Top 15 Things to Do in Nevada, from the Las Vegas Strip to the Extraterrestrial Highway

Adina Keeling Avatar

Photographer: Sydney Martinez

Every year, Las Vegas draws scores of tourists to Nevada, but the “Silver State” has lots more to offer than Elvis impersonators and slot machines. With its stunning scenery, cozy small towns and unforgettable Vegas nightlife, the state appeals to outdoor adventure lovers, families on road trips, honeymooners and party people alike. Here’s our inclusive list of the best things to do in Nevada for your next trip.

Las Vegas Strip at dusk.
Las Vegas Strip at dusk. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Try Your Luck on the Las Vegas Strip

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? Find out for yourself and hit the Las Vegas Strip! This dazzling stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard is lined with world-famous casinos and resorts, including Caesar’s Palace, Bellagio, The Venetian, The Palazzo, MGM Grand Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay.

Also known as the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas offers upscale shopping and a packed list of spas, music, comedy and circus shows for those steering clear of the casinos. Just be sure to book tickets ahead of time before they sell out.

There also are plenty of free things to do in Las Vegas. One of the best is the Bellagio Fountain Show, visible once every 30 minutes between 3 p.m. and midnight. The show incorporates lights, music and water in a mesmerizing performance that is particularly stunning after dark.

For more family fun, ask the kids to point out every iconic structure they can spot. The Strip is decorated with replicas of famous structures, including the Eiffel Tower, the Egyptian Pyramids, the Arc de Triomph, the Trevi Fountain, the Grand Canal and the Statue of Liberty. These replicas invite sightseers and photographers from all over the world.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Before you go, check out our list of what to wear in Las Vegas!

The High Roller Ferris Wheel in Las Vegas is one of the best things to do in Nevada.
The High Roller Ferris Wheel. Photo credit: Las Vegas News Bureau/L.E. Baskow

Rides in Las Vegas

For a birds-eye view of Las Vegas, take a ride on the High Roller Ferris Wheel. At 550 feet tall, the High Roller is the biggest Ferris wheel in the U.S. One rotation takes 30 minutes, and each cabin can hold up to 40 people.

The High Roller isn’t the only way to enjoy a panoramic view of Las Vegas. Take an evening helicopter ride to see the city lights from above. For an even more extravagant ride, see the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon with a once-in-a-lifetime helicopter ride departing from Las Vegas.

Or keep your feet on the ground and take a virtual flight over the US at FlyOver Las Vegas.

Revelers celebrate the new year on Fremont Street in Las Vegas Nevada
Revelers celebrate the new year on Fremont Street. Photo credit: Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau

Be Wowed by the Fremont Street Experience

If you’re looking to venture outside The Strip, head to old downtown Las Vegas, just a couple miles away. Here, you can enjoy the Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall that offers shopping, restaurants, a zip line, free shows and live music.

Much of the mall sits beneath a canopy of more than 16 million LED lights, an installation called Viva Vision. A free 6-8 minute light show plays across the canopy every hour between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Stay off the Strip in one of these great hotels in Henderson NV.

Hoover Dam in Nevada
The Hoover Dam. Photo credit: Travel Nevada/Sydney Martinez

See the Hoover Dam

Just 30 minutes away from Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam is another one of Nevada’s greatest tourist attractions. Completed in 1936, this engineering marvel attracts more than 7 million visitors each year and is an easy day trip from Las Vegas.

The dam lies in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River at the intersection of Nevada and Arizona. It stands more than 700 feet tall and provides breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and of Lake Mead, which makes up a big part of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

While Hoover Dam is free to visit, you learn a bit more by paying to enter the visitor’s center or book a dam tour. For a shopping break and a quick bite to eat, head to the gift shop and café.

From the dam, visitors can also marvel at the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, which spans the Colorado River, linking Nevada and Arizona. At 900 feet tall, this is the tallest concrete arch bridge in the world.

Reno Nevada welcome sign
Reno, also known as the “The Biggest Little City in the World.” Photo credit: Travel Nevada/Visit Reno Tahoe

Take the Family to Reno

Known for its casinos and flashy lights, Reno, Nevada is often seen as a younger sibling of Las Vegas, but “The Biggest Little City in the World,” has plenty more to offer than gambling and nightlife. Reno is home to a number of popular museums and beautiful public spaces.

While exploring Reno’s downtown, be sure to stroll through the Riverwalk District. Lined with galleries, coffee shops and restaurants, this district appeals to those hoping to escape Reno’s casino scene.

For another relaxing outdoor destination, head to the Rancho San Rafael Park, a former cattle ranch that now serves as the largest park in Reno. Spend an afternoon biking or hiking on one of the park’s trails, have a picnic in one of the open fields, or enjoy the neighboring Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

The Rancho San Rafael Park is also famous for hosting the Great Reno Balloon Race, a free event that takes place every September.

If you’re traveling with kids, don’t miss Animal Ark, a wildlife sanctuary that cares for injured or abandoned animals. For those in search of a good museum, check out the Nevada Museum of Art, the Fleischmann Planetarium & Science Center. Or stop by one of these free things to do in Reno.

Cruise through the National Automobile Museum

A trip to Reno would be incomplete without a quick stop at the National Automobile Museum. This museum showcases more than 225 cars, including rare, vintage, celebrity and one-of-a-kind cars. The majority of these cars belonged to casino magnate William F. Harrah, who collected as many as 1,400 vehicles in his lifetime.

The museum is spread across four galleries, each showcasing vehicles from a different era. Visitors can also tune into audio or guided tours to learn more about automotive history. Open since 1989, the museum is recognized as one of the 10 Best Automobile Museums in the U.S.

Rock climbing is one of the best things to do in Nevada
Photographer: Sydney Martinez

Hike in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

In search of a stunning national park? Look no further than the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada’s Mojave Desert. This natural wonder is a maze of incredible red rock formations ideal for sightseeing and photography.

Appealing to travelers of all kinds, Red Rock Canyon offers a long list of recreational activities including hiking, horseback riding, biking and rock climbing. There are hiking trails for all ages and experience levels, and a 13-mile scenic drive allows visitors to admire the views from within their vehicles.

To jump back in time, take the family-friendly Petroglyph Wall Trail and see etchings left by Native Americans more than 800 years ago.

The canyon also contains a campground. Settle in Red Rock Canyon for the night and fall asleep under the stars.

Tranquil waters at Lake Tahoe.
The blues of Lake Tahoe are not to be missed, in any season! Photo credit: Travel Nevada

Swim or Ski around Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a dream destination, no matter the season. This stunning lake straddles the border between California and Nevada and boasts crystal clear waters set against incredible views of the Sierra Nevadas.

Visiting Lake Tahoe in the summer means camping, hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking around the lake. If you packed your swimsuit, take advantage of the lake’s many water sports, including boating, kayaking, swimming and canoeing.

Some of the most incredible Lake Tahoe beaches and views can be found at Sand Harbor, one of the most popular state parks around the lake. Families can rent paddleboards, kayaks and sailboats at Sand Harbor Rentals, and grab a bite to eat at the nearby snack bar.

For those planning a winter getaway, there are tons of opportunities to ice skate, ski and snowboard while staying at one of Lake Tahoe’s many ski resorts. Traveling with kids? We compiled a list of the 10 Best Lake Tahoe Resorts for Families.

Nevada state capital building
The Nevada State Capitol in Carson City. Photo credit: Travel Nevada/Sydney Martinez

Explore Carson City

Our list would be incomplete without the state’s capital, Carson City, located just east of Lake Tahoe. This city lies at the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas where visitors can enjoy recreational activities in the mountains as well as water sports on the lake or in one of the area’s natural hot springs.

The city’s charm exceeds its impressive outdoor activities. With lively restaurants, trendy art galleries, and popular museums, this historic town also appeals to lovers of art, history, culture and gastronomy.

The Nevada State Museum celebrates the history and culture of the Silver State and the Nevada State Railroad Museum explores the state’s railroad history.

If you’re traveling with kids, you can’t miss the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada, which provides a hands-on experience that focuses on art, science and the importance of creativity and play.

Read More: Where to Stay in Carson City

A woman is doing handstands on the salt flats of Badwater Basin
A woman does a handstand on the salt flats at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, the lowest point in North America. Photo Credit Eric Jay Toll

Visit Death Valley

Death Valley is an absolute must-see for Nevada travelers. Located near the California-Nevada border in the Mojave Desert, this national park is an other-worldly wonder. The park’s sand dunes, salt flats, towering mountains and wildflower meadows leave visitors breathless.

Just remember, Death Valley is the hottest place on Earth, so make sure you’ve planned ahead. Fill your gas tank, bring plenty of water and sun hats and sunscreen for everyone.

The valley is home to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in all of North America at 282 feet below sea level. This salt lake bed is covered in crystals and dazzling geometric shapes caused by water repeatedly freezing and thawing.

There are also seven different sand dunes in Death Valley; the Mesquite Flat Dunes is the most famous. With no marked trails, the dunes invite travelers to climb the slopes for a panoramic view.

To spend a night in the valley, settle in one of the park’s nine campgrounds. The stargazing is sure to be incredible, as Death Valley is a designated International Dark Sky Park.

Valley of Fire State Park.
Valley of Fire State Park. Photo credit: Travel Nevada/Sydney Martinez

Hike in the Valley of Fire State Park

The state’s oldest and largest state park, Valley of Fire State Park, is also located in the Mojave Desert. Known for its red Aztec sandstone, petroglyphs and panoramic views, this park is particularly breathtaking at sunset, when the already vibrant colors come to life under the setting sun.

Don’t miss the fire cave, the Pink Canyon, the Rainbow Vista and the White Domes Slot Canyon. Take a scenic drive through the park, or head to one of its many hiking trails, such as the Fire Walk Trail or the Seven Wonders Loop.

Visitors pose outside of the Alien Research Center in Nevada
Visitors pose outside of the Alien Research Center. Photo credit: Travel Nevada/Sydney Martinez

Get Spooked on the Extraterrestrial Highway

When was the last time you saw a UFO? Never? Then it’s time to try your luck on Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway, a portion of the Nevada State Route 375 known for its UFO sightings and alien activity.

This strip is located outside top secret government base Area 51, which has drawn alien conspiracies for decades. To start off your galactic adventure, visit E.T. Fresh Jerky at the east entrance to the Extraterrestrial Highway. This place sells every type of jerky imaginable (think ahi tuna jerky and wild boar jerky), as well as alien souvenirs.

Next, stop at the Alien Research Center Gift Shop, easily identifiable due to the giant silver alien statue located outside the front door. Chat with some locals about the area’s wild conspiracies while shopping for alien apparel and more souvenirs.

Lastly, head to Rachel, the closest town to Area 51. Known as the “UFO Capital of the World,” this tiny city is scatterd with alien-themed tourist attractions, such as an alien mural reading “Earthlings Welcome,” an alien-themed gas station and the The A’Le’Inn, a motel and restaurant known for its “Alien burgers.”

Great Basin National Park, one of the best things to do in Nevada
An ancient bristlecone pine. Photo credit: Travel Nevada/Sydney Martinez

See Great Basin National Park

Located near the Utah border, the Great Basin National Park is one of Nevada’s most popular national parks. From limestone caves to petroglyphs to ancient trees, this national park has it all.

For a glimpse at some stalagmites, stalactites and incredible rock formations, take a guided tour of the Lehman Caves. These historic caves are millions of years old, and they showcase more rare shield formations than any other cave on Earth.

Great Basin National Park is also home to some of Earth’s oldest trees: the ancient bristlecone pine. Some of these trees are up to 4,900 years old! Head to the Bristlecone Trail to see these beauties for yourself.

Looking for a challenging hike? Take the 8-mile roundtrip hike up Wheeler Peak and be blown away by the expansive views, stunning wildflowers and alpine forests. Just be sure to start early to avoid lightning storms.

A designated International Dark Sky Park, the park also boasts an excellent view of the stars, so consider settling at a campground for the night.

Techatticup at Nelson Ghost Town in Nevada
Techatticup at Nelson Ghost Town. Photo credit: Travel Nevada/Sydney Martinez

Visit Nelson Ghost Town

There are more than 600 ghost towns in Necada. One of the most famous, Nelson ghost town, is just 45 minutes outside of Las Vegas. Originally named Eldorado, Nelson is an abandoned mining town straight from the Wild Wst.

Scattered with old cars and relics, a vintage gas station and a water tower, this ghost town has been used as a backdrop for music videos, video games and even some movies, including 3000 Miles to Graceland, so be sure to pack a camera.

Before it was a tourist attraction, the area was home to a booming gold mine. For a deeper dive into the area’s rich mining history, take a guided tour, such as the Techatticup Mine Tour.

An art installation at Burning Man in Nevada
An art installation at Burning Man. Photo credit: Travel Nevada/Sydney Martinez

Experience Burning Man

Last but certainly not least, embrace your inner hippie and attend Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert. This 9-day festival celebrates community, art, culture and self-expression. The annual event occurs at the end of every summer in a temporary city called Black Rock City.

Burning Man invites attendants to perform art, organize activities and showcase art installations free of charge.

“Burners,” a name given to festivalgoers, live in the desert for a week while practicing values like anti-consumerism and self-reliance. Tickets sell out fast, so be sure to snag a ticket at soon as they go live!

Adina Keeling Avatar
Adina Keeling is a freelance travel writer from San Diego, CA. She worked in local news for a year until her wanderlust drew her to Costa Rica, where she is now based while freelancing and traveling the world. She has lived in three different countries and traveled to 27. An avid solo traveler, Adina wants to empower other women to safely travel alone.
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