By Norman Sklarewitz
As one of the country’s premier destinations, you might assume your clients know all about Nevada. That might be a mistake. “It’s not the same old Nevada,” says Chris Moran with the state’s Division of Tourism.” She rattles off a list of new attractions, new properties and new experiences awaiting the travelling public. “Sure, Las Vegas is amazing and wonderful, but there’s so much more beyond it,” she promises.
Just beyond the glitz and glam of Las Vegas are four smaller vacation destinations that offer visitors a more relaxed pace. These are Laughlin, Mesquite, Primm and Boulder City all located along the edge of Nevada’s state borders next to California, Utah and Arizona. Each destination has a variety of golf courses, outdoor recreation on land and water, nearby national and state parks, and boast more than 330 days of sunshine.
Laughlin, is something of an oasis, bordered by desert mountains and the Colorado River. This resort town is widely popular among visitors for the many options for boating and water activities, river boat tours, golfing, hiking trails and the town’s friendly atmosphere. With the additions of the Laughlin Event Center and The Edgewater’s E Center, Laughlin has also become an entertainment destination that hosts some of the hottest names in music. Laughlin is also known for annual events that draw visitors from all over the region such as Laughlin’s River Run, Chef’s Food Fest, Rockets Over the River, River Regatta and Laughlin International Film Festival.
For its part, Mesquite is best known for its eight championship golf courses and breath-taking vistas Located in the Virgin River Valley, an hour northeast of Las Vegas, this city offers both gaming and non-gaming hotel properties. Visitors up for some physical challenges can explore the surrounding desert on a guided ATV tour or see it from the top of a camel’s back at Camel Safari. The Virgin Valley Heritage Museum and Mesquite Fine Arts Gallery offer some more refined experiences. Mesquite’s location on Interstate 15 at the Nevada and Utah borders makes it a convenient base for daytrips to Valley of Fire State Park, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon.
Primm is just 35-minutes south of the Las Vegas Strip on the California border. This compact destination features three themed casino resorts, a 13,000-square-foot spa and fitness facility, attached 100-store designer outlet shopping destination and amusement rides, all connected via a complimentary monorail or shuttle. The 6,000-seat Star of the Desert indoor arena features top name entertainment year-round. There are also two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses to complement the Primm experience.
Boulder City is only 20 miles from The Strip, but there visitors feel like a world away. This little community is best known as the home of two engineering marvels – Hoover Dam and the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Other activities include a ride on the Nevada Southern Railway via the diesel locomotive or pedal-powered rail bikes. For more adventurous recreation, there’s mountain biking, ziplining, skydiving, and river rafting on the Colorado River below Hoover Dam.
Almost at the other end of Nevada is Reno Tahoe, a four-season resort destination in a spectacular natural setting. Here America’s largest alpine lake meets “The Biggest Little City in the World.”. Reno Tahoe is marketed by the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority (RSCVA), an organization that promotes convention and tourism business in Washoe County that includes Reno, Sparks and North Lake Tahoe.
In Reno Tahoe, adventure seekers can get their adrenaline pumping downtown, in the desert or downslope. Within a relatively small area are extreme variations in topography, climate and landscape – alpine mountains and rolling meadows to dry, flat desert and urban spaces. These allow for a multitude of experiences. In Remo’s downtown Riverwalk District, the Truckee River visitors can enjoy fishing, kayaking and rafting. Just 30 minutes southwest lies Lake Tahoe – the largest alpine lake in the U.S. Surrounded by acres of breathtaking Sierra Nevada wilderness, North Lake Tahoe is a spectacular outdoor destination primed for hiking, biking and getting out on the water for boating, stand-up paddle boarding, and sometimes even surfing. From Mt. Rose and Diamond Peak, located just 30 minutes outside of the city, to Squaw Valley and Heavenly, Tahoe boasts the highest concentration of world-class ski resorts in North America. Together these offer more than 180 lifts and 500 runs, many with views of stunning Lake Tahoe.
Going to Nevada’s northernmost territory brings you to Cowboy Country and the cities of Battle Mountain, Elko, Mountain City and Winnemucca as well as a number of ghost towns. In Cowboy Country, the Old West meets the Gold West. During the 1800s, some of the pioneers lured to California for the gold rush settled in Cowboy Country and established ranches and trading posts. Later, after the gold rush ended in California, prospectors explored northern Nevada and discovered gold in the majestic mountains of Cowboy Country.
This is also Basque country, home to a unique – and still somewhat mysterious – ethnic group whose origins are in the Pyrenees mountain range between Spain and France. They call themselves Euskaldunak; their homeland, Euskaldi, and their native language is like no other. Many Basque crossed the Atlantic to America early in the 19thcentury to herd sheep, an activity that brought them to northern Nevada, where many stayed on, offering their culture – and their cuisine – to the frontier.
The most visible signs of the Basque influence today are the family-style dining houses that proliferate across Cowboy Country, particularly in Winnemucca and Elko. Expertly-prepared seafood, steaks, and, of course lamb, are always on the menu. The food is served in hearty portions in an atmosphere that is always festive.
Whatever your favorite outdoor activity might be, chances are good Cowboy Country offers it in abundance. The area offers excellent hunting and fishing as well as rock climbing, cross-country and downhill skiing.