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10 Resolutions Every Nevada Traveler Should Make

If you’re looking to feel “resolved” this year, start with this list of bucket-listable, only-in-Nevada experiences.

New Year’s resolutions, man. Those grand plans to do things like get out and exercise more, eat better, spend less time on social media, treat yourself to some traveling… the list goes on. Every year we make ‘em, but it’s just so easy to break ‘em. 

That’s where the Silver State comes in, with plenty of ways to help you achieve all of those goals and more, in ways you’ll remember forever.

So instead of scouring the internet for short-lived fad diets and discounted gym memberships, check out our top ten only-in-Nevada travel resolutions you’ll be pumped to make, thrilled to experience, and proud you followed through with for the rest of your life—along with a few of our favorite places to turn them into reality.

1. See Lake Tahoe in all its Azure Glory

Find it on the Lake Tahoe Loop road trip

They don’t call it the “Jewel of the Sierra Nevada” for nothin’. With 72 miles of peak-studded shoreline hemming in 192 square miles of crystal-clear, opaline water, “Big Blue” weighs in as North America’s largest alpine lake—as well as one of the planet’s most breathtaking. While it’s impossible to find a bad view, we do have some favorite vantages.

On two feet (or wheels), head for the recently completed Tahoe East Shore Trail—AKA “America’s Most Beautiful Bikeway”—where three paved miles skirt the water’s edge, beach-by-beach, between Incline Village and Sand Harbor State Park. Or to almost any of the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail’s eight sections—but especially to the slice known as the Flume Trail, where 4-ish miles of mostly flat singletrack cling to the mountainside and offer sweeping, unobstructed panoramas of the lake, thousands of feet below. 

For a bird’s-eye view, take to the skies with a Soaring NV glider ride (the silence is nearly as magical as the scenery)—or jump out of them with Skydive Lake Tahoe to experience the most (literally) jaw-dropping vistas of Lake Tahoe you’ll ever see.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Join the Tahoe Polar Bear Club with a winter dip in Tahoe’s circa-40℉ waters. Even in summer, temps average in the low-60s—still brisk enough for bragging rights.

2. Have a Blast with the Past in a Real-Deal Ghost Town

Statewide

Nevada holds the rare distinction of having more ghost towns than “live” ones—more than six hundred, in fact. Remains of these story-filled bygone boomtowns range from relic-strewn mining ruins to fully intact homes and still-standing structures, all aging gently in a state of “arrested decay” and begging to be explored.

One of the most photographed ghost towns in the West, Rhyolite stands guard at Death Valley’s eastern entrance. Among its stubborn remnants, the famed Tom T. Kelly Bottle House—constructed of nearly 50,000 bottles—has been restored, hinting at the glorious eccentricity that still defines the Silver State.

Now protected as one half of Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, the mountainside-clinging ghost town of Berlin boasts fascinating 130-year-old buildings—including an impressive 30-stamp mill—which stand but a bone’s throw from the highest concentration of the largest ichthyosaur (or massive Mesozoic-era marine reptiles, for the uninitiated) fossils ever found.

Eldorado Canyon is home to the oldest and most famous gold mine in southern Nevada, which is now a mecca for photographers, history buffs, and location scouts for Hollywood movies. Tour the Techatticup Mine and explore the town that was once so remote that it became a hotbed of ruthless vigilantism. 

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

For a glimpse of the glory days, get yourself Goldfield Days in August. Witness Wild West-style gunfights, bed races, miners’ lying contests, and more.

3. Sidle Up to the Bar at a Sagebrush Saloon

Statewide

If you’re looking to really  “drink in” the history of the Silver State, set your sights on a watering hole that was part of it—or, at least, is now. But what exactly is a “Sagebrush Saloon,” you might ask? Well, it’s less polished than a “bar,” way cozier than a “dive,” and just as authentic as the adventure you took to get there. Don’t get too fancy with your orders (save those chrysanthemum martini orders for Reno and Vegas), but do defy your well-meaning parents and show up ready to talk to strangers.

Men’s Health once dubbed the Lucky Spur Saloon in the small canyon community of Kingston the “Best Bar in the Middle of Nowhere.” With its panoramic, stool-side view of picturesque Big Smoky Valley; spurs and animal traps for decor; famous Bunker Hill Bloody Marys; and proximity to hot springs, hiking, fishing, and a cave filled with thousands of some of North America’s most vibrant pictographs; the only thing we take issue with is that whole “Nowhere” part. 

If the bullet-holed Sears and Roebuck stamped tin walls of Goodsprings Ghost Town’s 1913-built Pioneer Saloon could talk, they’d probably speak of outlaw patrons, Clark Gable’s cigarette burns on the original bartop, plenty of spirits (in your glass and in the ether), and one of the best bar burgers in the state. 

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

In mid-August celebrate the most remote town in the Lower 48 during Jarbidge Days, including on a “beer crawl” between all two of the town’s Sagebrush Saloons: the Outdoor Inn and the Red Dog Saloon.

4. Dig Into Some Hearty Basque Cuisine—and Lots of it

Northern Nevada

This is the part where we emphasize that, back in the intro, we said “eat better.” That was on purpose, because, although Nevada’s historic Basque restaurants definitely serve delicious salads, they aren’t exactly Weight Watchers-approved. And they’re also usually a prelude to plate-sized, garlic-loaded steaks, braised lamb shanks, juicy beef-and-chorizo burgers, and tons of sides—all washed down with Nevada’s infamously stiff unofficial state cocktail: the infamously boozy-then-bitter-then-sweet Picon Punch.

For the full effect, opt for a multi-course, family-style feast. (NOTE: Unless you have a large party, some soon-to-be-former strangers may qualify as “family” at your long dinner table. That’s just how this works.) You can’t go wrong at Gardnerville’s 1896-established J.T. Basque Bar & Dining Room, Elko’s 1913-built Star Hotel, and Reno’s 1967-opened Louis’ Basque Corner.

“Lighter” fare can be found in the form of a juicy steak sandwich or chorizo burger. Some of our picks? Carson City’s Villa Basque Café (home of the Basque meat master who supplies many other Basques joints with their chorizo), Ely’s Racks Bar & Grill, and Reno’s Butcher’s Kitchen Char-B-Que.

We’ll say it: Visitors haven’t truly visited the real Nevada—and Nevadans aren’t real Nevadans—until they’ve treated their taste buds to this. Learn more about the Basque thread of our cultural history here.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Elko’s five-decades-strong National Basque Festival features traditional music and dancing, mouthwatering paella, wood chopping competitions, and pours aplenty of the (in)famous Picon Punch. 

5. Gaze At All the Stars in an International Dark Sky Sanctuary

Statewide

Thanks to Las Vegas’ unparalleled entertainment scene, many visitors come to Nevada to get “starstruck.” But Nevada is also home to another unbeatable kind of stellar nightlife—the kind that can only happen beneath the darkest (due to lack of light pollution) and, therefore, brightest (due to, well, stars and planets and entirely visible galaxies) skies in the Lower 48. Once you go beyond the glow of Las Vegas and Reno, you’re in for a treat; but there are a couple spots that truly earn a gold star—actually, thousands of them.

Great Basin National Park gleams with the distinction of being an International Dark Sky Park, bestowed by the International Dark Sky Association. Show up to a program led by a park ranger (here, they’re “dark rangers”) at the Astronomy Amphitheater and learn about the heavens through high-powered scopes. Or just look up; even without expert guidance, you’ll finally see how Orion’s Belt actually fits that (entire) dude.

If you, your adventure buds, and your vehicle are comfortable in the backcountry (and you’ve brushed up on Nevada’s Dirt Road Code), Nevada is home to one of only seven International Dark Sky Sanctuaries on Earth: Massacre Rim Wilderness Study Area, where the light pollution is so nil that, if conditions are right, even stars can cast shadows. Be warned: this country is about as remote as it gets. (Makes sense, right?) All camping out here is extremely primitive; however, if you’re looking for a celestial show followed by a warm bed, Old Yella Dog Ranch in nearby Vya, NV has the perfect cabin for you.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Home to the darkest skies in the Lower 48, Great Basin National Park hosts September’s free Great Basin Astronomy Festival, featuring talks by astro-experts, photography workshops, and more.

6. Feel the Magic of the Black Rock Desert—Without 69,999 other People Harshing Your Natural Buzz

Find it on the Burner Byway road trip

There’s a very good reason why 70,000+ artists, freedom-seekers, and (let’s be real) partiers flock to Nevada’s majestic, otherworldly Black Rock Desert Playa to become temporary citizens of the pop-up metropolis known as Black Rock City—Nevada’s seventh-largest urban environment—for an average of one week per year. Quite simply, it’s a magical place.

However, what most attendees to the world’s most incredible experimental social gathering never get to discover is how much more spectacular the Black Rock Desert is without blinky bike lights, conflicting BPMs, and tons of other people… many of whom only really go “camping” in a human-filled circle where you can buy ice and coffee, as well as use daily serviced port-o-potties.

If you want a real Black Rock Desert adventure, come during the rest of the year, when there isn’t a “trash fence” to contain festival attendees (which—don’t get us wrong—we’re glad it does during the event). 1.2 million acres of wide-open public land beckon you to a pristine paradise, packed with trails for hikers and bikers, wildlife running free, natural hot springs, rockhounding hotspots, OHV tracks and trails, and so much more. 

Base-camp (or set off from) the proudly eccentric town of Gerlach, “The Center of the Known Universe.”Reno day trippers frequently make the haul for guided tours of Fly Geyser (highly recommended), but the folks at Bruno’s Country Club can also point overnighters to thought-provoking, mile-long, art-lined Guru Road; the incredible husband-and-wife-run Planet X Pottery ceramic and painting studio; and the right places to enter the fabled Playa—one of the largest, flattest, most majestic places on Earth. 

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Make it out in May for Black Rock Rendezvous, when the Friends of Black Rock-High Rock hosts geology walks, history talks, group hikes, rocket launches, and more.

7. Road Trip the Extraterrestrial Highway

Learn more about the ET Highway here

Adventurers come from all over the country, world, and—depending on whom you talk to—the universe to experience this Nevada road trip rite of passage. And we don’t blame ‘em. 

The open desert outside Area 51 has long attracted paranormal enthusiasts, die-hard UFOlogists (oh yeah; it’s a thing), and kitsch-coveting travelers alike. Although you certainly can’t visit the extremely top-secret base itself, you can pilot your vessel to spaced-out cafés and curio shops, massive Lunar Crater, and beyond. 

When you spot the giant silver space dude guarding the Quonset hut—likely from miles away—you’ll know you’ve found the Alien Research Center. Stop in for an impressive array of UFO-related literature, Area 51 t-shirts, souvenirs, “alien agave” tequila tastings, and other perhaps-not-so-earthly delights.

And then there’s Rachel, Nevada—population: 70, according to 2019 US Census data. The community’s proximity to Area 51 has earned it legendary status in the hearts of alien enthusiasts, as well as on the screens of many films, TV shows, and video games. Drop by the famous Little A’Le’Inn for Saucer Burgers washed down with Alien Beers, funky photo-ops out front, and some of the oddest conversations you may ever have.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

You can’t go to Area 51. However, you can see an explosive side of the Nevada National Security Site on a tour with the National Atomic Testing Museum.

8. Embrace Your Inner Oddball at a Weird Nevada Wonder

Statewide

Nevada is a nirvana of odd, a bazaar of bizarre, a big can of uncanny, and just naturally supernatural. Some states try to hide their wackier side. But us? We double down on it. Welcome to the Weirdest, Wildest West, pal. 

And why wouldn’t we, when our state is home to things like the International Car Forest of the Last Church, the world’s largest automotive sculpture garden, where about 40 vehicles stick straight up out of the ground, straddle crevices, and balance on top of one another, flaunting ever-changing paint jobs from a rotation of resident artists?

Or the Republic of Molossia, a passport-stamping, sovereign micronation (surrounded by the “foreign” town of Dayton), where cookie dough is currency and walruses are contraband? Or Coffinwood, the part-house/part-oddball art gallery housing the mom-and-pop Coffin it Up studio, custom-makers of coffin-shaped everything—from purses to guitar cases to… well, actual coffins? 

If you really wanna put the “trip” in your next “road trip,” odd-ify your itinerary with our favorite #WeirdNevada wonders, in and around Las Vegas and dotting the rest of the state.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

More like “Scary Christmas.” Watch dozens of Santa-hatted skeletons and holiday ghouls shakin’ their bones to lights and rock music at Pahrump’s Coffinwood, all December long.

9. Go on a DIY (dig-it-yourself) Quest for Something Shiny

Statewide

If you call yourself a rockhound and haven’t explored Nevada, you’re barely scratching the surface. As one of the leading ore producers in the entire world, the Silver State is spoiled with things that sparkle. You can buy the fruits of others’ labor in plenty of great gem shops around the state, but it’s even more fun to hunt for new jewelry yourself. Turquoise, garnets, chalcedony, and so much more—just take your pick.

Just outside of Ely, Garnet Hill is named for the sizable garnets that are lodged in matrix, buried in deposits beneath the ground, and also often also just sitting right there on top of the earth—especially after a recent rain has helped sluice them upward. If you manage to strike out, you can always pick up something flashy at Garnet Mercantile in town.

Sink your pickaxe into massive tailing piles on a tour with Otteson Brothers Turquoise in Tonopah. The stars of the reality show Turqouise Fever operates a mine packed with gems spanning a color spectrum, including robin’s egg blue, cerulian, indigo, teals and beyond. Whatever you find during your excavation is yours to keep.

Fifteen minutes afield of the “living ghost town” of Goldfield lies Gemfield, situated atop one of the best chalcedony claims on Earth. Here, rockhounders routinely discover a spectrum of colorful, crystal-crossed souvenirs. There’s also an on-site rock shop and bookstore offering ready-to-take-home treasures.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

For those about to rock, Nevada salutes you. Watch pros out-mine each other at Tonopah’s Nevada State Mining Championships (May), the Eureka Gold Rush Games (June), and more.

10. Treat Yourself to an Uncommon Overnighter

Statewide

Las Vegas has long defined the global standard in hospitality and luxury accommodations, but sometimes it’s more fun to pack your sense of adventure to a more unique retreat—what we like to call an Uncommon Overnighter.

Hightail it to the alp-like Ruby Mountains in Lamoille, where two luxury yurts promise backcountry vibes and direct access to stunning wilderness. Glamp it up in the creekside, aspen-shrouded Conrad Low Yurt and fall asleep to the sounds of a babbling brook. Or truly get away from it all at 9,700 feet in the wilderness-nestled Ruby High Yurt, to which visitors can hike in or catch a lift in a chopper, courtesy of Ruby Mountains Heli-Experience; hiking (or skiing) back down the next morning is a big part of the fun.

“Full use of the castle” isn’t an amenity you find just anywhere, but it certainly is at Paradise Ranch Castle. A loving newlywed built this remote, ivory-hued, stucco “castle” for his wife. Cinderella may opt for finer digs, but we love the offbeat decor, views of the sweeping Toiyabe Range by day, and incredible stars by night. Wake to a savory breakfast before exploring the surrounding mountains, valleys, and Kingston Canyon; then kick back with a cocktail in the Dungeon bar.

Exactly what it sounds like, Tonopah’s Clown Motel boasts what’s got to be the world’s largest private collection of clown memorabilia under the sun, with thousands of pieces in the lobby and original clown art in every room. Oh yeah, and it’s haunted—and not just by the lost souls who have checked in from the Old Tonopah Cemetery next door.

Travel Nevada Pro Tip

Get our tips on exploring the Ruby Mountains—home to some of the best hiking, camping, fishing, and off-grid alpine solace-seeking this side of the Rockies—here.