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Five Splendid Towns to Visit, Enjoy in Nevada

1. Beatty. Located along the Amargosa river in southwestern Nevada, close to the border with California, about 110 miles northwest of Las Vegas, this town of about 1,000 people is nicknamed the "Gateway to Death Valley" because the entrance to Death Valley national Park is about 7 miles west of town on SR 374. It also served as a railway center for the Bullfrog Mining District, including mining towns such as Rhyolite (now a run-down ghost town). The town was named after Montillus Murray "Old Man" Beatty, who was the town's first postmaster. You'll want to see the Goldwell Open Air Museum, Beatty Museum & Historical Society, Lady Desert -- The Venus of Nevada, as well as shop unique antique stores and eclectic gift shops. Atomic history is alive here with the former Nevada Test Site 20 miles to the east of town -- and now a repository for nuclear waste. Make sure you drive Titus Canyon in Death Valley National Park (after confirming it is open at the ranger station in Furnace Creek). Learn more: Beatty, Nevada.

2. Boulder City. Located in southeast Nevada, about 26 miles southeast of Las Vegas, this town of 15,000 residents is only one of two cities in the state that prohibits gambling. It was originally established in 1931 by the Bureau of Reclamation to support the workers needed to build the Hoover Dam (then known as Boulder Dam) on the Colorado River -- and designed to have houses and neighborhoods for each class of worker, from top management at the top of the hill to manual labors in lower-class residential blocks. It was not until 1960 that the city was finally incorporated as independent from the federal government. The city still values its history as a wholesome and family-oriented community; in recent years it has also become a place for retirees to relocate. A stop would not be complete without a stroll through the Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which includes the old hotel, theater, and dam museum. Big tourism draws are, of course, Hoover Dam and Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Mountain-bikers are drawn to Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park. Learn more: Explore Boulder City.

3. Eureka. Located in east-central Nevada in the Great Basin area in a draw on the southern end of Diamond (Mountains) Valley, about 240 miles east of Reno, this town of about 610 residents (down from a high of 10,000 way back in 1878) is located along the old Lincoln Highway (now US 50), and nicknamed "The Friendliest Town on The Loneliest Road in America." The area surrounding the town was the state's second-richest mineral (mostly lead) find, with both the Richmond Mining Company and Eureka Mining Company heavily involved in the extractions. Attractions include the Eureka Opera House (built in 1860; restored masterfully in 1993), (the old) Raine's Market and Wildlife Museum (1887), the Jackson House Hotel (1877), and Eureka Sentinel Museum (housed in 1879 building), as well as the Eureka Fire House on Main Street, which is a new building, but contains a museum of fire-fighting equipment and vehicles dating back to the 1870s. Cool fact: the town once had tunnels under its streets, with brick walls and arched chambers, all of which have collapsed or deemed unsafe. Learn more: Eureka, Nevada.

4. Genoa. Located in western Nevada, at an altitude of about 4,700-feet, in the Carson River Valley not far from the banks of Lake Tahoe, 45 miles south of Reno, this town of 940 residents was founded in 1851, the first settlement in what was to become the Nevada Territory, though at the time it was part of the Utah Territory and called Mormon Station, a respite for people traveling the California Trail. The name was later changed to honor the city in Italy by the same name. Much of the original town was destroyed by a fire in 1910, but a replica of the original fort was built in 1947, and the town does indeed have an historic district listed on the U.S. Register of Historic Places. Be sure to visit Mormon Station State Historic Park, located in downtown, as well as the Genoa Courthouse Museum, the Genoa Cemetery, and the Hanging Tree. The downtown also includes shops, restaurants, and hotels. The last weekend in September hails the annual Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire, in which resident sell homemade candies, along with a Saturday night dinner-dance. Learn more: Genoa, Nevada.

5. Sparks. Located in western Nevada, in the Truckee Meadows between the Carson and Virginia Mountain ranges, at an elevation of about 4,400-feet, just east of Reno, this city of 90,000 residents, the fifth largest in the state, was founded in 1904. The town is named after former Nevada Governor "Honest" John Sparks (the state's 10th governor, from 1903-1908), a member of the Silver Party, though it originated as Harriman, after the president of the Southern Pacific Railroad E. H. Harriman. (The Union Pacific Railroad runs directly through the center of the city, and also has a significant freight railyard in Sparks.) Several annual events in the city's Victorian Station -- a city block closed to vehicular traffic that is being revitalized with master-planned community of housing and retail spaces -- attract many visitors -- including Hot August Nights, Best in the West (Nugget) Rib Cook-off, and the Sparks Hometowne Christmas. Don't forget to take the scenic drive to Pyramid Lake, as well as venture into Reno, while in the area. Learn more: Sparks, Nevada.

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