually smash a perfectly good car to your hearts content. #BecauseNevada, ya dig?
30. A 1960s BOND-STYLE HIDEOUT MEETS WALL-MELTING "FEAR AND LOATHING." WITH GUMMY WORMS... LOTS OF GUMMY WORMS
Anyone aiming to channel some serious Fear and Loathing vibes? Well then! The Fireside Lounge, in both Vegas AND Reno will aim to please. Both are part of Peppermill properties, and channel this incredible, unmatched 1960s Bond Tiki Bar meets walls-are-melting sorta situation. No matter which undeniably-Vegas vibe you’re aiming to accomplish, The Fireside swiftly delivers both. Voted as the best Vegas bar to have your bachelor party in (by Playboy, of course), the minute you step off the casino floor and into this throwback delight, you’ll be working this oddity into each and every Nevada excursion from here on out. Here’s why: to start, there’s this weird, tropical outer space vibe going on, complete with a neon-ish, blacklighted situation you can only get away with inside a casino. Yeah, it’s that good, but manages to get better. Most of the bar tables are actually recessed, floating firepits… surrounded with a 90s R&B-style blue fire glass with red crushed velvet seats. Oh, and Sir Mix-A-Lot and Destiny’s Child will sign, seal and deliver the ambiance because guess what, each fireside seat comes with a mini flat screen TV blasting throwback classics… just in case you’re not wooed enough by your very curated surroundings. Order up their specialty array of 30 oz. tropical drinks with gummy worms spilling over the top and get into it… you’re so totally in bat country now.
31. LUNAR CRATER: THE STUFF KARATE-CHOPPING DREAMS ARE MADE OF
World’s largest man-made crater? Got it. But natural craters? Betcha booty we got it, too. Oh, and get this: they’re both oddly close to each other, to boot. The infamous atomic blasts that happened at the Nevada National Test Site went down almost directly south, but what you see at Lunar Crater is alllllll natural, baby. Aside from it’s eerily close proximity to the ET Highway, it’s not just me catching some alien-esque vibes from this place. It’s so otherworldly, that it was classified as a “terrestrial analogue site” when we’re trying to get a dang American man on the moon. Basically meaning it was a perfect place to train astronauts how to walk on the actual moon. In fact, 11 of the 12 American moonwalkers trained in Nevada craters before their missions, collecting rock samples, doing checklist procedures… you name it. Although there are over 20 extinct volcanoes in the area, along with some obsidian-laden ancient lava flows, the main event in these parts is Lunar Crater. This thing is 430 feet deep [compared to Sedan’s 320 foot depth] and formed about a bazillion years ago when volcanoes were going gangbusters and groundwater collided with hot magma. The crater formed and—boom—it’s here for you and all of your karate chopping needs for the rest of time. #WeirdNevada