Did you know: The nationwide average for in-state travel (meaning residents traveling within their state) is roughly 51 percent. In Nevada, it’s closer to 7 percent. Yep, only 7 percent of travelers in Nevada are actually from Nevada, which means we either don’t take nearly enough vacations, or we’re spending our time driving over the hill to Cali. Really, what does California have that Nevada doesn’t? (rhetorical question, don’t answer that)
In an effort to inspire Nevadans to explore Nevada, TravelNevada runs a seasonal campaign called “Discover Your Nevada.” Pretty straightforward, huh? Discover your Nevada: pack the kids in the car and go LEARN something about the Silver State. Find a new favorite ghost town. Camp in a state park you’ve never heard of. See large-scale art planted in the desert just because some eccentric artist was inspired to do so. Yes, it’s all out there!
Now for those who want to add a little meaning to their weekend getaways, this part’s for you. TravelNevada has partnered with the Nevada Department of Education to further the “discover” theme. When you, the traveler, checks in en route on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter using the hashtag #DiscoverNV17, TravelNevada will set aside $1 in a Field Trip Fund. Then the Department of Education works with Nevada eighth-graders on an essay contest, and one winner in southern Nevada and one winner in northern Nevada will get to go on the ultimate field trip. This is no tour of the Capitol, this is all about taking a student on the road trip of a lifetime. So remember to check in when you’re exploring the state!
The routes are defined on www.DiscoverYourNevada.com, but here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:
The Loneliest Road in America: Carson City to Ely across U.S. Highway 50. There’s a great story behind that name, but you’ll have to discover that for yourself (see? see what I did there? discover? so clever!) This traveler’s favorite stop is Grimes Point just east of Fallon, where you’ll find a path lined with petroglyphs scattered all over the hillside. That’s some serious history that you can see (don’t touch!) up close and in living color. To really make the trip memorable, bring an old pair of sneakers to throw into the Shoe Tree. Your kids will never forget watching you try to launch those Reeboks!
Free Range Art Highway: Tonopah to Las Vegas on U.S. Highway 95. Nevada inspires artists. I don’t know if it’s the smell of the sagebrush, the stark beauty of the desert, or simply the “live and let live” mentality here, but this place breeds free-thinkers like none other. And they’ve free-thinked their way to planting art in some of the strangest places. Just south of Tonopah in Goldfield is the International Car Forest of the Last Church. It’s reportedly the creation of a couple Burning Man artists who decided to settle for a while in Goldfield and plant cars and trucks in the desert and paint them. The artists had some sort of falling out, I believe there was a gun charge at some point, and one of them might be in jail, but that’s a story for another time… Continue southbound and you’ll come across Beatty and the ghost town of Rhyolite, where you’ll find cool AF ruins of a mining town, and a series of larger-than-life sculptures put there by a group of Belgian artists back in the 1980s. The Goldwell Open Air Museum has been photographed in every major travel magazine around the world, so you’d better get it on your Instagram too. Finally, just west of Las Vegas (detour onto I-15 to see this) is Seven Magic Mountains, an art piece by world-renowned land-art artist Ugo Rondinone. Go ahead and google him and be impressed by the fact that Nevada has one of his pieces, then come on back. We’ll wait…
Burner Byway: Reno to the Black Rock Desert. This route gives you a little taste of Burning Man any time of year. Start in Reno with some art or funky boutique gear, and then take in the stunning scenery at Pyramid Lake, the seriously weird art on Guru Road or the much more refined art at Planet X Pottery, and end on the Playa. Bonus points for soaking the dust off at a nearby hot spring.
The Extraterrestrial Highway: State Route 375. This one is definitely a journey from northern Nevada, but dude, aliens, UFOs, and not a soul for hours! It’s worth it! Parents, find the movie “Paul” on Netflix before you go to get you in the alien mindset (not suitable for young viewers). Tip: try an Alien Burger at the Little A’Le’Inn and be curious, ask fellow diners about their UFO stories. Trust me, you’ll hear a doozy or two!
The Rubies Route: Lamoille Scenic Byway near Elko. This route is simply stunning. There’re no oddities to see, no aliens or artists to gawk at. Just nature in all its glory. This area is what no one outside of Nevada believes Nevada is. It’s green, lush, and beyond words so I won’t try. Just go see it for yourself.
Great Basin Highway: Las Vegas to Ely on U.S. Highway 93. Some of Nevada’s most interesting state parks (Cathedral Gorge, anyone?) are on the eastern edge of the state, and this route includes them with the crowning glory of Great Basin National Park. What? You’ve never heard of it? And you call yourself a Nevadan… Anyway, my favorite stopping point on this route is Pioche (pronounced pee-oetch). Pioche was once known as the deadliest town in the West because of its rich mines and rowdy cowboys. They say 100 men were buried on Bootleg Hill before anyone died of natural causes. The Million Dollar Courthouse is worth a look, and the 21-and-over travelers should sidle up to the bar at The Overland for at least a cold glass of water, if not a Nevada brew.
Discover Your Nevada technically runs Memorial Day through Labor Day, but you can travel these routes any time of year when the kids start getting antsy and you need to get out of town for a few days. Be sure to use the hashtag #DiscoverNV17 on your trek so you can help build that Field Trip Fund.
This post is sponsored by the Nevada Division of Tourism.