K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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If you plan to visit Nevada, or you live in the state now, you’ll have a wealth of fantastic weekend getaways within reasonable driving distance to choose from. No matter what you’re looking for, from exciting nightlife and party scenes to spectacular wilderness, you’ll find it here.
Lake Tahoe straddles the border of Nevada and California just west of Carson City, and is the largest alpine lake in North America. A popular year-round playground, in the summer you can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, paddleboarding and sailing, and in the winter, some of the best skiing and snowboarding. One of the most scenic spots along the lake is located in Sand Harbor State Park, three miles south of Incline Village on the Nevada side. Here, you’ll find 55 acres of long sandy beaches, forested areas and rocky cove – the crystal clear water makes for outstanding swimming and even scuba diving.
Virginia City boasts one of the largest historical districts in the country, and it’s just a short drive from Carson City. The discovery of the Comstock Lode in the late 19th-century made it a booming metropolis with over 25,000 residents, and during its peak, it was a center for arts and culture. Visiting today is like walking back through time, strolling authentic boardwalk sidewalks, sipping a drink at Old West saloons, riding a stagecoach or even a historic train. This authentic Wild West town is also known for its haunted hotels, annual Rocky Mountain oysters stir fry and world championship outhouse races which take place over the first weekend in October.
Las Vegas may be incredibly obvious, but on a list of weekend getaways in Nevada, it really can’t be overlooked. This is the place to go for those seeking the ultimate party scene, with a party going on 24/7. There are pool parties, including an especially wild pool scene at the Hard Rock Hotel, and endless bars and clubs throughout the city serving up drink specials and all sorts of entertainment. You’ll find many other adventurous pursuits in addition to gambling too, including the thrill rides at the Stratosphere, the Mob Museum and Shark Reef.
Great Basin, in the central-eastern part of the state, is one of the newest and least visited of our national parks. It’s one of the best places in the country for hiking through high desert or climbing a mountain in relative solitude. The glacier-sculpted 13,000-foot Wheeler Peak soars into the sky above, looming out of a massive 200,000-square-mile basin. It beckons travelers to enjoy a scenic drive to more than 10,000 feet on its flank where they’re rewarded with impressive views without a lot of effort. Ranger guided tours of the Lehman Caves offer a chance to trek through marble and limestone passages with delicate aragonite crystals, bizarre helictites and rare formations known as cave shields. its isolation and desert climate also mean you can enjoy some of the darkest night skies in the continental U.S., with meteors, billions of stars and five planets all coming into view.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area is located in southeastern Nevada and northwestern Arizona, and serves as the home of thousands of plants and animals that have adapted to survive in the desert, where rain is scarce and temperatures can sizzle. It offers the chance to enjoy year-round outdoor activities, including fishing, boating, hiking, picnicking and sightseeing. There are a few hotels nearby and a number of campgrounds if you want to sleep under the stars, or you can even rent a houseboat and spend the night on the water.
If you’re a fan of trains, head to Ely, where you can visit the Nevada Northern Railway Museum to learn all about the Nevada Northern Railway, and hop aboard a historic train to ride the rails. The streets of this Wild West town hosts gun fighting demonstrations, and the railway museum itself even offers unique accommodations available that will allow to you spend the night in an actual caboose.
Reno is often considered the poor man’s Vegas, but it really deserves a lot more credit than that. It is much cheaper, but in recent years, much of it has been revitalized, with outstanding beer and cocktails served at a number of more upscale joints, with craft brewers and swanky clubs now among its mix. It also has an outstanding art museum, the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, and , the the National Automobile Museum showcases more than 200 vintage cars, as one of the largest collections of antique automobiles in the world, including some owned by Elvis, Sinatra, and John Wayne.
Carson City is another one of the smaller U.S. capital cities, but it has surprising number of outstanding museums featuring history, trains, natural history and interactive exhibits for kids as well as a ton of year-round outdoor recreation opportunities. It also offers Nevada-style gaming , but on a more laid back, smaller and friendlier scale as compared to its more famous neighbor.
Spencer Hot Springs is hidden in terrain that looks as if it’s just another sea of sagebrush, virtually in the middle of nowhere, about 20 miles southeast of Austin. The remote location keeps most people away from this incredible geothermal hotspot that features a cluster of natural hot springs, located on public land. Fans of the springs have made improvements, by creating baths out of cattle troughs, with props built for the warm waters to filter inside the tub. You can camp here too, or just visit for the day and stay overnight in Austin.
Cathedral Gorge State Park is another incredibly unique spot in Nevada that feels as if you’ve stepped onto another planet with its dramatic and unique patterns carved by erosion in the soft bentonite clay. It almost looks like a mini-version of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, with its hoodoo-like spires. Both a hiker’s and a photographer’s dream, explore the slot canyons or follow one of the hiking trails to take in those jaw-dropping views.