There are many misunderstood Nevada towns and cities that are viewed in ways they don’t necessarily deserve. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s negative, occasionally it’s downright wrong—perhaps due to a stereotype, a squeaky wheel or the opinion of someone with a vendetta.
Usually, if you look at all sides of the story, you might just find something you didn’t notice before. You may even discover your opinion resulted from a simple misunderstanding. With this in mind, here are 7 misunderstood Nevada towns and cities.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Rachel, Nevada
Located along the Extraterrestrial Highway, Rachel has gained notoriety as the closest town to the infamous Area 51. This town is misunderstood because people think it has a special connection to aliens. It’s actually a former mining town and has no real association with UFOs. That doesn’t stop people from flocking here in search of “the truth.”
The population is less than 100, and none in that count are aliens (that the town knows of), but the townspeople are smart and have capitalized off of people’s curiosity. The main attraction in Rachel is the Little A’le’inn, a restaurant, motel and gift shop with an alien theme. The Alien Burger is delicious and the restaurant is a lot of fun. Rachel is also a great destination for camping out during your trek along the Extraterrestrial Highway. Just don’t expect to be abducted by aliens during your stay. We’re not saying that it definitely won’t happen, it just hasn’t happened yet.
2. Pahrump, Nevada
A couple months ago Pahrump was the target of season 1, episode 20 of the Disney XD show “Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything.” Characters on the show railed insults at the town including calling it a “stinkhole” and a “dump” with “filthy kids.” Most of the town was understandably upset, particularly because the insults were directed at the town’s children. Others thought it was fun to be noticed and didn’t take the comments to heart.
Disney has since apologized, but it’s clear whether you were insulted or not, Pahrump is misunderstood. Since the 1970s, the town has grown exponentially and now has a population of about 36,000. There are two beautiful wineries and vineyards, 24-hour casinos, and many notable residents like radio personality Art Bell and Apple’s third co-founder Ronald Wayne. Michael Jackson even lived here for a brief time, purchasing a home in 2008. In addition to wine tasting, gambling (and legal prostitution), there’s a film festival, a fall festival, concert series, grape stomp, golf courses, a museum, speedway, tons of dining and much more. There are several schools, including a college.
Pahrump is considered a hub for hiking and off-roading adventure. Spring Mountain National Recreation Area, The Amargosa Dunes, the Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge, Death Valley and Las Vegas are all less than an hour away. Pahrump itself has a huge network of off-roading trails.
3. Tonopah, Nevada
VIDEO Tonopah is misunderstood because many people think it’s simply the place to fill up on the way to somewhere else—and that town with the creepy Clown Motel. Located about halfway between Reno and Las Vegas, Tonopah is actually home to more than 3,000 residents. An astronomers dream, it’s far from any big cities. That means its night skies are full of glistening stars.
The town is rich in gold and silver ore history, but also looking toward the future. The new owners of the historic Mizpah Hotel are restoring it to its former luxurious glory while embracing its Victorian-style and haunted legacy. The Tonopah Station has a restaurant, casino, hotel, RV Park and an antique museum of old artifacts like old-fashioned telephones and arcade games (there’s also a “Bob” ala Bob’s Big Boy, without the big boy). The Clown Motel has actually gained international notoriety for its unique theme. Some people think it’s haunted, some people think it’s scary, but everyone agrees it’s a comfortable, clean and friendly place to stay. Tonopah offers attractions including the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, The IMCA-sanctioned Tonopah Speedway, Central Nevada Museum and the Royston Turquoise Mines. The nearby Peavine Canyon on the southeastern side of the Toiyabe National Forest offers fishing in Peavine Creek and a campground.
4. Goldfield, Nevada
When you drive through Goldfield it appears empty, almost dead, and easy to dismiss. That’s why it’s one of our misunderstood Nevada towns; it really isn’t one to dismiss.
The story of Goldfield is that of a dramatic rise and fall. In the early 1900s, Goldfield was one of Nevada’s most booming towns producing more than $86 million in ore. It was also Nevada’s highest political power and largest city with modern buildings, banks, a newspaper and saloons. By the 1920s the ore ran dry and the population quickly declined. To make matter worse, a huge fire destroyed much of the city. If you stop and give Goldfield a chance you can easily imagine what life must have been like during booming times. Much of the town, which is now home to about 300, is being restored and some of the businesses are still open including Dinky Diner, the Santa Fe Motel and even a church, Little Church of Goldfield.
5. Las Vegas (or is it Paradise?), Nevada
While most of what you’ve ever heard about Las Vegas is probably true, and then some, there’s also a misunderstood side of Las Vegas. No, we don’t all live in hotels. No, we don’t all gamble. No, we aren’t all showgirls / strippers/ dealers. Off the Strip and in the suburbs, Vegas is home to many locals whose lives have little or nothing to do with the city’s “darker” side.
As a big city of nearly two million, there’s tons of great family, entertainment and cultural activities for locals including parks, splash pads, the Discovery Children’s Museum, the Springs Preserve, the Nevada State Museum and the Smith Center. Outdoor enthusiasts love the plethora of nearby recreational opportunities at Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area, Mount Charleston, Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire. Because of the talent Vegas attracts, dining is world class, with many of the Strip’s most notable chefs branching out to restaurants off the Strip. If locals do venture to the Strip, it probably has little to do with gaming. It’s usually to take advantage of the amazing shows and restaurants, or a unique attraction like the Bellagio Fountains or the world’s tallest observation wheel, The High Roller. Downtown Las Vegas, meanwhile, features several touristy attractions while also nurturing a burgeoning artist and tech community.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is home to the top ranked William Harrah College of Hotel Administration and the Top 100 accredited law school, William S. Boyd School of Law. Plans for a school of medicine are underway.
Another misunderstanding altogether: The Las Vegas Strip and most of its iconic glory and offerings aren’t even technically in Las Vegas. They’re in the unincorporated town of Paradise (its zip codes, incidentally, have a Las Vegas mailing address.)
6. Reno, Nevada
There’s a tendency to assume that “The Biggest Little City in the World” is just Las Vegas’ red-headed step-child, but that is a misunderstanding. First of all (for clarification purposes) the cities are nearly 8 hours away from each other. That’s a long drive through the desert, trust us.
In reality, Reno isn’t just a gaming town. It’s blossoming with culture and business. There’s public art, museums and cultural institutions, such as the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno Philharmonic Orchestra and two ballet companies. First Street downtown has been informally named “Startup Row” due to the influx of tech-savvy, young businesses. And it’s not just startups. Apple and Tesla built factories near here.
The Truckee River Whitewater Park is the centerpiece of the Riverwalk shopping and dining district. It’s a destination for kayakers of all levels. Aceball is a popular attraction, with the Reno Aces attracting large crowds at their beautiful ballpark. Spas, golfing, hiking, family fun, you name it, you can do it here. World class skiing is located nearby at Lake Tahoe.
Reno is also home to the University of Nevada, Reno, a research university with a school of medicine, a top-ranking business school and the Pulitzer-prize-winner-producing Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism.
7. Battle Mountain, Nevada
In 2001, writer Gene Weingarten named this little town of 3,000 the “The Armpit of America” in his humor column for the Washington Post. In response, the town came together and threw a Festival of Pit; it was sponsored by Old Spice. Armpit T-shirts were sold at the drug store.
This is one of our misunderstood Nevada towns because the true “Armpit of America” would never laugh at itself in such a grand fashion or find a way to turn a negative into a positive.
Today Battle Mountain, located between Winnemucca and Elko, bills itself as a Pit Stop along the I-80. There’s an annual bike race, the “Pony Express” open road race and a Basque winter festival. With excellent backcountry for outdoor enthusiasts, the Humboldt and Reese Rivers flow nearby and there’s mountain ranges and an off-roading trail system passing through several high-desert ecosystems.
The town also sailed through the economic crisis because the area is the world’s fourth biggest producers of gold. “When the broader economy declines and the value of the dollar fluctuates, people buy gold,” wrote the
New York Times
. That means, “places like Battle Mountain hum with good-paying jobs and rising home values, making the financial woes of the rest of the country a distant concern.”
Have your perceptions of any of these misunderstood Nevada towns changed or do you still feel the same? Let us know in the comments below. We’d also love to hear about any other misunderstood Nevada towns.