Nicknamed the Silver State and with an ostentatious, outrageous Sin City as its most populous urban centre, you’d be forgiven for thinking Nevada was defined only by the bling and the brash. How wrong you’d be.
Whilst, of course, a fair amount of the fun and frolics do happen along Nevada’s various strips, there are also more wholesome pursuits to be found in this vast, intriguing state. If you’re spending the Winter visiting Nevada with time to travel around and take in all that it has to offer, then you’re in for one of the best winter holidays you’ve ever had. With that in mind, here are 6 IDEAL things to do in Nevada in Winter.
A WEEK IN LAKE TAHOE
Straddling both California and Nevada, and high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe is a must-visit in Winter. Indeed, Tahoe during the Winter season, in particular, offers scenic and serene snowscapes so far removed from the vast expanses of desert which Nevada is known for.
Tahoe is celebrated for its snow sports, especially skiing. Whether you’re a beginner or a little more advanced, there are a variety of slopes to suit all levels and even some alpine and cross-country skiing, too. If swooshing down the slopes isn’t your thing, then fear not; you can still rent a cosy cabin, ideally with a hot tub and a log fire, and enjoy the fresh alpine air at a more relaxed pace; simply sublime.
There are also several expansive State Parks surrounding the lake, complete with more hiking and lake ice skating options than you could possibly complete on a single trip. If you are looking to narrow things down, Emerald Bay State Park and D.L Bliss State Park provide some of the most dramatic backdrops.
In Tahoe City itself there are also a number of art galleries and some fantastic restaurants; Christy Hill, a casual fine dining spot looking over the lake, is superb. A trip to the Donor museum and Donner Memorial State Park offers some much needed insight into the region’s history, too. And if you’re feeling lucky, a trip to the casinos in Reno provides evening entertainment.
VEGAS IN WINTER
Speaking of Casinos, no trip to Nevada would be complete without visiting Vegas. While it’s some 453 miles from Tahoe, it’s definitely worth seeing Sin City to celebrate the festive season, even if the tables and wheels aren’t your thing.
Since you’re visiting in Winter, don’t bother braving the roads; the drive from Tahoe can be treacherous during the region’s most inclement season, especially when the conditions are snowy – simply not worth the gamble. Instead, there are numerous flights between South Lake Tahoe and Reno to Vegas, taking just over an hour and likely to only set you back around $50.
Vegas itself in Winter is full of fun. You can go skating (yes, we know it’s in a desert) at the ice rink housed at the Cosmopolitan hotel, gorge on the seasonally minded all-you-can-eat buffets, and view the Christmas lights (trust us, they know how to do a light show!) from the tallest Big Wheel in the world, the High Roller on Linq Promenade, which also provides fantastic Christmas shopping options.
If you’re up for a truly unique experience, every year the first Saturday of December sees the largest gathering of Santas in the world, at the Great Santa Run, an event which raises thousands for charity each year.
And should you be keen to catch a Christmas show whilst strolling The Strip, our friends and vegas veterans at Mr.Play Casino recommend the extra special festive show at the Bellagio Fountains, with live performances of classic Christmas hits.
Also keep an eye out for an unlikely appearance from Santa – amongst a shipwreck in the Mandalay Bay shark tank! A little further afield, the Tuacahn Centre’s annual production of A Christmas Carol is a must see.
And should you be looking for a slice of the action but don’t want to bet the big bucks, may we suggest penny slots? Indeed, If you are looking for the simplest casino game, then slot machines are where it’s at. You just place a bet, hit spin, and watch where the reels stop.
HIKING IN THE SNOW
Phew, that’s enough to the glitz and glamour for a while…
Back up to near Tahoe now for some hiking in the snow. Interestingly, Nevada was named after the mountain range ‘Sierra Nevada’, the Nevada part meaning ‘snow-covered’. Despite the state being the driest in the U.S, there’s still plenty of action to be found in the coldest season.
Indeed, come winter, there are some stunning snow-covered winter hiking trails to enjoy. Hiking poles, sturdy boots and of course, a flask of hot chocolate, are all highly recommended.
A popular hike is the Rim Trail Connector in Van Sickle Bi-State Park. It’s a moderate hike with a stunning view of Lake Tahoe as the reward and a waterfall on the way. The Spooner Lake Trail is a little more manageable, taking in 2.5 miles of steady, flat terrain and gorgeous, dense forest.
The Hunter Creek Trail, close to Reno and beginning in downtown Aspen, is another popular walk which traverses the side of a canyon and boasts a 30 foot waterfall. Lovely stuff.
SOAK IN THE SPRINGS
If you’ve spent enough time soaking in your Tahoe log cabin hot tub but are still seeking the restorative powers of flowing water, how about immersing yourself in a steaming hot spring?
Nevada has more than 300 naturally occurring hot springs found mainly in the North. While some are too hot to soak and others wild and unkept, there are several that are well maintained and popular with those looking to soak their aching limbs.
Our favourite of the latter is perhaps Spencer Hot Springs, found in the Big Smoke Valley. Here you can soak with unadulterated views of the Toiyabe Mountains; what could be more contemplative and restorative than that? The water stays at a consistent, comfortable temperature of around 60°C (140°F) all year round, ideal for washing the sins of the city away.
CAMPING IN CATHEDRAL GORGE STATE PARK
If you’re after another gorgeous state park in Nevada, then a trip to Cathedral Gorge State Park is a must. Known for its natural spires formed by thousands of years of erosion in the bentonite clay and rocks, it’s one stunning spectacle to behold.
And while you’re here, why not try some winter camping? In total, the park has 22 campsites, costing $15 a night for a pitch, with toilet and shower facilities open all year round. Though camping in Winter might sound pretty daring, the unobstructed, crisp and clear views of the night sky and stars during the season can’t be beaten.
GET CHRISTMASSY AT GENOA
Known as the Nevada town which best retains and cherishes the Old Wild West sprit, Genoa is a real treat come Christmas time. In the festive season, this small town really comes into its own; to say they take celebrating the holiday season seriously might be putting things mildly.
With a reputation as Nevada’s Best Christmas Town, its charming Christmas character is something right out of a hallmark holiday card – there’s a crazy amount of fairy lights, carolling and festive cheer to be found here.
Every year the city puts on ‘a Cowboy Country Christmas’ concert, with a traditional Northern Italian Christmas classic – a delectable lasagna dinner – served after. If Santa had a red cowboy hat and was Italian, he would feel right at home.