Nevada’s 155th Birthday: extraterrestrials, burners, ghost-hunters, foodies & mountaineers invited

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CARSON CITY, Nevada — Nevada celebrates its 155th birthday this fall with ghost hunts, extraterrestrial alien fun, quirky festivals and an open call for self-expression and exploration. A hub for Western history, road trips and paranormal activity, Nevada offers fall experiences that will leave visitors covered in dust, sauce, feathers or white as a ghost.

Stormers vs. Burners
Would you rather see a spacecraft or drive an art car? If you’re thinking of storming Area 51 or getting dusty at Burning Man this September, pack water and hit the road. While you can’t visit Area 51 — the military base at the heart of the Storm Area 51 Facebook event that recently went viral — you can drive Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway. If radical self-expression is more your vibe, but you didn’t get tickets for the annual Burning Man festival, consider driving the Burner Byway out to the Black Rock Desert later this fall. Stay at the Morris Burner Hostel in Reno; tour The Generator, a maker space where many of the large-scale sculptures exhibited at Burning Man are created; and check out Burning Man art displayed at the Playa Art Park and other locations throughout the city.

The party’s in Nevada
Nevada’s sometimes quirky, always fun special events more than justify a trip to the Silver State. Watch planes race in the skies above Reno at the National Championship Air Races Sept. 11-15; cheer on engineers as they attempt to break records at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge, Sept. 8-14 in Battle Mountain or check out mural art at the brand-new Elko Mural Festival, Sept. 26-29. October brings the Park to Pedal bike event in Lincoln County (Oct. 12); the Tim Burton exhibit to the Neon Museum in Las Vegas (debuts Oct. 15); and the blowout Nevada Day festivities in Carson City (Oct. 25). 

Investigate the paranormal
The Silver State has its share of supernatural sites, if you’re up for a Halloween-themed visit. The old mining town of Virginia City celebrates its status as one of the most haunted towns in the country with Hauntober, a string of ghost tours and events throughout October. In the heart of Nevada, the town of Tonopah is home to the haunted Mizpah Hotel, where the Lady in Red ghost supposedly haunts guests on the fifth floor. On the southern end of the state, hunt for ghosts at the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, about 35 miles southwest of Las Vegas. Here, you can take the Haunted Lockdown Tour, an overnight stay at this scary site, once featured in an episode of “Ghost Adventures” TV show.

Savor the food fests
A Nevada trip can be delicious, especially if it includes one of the many culinary celebrations happening this fall. The annual Genoa Candy Dance celebrates 100th years this September: the community fundraiser, created in 1919 to pay for the town’s street lights, has music, arts and crafts, and of course, plenty of chocolate. In southern Nevada, the Las Vegas Food and Wine Festival, Oct. 3-6, attracts nearly 50 renowned celebrity chefs, including Chef Charlie Palmer, to the Italian-inspired Tivoli Village in Vegas, and for those with adventurous palates, there is the Disgusting Food Museum, part of the Vegas Food Expo Oct. 8-10. Roasted guinea pig and maggot-infested cheese are some of the offerings. On the northern end of the state, Southern Fare on the Square takes place Oct. 5-6 in Sparks, followed by the Eldorado Great Italian Festival Oct. 12-13 in Reno.

Leaf peeping and mountain vistas
As the most mountainous state in the lower 48, Nevada has plenty of highland trails for leaf peepers and hikers. In northern Nevada, there’s Lamoille Canyon, a glacier-carved ravine in the Ruby Mountains near Elko; and Mount Rose summit in the Sierra Nevada near Reno. Great Basin National Park, on the eastern end of the state, is home to both Wheeler Peak, the state’s second tallest mountain at 13,064 feet; and the Lehman Caves. Just north of Las Vegas is Spring Mountain National Recreation Area, where Mount Charleston, at 11,916 feet, offers a challenge.