The days of the gold rush may be long over, but Nevada retains a bit of that Wild West spirit. After all, this is the state where Lady Luck reigns supreme in the casinos of Las Vegas and Reno, where brothels are legal, and where Hollywood stars flock for quick marriages presided over by Elvis impersonators.
First, a bit about Las Vegas. One of the fastest-growing cities in America, it almost defies description. You'll find buildings resembling everything from the Eiffel Tower to the Egyptian pyramids, bathed in neon all night long. Gamble at countless tables. Enjoy a spectacular concert, magic show or circus performance. Shop at an ever-growing selection of luxury boutiques and dine at restaurants overseen by famous chefs.
There's little but a frontier mentality left in Las Vegas to remind visitors of Nevada's past. However, you can still relive the glory days of miners and saloonkeepers elsewhere in the state. Historic Virginia City, for instance, boomed after silver was discovered in the nearby Comstock Lode; today you can visit museums devoted to gambling and madams, ride a restored steam train and visit the newspaper office where Mark Twain got his start.
About 85 percent of Nevada is public land, making the state a paradise for hikers. Just a few miles outside Las Vegas lies the scenic Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area—a wonderful daytrip if you need a break from the big-city lights. In other parts of the state, try the Lake Tahoe area for well-developed trails close to luxury resorts, or the Schell Creek Range for backcountry adventure.
Finally, it isn't exactly "natural," but Lake Mead—formed by the enormous Hoover Dam—is a very popular spot for boating, fishing and swimming. Leave time to tour the surprisingly fascinating Hoover Dam.