Dine behind bars and commune with ancient cave bears in Ely

Ely is so much more than a place to stop for gas on your way through Nevada.
Photo: Leila Navidi

The speed limit drops fast on approach, challenging travelers to notice the colorful city behind the gas stop. With roots in the Nevada Northern Railway and a copper mining boom around the dawn of the 20th century, Ely has grown from a stagecoach outpost to the seat of White Pine County. But the warmth of the people and pace of life smack of the Old West.

There are so many reasons to drive the four hours from Las Vegas, from riding the Ghost Train to flashing back in time at the Renaissance Village to the soda fountain at McGill Drugstore. Whether you pass through or make it your destination, here’s some inspiration to really see Ely.

Jailhouse Cell Block Steakhouse

A good steak and a glass of wine—behind bars. The casino is themed as a jailhouse, and this fine-dining curiosity promises to “make you think Butch Cassidy could walk in at any moment.” jailhousecasino.com

Hotel Nevada has many historic charms, inside and out.

Hotel Nevada

Dating back to 1929, the hotel and gambling hall starts the atmospheric adventure with taxidermy, from a whole wolf to the head of a colossal moose. You might find yourself in a hallway of framed newspaper stories capturing the place through generations, or staring into the sculpted bronze face of wrangler and author Will James. Make like the old-timey murals and get cozy playing cards in your fringed chaps. hotelnevada.com

White Pine Public Museum

Artifacts paint a picture of a place inhabited at different times by the Shoshone tribe, prospectors and someone with a serious historical doll collection. But the star of the museum has got to be Lilly, a 12,000-year-old cave bear. Marvel at her fossilized skeleton and then hit the gift shop for handmade soap, Navajo jewelry or a book on Ely’s past. wpmuseum.org (seasonal hours; call ahead)

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