“The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time, it’s a state of mind.” – Tom Mix
About 30 minutes off the Las Vegas Strip, tucked away at the base of the Spring Mountains, is a wonderful little gem known as Bonnie Springs. As a girl who grew up in Vegas, Bonnie Springs keeps some of my most cherished memories. It always offered a magical experience that took me back to a time of lawlessness, cowboys and offered a true Wild West encounter. But this is not the type of place to fully experience with only 2 hours available. Instead, I encourage you to set at least half a day aside to truly enjoy all that Bonnie Springs has to offer.
First things first! Here’s a little background of the Ranch. The land was originally home to the Paiute Indians until immigrants took over the land while expanding the Old West, forcing the Indians to dwell in the enclaves located just beyond the Ranch area. This land, which was home to natural springs, was established in 1843 as the last stop along the Old Spanish Trail for pioneers to refill their water barrels before heading to California. In 1952, Bonnie McGaugh purchased the land. At the timem, it consisted of a house and an old run down bar which she operated without electricity for years.
In 1964, Bonnie added electricity and expanded the bar to include a restaurant. (Here’s a fun fact: Bonnie herself laid the floor that is in the restaurant by hand!) In 1974, Bonnie’s husband, Al Levinson, opened the old West style town now known as Old Nevada, and in 1986 a 50 room motel was added to the area. Ever since, Bonnie Springs has been a local favorite and a staple of many childhood memories most of us can’t imagine being without.
Old Nevada Mining Town
Old Nevada was built with the vision of an 1880s old West mining town. It is complete with a wedding chapel, various souvenir stores, an antique photo shop (where you and your family can create old West style pictures), a school house, wax museum and a Saloon. The latter also doubles as a fully stocked bar. The buildings are either a collection of multiple old structures pieced together to create new ones, or were transported as a complete building to the town. Some guests have witnessed paranormal activities and say the buildings are haunted. Ask any of the employees, and they will tell you story after story of creepy accounts.
This area of Bonnie Springs also boasts incredible talent! The wonderful staff put on displays such as a Melodramas, a Hanging and a Posse Show that will engage you and make you laugh until you cry. Click here for a show schedule. The town is scattered with authentic mining equipment, wagons and other fun historical objects. Take a stroll with one of the cowboys walking around town, and they will be nice enough to tell you all they know about Bonnie Springs and the displays.
The passion that went into building Old Nevada can still be seen and felt. The incredible love that fueled the labor behind creating this Western town is seen in the smallest detail. It really makes you feel as if you traveled back in time to relive the Wild Wild West.
Bonnie Springs Petting Zoo
The Bonnie Springs petting zoo opened in the early 1960s after someone abandoned sheep at the Ranch. Bonnie had such a love for animals that she couldn’t turn them away and welcomed them with open arms. Ever since, the petting zoo has adopted several species of animals including emus, deer, llamas, wolves and more! Most of these animals were donated, abandoned or injured and nursed back to health thanks to the Bonnie Springs Ranch. Bring plenty of quarters to buy animal food from the self-serve dispensers for a hands-on experience with some amazing little creatures.
Restaurant & Bar
While you’re out visiting the old West, you’re bound to get hungry for some food fit for a cowboy. The good news is you won’t have to travel far. The Ranch has an awesome restaurant on site with a beautiful view of a manmade pond where ducks and turtles abound. This affordable little place is essentially the birthplace of Bonnie Springs. Its history lives on, and some of Bonnie’s original recipes are still served and adored at the restaurant. Get more information on hours and operations here.
The Bonnie Springs bar is also a fun destination for motorcycle riders. Hop on your Harley, ride through the scenic mountainsm and enjoy a nice cold drink and some delicious food with friends. Take a moment to look up at the ceiling to see thousands of dollar bills hanging above your head.
Hanging money was a tradition that started many years ago. On the day after 9/11, the staff took down all the money collected over the years (totaling almost $19,000!) and donated it to the local fire department. Since then, every couple of years the Bonnie Springs bar pull down all the dollars hung from the ceiling and donates them to various non-profits.
Bonnie Springs Events
If your child’s birthday is coming up, you’re hosting company party or are about to get married, Bonnie Springs wants to help you celebrate! They offer in-house catering and various locations are available on site to accommodate any size gathering. The events manager will happily guide you through the planning of your event and help you customize your special occasion to bring your vision into a reality. By understanding your specific needs he will be able to provide you and your guests with an experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else. For more information, call the main Bonnie Springs office at (702) 875-4194.
There’s also plenty of fun at the ranch for your party or family excursion. Go out for some horseback riding, pony rides, a train ridem and shoot live zombie on the last Saturday of every month (talk about an oxymoron!) with paintball guns for the ultimate Walking Dead experience.
The Wild West is still alive and well in the back mountains of the Las Vegas area. Only a short drive from The Strip it will offer you memories to last a lifetime!
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.