30 Essential Nevada Bucket List Activities & Food

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The largest gold-producing state in the nation, Nevada is known as the gambling capital of the country. Home to famous traders and outlaws, Nevada has a rich history spanning back hundreds of years even before US settlers inhabited the region. If you’re planning a trip out west, Nevada is a must-stop destination for your travel bucket list.

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While most of Nevada is a desert, this is also where you’ll find the infamous Sierra Nevada mountain range with snow for half the year. From Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas, this is one of the most frequently visited states in the United States. If you’re looking for the essential Nevada bucket list of activities and food, you’re in the right place. 

Nevada Bucket List Trip Destinations

First, no Nevada bucket list is complete without these destination ideas. These spots go beyond the expected to show all different sides of this diverse state. 

1. Visit the state capital

To begin, the capital city of Carson City is well worth a visit when you’re in Nevada. Home to family-friendly activities, history, and year-round fun, there’s so much to do here. One of the best ways to take in the region is through a local railbike tour. 

2. Experience a true ghost town

Near Death Valley, you’ll find Rhyolite Ghost Town. This is one of the many short-lived towns from Nevada’s Gold Rush boom era. If you love history, step back in time at Rhyolite’s Open Air Museum. 

3. See Nevada’s second-largest city

Though most people think of Las Vegas when they think of Nevada, a close second is the second-largest city, Reno. Known for its casino district, Reno’s riverwalk area is beautiful. Aptly nicknamed the “biggest little city in the world,” this is a great place to take in art and culture. 

4. Claim real Buckaroo charm in Elko

Known as the gateway to the Ruby Mountains, many consider Elko to be the last true Western town in the US. Once a home for gold and silver miners, it’s now home to cowboy gatherings, rodeos, and Western-style classics. 

5. Create your own basecamp

Lastly, Pahrump is located just an hour from Death Valley National Park. Known as Nevada’s main base camp for adventure seekers, this is a great spot to indulge in the best sports of the region. 

Outdoor Activity, Hike, and Adventure Bucket List Ideas for Nevada

If you’re wondering how to make a travel bucket list, you have to include outdoor activities. Though most people think of the city lights of Las Vegas when they think of Nevada, there’s so much more to the state than the gambling strip. 

6. Take a scenic drive

You don’t have to hike to explore some of the natural beauty of Nevada. Explore the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. Known for its red rock formations, this drive is only 13 miles long. 

7. Hike an old railway bed

Nevada is home to rich railway history, and one of the best ways to explore this is by foot. The family-friendly Historic Railroad Trail in Lake Mead National Recreation Area is seven miles round trip, and you can traverse tunnels that were once part of the route. 

8. Take in ancient natural art

To see ancient petroglyph panels up close, visit Gold Butte National Monument. One of the state’s best-kept secrets, this is one of the most photogenic places in the Mojave Desert. 

9. Spot the Elephant Rock

You could spend a lifetime exploring the Valley of Fire State Park in the Mojave Desert, but one of the best sights is Elephant Rock. This is located by the east entrance, and it’s a unique arch you can’t miss. The formation actually looks like an elephant jutting from the landscape. 

10. Soak in Spencer Hot Springs

Who doesn’t love soaking in mineral waters after a long day outside? Spencer Hot Springs is located in an open desert, and this natural spring is actually on public land. You can control the flow of water into the bathing tubs, and it’s free to all.

Spring and Summer Nevada Bucket List Ideas

Though the warmest time of year, there are still so many fun things to do in Nevada during the spring and summer. These bucket list ideas will have you soaking up the desert sunshine! 

11. Attend a Burning Man Festival

Though not for everyone, the Burning Man Festival has occurred on the week before Labor Day since 1991. Located in Black Rock City in the Black Rock Desert, this is an event focused on inclusion, gifting, and radical self-expression. 

12. Cool off at Lake Mead

If you’re melting in the Nevada heat, it’s time to head to Lake Mead. With over 1.5 million acres of shore, Lake Mead is a hotspot for swimming and boating. The best place to swim is Boulder Basin which is just north of the Hoover Dam. 

13. Climb Cathedral Rock

Another way to escape the summer heat is by heading north from Las Vegas to Mount Charleston. Because this region is at a higher elevation, it’s a bit cooler. The hike to Cathedral Rock has some of the best views, and it’s suitable for all skill levels. 

14. Visit Alien Country

For an adventure that belongs on another planet, head for Alien Country. This alien-themed adventure is along the Extraterrestrial Highway. Run past the infamous Area 51 and find the Alien Research Center and a Lunar Crater. 

15. Summit Mt. Rose

Lake Tahoe is one of Nevada’s most cherished destinations, and it’s well worth a trip. Mt. Rose is the second-largest peak in the Tahoe Basin, but this is still a relatively easy hike with a huge payoff. 

Fall and Winter Nevada Bucket List Ideas

You might be surprised to learn that Nevada is a popular escape in the fall and winter as well. From the warmth of the desert to the chilly mountains, there’s no shortage of ways to fill the time when the days get shorter. 

16. See the spectacular Hoover Dam

This famous concrete arch-gravity dam is built between Arizona and Nevada. Constructed during the Great Depression, this is where you can take in a 360-degree view of the Colorado River, Lake Mead, and the Hoover Bypass Bridge. The best time to visit is in January or February when crowds are low. 

17. Ski your way down Mt. Rose

Did you know you can ski in Nevada? It’s true, and this desert state has a lot of great places to hit the slopes. One of the best spots is Mt. Rose which is home to more than 1,200 acres of skiing and snowboarding. 

18. Road trip along US Route 50

If you’re planning a road trip bucket list, don’t forget Nevada’s US Route 50. Known as the loneliest road in America, this quiet highway actually passes through 11 states over 3,000 miles. Through Nevada, it will take you through ghost towns, state parks, and more. 

19. Stargaze at a famous spot

Whether you’re an astronomer or an amateur stargazer, Tonopah Stargazing Park is an amazing destination to behold. This is one of the best places to take in the bright stars without the harsh city lights. On a clear night, you can see up to 7,000 stars. If you visit in the fall, you can attend a Star Party.

20. Experience winter at the Bellagio Conservatory

The botanical gardens at the Bellagio are worth a visit no matter the time of year, but it’s truly spectacular in the wintertime. With festive holiday displays and the largest Christmas tree on the Las Vegas strip, this is a free attraction for the whole family. 

Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Nevada

No Nevada bucket list would be complete without a food bucket list. This is one of the best states to try new cuisines, and there’s a full world of options to explore. 

21. Try a bone-in ribeye steak

Few foods are more Nevada than steak. Favorites of the Rat Pack and outlaws alike, traditional Vegas steakhouses serve some of the best bone-in ribeyes in the business. 

22. Pig out at a casino buffet

Though it might sound cliche, there’s a special magic to casino buffets. They’ve evolved a lot in the past few years, and some are a study in excess and quality. If you only try one casino buffet during your stay in Nevada, it should be the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace. 

23. Taste seasonal fry bread tacos

Though once offered only for special events from the Paiute tribe, these Native American-inspired dishes are more popular than ever today. For an authentic fry bread taco, visit the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort for seasonal flavors. 

24. Try an inventive cornish pasty

Though you might expect to find this in England, the cornish pasty was brought to mining towns in Nevada during the 19th century. This meat pie is filled with traditional and inventive fillings all across Nevada. 

25. Experience Basque favorites

Last but not least, Basque immigrants have lived in northern Nevada for hundreds of years since they immigrated during the Gold Rush. Their food influences the whole Nevada region, and favorites include the chorizo sandwich, tapas, and more. 

Las Vegas, Nevada Bucket List Ideas

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right? No matter what motto you subscribe to, here are your must-do Las Vegas bucket list ideas to ensure you see the best of the city (beyond the infamous strip). 

26. Win big in a casino

The Las Vegas Strip is full of 24-hour casinos and entertainment. Known as the gambling capital of the country, why not try your hand at winning big? You’re sure to have a blast no matter how much you win!

27. Stroll down Fremont Street

Located in the old downtown, the Fremont Street area has a lot of fun activities that are less flashy than the main strip. This is also where you can spot the world’s largest digital display known as the Viva Vision Light Show.

28. Learn about Sin City’s mob past

Las Vegas has a dark past, and it’s worth learning more about this history within the Mob Museum. This is the only museum in the US dedicated to organized crime, and it’s definitely worth the visit. 

29. Attend a wedding

In Las Vegas, there are over 150 weddings a day. Though you might not be ready to tie the knot yourself, this is a great place to visit the Little White Wedding Chapel or attend a wedding. 

30. Dine at the Eiffel Tower

Las Vegas has the magical ability to make you feel like you’re thousands of miles away. At Paris Las Vegas, you can enjoy the most romantic evening of fine dining at the Eiffel Tower. From there, explore some of the other European-inspired cuisines on the Strip. 

Explore the Silver State

Are you ready to explore what makes the Silver State so golden? If so, these bucket list activities and destinations are for you. Home to over 20 state parks and more hotel rooms than any other state, you’re far from the only one with this spot on your bucket list. From the mountains to the desert, Nevada is a western icon for a reason. 

What’s next on your travel bucket list? Creating a list of things to do is the best way to build a legacy for yourself and your family. These are memories that last beyond a lifetime.

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