From Magic Mountains to the Neon Boneyard: 10 jaw-dropping Nevada marvels you have to see in your lifetime

Nevada is the ninth least-populous state but the seventh largest when it comes to actual space.

Take away the desert and there’s still a heck of a lot of room left for fun. But besides losing all your money in Vegas, what is there to do?

Plenty, as it turns out, and not surprisingly, most of it sits solidly between somewhat unusual and completely off-the-wall. Here are eight great Nevada must-sees, all man-made marvels from around the state that could very well blow your mind – or at the very least make you think, “Say what?”

You know how sometimes you eat way, way too much and your belly spills out over your pants and it feels as though everything could just burst at any moment? Well, now you know how the Hoover Dam feels. Located near Boulder City, the mammoth concrete-and-metal structure is a freakish feat of man-versus-nature, and man still seems to be winning this one. Enjoy some unexpectedly delightful Art Deco design touches and quite a bit of art inspired by the Navajo and Pueblo Indians. You’ll want to just go along with the repeated urge to say things like, “Wow!” Also get ready for some serious scrutiny, including opening your trunk on the drive in. The tour is for folks who get excited that this is one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders; otherwise, you can just looky-loo and leave.

Cost: $30 per person for the tour; no kids under 8.

Guru Road

During the last 15 years of his life in the late ’80s and early ‘90s, Dwayne “Doobie” Williams labored over a stone slab-based art installation that combined his love for his family and neighbors with his thoughts on life and the things he held dear, such as Elvis. Located along Nevada 34 two miles north of the town of Gerlach – gateway to the Black Rock Desert made famous by Burning Man, in the northwestern part of the state – Guru Road (aka Doobie Road) is a mile-long series of large and small works that offer kitschy wisdom, odes to locals and yes, a tribute to the King. And, as Doobie himself put it on a rock, “Remember No Matter What You Think Of This Road The Price Is Right.”

High Roller Ferris Wheel

The 550-foot-tall High Roller at the LINQ Hotel is best for groups. Compared to the excitement of the edgier amusement park-style rides around town, this is pretty tame. In fact, the world’s tallest observation wheel goes so slowly that it never stops; just walk on and off at will. But if you and your besties are lightly lubricated and looking for something chill, the 30 minutes it takes to go all the way around can have a relaxing effect. Not to mention, the views along the way are pretty fabulous (especially at night). And if you aren’t hung over in Sin City – wait, what? – you can take a yoga class in one of the cabins in the mornings for an extra fee.

Cost: $25 per person

Wilbur D. May Center

Son of the owner of the May department stores, Wilbur D. May was also a restless wanderer and never really got into the family business. Instead, he served in the military as a pilot and then used his considerable inheritance to travel and collect tchotchkes, and that’s what is showcased in this South Reno re-creation of his original home. Check out the shrunken head from South America, some amulets from Italy that pre-date Jesus, a rare collection of Tang Dynasty pottery from China, dioramas of tigers and polar bears, and a lot of other weird and wild items. There’s a room devoted to his days as a rancher and one devoted to his days as a hunter, complete with trophies and stuffed animal heads, and the property also houses an arboretum and botanical gardens, so it all makes for a nice stroll around the property.

The Fountains of Bellagio

The Fountains at the Bellagio Hotel rank as one of the best free things anywhere. One of the Top 10 places to propose, this smorgasbord of dancing water from more than a thousand individual fountains is propelled upward to a backdrop of old and new music and is different every time, and utterly mesmerizing. The hot ticket is to book one of the sweet black-and-white striped booths in the hotel’s Hyde Lounge, which sports open windows to the water and serves an upscale snacking menu of raw fish, cheese and charcuterie.

Seven Magic Mountains

You have until 2018 to check out the vibrantly colored art installation that is Seven Magic Mountains, a series of neon-colored boulder totems that sit a 15-minute drive from the Strip. Artist Ugo Rondinone managed to make these intriguing and luminescent rock stacks simultaneously stick out from the landscape and also somehow fit in with the surrounding desert and mountains, and the trail is a nice meander up to and around the 30- to 35-foot-high pieces. Plus, you’re allowed to touch them (but no climbing), and it’s free!

Neon Museum Campus

The six-acre Neon Boneyard and its adjacent galleries in Vegas offer up about 300 of the most iconic signs of Sin City’s past in an outdoor setting, with examples from as early as the 1930s. Take a tour to get up-close and personal and it’s worth it to spring for a night visit, because that’s when you get to see a lot of them in all their lit-up glory. Highlights include original signs from the Moulin Rouge Hotel, the Stardust and Caesars Palace.

Cost: $19 per person day, $26 night

Pinball Hall of Fame

So, you’re a pinball wizard from back in the day – but where can you panic flip now? Here in a 10,000-square-foot space dedicated to all things pinball, that’s where, including hundreds of machines from every era, and all of them in working condition. Yep, you can put a quarter in an oldie but goodie that still has a gobble hole or 50 cents in anything made after 1990. Then it’s all you! The sheer variety of backboxes can make this feel more like a museum, but 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, the pinheads sure play a mean pinball.

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Author: Kyle Wagner

Kyle WagnerFreelance writer Kyle Wagner has been a journalist for 30 years; most recently, she was restaurant critic and travel editor at The Denver Post until 2014, and has written for The Cannabist and other cannabis-oriented publications since. In 2017, Kyle left Colorado for Sherwood, Ore., to co-found the hemp farm Queen Bee Bliss. In the off-season, the mother of two adult daughters adds to her list of 40+ countries visited, and is an enthusiastic mountain biker and river rat.

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