Nevada is famous for the Las Vegas strip with upscale casinos, fancy five-star hotels, luxury shops, and… nothing more.
A nighttime stroll downtown is really all it takes to see the strip.
If you ask the experts — that would be the residents — the real Nevada is in its breathtaking national parks, which are unfortunately almost never listed in tourist maps.
Outskirt areas and places away from the crowd are always the best to explore and, as my friends and Nevada residents Regina and Emma and I did a few months ago, hold girl time.
They brought me to a few spots that prove you don’t need to an exciting gambling experience — and the fortune it entails — to have a good time in Nevada.
1. Valley of Fire
Driving around parts of 40,000 acres of land covered by red Aztec sandstones nestled on mountains of grey and tan limestones gives you the feeling of landing on planet Mars.
There is serenity of the wilderness that will make you realize, you’re only a dot in the universe.
The trip to the Valley of Fire is incomparable to visits to any museum as the park has a lot of physical and historical markings like the Petroglyphs aka the ancient drawings of the Paiutes, the tribes who settled in the Great Basin-California, Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon. They are believed to have existed 11,000 years ago.
There has not been clear explanation to the meaning of the images, but the drawings are understood to reflect what the Native Americans saw around the place.
Petrified logs lying on the street inside the park are among the amazing features here. Safely fenced, they’ve exposed for millions of years and later became fossil. Geologists say organic components of the wood have been removed by sun, water and time and replaced by minerals.
And then there are the impressive rock formations — my favorite is the Elephant rock, red sandstone forming an arch in the shape of the elephant — cool and delightful cactus species, rare plants like the desert marigold, indigo bush and desert mallow, and of course, the dessert animals.
The usual tour takes about an hour or two but most of the visitors of the Valley of Rock stay longer for picnic and camping as there are a lot of picnic tables around many stops.
2. Hoover Dam
For many fans of Hollywood disaster films, Hoover Dam reminds us of scenes where its being destroyed by strong earthquakes and alien attacks
But the massive concrete structure in the border of Nevada and Arizona is more a symbol of strength and sustainability than destruction. The arch gravity dam stores water from Nevada’s Lake Mead to provide water and hydroelectric power to densely populated states like California and nearby Southwest states.
To give you a vantage point of the dam, you need to climb the highest bridge built on top of the dam. Crossing the bridge though is not for faint hearted and those with acrophobia.
Hoover dam located in Black Canyon is 35 miles away from the Las Vegas strip and can be reached by car in 40 minutes. It can be explored by car or on foot through walk tours.
3. Nightlife at Fremont street
Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas is the perfect place to enjoy nightlife with the experience of Viva Vision, the world’s largest video screen. The screen is made up of 12.5 million energy-efficient LED lamps.
There’s a lot of good jazz music, entertaining live bands but nothing beats watching the much-awaited Viva vision show while raving with live bands.
The Slotzilla is its latest attraction where tourists are offered two ways to zipline.
There the $25-Zipline, that starts from 77 feet up and, in a sitting position, takes you down to the Fremont Street Experience pedestrian promenade, between the Four Queens and Fremont casinos.
And then there's the Zoomline for the bigger adventure fans. It takes off from more than 10 storeys up (114 feet).It costs $45 and whisks flyers across 1,750 feet, all the way down the Fremont Street Experience, to a landing platform at the city’s most historic casino, Golden Gate.
So did anybody wanted to play the slots machine? — LA, GMA News