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The independent spirit of the Old West pervades Nevada, America’s seventh-largest state by area, which lies landlocked by Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho and Oregon. Despite its size, Nevada’s 110,540 square miles of land contain only 2.75-millon people (less than half the population of New York City). Residents endure a subtropical desert climate, with January lows averaging 36 degrees and July temperatures soaring into the low 100s.

Nevada saw its early heyday beginning in 1859, when the world’s largest silver find was unearthed in the hills northeast of Carson City, the present-day capital. Nearby, to the north, Virginia City preserves its downtown as it looked in the rough-and-tumble days when thousands of miners poured in to dig their share of the Comstock Lode.

Since legalizing gambling in 1931, the Silver State now counts millions of visitors who come here to gamble each year. Their freewheeling attitude is most evident in Las Vegas, the state’s most populous city, with nearly 584,000 people. Blazing with neon, the Las Vegas Strip casinos are testaments to excess. The elaborate design themes of these mega-resorts clone cities from New York to Paris.

Although gambling is de rigueur in “Sin City,” countless shows, sporting events and spectacles also entertain guests. Top toques whip up a world of cuisines for discerning diners in more than 2,300 restaurants.

Beyond the glitz and glamour of the high-stakes cities of Las Vegas and its northern sister, Reno, spread thousands of acres of public land. Death Valley and Great Basin National Parks join 25 state parks to provide recreational opportunities galore. Landscapes range from dry desert sands to snow-capped mountains. West of Carson City, the lofty peaks surrounding Lake Tahoe offer some of best skiing in the United States.

No visit to Nevada is complete without a trip to Hoover Dam. This product of remarkable civil engineering rises 726 feet above the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. Completed in 1936 to generate electricity and control flooding on the river, the dam is recognized as one of the seven wonders of the modern industrial world.