Top Annual Events in Nevada

Everyone has heard of Burning Man, the annual late-August week of art, free expression, and experimental community in Nevada’s remote, stunning Black Rock Desert. If you’re into colorful expressions of arts, culture, and have-to-see-it-to-believe-it experiences, the following highlight reel of classic Nevada happenings will spark your interest. From music festivals and rodeos to cowboy poetry and the oddest races you’ll ever root for, read on for gotta-see gatherings and annual events you’ll wish you’d have put on your calendar sooner.

Highlights

  • Culture Classics & Amazing Races
  • Where the West Runs Wild
  • Food & Music Fests
See Events Calendar

It’s A Date!

Culture Classics

Springing from the earliest storytelling traditions of the buckaroos who ranched and rode the western U.S., Elko’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering isn’t just about poetry and certainly isn’t just for cowboys. For nearly 40 years, this signature Nevada multi-day event has drawn working ranch hands and urban cowboys alike to its lyrical blend of the Wild West with poetry, song, video, visual art, new media and more. Also in Elko, experience the Congressionally-recognized National Basque Festival to immerse yourself in traditional dancing, music, handmade crafts, Basque rural sport competitions like woodchopping, weightlifting, and even tug-of-war. 

Stewart Indian School Father’s Day Pow Wow

And if performances are what you’re after, there’s something magical about taking in a show with your toes in the sand and the “Jewel of the Sierra” as a backdrop. Head for the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor State Park each summer to enjoy classic Shakespeareian theater outdoors, the way it was meant to be.

Last but not least, a handful of special events take place in Genoa each year, but none are bigger than the annual Genoa Candy Dance Arts & Crafts Fair. A tradition since 1919, visitors throughout the West head for Nevada’s oldest town to check out 300 hand selected vendors for a weekend of homemade crafts, goods and entertainment.  

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Imagine a town alive with a revivalist spirit, music, and ever-changing art adorning nearly every street corner and brick. In Reno, you don’t have to. Thanks to flocked-to annual events like the Reno Chalk Art Festival and the daily, month-long, celebration of art, music, theater, dance, and community for the whole family, Artown.

Speaking of art and expression, American Indian dancers, drummers, artists and craftsmen from across Nevada’s Great Basin have gathered in Carson City each June for more than 20 years to celebrate their tribal heritage during the annual Stewart Indian School Father’s Day Pow Wow. A sacred ceremonial gathering that honors the spirits and ancestors of all tribal people, the Powwow takes place at the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum—a historic boarding school that represents 200 tribes. 

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival
International Camel & Ostrich Races

Liz Huntington

Amazing Races

Las Vegas Motor Speedway grabs racing’s pole position twice a year when it hosts the world’s top drivers for NASCAR Cup Series events. But there’s plenty more racing going on all over the Silver State all year long—and not just the kind with engines and tires.

Virginia City’s got the eccentric races game cornered, hosting the World Championship Outhouse Races and the International Camel and Ostrich Races each year. And you can bet both are just as entertaining to watch—and even better to participate in—as they sound. Both spring from some unusual incidents that led to traditions, the first honoring that time the city outlawed outdoor toilets and residents protested by parading outhouses down the streets. And then there’s that other time Mark Twain’s paper fibbed about a camel race, and competitors actually showed up, camels in tow—and have been for several decades. In addition to watching jockeys bounce around on camels, zebras, and ostriches, kids can take camel rides at far more sensible speeds, too. 

Great Reno Balloon Race

The Great Reno Balloon Race is something you’ll want to roll out of the wrong side of bed for to see the 35-balloon glow show and mass ascension (also known as Dawn Patrol). Be sure to snag your spot in the bed-head competition that follows the early morning festivities. Also in the Reno-Sparks area, get your ticket to the fastest motorsport on earth at the National Championship Air Races—the world’s longest-running air race. Get a close-up look at aircraft, pilots and crews in the “pits” at this signature northern Nevada event. 

World Human Powered Speed Challenge

Out in Battle Mountain, the planet’s fastest racers bring highly engineered bikes (resembling  recumbent egg-shaped pods) to compete at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge. Each fall, racers from more than a dozen countries compete in the area’s ideal flat, straight, and high-altitude roads in an effort to break bicycle land-speed records. 

Got a need for more serious speed? Spectate or enter your own car in the Silver State Classic Challenge, the world’s fastest open road race, along a 90-mile route from Ely to Las Vegas. A handful of Guinness World Records have been set during this challenge, with one team averaging speed at nearly 220 mph!

Where the West Runs Wild

At Tonopah’s Jim Butler Days and Nevada State Mining Championships, this truly Nevadan weeklong event honors the famed “Queen of the Silver Camps” founder (and his feisty donkey) with arm wrestling tournaments, the Nevada State Mining Championships, beer, wine, whiskey tasting, live music, street dances, and tons more. To continue celebrating the history and heritage the Silver State was so sturdily built on, head for Goldfield Days. Commemorating the “World’s Greatest Gold Camp.” Expect Old West gunfights, miners’ liar contests, live music, old-fashioned children’s games, and plenty of western BBQ, all while enjoying the parade and land auction. 

Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo
Goldfield Days

From kids’ mutton bustin, to full-on bull riding, local ranch hands to world championship pros, head for Nevada’s top rodeo events. It may be a modern town, but Reno still proudly marches cattle up its main drag to the arena for ten days of classic pro rodeo action at the annually held Reno Rodeo. At Winnemucca’s Ranch Hand Rodeo, real working buckaroos go spur-to-spur for prizes (and bragging rights) in Steer Stopping, Wild Mugging, Trailer Loading, Ranch Doctoring, and more. A northern Nevada tradition since 1913—Elko’s Silver State Stampede is the state’s oldest rodeo. Founded by GS Garcia—the world-famous bit, spur and saddle maker—count on Old West Bronc Riding, the Ring of Fear, and one amazing western trade show.

Fears, Tears and Beers Mountain Bike Enduro

Come Out and Play

As the oldest enduro mountain bike race of its kind in the U.S., top names in the mountain biking community head for Fears, Tears & Beers. The race starts in downtown Ely’s casinos, as riders race past slot machines and table games before heading out in eastern Nevada’s rugged mountains terrain for uphill climbs and timed downhill runs. For more mountain biking for the amateur, pro, kid or kid at heart, head for southern Nevada’s Tinker Classic, a 3-day bike extravaganza where “Leadville meets Burning Man.” Enjoy some great rides along the edge of Death Valley, great grub and beer, live music, and an awards ceremony all while embracing all the small town hospitality Beatty has to offer.

Great Basin Astronomy Festival

Nevada is home to some of the darkest skies in the entire country. Experience the other half of the park after dark at the Great Basin Astronomy Festival. Beneath incredibly clear night skies, see the spectacularly brilliant Milky Way galaxy, and tons of other constellations, planets and nebulas from the naked eye. Or, take in the night skies from more than 30 telescopes—some as tall as 20 feet—with expert astronomers from all over the U.S. Kids can earn their deep space certificate, make special glow-in-the-sun solar bracelets, learn about our star, the Sun and more.

Food & Fun Runs

Where else can you dress among 15,000 Santas? If you’re never experienced the Reno Santa Pub Crawl—or other themed crawls in Biggest Little City—bump it to the top of your to-do list. What started as a few friends bar hopping in downtown Reno has evolved into a magical red and green scene better experienced than explained. 

Cantaloupe in the desert? You’d better believe it. Fallon’s Cantaloupe Festival and Country Fair is Nevada’s longest food focused event, celebrating the juicy, sun-ripened award-winning melons that have been beckoning visitors here since the 30s. 

Ready to hit the road on two wheels? Rumble into the Laughlin River Run—one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the West. Packed with tons of clothing and vendor booths, this motorcycle event includes stunt shows, motorcycle exhibits, and the “River Run” driving tour from Laughlin to Oatman, AZ on historic Route 66.

Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival
Laughlin River Run

Crank Up the Tunes

The world-class iHeartRadio Music Festival, staged in Las Vegas each September, has become a must-block-out-my-calendar event for performers and fans. Chart-smashing artists from every genre (think Justin Timberlake to Fleetwood Mac) headline two nights of music, while rising stars dazzle in daytime performances. If that’s not your jam, plan to check out Life is Beautiful for three days of music, comedy, food, art, and workshops across 10 square blocks of Downtown Las Vegas. More than a festival, Life is Beautiful is the celebration of a city that is much more than it seems, part of the major transformation of downtown Las Vegas as a cultural hub. 

Up north in Reno, the name OffBeat Music Festival says it all. Plan to find an eclectic mashup of musical styles, among the 100-or-so artists playing gigs at cocktail bars and taverns around the city. Hop around Midtown and downtown Reno, and you’re likely to discover at least one new fave. 

Show Me All Events

Better open up your calendar…

Nevada has never been a stranger to a good time. And for every world-famous event anchoring Nevada’s come-as-you-are, cut-loose culture, there are dozens more that are sure to steal your heart and fill up your camera roll. From big-ticket bashes in our two big metros to community-wide celebrations in every small town in between, find out where and when to whoop it up around the Silver State.

#TravelNevada

Having a blast at one of Nevada’s see-it-to-believe-it annual events? Pics or it didn’t happen. Tag your shots with #TravelNevada, and if we love your photo, you may just see us showing it off here or in our social feeds.

It's potty time! Outhouse Races are happening now. #virginiacity #outhouseraces #renotahoe #travelnevada
Brief Intermission: This week it's all about our extraordinary setting! Swipe to take a virtual vacation to our lakeside location, the theater we all love. More photos at our link in bio. 📸 Photo one by Jen Schmidt, following photos by @joystrotz.
Are you coming to #CarsonValleyNV to see the #baldeagles during #EaglesAndAg?
📸 : Troy Wright 
#whyCV #MyCarsonValley #DFMI #CarsonValley #easternsierra #hwy395 #baldeaglesofinstagram #birdsofprey #Baldealges #travelNEvada #travlegram #travelholic
Nothing compares to memories made here. #RenoRodeo
Spring Fever Revival Classic Car Poker Run is this weekend, are you ready? 😁 There's still time to register your car! Don't miss out on this beautiful Saturday cruise and fun poker run.⁠
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View the itinerary and register on our website. #SpringFeverRevival
Follow-up to the LR export post I made a few days ago. The #fearstearsandbeers #mtb #enduro is one of the most unique races around. It was the first mountain bike enduro (it's 14 years old) and where else do you get to ride your bike through a #casino? Click the link on my profile to see more photos and read all about it.
Ho! Ho! Ho! 🎅🏻 The Reno Santa Pub Crawl is tonight! It’s the largest Santa Pub Crawl in the country as thousands of merry-makers descend upon downtown to enjoy good spirits & yule-tide cheer! renosantapubcrawl 📸: geodes_
The reigning Champion has arrived 🏆
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Back-to-back American Century Champion & former Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo has arrived at Edgewood in Lake Tahoe. 
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Can he complete the Three-Peat this weekend? 
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Link in bio for a full list of everyone competing this weekend! #PlayItACC
This will be us in just THREE more days ⚡🙌🏼 What are you most excited for? #lifeisbeautiful2019
As an International Dark-Sky Park Great Basin National Park strives to help people learn about the night sky and how to protect it. Many people can't come to Great Basin in person but we don't want that to stop them from enjoying the night at Great Basin. 

Our YouTube channel has videos about astronomy at Great Basin and our Annual Astronomy Festival. https://www.youtube.com/c/GreatBasinNPS

#IDSW2021 

Image: Bristlecone on Mt. Washington with a dark blue cloudy sky with Jupiter bright in the background. NPS photo
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