For centuries, Native Americans quarried deposits in the future Nevada such as agate, turquoise and quartz for tools and trade. In 1859, discovery of the Comstock Lode near Virginia City propelled Nevada to statehood. The find, also heavy with gold, remains the richest silver deposit in history.
Groups can “dig deep” into the legacy of this charming town some 26 miles south of Reno via experiences such as the historic Virginia & Truckee Railroad. Here, they can travel as miners once did to Gold Hill, or aboard the all-day, 24-mile round-trip excursion from Carson City, Nevada’s capital, with a 3.5-hour stopover in Virginia City.
In a similar vein, Nevada meeting venues offer their own mix of rich rewards. Complementing the gold and silver standards of the major resorts in Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe, here are seven unique offsite gems around the state.
Neon is the defining art form of Vegas, introduced here in 1928 by Ethel Guenter, owner of Fremont Street’s Overland Hotel. Another woman, Betty Willis, designed the landmark “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign in 1959. While that icon is forever rooted in place, many famed signs are gone from their original locations.
Photo: Tim Burton at The Neon Museum, Las Vegas. Credit: Denise Truscello and The Neon Museum
Thankfully, courtesy of the award-winning The Neon Museum near Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas, some 200-plus yesteryear treasures live on to show the way the city used to be.
Groups can tour the Neon Boneyard and experience the truly brilliant display of reanimated signs in the North Gallery. Opened in October 2019, “Lost Vegas: Tim Burton @ The Neon Museum” is a campus-wide exhibition of sculptural and digital installations from the celebrated director, whose Vegas ties include filming the implosion of the Landmark Hotel and Casino for his 1995 sci-fi spoof Mars Attacks!
Private event hosting resumes in March 2020 once “Lost Vegas” concludes.
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Announced just two months after Guenter activated her sign, the Hoover Dam is a civil engineering wonder for the ages. Spanning the Nevada-Arizona border some 30 minutes southeast of Las Vegas near Boulder City, America’s highest concrete arch-dam plays its own electrifying role in Vegas history.
Photo: Spillway House overhanging Lake Mead, Hoover Dam . Credit: Jeff Heilman
Completed in 1935, this Depression-era triumph, impounding Lake Mead, remains a hydroelectric powerhouse and leading national tourism destination.
Featuring stirring sculptures such as the Winged Figures of the Republic and High Scaler that honor the dam’s fearless workers, the National Historic Landmark site also flexibly hosts hundreds of business, social and other events each year.
Venues for up to 200 conferees include the famed Spillway House. Overhanging Lake Mead on the Nevada side, the building offers panoramic views of the reservoir and dam.
There’s also the 120-capacity Observation Deck and spaces for outdoor and sporting events. Group programs are combinable with private behind-the-scenes tours.
Nevada’s Wild West past stays present at this folkloric 1913 time capsule located in a high desert hamlet 33 miles south of Las Vegas. Originally a haunt for miners and prospectors, the venue, which has appeared in several Hollywood films, is reputedly the last surviving Sears and Roebuck stamped-tin building in the U.S.
Photo: Pioneer Saloon, Goodsprings. Credit: Jeff Heilman
Bullet holes from a fatal 1915 poker game dispute mark one wall of the saloon, which features a circa-1860s bar shipped from Maine. Clark Gable reportedly spent three days here in 1942 before learning that his wife, actress Carole Lombard, had perished in a nearby plane crash. The incident and the couple are memorialized in the dining room.
Mixing with cowboys and the weekly gathering of friendly Vegas-area bikers, I enjoyed lively hospitality at the signature Ghost Burger. Regularly hosting corporate outings, cookouts, fundraisers, large-scale events and more, flexible rentals include the Centennial Room and outdoor courtyard, featuring firepits, picnic tables and whiskey barrels.
With a keen eye for the American West, acclaimed sculptor-turned architect Will Bruder found his design inspiration in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for this modern (2003) Reno landmark.
Caption: Nevada Museum of Art, Reno. Credit: Chris Holloman
Likened by The New York Times to “a spectacular chunk of black desert rock,” the Nevada Museum of Art is certainly an extraordinary space for meetings, conferences, talks, product launches and more.
Voted “Venue of the Year” in 2018 by the Reno Tahoe Chapter of the National Association of Catering & Events, the museum offers five versatile spaces for groups of up to 1,000 attendees, saying it’s “designed to nurture a collaborative workflow and ignite the creative spirit.”
Venues include the 350-capacity Grand Hall, 180-seat theater, panoramic 4,800-square-foot Nightingale Sky Room and 5,000-square-foot Stacie Mathewson Sky Plaza.
Celebrity chef Mark Estee can provide catering, and rental options include full buyouts.
The museum’s influence extends to just south of Las Vegas, where it co-produced “Seven Magic Mountains,” a sensational installation of locally sourced limestone boulders vertically stacked and painted in fluorescent color. For groups heading to the Pioneer Saloon, it’s a must-stop right off I-15.
Once totaling more than 1,400 unique, rare and vintage automobiles, gaming pioneer Bill Harrah’s peerless collection presented at this nationally acclaimed museum will get your group’s motor running.
Caption: National Automobile Museum banquet setup. Credit: Courtesy of National Automobile Museum
Displayed in era-evoking street scenes and facades, the 200-plus surviving cars inside the National Automobile Museum include an experimental 1938 Phantom Corsair, the only one of its kind built.
Other classics include Elvis Presley’s 1973 Cadillac Eldorado; the 1949 Mercury Coupe driven by James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause; and several of Harrah’s personal vehicles.
Located in downtown Reno just a few blocks from many of the major casinos, the 100,000-square-foot museum offers free parking and versatile rentals for groups of 60 to 1,200. Spaces include the galleries and 157-seat theatre.
“Captain” George Whittell Jr. became one of the wealthiest—and most scandalous—playboys in California after liquidating his inherited stock holdings just ahead of the 1929 stock market crash. His full-throttle legacy includes commissioning the rustic 1939 Thunderbird Lodge, a jewel on Lake Tahoe’s east shore.
Caption: Thunderbird Lodge. Credit: Thunderbird Lodge Preservation
Designed by Nevada’s original official state architect, Frederic DeLongchamps, this national landmark and Tudor Revival-style mansion today serves as a museum and educational center.
Rentals include an auditorium and conference facilities for corporate meetings and events. Offered year-round, private group tours include visits with wine tastings and hors d’oeuvres.
In the mid-19th century, people from the Basque Country of northern Spain and neighboring France immigrated to Nevada to escape oppression and seek opportunity in gold and ranching.
Today, Basques still populate the state’s central and northeastern regions and maintain distinct cultural and culinary traditions via festivals and several quality restaurants. Among the best known is this welcoming gathering place from 1910 on Elko’s Silver Street.
Whether catering local conventions like the preeminent Elko Mining Expo, which returns in June 2020 for its 35th edition, or seating groups of up to 50, the Star serves up welcoming hospitality, family-style dinners driven by grilled steaks, lamb and chicken, and generous glasses of Picon Punch, Nevada’s unofficial cocktail.
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Carson City Visitors Bureau | 775.687.7410
Elko Convention & Visitors Authority | 775.738.4091
Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority | 775.588.5900
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority | 702.892.0711
North Lake Tahoe CVB | 530.581.8703
Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority | 775.827.7600