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Put the trip in road trip with a one-day (or longer) side adventure to some only-in-Nevada sights that will bend the mind and feed the soul
Arrive in Las Vegas
Stayover: Las Vegas
Only in Nevada:
Las Vegas is never short on entertainment, but if you’ve ever been up in the High Roller at night, wondering what is beyond the line where those bright lights abruptly end, here is your chance to find out. This carnival of loops is enough to keep the most dedicated road trippers amused for days with weird, wild and wonderful, only-in-Nevada things to see and do. This curated trip of a lifetime can be done a la carte or as a full-on, multi-day adventure through southern Nevada.
Leg 1: Neon to Nature
Distance: 97-330 km
Stayover: Boulder City. The historic Boulder Dam Hotel offers guests the taste of a classic era with modern comforts and amenities, like the Boulder City/Hoover Dam Museum, an art gallery, and a speakeasy-inspired lounge with live entertainment.
Experience the Neon to Nature Road Trip, designed in a versatile three-pronged, hub-and-spoke format, allowing you to plan your adventure at your own pace. Whether you’re up for a laid-back journey spread over three or four leisurely days or craving an action-packed adventure packed into just two days, it’s all up to you. You can choose to tackle each loop on its own or conquering them all in one go by overnighting in Boulder City.
Loop 1: Red Rockin’ 97-175 km
Hit the open road to nature loving greatness beginning with the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center where you can view a live desert tortoise habitat or pick up some hiking pro-tips from the rangers. The Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive is truly awe-inspiring, and at 20 km, you can also travel it by bike or e-bike if you’re feeling ambitious. (Be sure to book ahead). Meander on to Spring Mountain Ranch state park for heavenly hikes and historic sites, and satiate your wilderness appetite at the Pioneer Saloon after spirit-chasing in Goodsprings Ghost Town.
Loop 2: Fire & Water | 195-280 km
Back when dinosaurs roamed the Silver State, Valley of Fire was gradually taking shape. Visiting this remarkable state park (Nevada’s first and largest) is a must-do for road-trippers. Experience mind-blowing vistas from atop other-worldly sandstone formations, play hide-and-seek with bighorn sheep and revel in the awe of discovering signs of early human life. Check out 300,000 years of human history—and absolute quiet—at Gold Butte National Monument or wander ancient Puebloan culture at the Lost City Museum.
Loop 3: Colorado River Corridor | 112 to 400 km
The Hoover Dam is a modern marvel of engineering and there is no better way to see it than from an 886-foot-high, 1,905-foot-long viewing bridge—the longest in North America. If you’d rather get up-close and personal with the mighty Colorado River, stop for a hike, paddle or hot spring soak before moving on to Boulder City—your over night stop for a quiet place to feed your Art Deco obsession while soaking up history in fascinating museums, perusing idyllic shops and sampling great eats. Finally, in Laughlin, located at the edge of the Colorado River, immerse yourself in a resort atmosphere. Be sure not to miss the opportunity to explore the fascinating Techatticup Mine on a guided tour or venture off the beaten path to discover the intriguing Nelson Ghost Town, where you can uncover hidden gems and experience the allure of Nevada’s rich history.
Leg 2 ET Highway (Route 375)
Distance: 160+ km | Loop from Las Vegas: 750 km
Stay over: Experience the captivating history of downtown Tonopah by staying at the iconic Mizpah Hotel. Nestled in the heart of the town, this historic establishment serves as a significant testament to the town’s mining boom and bust.
You know you’re in Alien Country when little green dudes peer at you from everywhere—from hotels to highway landmarks—and your curiosity antennae start to vibrate at the chance to see the Black Mailbox and cruise the vicinity of the Nevada Test and Training Range, which includes the mysterious Area 51.
From Vegas, drive north for just shy of two hours (175 km) until you hit Crystal Springs—the junction where the Middle of Nowhere aka the ET Highway begins. On the way, check out the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, explore petroglyphs and insane rock formations at Mt. Irish Wilderness Area or view massive earthworks and arches at Basin and Range National Monument.
From Crystal Springs, jet toward the tiny town of Rachel, where you can strike a pose at the ET Highway sign, pick up an out-of-this-world souvenir from the Alien Research Center gift shop and reach out to an interplanetary ally at the infamous Black Mailbox.
Don’t forget to snap a shot with the alien mural in Alamo before revelling in local chatter over Alien Beers and Saucer Burgers at the Little A’Le’Inn.
For the final stretch of the ET Highway, head to Tonopah, where you can moonwalk in a 430-foot-deep lunar crater, explore the depths of our planet at the Tonopah Historic Mining Park or stay on alert for paranormal activity at your digs for the night, the Mitzpah Hotel.
Leg 3 Free-Range Art Highway (US-95)
Distance: 828 km total | 335 km from Tonopah to Las Vegas
Stay over: Las Vegas, or give the Pahrump Nugget Hotel & Casino or the Saddle West Hotel & Casino a try.
The Free-Range Art Highway transcends artistic expression to a new level, making Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas seem tame by comparison. It plunges you into a psychedelic blend of art, the American West, and vibrant small towns. Expect encounters with sagebrush saloons, quirky clowns and eerie haunts, creating a captivating fusion of creativity and culture.
From Tonopah to Beatty, discover the extraordinary International Car Forest or marvel at the eccentric “art cars” meticulously crafted by Rocket Rob in Goldfield. For an eerie yet intriguing experience, brave the haunted Clown Motel lobby in Tonopah, surrounded by countless clown figurines. But don’t rush to sleep just yet, as the mesmerizing dark skies in this area offer an unparalleled spectacle that will leave you in awe.
Larger-than-life, brain-breaking sculptures mystify the imagination in Beatty’s Open Air Museum, which is ranked among some of world’s most incredible places to experience art. Check out seven colossal sculptures that include a ghostly life-size version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting of “The Last Supper,” a 25-foot pink cinder block woman, a 24-foot steel prospector, complete with penguin sidekick, and a finely-carved winged woman who reaches for the sun from her pillar. This museum is anything but ordinary.
Mid-way between Tonopah and Las Vegas, take a detour to Pahrump, the perfect launchpad for experiencing the extremes that mark this diverse region, including Death Valley National Park, the hottest, lowest and driest place on the continent; Mt. Charleston, Nevada’s fifth-tallest peak; the world’s rarest fish and the planet’s oldest trees; edgy, no-BS biker bars and award-winning wineries.
Return to Las Vegas
Once back in Vegas, keep the arts adventure rolling. Make the iconic stop at Seven Magic Mountains before hitting Fremont East, where vintage neon signs, Google fonts and out-of-this-world art stretch for blocks. And who knew Las Vegas had an Arts District, aka 18b, where the Graffiti Art Gallery Alley, funky cafés and antique alley have something for every creative taste.
Extend your exploration of #weirdnevada on the Free-Range Art Highway all the way to Reno from Tonopah. Along the way, you may encounter old school neon and even spot majestic bighorn sheep. Make sure to visit the free Hawthorne Ordnance Museum to see a pretty awesome collection of explosives. Just past the scenic Walker Lake, you’ll find the artistic oasis of Fallon, featuring the Oats Park Art Center. Finally, reach Reno, where bohemian vibes, vibrant public art, culinary delights and the unique “burner” culture await your arrival.
Learn more about road trips, adventures and exploring Nevada at Travel Nevada | Expedia and Travel Nevada | iTravel
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