Ultimate Guide for a Staycation in Nevada: Time to Visit, Things to Do, Road Trips, Where to Stay

  • By: Nikita
  • Date: July 6, 2021
  • Time to read: 12 min.

Regardless of whether you are looking for holiday glitz and glamour or yearn for solitude in the middle of the desert, you will find what you are looking for in Nevada. The state offers one of the most diverse collections of attractions, which range from the breathtakingly beautiful desert landscape in a handful of must-see national parks to the cosmopolitan delights of high-end shopping, dining, and gaming in cities like Las Vegas and Reno. Nevada is a journey beyond destination!

Regions in Nevada

Nevada is basically divided into 4 regions- 

  • Western Nevada (Carson City, Douglas County, Lyon County, Storey County, Washoe County)
  • Northern Nevada
  • Central Nevada
  • Southern Nevada (Clark County, Esmeralda County, Lincoln County, Mineral County, Nye County

Cities of Nevada (Places to Visit)

  • Carson City – The state capital located nearby Lake Tahoe and home to the world-famous Bunny Ranch and Love Ranch brothels.
  • Boulder City – Home of the iconic Hoover Dam.
  • Ely – Features ghost towns and is nearby the Great Basin, National Park.
  • Henderson – Second largest city in the state, often considered part of the Las Vegas valley and home to many educational institutions.
  • Las Vegas – Known as “The Entertainment Capital of the World”, Vegas is known internationally for its adult entertainment venues including extravagant casinos, nightclubs, and world-class restaurants.
  • Laughlin – third most visited casino and resort destination in the state after Las Vegas and Reno
  • Mesquite – Located in the Virgin River Valley, the city is home to several casinos, resorts, and retirement communities.
  • Pahrump – Wineries and legal brothels such as Sheri’s Ranch and the Chicken Ranch.
  • Reno – Known as “The Biggest Little City in the World,” it is famous for its extravagant casinos and entertainment venues, also the birthplace of Harrah’s.
  • Sparks – The “Twin” city of nearby Reno.
  • Fernley – One of Nevada’s fastest-growing cities. Great place to Live, Work, and Play. 

How to reach Nevada

By Air- 

There are two major airports available in Nevada- McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and Reno-Tahoe International airport. McCarren International airport is located 2km from the Las Vegas Strip(South) and 9km south of the City center. 

By Train- 

Traveling to Nevada by rail is an interesting experience. Amtrak train stops at Reno, 280 North center street, on California’s Zephyr line. Another stop at Greyhound station, Las Vegas. 

By Bus- 

Greyhound serves the state, with service to small towns along the interstates. Megabus runs between Reno and Sacramento/Bay Area. To Vegas, several companies have buses from locations around Southern California.

Best time of the year to visit Nevada

The best time to visit Nevada is from October to April when temperatures are cooler. It’s an excellent time to dip in the hot springs in Boulder City, hike in the Valley of Fire, go mountain biking around Lake Mead, and ride a horse in Red Rock Canyon. From late August to early September dreamers and artists from all over the world gather for the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert. Summers are extremely hot, so escaping to some more northerly places like Reno and going tubing on the Truckee River might be a good plan.

Top 10 Destinations to Visit in Nevada on your Staycation

Las Vegas

Considered the most entertainment-filled two and a half miles in the entire world, the Las Vegas Strip glitters and glows with massive resorts, hotels, theaters, restaurants, and gardens. This famous portion of Las Vegas Boulevard, running from the Mandalay Bay Hotel to the Treasure Island Hotel, is what most visitors come to the city to see and experience.

This is where the huge resorts, like Paris, New York, The Bellagio, The Venetian, and Caesar’s Palace are located. Lit up at night, The Strip shows up as one of the brightest spots on earth when seen from space. Also worth seeing is Fremont Street in old downtown Las Vegas. Draped with a canopy of LED lights, the light show here in the evening, known as the Fremont Street Experience, is a must-do if you have time.

Las Vegas is one of the best places to visit in the US for a quick, action-packed getaway.

Hoover Dam

Built during the Great Depression as a way to provide jobs, Hoover Dam is a marvel of modern engineering. The 726-foot-high dam contains Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, and provides hydroelectric power to much of Nevada, Arizona, and California.

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Built on the Nevada and Arizona state line, the dam is just a 45-minute drive from the center of Las Vegas, or a short helicopter flight. You can walk out onto the dam for vertigo-inducing views over the edge, or look out over Lake Mead.

Lake Tahoe

The sparkling blue water of Lake Tahoe, surrounded by often snow-capped mountains, is one of the most beautiful sites in Nevada. This 22-mile-long freshwater lake, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the Nevada and California border, is a popular year-round destination.

In summer, most visitors come here to enjoy the beautiful beaches, hit some of the spectacular hiking trails, or camp at one of the many campgrounds in the area. In winter, families from across the US come here to hit the slopes at the ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area. Any time of year, you can enjoy the scenery on a lake-side scenic drive.

Several towns around the lake provide good bases for exploring the region. Lake Tahoe is about a three-hour drive from San Francisco, and under five hours from Yosemite National Park. From Reno, you can reach the north end of the lake in about 45 minutes.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

On the shores of Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, Lake Mead National Recreation Area encompasses some spectacular scenery and offers convenient access points and a variety of services for enjoying the lake and surroundings. This huge area, encompassing approximately 1.5 million acres, provides opportunities for beaching, boating, hiking, camping, and much more on the shorelines and in the surrounding mountains and canyons. The most popular section is Boulder Basin on Lake Mead, just north of Hoover Dam. Boulder Beach is a popular place for a swim or to set up a lawn chair on a hot day. Campgrounds in this area offer a beautiful setting for both tents and RVs.

Also in this area is the Historic Railroad Trail, where hikers can walk along the old railway bed and through the old tunnels. If you are looking for information, stop by the Alan Bible Visitor Center in this area, about 40 minutes from Las Vegas.

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park is one of the most striking natural areas in the state. Dramatic rock formations and sweeping vistas of colorful stone waves create some of Nevada’s most dynamic landscapes. Just an hour’s drive northeast of Las Vegas, it’s worth making the trip out here.

If you are only interested in a scenic drive, roads through the park provide stunning views of the landscape. However, one of the best ways to experience the park is from the hiking trails. These hikes are generally short and easy, but take you through some incredible scenery, including slot canyons, rock walls covered in petroglyphs, old filming locations, and other spectacular sites. You’re also likely to spot some wildlife.

Camping is popular at Valley of Fire, and the campgrounds are strategically placed in beautiful settings among the rock formations.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Located just outside of Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is one Nevada’s most popular hiking areas. The massive red rock formations jutting high above the Mojave Desert are the most striking feature, but the area covers a diverse range of sites and geological formations. Box canyons, mountains, and a look at the Keystone Thrust are some of the highlights.A 13-mile scenic drive through the park offers a look at some of the sites, but hiking trails in Red Rock Canyon offer the best access to all of the major sites. Rock climbing, road biking, mountain biking, horseback riding, picnicking, and wildlife viewing are also popular activities here.The conservation area has one developed campground with primitive facilities.

Reno

Reno is the second largest city in Nevada after Las Vegas in terms of population but is still relatively small and home to only approximately 250,000 residents. However, for a small city, it has a surprising number of impressive attractions and events for tourists.

Reno hosts the annual National Championship Air Races, The Great Reno Balloon Race, and the Hot August Nights car convention, along with a number of other popular annual celebrations. Reno is also home to the National Automobile Museum and several other interesting museums.

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Great Basin National Park

In east-central Nevada, near the border with the state of Utah, Great Basin National Park protects nearly 80,000 acres of basin and range landscape. The park is dominated by the 13,063-foot Wheeler Peak and underlain by the Lehman Caves.It also protects Bristlecone Pines that are nearly 5,000 years old. The park offers a number of developed camping sites and a wide range of backpacking opportunities. The Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive is a must-do as is the Baker Creek Road – but not in the winter. The park lies next to the massive Highland Ridge Wilderness area.

Burning Man

This pop-up city in the desert is a community-based, annual event held in the Black Rock Desert, about three hours north of Reno. This unique event focuses on art and self-expression in many forms, and attendees are expected to be involved rather than be mere spectators. The people and the atmosphere of sharing and community are what make the experience.

Held in late August and early September, Burning Man began in 1986 and has grown considerably over the years. Today, tens of thousands of people attend. Attendance levels are capped each year, and tickets sell out.

Lamoille Canyon

Lamoille Canyon lies at the heart of Nevada’s Ruby Mountains in Elko Country. The Lamoille Canyon Road is an officially designated National Forest Road that winds around the base of the 11,387-foot Ruby Dome.

The road climbs up into a spectacular 8,800-foot-high canyon that was carved long ago by glaciers. During the summer, the alpine meadows explode with wildflowers. The area is also known for its waterfalls and wildlife, with bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and a variety of birdlife frequenting the hills and meadows.The lower region of Lamoille Canyon is open year-round, but the upper section is buried under snow for several months in the winter. Popular things to do here, apart from the scenic drive, include camping, fishing, hiking, and in the winter, heli-skiing.

Things to Do in Nevada on your Staycation

Gambling

Gambling is the major industry in Nevada, directly responsible for about 20% of total employment. Gambling establishments range from huge casinos boasting slot machines, table games, and sportsbooks to small bars and convenience stores with a few video poker games apiece.

Las Vegas is the mecca for gambling and people from around the globe come to try their luck at winning big in Vegas’ plethora of expansive casinos. If you can bet money on it, you will find a location within one of any of the casinos to do so. You must be 21 years of age to gamble or be present whatsoever in a gaming area, such as a casino.

Camping

Most of Nevada is federal land managed by the BLM (U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management) or by the Forest Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service). Self-sufficient campers can camp free of charge on land under the management of either agency as long as camping doesn’t interfere with other legitimate uses. Both federal agencies also have developed campgrounds where fees are usually charged. Fees vary by location, averaging about $5 at BLM campgrounds and $10 at Forest Service campgrounds. There are two National Parks (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service) in Nevada: Great Basin N.P. in east-central Nevada and Death Valley N.P. straddling the California-Nevada state line. The Park Service offers developed campgrounds where fees are charged and a no-fee primitive campground. 

Hiking

Most of Nevada lies within the Basin-and-Range geographic province, so there are literally hundreds of mountain ranges. Some ranges are short, ten miles (16 km) or so, but others are over a hundred miles (161 km) long. Several ranges have well-developed trails, however, others are just beginning to be discovered by enthusiastic hikers, who often make their own routes from backcountry jeep roads, cattle or game trails, desert washes, and crosscountry travel which the lack of dense forests makes fairly straightforward. Perhaps not the place for novices to venture alone, however, intermediate hikers will find abundant opportunities.  

Eat and Drink 

Restaurants in and around casinos in Reno, Las Vegas and Tahoe especially cater to the dietary whims of urban California. Notable chefs have opened restaurants worth a detour from the usual tourist activities. Buffets in casinos are often heavily subsidized in hopes that those who come to eat will stay to gamble. The more upscale examples offer surprisingly good food and plenty of it.Outside of these tourist meccas, food takes on a western character. This is certainly the rule in small town cafes, but also in casinos along borders with Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona drawing a western clientele with different dietary preferences than Californians. 

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Mighty 5 Road Trip in Nevada

Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive

Red Rock Canyon is an area of worldwide geologic interest and beauty; a maze of canyons and peaks, ledges and chimneys, chutes and gullies. The 13-mile Scenic Drive through Red Rock Canyon allows visitors to explore the highs and lows of the canyon from their vehicle or bicycle, with many scenic stops and trailheads along the way. 

Distance: 13 miles

Route highlights: White Rock, Willow Springs, Red Rock Canyon Overlook

When to do it: Year-round.

Big Smoky Valley Scenic Drive

This drive passes through the Big Smoky Valley, cutting into Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s snow-topped Toiyabe and Toquima mountain ranges as they rise from the desert. The route then passes the foothills of the San Antonio Mountains before descending into desert and the sweet town of Tonopah.

Distance: 118 miles

Route highlights: Toiyabe Range, Hadley, Carvers, and Kingston.

When to do it: Year-round

Burner Byway

There is nothing like a wide-open highway that will make you fall in love with road trips all over again, and there is no better place for a wide-open highway than Nevada! Trace the route Burners take every August on their annual pilgrimage “home” to Burning Man from Reno, out to the Black Rock Desert and beyond.

Distance: 205 miles

Route highlights: Gerlach, Black Rock Desert, Guru Road

When to do it: Year-round

Valley of Fire Scenic Byway

Valley of Fire State Park is known for red sandstone formations, which illuminate the valley, making it look like it’s on fire. This byway is just under 11 miles and connects both the east and west entrances of Valley of Fire state park. Just after sunset and just after sunrise, when the rocks are particularly luminous, are the best times to see how the park got its name.

Distance: 10 miles

Route highlights: Elephant Rock Vista, Seven Sisters Vista, Petroglyph Canyon Trail

When to do it: Year-round

Offbeat Places to Stay in Nevada

The Venetian – Las Vegas

At The Venetian, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the romance of Venice, Italy without traveling to the other side of the world. Couples will enjoy being serenaded as they float down the Grand Canal in an authentic Venetian gondola.

Clown Motel – Tonopah

Tonopah’s Clown Motel is full of clowns. Lots and lots of clowns! If clowns don’t creep you out, you’ll definitely want to stay at the Clown Motel. If you’re really brave, request a second-floor room for a great view of the Tonopah Cemetery. It’s packed with graves of miners who died unpleasantly and several guests have reported seeing their spirits.

Bonnie Springs Ranch – Las Vegas

Bonnie Springs Ranch was originally built in 1843 as a stopover for the wagon trains going to California down the Old Spanish Trail. This ranch is located in the heart of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and its guests will enjoy Old Nevada Town–a replica of an authentic 1880’s mining town.

Silver Queen Hotel – Virginia City

You’ll be transported to the past when you stay at this 134-year-old hotel that offers 28 beautifully restored rooms. The Silver Queen Hotel is one of the most haunted places in Nevada. 

Wildflower Village – Reno

Wildflower Village includes Reno’s only bed and breakfast. Also on site is a coffee house, a pub, art galleries, a wedding chapel, a gift shop, art studios and apartments. If you choose to stay at Wildflower Village, you’ll undoubtedly have a unique art experience. 

Budget for a Vacation in Nevada

Nevada is one of the expensive state because of its entertainment fields. The cost of your vacation will depend upon the activities you choose.

For a basic expenses- 

Food – $60- $100

Hotels – $52-$240

Travel – $40- $80 

Total expense per day- $150 -$400

Whether you are looking for holiday glitz and glamour or yearn for solitude in the middle of the desert, Nevada is the best place fo your vacation!