BEYOND

THE STRIP

More than anywhere in the US, the city of Las Vegas defines its home state. But to discover the real Nevada in 2022, there’s a tar-lined itinerary that can take you on the road less travelled.

Words, Photos and Video Lena Nielson

BEYOND

THE STRIP

More than anywhere in the US, the city of Las Vegas defines its home state. But to discover the real Nevada in 2022, there’s a tar-lined itinerary that can take you on the road less travelled.

Words, Photos and Video Lena Nielson

FOR DECADES,

the state of Nevada has been an enigma to Australian travellers; a mystery that's been overshadowed by mischaracterisations of brutal desert landscapes, obscene neon and as the backdrop of some terrible Hollywood films. But scratch the gritty surface of this breathtaking landscape and American cultural time capsule to discover a U.S. state that punches well above its reputation.

FOR DECADES, the state of Nevada has been an enigma to Australian travellers; a mystery that's been overshadowed by mischaracterisations of brutal desert landscapes, obscene neon and as the backdrop of some terrible Hollywood films. But scratch the gritty surface of this breathtaking landscape and American cultural time capsule to discover a U.S. state that punches well above its reputation.

If you’re an Australian and you’ve ever dreamed of visiting a Nevada beyond the bright, neon lights of Vegas, after a week of road tripping through the seventh largest state in the US, I can tell you that a hedonistic weekend visit to what's better known as ‘The Strip’ doesn’t come close to what is on offer.

Nevada is unassumingly massive. It straddles the elbow of a big-armed California like a bicep that’s continuously in flex. And with one of the highest percentages of public land per state in the country, its eclectic mixture of state parks, ghost towns, endless opportunities for legal gambling, open-air museums, haunted hotels, extraterrestrial beings, public art and stunning scenery, Nevada ticks just about every box for the idyllic road trip destination.

Valley of Fire State Park is serious eye candy for the avid road tripper.

And just like most other west coast states, it's also a perfect year-round place to visit. During our Spring road trip, the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain range pairs perfectly with moderate desert temperatures ranging from 26 to 32 degrees celsius. Comfortable for both early morning strolls through the 27 state parks as well as evening beers at one of the best roadside Mexican diners outside of Mexico.

Our road trip starts in Reno, better known as ‘The Biggest Little City in the World.’ With a public art scene that would rival Sao Paulo or Singapore, theres an avalanche of casino-lined streets, bars and riverfront restaurants ripe for exploring.

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Reno is the best place to start any Nevada road trip itinerary.

The Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City.

Slowly working our way along dusty desert highways towards Las Vegas, every stop during our visit helped unfold a new layer of Nevada I didn’t expect. We met generous, hat-tipping locals propped up against saloon bars, celebrities, modest chefs at world-class diners, motorsport athletes and more.

This is Nevada in a nutshell. A remarkable homogeneous mixture of natural beauty and late-night culture.

This is Nevada in a nutshell. A remarkable, homogeneous mixture of natural beauty and late-night culture. But more than this, a road trip through Nevada also reveals an unexpected kaleidoscope of both people and experiences which can be tailored depending on what you want from your visit. There’s luxury hotels or haunted motels, adventure, history, roadside art, boutique shopping, craft breweries and epicurean delights. Get your motor running, because its now or Nevada.

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EPIC NEVADA ROAD TRIP

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AU$3563

PER PERSON inc FLIGHTS WITH UNITED AIRLINES

LENA’S

TOP NINE SPOTS

Here’s nine epic recommendations, a detailed road trip itinerary from our creator and the best way to discover (and book) the real Nevada with us:

Lake Tahoe is perfect for every season.

1.

LAKE TAHOE’S PICTURESQUE BEACHES

Going out on a limb, I’m going to say that Lake Tahoe is the most stunning body of water I have ever visited on the planet. The crystal clear, turquoise waters are surrounded by bahama-like beaches, hidden inlets, snow-capped peaks, ski resorts and lakeside towns which come alive in the summer, making Tahoe the perfect first stop on your road trip. From luxurious dinners at The Hyatt’s Lone Eagle Grille to the five degrees celsius sunrise swims at Sand Harbour, Lake Tahoe is a grammable destination fit for all types.

ITS NOW OR NEVADA

AU$20 National Park Entry per car per day

2.

MIZPAH HOTEL, TONOPAH

This hotel exudes old world charm and does not shy away from its chequered history. The incredible hospitality does wonders to help sway your mind away from realising you're actually sleeping in one of America’s most haunted hotels. The Mizpah Hotel is an absolute hidden gem and a step back in time that we were more than happy to take.

ITS NOW OR NEVADA

AU$200 per night twin share

3.

LA CASITA MINA

Apparently the perfect roadside pit stop does exist and you’ll find it two-hours south of Reno, or four-hours north of Vegas depending on which way you flip the map. This Nevada icon serves up authentic Mexican cuisine along with American fast food essentials. If you chat to other diners, you’ll find someone who stops and eats here daily.

ITS NOW OR NEVADA

Tacos AU$4, Cheeseburger AU$10, Philly Cheese steak AU$13

4.

GOLDFIELD

If the ghosts of the Mizpah Hotel didn’t visit you during your overnight stay, you can try your luck again in Goldfield. Once a booming city with over 20,000 residents, Goldfield is now a mostly abandoned ghost town that has shades of zombie apocalypse about it. Most of the buildings here were destroyed by a fire in 1923, but the eerie empty streets and ghostly history make for a great spot to stretch your legs and pull out the camera in search of poltergeists.

ITS NOW OR NEVADA

Free

5.

INTERNATIONAL CAR FOREST

Leaving the ghosts behind, the International Car Forest begins an entire day on your itinerary of outdoor museums and quirky installments. Think of this place as an outdoor sculpture garden, made from cars, buses, trucks and vans. Once an attempt to break a Guinness world record, this outdoor museum is bright, bold, loud and quirky. Jump on the bonnet of an old, rusted out Chevrolet and you’ll be transported to an America of the past.

ITS NOW OR NEVADA

Free

6.

VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK

If you have ever been to Las Vegas and you haven’t road tripped to Valley of Fire State park you’re missing out. This place is so perfectly imperfect it is like a scene from the movie Cars. Tens of thousands of acres of bright red Aztec sandstone set among winding roads and viewing points makes for a picture perfect day out of exploring.

ITS NOW OR NEVADA

AU$20 per car national park entry

A visit to the Neon Museum is a must for a touch of nostalgia and old world Vegas.

7.

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL

Is it even a visit to Las Vegas if you don’t see a live show? I’m pretty sure you could stay in Vegas for six months and see a different show each night. From the upcoming live concerts of Adele, Billie Eilish and John Legend to the over the top magician and illusionist performances of Chris Angel and the world famous Cirque du Soleil residencies. And yes, of course, there’s Human Nature. I am a sucker for Cirque du Soleil and this trip the Beatles came calling (or should I say singing?) with their re-produced and re-imagined music intertwined with the athletic and artistic stage performance of the Cirque performers.

ITS NOW OR NEVADA

Tickets from AU$95

8.

BACKSTREET VEGAS FOOD TOUR

Leaving the Strip behind, the Downtown Lip Smacking food tour winds you in and out of the downtown and Fremont Street area. Downtown Vegas has a booming food scene with top restaurants and secret underground bars hidden among art covered buildings and back streets filled with grimy, criminal history.

ITS NOW OR NEVADA

AU$170 per person or AU$235 including cocktails at each stop

9.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL HIGHWAY

Strap yourself in, because the weirdest and wackiest adventure in Nevada is out of this world! However, the famous Extraterrestrial Highway (otherwise known as State Route 375) is so much more than just little green men. On the road to Tonopah you can explore everything from quirky signage, alien murals, alien jerky and even alien burgers at the very aptly named ‘Little A’Le’Inn.’ Nevada is also home to the famous Area 51, so keep your eyes peeled at night and you might be lucky (or unlucky) to have your very own UFO or space probe encounter.

ITS NOW OR NEVADA

Free

MORE INFO:

GET LOST'S SEVEN-NIGHT NEVADA ITINERARY

Day 1: ARRIVAL DAY & RENO

Day 2 – 3: RENO & LAKE TAHOE

Day 4: LAKE TAHOE & TONOPAH

Day 5 - 6: TONOPAH & LAS VEGAS

Day 7: ET HIGHWAY & VALLEY OF FIRE STATE PARK

Day 8: LAS VEGAS & DEPARTURE DAY

Pictured: Views over Lake Tahoe, Vegas backstreet food tour and Death Valley.

get in the know Carson City, not Las Vegas, is actually the capital of Nevada.

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