From the arid Mojave Desert to the glitzy lights of Las Vegas, Nevada is a state of stark juxtapositions. Although most people will think of Las Vegas when thinking of Nevada, the state has many things to see and do, as well as a rich history. What is Nevada known for? In just one state you can ponder with fellow enthusiasts about what is inside Area 51, check out Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S. and you can immerse yourself in Nevada’s cowboy country. Let’s take a closer look at what Nevada is famous for, from its history to its culture and natural landscapes.
What Is Nevada Known For
1- Las Vegas
The most recognisable city in Nevada and one of the most visited cities in the U.S. is Las Vegas.
Dubbed Sin City because of its gambling, stripping, and drinking culture, this city is as crazy as people say.
Las Vegas is the place for entertainment.
Filled with grand and iconic landmarks and hotels, Vegas is in complete juxtaposition to its Mojave Desert surroundings.
The Las Vegas strip is the city’s main artery and features incredible restaurants, resorts, and shows.
There are a myriad of things to do in Las Vegas like checking out the Bellagio Casino and fountains, watching a Cirque du Soleil show, pretending to be in Italy at the Venetian Casino grand canal, or checking out New York-New York and the big apple roller coaster.
In 2023 the $2.3 billion MSG Sphere, nicknamed the “eyeball”, opened as the newest weird and wonderful Las Vegas attraction.
Whether you are visiting Las Vegas for an entertainment filled getaway or you’re simply passing through on a road trip around Nevada, Sin City is well worth visiting.
2- Area 51
Area 51 is the name given to a highly classified U.S. Air Force facility in southern Nevada close to the small towns of Rachel and Hiko.
Area 51 is brimming with secrecy and conspiracies to boot. Everything that goes on at Area 51 is extremely secret.
Armed guards, warning signs, and surveillance cameras deter people from going too close to the place.
This mysterious facility is next to two other restricted military spaces: the Nevada Test and Training Range and the Nevada Test Site (where US nuclear weapons were tested during the Cold War).
Area 51 was created during the Cold War when there was testing, and development being done on the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird planes.
The mystery continues with Area 51 as its existence was only officially acknowledged by the CIA in August 2013 despite the site opening around 1955.
Area 51 has a strong association with UFOs, aliens and sci-fi!
The most famous theory about Area 51 is that it houses an alien spacecraft which crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.
Despite the government’s declaration that the spacecraft was in fact a weather balloon, many alien fanatics still believe other worldly things are going on there.
3- Death Valley National Park
Nevada is well-known as being mostly desert.
Death Valley National Park is a unique landscape in southwestern Nevada with much of the park being in California as well as Nevada.
Death Valley features salt flats, mountains, sand dunes, canyons and rainbow-coloured mountains.
The hottest temperature ever recorded on earth was 134 °F (56.7 °C) at Furnace Creek, Death Valley in July 1913. In 2023, Furnace Creek recorded 128°F (53.3°C) temperatures.
It is one of the hottest places on earth.
Some of the best things to see and do in Death Valley National Park include:
- Dante’s View
- Zabriskie Point
- Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the U.S.)
- Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
- Ubehebe Crater
4- Hoover Dam
Hoover Dam is just less than 40 miles (64 km) drive southeast of Las Vegas.
The Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead, which, when full, is the largest reservoir by volume in the U.S.
A whopping 3,250,00 cubic yards of concrete was used to build the dam.
While it was originally named The Boulder Dam it was renamed after President Hoover in 1947.
Hoover Dam generates around 4 billion kilowatt- hours of hydroelectric power annually.
This power is used in Nevada, Arizona, and California.
It is enough to serve around 1.3 million people.
5- Mojave Desert
The Mojave Desert straddles California and southern Nevada, but it also extends to Arizona and Utah.
The Mojave is surrounded by several famous mountain ranges, namely the Sierra Nevada and the San Bernardino Mountains.
The famous Death Valley is within the Mojave Desert.
The Badwater Salt pan is the lowest part of the Mojave Desert with an elevation of 282 feet (85.5 meters) below sea level.
For more about Nevada, read:
6- Burning Man Festival
Burning Man is a week-long festival held in the Black Rock Desert in Pershing County, Nevada.
The festival first began in 1986 and has been going strong ever since.
It’s a “global ecosystem of artists, makers, and community organisers who co-create art, events, and local initiatives around the world.”
The name of this particular event comes from the final event of the week, where a large wooden structure “the man” is burnt.
During the build-up to the penultimate night groups or “burners” as they are known set up camps with varying themes.
They then participate in a sort of gift economy, where they sell goods or services without asking for anything in return.
It’s the ultimate edgy art festival for those wishing to experience the stark desert landscape of Nevada.
7- Gold and Silver Mining
One of Nevada’s nicknames is “The Silver State”, which is a nickname dating back to 1859 when silver was first discovered in Nevada.
The discovery of silver led to a migration boom across the state but it’s not just silver that Nevada is known for.
The U.S. is also the fifth largest producer of gold in the world (after China, Australia, Russia, and Canada). Most gold that is produced in the U.S. today comes from open pit mines in Nevada.
In fact, Nevada supplies 75% of all gold mined in the U.S.
8- Lake Mead
If you’ve heard of the Hoover Dam, chances are you’ve heard of Lake Mead, which is a reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.
Lake Mead is a man-made lake in both Nevada and Arizona.
It started filling up in 1934 and by 1941 it reached a surface elevation of 1,220.40 feet.
The lake’s level has been dwindling ever since though.
Lake Mead has lots of impressive statistics, not least that it is the largest reservoir in the United States.
9- Sierra Nevada Mountains
The Sierra Nevada is a mountain range in the Central Valley of California and the Great Basin.
While most of the mountain range lies in California part of it is found in Nevada.
The mountain range extends more than 250 miles from the Mojave Desert to the Cascade Range.
Geologically speaking the Sierra Nevada is on a major fault zone.
This fault zone caused a large uplift which resulted in the ¬¬asymmetry of the range.
If you want to see the Sierra Nevada while in Nevada, then you’ll need to head to near Reno close to Lake Tahoe.
From Lake Tahoe you can enjoy spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
10- Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is a large freshwater lake situated in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the border of California and Nevada.
It’s a wonderful destination for a vacation, best known for its lakeside beaches and winter ski resorts.
There are many excellent places to visit on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe.
Check out Sand Harbour Beach, a picturesque swimming and boating destination with exquisite views.
Incline Village is a large country club offering ski trails, tennis courts, a recreational center and golf course.
11- No State Income Tax
Seven states in the U.S. do no impose a state income tax and Nevada is one of them.
The others are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.
Nevada residents can take advantage of low property taxes, no inheritance tax and no personal state income tax.
According to the Nevada Resort Association, Nevada’s gaming tax makes up for the lack of individual and corporate income tax.
In fact, gaming tax accounted for more than a third of Nevada’s revenue in 2020.
12- Cowboy Culture
Cowboys are an iconic part of American culture and Nevada is a great place to experience cowboy culture.
Whether you choose to go horse riding in the desert or take a ranch holiday there are lots of cowboy things to do.
There are still a lot of active ranches across Nevada with real life cowboys working at these ranches and roaming the streets.
On the fourth Saturday in July people across the state celebrate the National Day of the Cowboy.
In Las Vegas and Nevada there are rodeos, horse riding and barbecues held in various places on this day.
A rodeo is an iconic cowboy related activity, so check out events at the Reno Rodeo, the Pioche Rodeo Arena, and the Clark County Fair & Rodeo.
13- Ghost Towns
As you travel across Nevada you may stumble across some eerie ghost towns.
Nevada’s ghost towns have emerged for two reasons, either the consequence of an abandoned boom town or the relic of an old silver mining camp.
There are a fair few ghost towns within a two or three hour drive from Las Vegas.
Nelson (Eldorado Ghost Town) is only around 45 minute’s drive from Vegas via US-95 N.
Nelson was once the most successful gold mining town in Nevada history.
In the 1850s gold was discovered and the Techatticup Mine was established in 1861.
Nelson became particularly famous because of its reputation for being a lawless mining town.
Violence and lawlessness were so rife that law enforcement is believed to have avoided Nelson all together.
Mining finished in Nelson in the 1940s and it wasn’t until 1994 that people started visiting to get a feel for these ghost towns.
Some other ghost towns in Nevada that are close to Las Vegas include: Goodsprings (45 minutes) and Rhyolite (2 hours).
14- Highway 50 – The Lonely Road
The U.S. has many famous roads, from Route 66 to the Overseas Highway.
Nevada is home to Highway 50, nicknamed the “Loneliest Road In America”. U.S. Route 50 is an east to west highway that connects Ocean City, Maryland to West Sacramento, California.
The road stretches for 3,000 miles (4,800 km).
Who said loneliness was a bad thing? Nevada’s section of the road showcases mountains, sand and blue sky.
There are plenty of stops along Nevada’s stretch of Highway 50.
From saloons to a quirky shoe flinging tree, it’s a fascinating route to take if you are driving from Nevada to California.
15- The Nevada State Bird – the Mountain Bluebird
Nevada’s state bird is the vibrant mountain bluebird, which is also the state bird of Idaho.
This majestic creature was made the official state bird in 1967.
The mountain bluebird is a member of the thrush family and can be found in open areas across the American West.
Despite Nevada being barren and covered in hot arid desert its biodiversity is surprisingly diverse.
In Nevada the bluebird tends to live in lower-lying environments, including the sagebrush flats of Nevada.
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