Ask anyone outside of Nevada what they associate with the state and the answer is bound to be Las Vegas. However, the fact is there’s a lot more to Nevada than just Las Vegas’ latest nightclub drama and casino debauchery. On the contrary, Nevada is actually one of the most nuanced states in the country, a multicultural, multifaceted place that says a lot about where America is and is headed.
It may be “The Silver State,” but these 10 facts about Nevada shows why it takes home the gold.
1. Viva Las Vegas
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first – yes, Las Vegas is the gambling capital of America, home of some of the glitziest and gaudiest sights you’ll ever see, and a place that has more neon and nightclubs than anyone could ever want.
Las Vegas is home to some of the most famous casinos in the world, from Caesar’s Palace and the Venetian to the MGM Resort and Casino, Flamingo, Mirage, Luxor, and many more. “The Strip” is the undisputed gambling capital of America and one of the biggest gambling centers in the world. In addition to these multi-billion dollar pleasure palaces, the area is also dotted with many smaller casinos. Together, 41 million people visit Las Vegas annually, spending $35.5 billion in 2017 alone.
Over the decades, the Las Vegas Strip has also been home to a wide range of internationally famous acts, from Elvis Presley and Elton John to Siegfried and Roy and Penn and Teller. The Sinatra Family in particular was a mainstay, with Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra Jr., and Nancy Sinatra all headlining acts.
How did we get such a debauched, rowdy, wild center of pure excess? Military strictness, of course. When Nevada became home for increased military activity during the Cold War, it was thought that officers and soldiers needed a place to, well, “unwind” from all that military regimentation.
Cliché as it may seem, everyone should take a page out of Elvis Presley’s book and Viva Las Vegas – at least once.
2. The “Real” Las Vegas
However, if you just know “the Strip” part of Las Vegas, you’ve only seen a tiny fraction of this lovely city. Fun and glitzy though the Strip may be, it’s actually somewhat unrepresentative of the rest of what is otherwise a very kind and close knit area. Las Vegas is a bit like an otherwise-calm college dorm that happens to have one apartment that’s filled with the raunchiest frat boys or sorority sisters on campus.
Outside of the Strip, Las Vegas is actually a reasonably quiet city with a strong sense of community. That balance between big city glitz and small town community is honestly one of the best things about Nevada.
Not only that, but Las Vegas is a city on the rise. The population has been growing, with Nevada ranking in the top five states by population growth in 2019.
Las Vegas may not be the first place you think of when you think of small town wholesomeness, but the Strip aside, maybe it should be.
3. From Slot Machines to Slot Receivers
As a result of this population growth and growing prominence, Las Vegas has scored the true measure of respect for any American city – professional sports teams in the Big Four North American Sports. The Las Vegas Knights were born just a couple years ago. The NHL has a bad record with teams in the middle of hot dusty deserts (we’re looking at you, Phoenix Coyotes), but surprisingly, the Las Vegas Knights have passed the attendance and public interest test thus far. Even more shockingly for an expansion team, Las Vegas not only made the playoffs, but came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup!
And, oh yes, the formerly Oakland (and, for a while, Los Angeles) Raiders have continued their nomadic ways and officially made the move to the desert. When the next season opens, the NFL’s most infamous band of rebels and rulebreakers will be the Las Vegas Raiders.
However the Silver and Black fare amidst the Silver State and Blackjack Tables, there’s no denying that with teams in two of the Big Four North American Leagues, Las Vegas is on the sporting map, and for more than just boxing and sports betting.
4. Reno and Laughlin
How about a couple of cities that aren’t Las Vegas? There’s more to Nevada than just Sin City, and Reno and Laughlin prove so admirably. Both are great entertainment towns in their own right. Reno is home to an air balloon race and the National Automobile Museum, Laughlin is home to its own slate of casinos, and both cities play host to still more entertainment acts.
5. Hoover Dam
Once you get away from the nightlife and entertainment acts, you might think that you’ll be free from any more Nevada-centric drama. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. The Hoover Dam was, at the time of its construction, the largest concrete structure in the world – and it also produced its own big controversy over the name.
The dam was begun in 1931 while Herbert Hoover was President, and some had the idea that the dam would be named after him. If you know your American history, you know Hoover routinely ranks as one of the worst Presidents in American history for his slow and largely terrible response to the Great Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the Presidency in 1932, and again in 1936, when the dam was completed.
While Hoover was infamous for his failure during the Great Depression, FDR was a huge job creator, with massive public works projects such as the Hoover Dam giving many Americans much-needed jobs and starting the road back to recovery.
Citing Hoover’s terrible record and the fact that the town was near the city of Boulder City – which was founded in 1931 for the sole purpose of housing people working on the dam – FDR loyalist Harold Ickes suggested it be called Boulder Dam.
Both names were used until an act of Congress officially named it Hoover Dam in 1947.
Beyond the naming controversy, the statistics remain staggering even 86 years later: 726.4 ft tall, with an installed capacity of 2,080 megawatts, and it generates about 4 billion kilowatt-hours every year for citizens of Nevada as well as California and Arizona.
6. Lake Mead
Formed by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead is one of the largest artificial lakes in the Western Hemisphere. The entire Lake Mead National Recreation Area covers roughly 1.5 million acres, double the size of the entire state of Rhode Island. Just a 30-minute drive away from Las Vegas, Lake Mead offers a fantastic family-friendly place to relax and enjoy something manmade in Nevada that’s actually peaceful and drama-free.
7. Lake Tahoe
Once you get past all the manmade structures Nevada has to offer, you start to realize that its natural wonders are arguably even more impressive.
Take Lake Tahoe, for example. Unlike Lake Mead, it is a “natural” lake, spanning 22 miles near both the mighty Sierra Nevada Mountains as well as the Nevada-California border. In the summertime, the area is host to those looking to soak up the sun or go for a dip on its beach areas, or hit the trail and go hiking on one of its many campsites. In the wintertime, it’s home to one of the most popular ski resorts in the Western United States. No matter when you visit, Lake Tahoe is always impressive.
8. Valley of Fire State Park
Once you get away from the craziness of the craps tables, Nevada is home to some of the most gorgeous state and national parks in the country.
For example, Valley of Fire State Park is home to some incredible rock formations. From high canyon walls to petroglyphs, you’ll be able to take in much of Nevada’s rocky natural beauty. The area is also home to some old film locations, so if you’re interested, you can check it out and see which of your favorite desert-set films have been shot here.
The area is also teeming with wildlife, hiking trails, and fantastic campsites.
9. Great Basin National Park
Turning to the eastern side of the state, Great Basin National Park is located near the Nevada-Utah border and is home to nearly 80,000 acres of woody wildlife, among which are some Bristlecone Pines which are nearly 5,000 years old. Other notable sights include 13,063 ft tall Wheeler Peak, the Lehman Caves, Baker Creek Road, and the Highland Ridge Wilderness area.
10. Burning Man
Let’s end with something that is truly a testament to Nevada’s unique free-spirited nature. Burning man is an annual festival celebrating art, expression, and sustainability. A burning man demonstration is at the center of this unique gathering. After each festival, everything is packed up and removed in an attempt to leave without a trace, in keeping with the organizers’ commitment to sustainability and eco-friendliness.
While the bright lights and highlights of Las Vegas get a lot of attention, Nevada has so much more to offer, proving “The Silver State” finishes second to none!
What’s the capital of Nevada?