Life is Beautiful Music Festival

Life is Beautiful

Mural Compass: Nevada’s 7 Most Colorful Communities

The Silver State shines in every shade across hundreds of vibrant murals in select arts districts around the state. Here’s where to find them.

The Silver State is aglow with all manner of art, from open-air folk art installations to swanky fine arts galleries and everything in between. However, some Nevada towns and communities are decorated wall-to-wall (literally), with murals that liven up neighborhoods with a range of styles as wide as the color spectrum. 

Discover seven vibrant Nevada destinations that call to the art-ogling adventurer in everyone, get sneak peeks of some prominent pieces, and then come paint yourself a picture-perfect visit. 

Las Vegas Arts District

Even though millions of Las Vegas residents already loved their city, one common generations-long criticism was that, despite offering more entertainment than just about anywhere else on Earth, there remained a lack of “local” hangouts and commercial districts—neighborhood hot spots that weren’t in strip malls or on public property. 

Finally, in 1998, the Las Vegas Arts District was officially designated. Nicknamed “18b” for its 18-block footprint (located just a handful of blocks southwest of Downtown Las Vegas), the zone has become a “cultural explosion” of art galleries, funky antique shops and boutiques, chic cafés, and bars—all backed by a totally fresh, locally driven vibe behind it all. 

In 2013, the formation of the Life is Beautiful Festival turned the public’s spark of support for public art into an absolute wildfire, and it’s never once slowed down. Today, wherever you venture in this melting pot of vintage boutiques, galleries, shops, foodie hotspots, and other hip, right-now hangouts, it’s hard not to see a mural. (Load up this map and hunt for them all on a self-guided tour.)

However, the most popular epicenter is easily Graffiti Art Gallery Alley—the multi-block array of outdoor canvases between California and Colorado Aves, west of Main St., where all artists are invited to prove to the world how wrong people are about the term “graffiti.” The panels change constantly, so each new visit promises a fresh experience. 

While 18b is easily Las Vegas’ most art-centric district, murals in all manner of styles (and scales; some are several stories high) can increasingly be found all over town—but especially in Downtown Las Vegas. Download a PDF map and guide here.

Midtown & Downtown Reno

The Biggest Little City in the World has come a long way from its days as “just” a premier casino town. Today, you’ll find bohemian shops, a dynamic music scene, an all-the-time events lineup, a local-centric foodie landscape, and more public art than you can shake a selfie stick at—including murals ranging from classic graffiti lettering and illustration to landscape and realism portraits. 

Start in Midtown, Reno’s hippest, happenin’-est ‘hood, where more than 80 murals by local, national, and international artists punctuate a two(ish)-hour stroll that also passes by funky shops, swanky bars and bistros, and more. This map is a great starting point!

Meanwhile, a few blocks north in Downtown Reno you’ll find 40 more murals, including many that adorn huge surfaces — like parking garages and tall alley walls. Other pieces of public art, like sculptures that debuted at Burning Man, will wow along your way.

Sparks Art Walk

Reno’s next-door neighboring town to the east calls to art-inclined amblers with an easy art walk around Victorian Square and Downtown Sparks. A downloadable map leads you to several murals painted by prominent local artists—including within Great Basin Brewing Co., where hand-painted imagery adorns each outdoor patio table. Each piece has a QR code that puts behind-the-scene details on the art and interviews with artists in the palm of your hand.

Visit the Sparks Art Walk’s Off the Beaten Path guide for descriptions of the murals and artists themselves, along with info on exhibits at cultural institutions, historic landmarks, and several eye-catching monuments and memorials, like iconic Last Chance Joe, the de facto mascot of Sparks.

Elko Mural Tour

In 2019, more than 40 artists headed for Elko to drape its 19th century-built downtown in a kind of modern visual vibrancy meant to match the community’s storied cultural history. Within three days, 60+ murals suddenly covered nearly 30 walls—painted by artists from around the state, country, and globe—with many highlighting northwestern Nevada’s ties to Basque, American Indian, and buckaroo cultures, as well as plenty of other wilder styles thrown in for good measure.

Be sure to pay homage to Erik Burke’s mural on the wall of Ogi Deli Bar & Pintxos, which features a Basque girl and aspen trees, which the Basque community’s living elders “carved” their signatures into the trunks of. This piece kicked off the fest and, according to many accounts, helped ease some less-enthused locals into the idea of their proud cowboy town becoming a rural mural mecca. Turns out, it can be both.

While you’re hoofin’ it around “the last cowtown in America,” be sure to swing into JM Capriola Co. and its sister museum, the Cowboy Arts & Gear Museum, to appreciate some of the nation’s finest gear-making and leatherwork; the Western Folklife Center (home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering) for annual exhibitions from horse cultures around the world; and Duncan LittleCreek Gallery for contemporary arts of all media, before sidling up to the Gallery Bar to toast your day’s adventures over fine cocktails and nice wine.

Fernley Mural Makeover

The latest addition to Nevada’s mural scene made its entrance in May of 2022 in the form of the inaugural Music, Murals & Margaritas Festival. While the small town—perhaps best known as a gateway to the Black Rock Desert, where Burning Man goes down—has adopted some intriguing sculptures over the years, this single-weekend makeover yielded 27 incredible murals all over its public places and private business spaces. 

Keep it on your radar for the future, as the City of Fernley and Sierra Arts Foundation plan to keep this celebration of live tunes, stiff drinks, and live-painted art rolling into the future (on walls and electrical boxes and in parks). Scope them out when you cruise through while tackling the Burner Byway, Cowboy Corridor, or Loneliest Road in America road trips. 

Ely Mural Walking Tour

Most Nevada adventurers find themselves in Ely for the day (or night) while road-tripping the Loneliest Road in America and/or the Great Basin Highway—routes marked by ghost towns, solace-steeped scenery, and Great Basin National Park—and we’re here for all of that. 

However, art aficionados also owe it to themselves to take the self-guided, downloadable, audio-accompanied, 29-stop walking tour of Ely’s murals, sculptures, and other public art—all of which pay homage to the historical achievements and vast cultural diversity of the people who made this town what it is today. (View or download it here.)

Afterwards or on the way, be sure to stop into the Ely Art Bank, a repurposed financial building that now houses permanent collections and a converted-vault gallery of for-sale paintings, jewelry, photography, and more—many of which feature Ely and the surrounding region as subjects.

Tonopah Murals & Monuments Walk

The silver-strike boomtown known as the “Queen of the Silver Camps” doesn’t take its history lightly—but, rather, brightly—and it shows across this easily walkable town’s eight murals, each of which depicts a scene from its intriguing past. A self-guided tour also includes 10 monuments and sculptures, which echo the same sentiments in fascinating, photogenic ways.

As you poke around, be sure to take in some Victorian opulence at the Mizpah Hotel and the Weird Nevada take on all-things-Bozo-fied art in the lobby of the notorious Clown Motel. Afterwards, head 30 minutes down the Free-Range Art Highway (US-95) to wander among the ever-changing junk-car canvases that grace the International Forest of the Last Church

Bonus Points: Austin T-Shirt Mural

OK, so this one’s not really a “mural” in the sense of the others. But if you are cruising into or out of Austin along the Loneliest Road in America, watch for the tiny little laundromat shack on the western edge of town. There’s a plain, white painting on the outer wall that, we assume, was created to indicate what the place is. Get a shot of you or a travel bud “wearing” the painting, DM it to us over social media (we’re @TravelNevada on all the things), and we’ll be sure to send you something fun.