The Silver State offers visitors so much more than bright lights and blackjack. Nevada is also home to ancient landmarks and fascinating historical sites. So if you’re a history buff looking for inspiration and a destination, use our guide. Here are some top spots where you and the kids can learn about the past around Las Vegas.
Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area
Image via Flickr by BLM Nevada Unlicensed
Sloan Canyon is a must-see natural landmark in Henderson. This 48,438-acre preserve is home to breathtaking geologic features and extraordinary cultural history. It’s one of the best places in Southern Nevada to see Native American rock art called petroglyphs.
Archeologists believe the protected canyon has over 1,700 unique designs on more than 300 rock panels. Take a hike and see the drawings that ancient people created here during the Archaic historical era, which is between 8000 BCE and 4600 BCE. You can access Sloan Canyon from Nawghaw Poa Road in Henderson.
One of the Nevada desert’s most unique natural landmarks is Fly Geyser. Unlike others of its kind, this example is manmade. A geothermal power company drilled the area in 1964 when this local wonder emerged on top of the Hualapai Geothermal Flats, spewing hot water more than 5 feet in the air.
Engineers closed it up and moved on. However, the water burst out because of a poor seal, and this historic site was born. A buildup of minerals, including quartz, created the area’s stunningly colorful surface. After nearly 60 years, three 6-foot tall mounds have risen above the landscape. Quartz usually takes 10,000 years to grow, making this site even more marvelous. Fly Geyser is in Washoe County at Fly Ranch, the location of the Burning Man Project.
Fort Churchill State Historic Park
Fort Churchill is a former U.S. Army installation that dates back to the 1860s. It was an integral part of Nevada’s history and served as a safeguard for settlers traveling to and from the West, as well as a rest stop for Pony Express riders. Unfortunately, the decaying adobe Fort stands in ruins today. However, the remaining pioneer-era structure is fascinating to see. Visitors can stroll up the path and get quite close to the preserved site.
The renovated Buckland Station is also on the park’s 3,200-acre grounds. This important way station served weary travelers on the Overland Route. When you arrive, make the visitor’s center your first stop. It offers guests numerous exhibits that depict Fort Churchill’s colorful past. It’s off US-95 ALT in Silver Springs.
Lunar Crater National Natural Landmark
Lunar Crater is another unique national landmark near Las Vegas. An ancient volcano formed this natural crater over thousands of years of activity. Today, this extraordinary landscape features cinder cones, obsidian lava beds, ash hills, and elongated fissures.
Scientists named the 430-foot deep crater from its unusual, moon-like circular impressions inside. Lunar Crater’s volcanic field covers more than 100 square miles and is home to 20 extinct volcanoes. Consider pitching a tent on the overlook. It’s a scenic and solitary place to spend the night under the stars. Find Lunar Crater off U.S. Highway 6. It’s a nice day trip from the city.
Whether you’re into aliens, history, or the U.S. military, you have to visit this world-famous historic site. Area 51 is a highly classified Air Force facility, and it’s infamous for rumors of extraterrestrial activity as well as interesting military activity, such as experimental test flights.
While you can’t get inside the Nevada Test and Training Range, where the base sits, there’s still plenty to see and do outside the gates. So when you take this spaced-out trip, remember to stop by the Alien Research Center for a snack and selfie with the 20-foot extraterrestrial statue out front. Area 51 is about 90 minutes from Las Vegas. You can decide for yourself if it’s the place of a 1947 government coverup.
The Golden Gate Hotel and Casino
You don’t have to leave the Strip to step back in time. The Golden Gate was the first casino to open its doors back in 1906. Developers purchased the land at auction for just $1,750, and room and board were just a dollar a day. For more than a century, it has proudly stood on East Fremont Street and served as a Mecca for gamblers.
Nevada officials outlawed gaming in 1910, yet the Golden Gate endured until 1931 when it changed its name to Sal Sagev (Las Vegas backward) and dusted off its poker chips. Fast forward to 1955, when a group of California investors started the Golden Gate on this historic site. 1991 saw the sale of its 25 millionth shrimp cocktail, and in 2010, the cast of the MTV series “The Buried Life” made the largest roulette bet in city history.
The Mob Museum
The Mob Museum sits in the heart of downtown on Stewart Avenue inside the former federal courthouse. This 41,000-square-foot attraction showcases the history of the city’s most famed gangsters. So whether you find mobsters fascinating or you get excited about the good guys who brought them to their demise, you’ll get an inside look at organized crime’s impact on America and beyond right here.
See the dimly lit courtroom used in the 1950s Kefauver hearings, then listen in on actual conversations thanks to the police wire-tapping station. Try out your skills with the FBI firearms training simulator or pretend to be a suspect in the police lineup exhibit. Don’t forget about the museum’s most cherished display. It’s a brick wall from Chicago’s Valentine’s Day Massacre led by Al Capone’s gang in 1929.
So, there you have it. Crème de la Crème of Las Vegas on Farm Road just went over some of the area’s top historical sites. Did you like our picks? Did we miss a favorite destination of yours? Let us know if we did! Then, drop us a line so we can add your ideas to our growing guide.