Looking for things to do in Tonopah, Nevada? It's a great place to stay and play on a Nevada road trip.
We stayed in Tonopah twice on our way to and from Yosemite National Park with my parents and our two children, ages 13 and 16. Tonopah is small, but there aren't a lot of places in this part of Nevada where you'll find hotels, restaurants, and gas stations.
Tonopah has all the necessities, and we were pleasantly surprised by its unique and authentic character. It quickly became more than just a place to stay. We created a whole set of road trip memories here in just a few hours.
Here are my family's favorite things to do in Tonopah, Nevada.
Tonopah Stargazing Park
Tonopah's remote location makes it a great place to enjoy the wonders of the night sky. We came out here twice and the Milky Way is amazing on a moonless night!
Tonopah Stargazing Park is just outside of town. It's a small, walled space (the walls block the lights from the highway) with picnic tables and an unpaved parking lot. Public star parties are held occasionally and are publicized on the official Tonopah Facebook page.
Consider packing a red headlamp for stargazing. It'll help you find your way in the dark but won't reduce the stars' brightness.
Don't rely on Google Maps or similar apps to get you to Tonopah Stargazing Park. It sent us down a dirt road that was too rough for our minivan. Instead, drive to the south end of town on Highway 95 and turn left when you see the sign for the stargazing park. Follow that road to the fenced-in park.
We stayed at the Mizpah Hotel. This top-rated hotel feels historic but not run down. It's worth a walk through the lobby, even if you don't stay here.
The Mizpah Hotel is supposedly haunted. We did not have any paranormal experiences, except… our room smelled of stale cigarette smoke, even though it's a renovated, non-smoking hotel. We left the window open for hours and it made no difference. Our other rooms didn't have this smell, and when I talked to the front desk, I was told that it always smells that way and they can't figure it out.
Haunted? I don't know. What do you think? Either way, we thought that the Mizpah was great.
I'm not going to hard-sell the Clown Motel. You already know if you love it or hate it.
The Clown Motel is located on Main Street, next to the Old Tonopah Cemetery. Really. The motel milks the “scary clown” angle a bit, but most of the clown decor is colorful and friendly.
You don't have to stay at the Clown Motel to check it out. There is a free clown “museum” in the lobby that is filled with hundreds of clowns from around the world. Feel free to get a photo surrounded by clowns. You can also buy souvenirs.
Related: 10 Fun Things to Do in Ely, Nevada
Old Tonopah Cemetery
The Old Tonopah Cemetery is a quick, but rewarding stop for history lovers. It's located on Main Street, next to the Clown Motel, so it's hard to miss.
We just walked around the small cemetery, reading headstones and soaking up local history. You can also pick up a free cemetery brochure at many local businesses, which features a walking tour of notable headstones.
International Car Forest
The International Car Forest is the kind of quirky roadside attraction that we absolutely LOVE.
It's an interactive modern art installation in which old cars are partially buried in the ground and painted by both artists and vandals. There's a difference, and you'll notice it here.
The International Car Forest is located about 30 miles away in the tiny town of Goldfield, Nevada. Goldfield makes Tonopah feel like a big city, but it's an interesting place to explore.
Tonopah Historic Mining Park
If you have a little more time, the Tonopah Historic Mining Park is one of the best places to immerse yourself in local history and culture. It's on the site of the original silver mining claims that triggered the “Silver Rush” to Tonopah.
You can see a movie at the visitor center, peer down a mine shaft, and take a guided ATV tour of the site – all for a pretty reasonable price.
Tonopah Historic Mining Park is the big thing to do in Tonopah that we didn't do. It is located behind the Mizpah Hotel, in the center of town.
Tonopah, Nevada is road trip gold. We only spent a few hours here but found a lot of unique and worthwhile things to do. I highly recommend Tonopah as a pit stop on your way to Yosemite National Park or wherever else the road leads you.
Have you visited Tonopah? Do you have a favorite activity to add to this list? If so, please share your tips in the comments below.