Wendover (Utah/Nevada)

Wendover is a small resort town straddling the border that divides the American states of Utah and Nevada, 120 miles due west of Salt Lake City. The location on the state border makes Wendover the nearest legalized gambling for millions of people, which has led to the construction of large, extravagant casino resorts despite the town being otherwise very small and remote. This, in turn, has made Wendover sort of a quieter, more laid-back alternative to Las Vegas even for those who don't live in the region. Wendover is also the destination of choice for those attending land speed racing events at Bonneville Speedway, just east of town on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Officially, Wendover is two separate municipalities – Wendover, Utah and West Wendover, Nevada – but the two sides share a road network and are basically the same town from a tourist's point of view. While the rest of Nevada is in the Pacific Time Zone, both sides of Wendover observe Mountain Standard Time (UTC-7) in the winter and Mountain Daylight Time (UTC-6) from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November.

Understand

The view from inside the skybridge.

History

Though human civilization existed in the area at least 9,000 years ago, the modern settlement of Wendover dates back only to 1907 when it was chosen as the location for a new railroad service station, where water could be piped in from springs in the Pilot Mountain Range to power the steam engines. This new settlement grew slowly at first, but it got an early glimpse of relevance in 1914 when the first transcontinental telephone line from New York to San Francisco was completed at the state border. Then, in 1931, the state of Nevada legalized gambling to combat the economic woes of the Great Depression. Bill Smith, owner of a gas station at the state border, took the opportunity to add a gaming floor and open the Stateline Casino, giving rise to the gambling getaway reputation that Wendover holds to this day. It was also during the 1930s that the Bonneville Salt Flats gained notoriety as the hot new destination to challenge land speed records and test the limits of automobile technology.

World War II brought a major population boom to Wendover, albeit a temporary one. The Air Force Base alone peaked at around 20,000 residents, more than triple the population Wendover has had at any other time in its history. The influx of young men with government salaries bolstered the gambling business on the Nevada side of the border and paved the way for newer, nicer, and bigger casinos. The soldiers left when the war was over, but the improved recreational facilities and the historic buildings at the airbase remained. During the second half of the 20th century Wendover was on cruise control, doing more of everything that had made it popular in the first place: the 1960s saw an unprecedented series of broken land speed records at the speedway, and the economic growth of the 1980s sparked another round of casino expansion. The 2000s saw the addition of a dedicated concert hall when the town's music scene outgrew the little cabaret stages in the casinos, and the old airbase began a major restoration project for the first time since the war. Today, Wendover has a combined population of about 6,000 people and a unique identity as a resort town in an unlikely location, on both sides of a state border in the middle of the desert.

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°F) 35 42 53 61 71 82 91 89 77 62 46 36
Nightly lows (°F) 19 24 33 40 49 58 65 63 53 40 28 19
Precipitation (in) 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.8 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.5 0.3 0.2
Snowfall (in) 1.5 1.3 0.5 0.2 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.3 1.1

Climate

Wendover experiences all four seasons, with temperatures ranging from below freezing in the winter to shorts weather at the height of summer. Snow is a possibility you should be prepared for during the winter months, given the freezing temperatures, but the arid desert terrain keeps all forms of precipitation to a minimum. Spring is the rainy season, though a spring in Wendover could pass for the dry season in many places.

Get in

Visitors traveling to Wendover from far away will probably find it easiest to first arrange transportation to Salt Lake City and then take a bus or rental car from there.

By car

Interstate 80 connects Wendover to Salt Lake City 120 miles to the east, and is the most commonly traveled route into town. Exit 2 on the Utah side of the border is the first exit labeled for Wendover, though it drops you off at the far eastern end of town. To get closer to the casinos before exiting the freeway, continue to Exit 1 onto Aria Boulevard, which is technically still in Utah but acts as the border street between the two sides of town. Note that Exit 1 does not offer ramps on the western side of the street, and is strictly a westbound exit/eastbound entrance.

To the west, Interstate 80 connects Wendover to most of the major towns in Northern Nevada and eventually Reno, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Drivers from this direction will want to use Exit 410, which puts you on Florence Way a block north of Wendover Boulevard.

The only north/south highway through Wendover is an alternate route of U.S. Highway 93. The main route bypasses Wendover to the west on its way from Ely to Wells, but for travelers driving north from Ely the road forks about 50 miles south of Wendover: continuing straight instead of taking a left will put you on U.S. 93 Alternate, which meets Wendover Boulevard across from the Peppermill casino. The northern half of the alternate route is just a concurrency with the 60-mile stretch of Interstate 80 between Wendover and Wells.

By bus

Greyhound offers bus service to Wendover, using the Pilot truck stop at 1200 W Wendover Blvd as a station. Greyhound can get you to Wendover from almost anywhere in the United States if you don't mind multi-day trips with transfers; more convenient direct buses to Wendover are available from destinations between Reno and Denver. All eastbound buses to Wendover start in Reno and follow Interstate 80, making brief stops in Lovelock, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain, and Elko. Most westbound buses to Wendover start in Salt Lake City and make no stops in between. Some buses originating as far east as Denver will reach Wendover without requiring a transfer to another bus, though the layover in Salt Lake City is still over an hour long. These buses make intermediate stops between Denver and Salt Lake in towns such as Idaho Springs, Winter Park, Granby, Steamboat Springs, Vernal, and Park City.

Casino shuttles

Peppermill Resorts, owner of the Peppermill, Rainbow, and Montego Bay casinos, has partnerships with Le Bus and Lewis Stages Tours to shuttle passengers directly to the casinos from a series of stops in and around Salt Lake City. Utah Trailways provides similar shuttle bus service for the Wendover Nugget and Red Garter casinos, and offers discounted fare for military and first responders on Wednesdays.

Casino coupons are generally included with a trip on any of these carriers.

By plane

Wendover Airport (+1 435 665-2308) (IATA: ENV), originally a World War II airbase, is now operated by the county and is open to the public for general aviation if you have access to a private plane or can charter one. All scheduled commercial flights to Wendover are part of the Resorts at Wendover Flight Program (+1-866-359-9363). These flights can only be booked as part of a package deal with airport shuttle service and a three-night reservation on specific dates at the Peppermill, Rainbow, or Montego Bay casinos, which means all passengers must be 21 or older. The flight program visits a rotation of both large and small cities throughout the western United States and sometimes parts of Canada, usually not repeating destinations more frequently than every few weeks. Plan on flights selling out in advance.

Get around

Street layout

Wendover Boulevard, a large east/west street that runs the length of the city parallel to the freeway, can be used to access all casinos and motels. Other businesses and points of interest, if not on Wendover Boulevard itself, are usually within a block or two south of it. There's almost nothing on the north side of the freeway, and most of Wendover's noteworthy streets either cross Wendover Boulevard or meet it at their northern terminus. The limited size of Wendover makes it a very easy town to navigate by car and feasible even on foot (though a full walk between the far western and eastern ends could be a bit of a trek – it's about 2½ miles, or 4 kilometers).

Public transit

Public transportation in Wendover is sparse and provided only by private companies. The Nugget and Red Garter casinos have free shuttles running 24/7 if you're just going casino hopping around the west side. Toana Taxi operates mostly on a call-for-pickup basis and can be reached at +1 775 664-4400. Average cab fare is supposedly $10, according to the anti-drunk driving message painted on the doors.


See

Wendover Will, certified by Guinness as the World's Largest Mechanical Cowboy.

Do

Gamble

Wendover is home to five casino resorts:

Concerts

The   Peppermill Concert Hall, a 1,000-seat venue across a long parking lot from the Peppermill Casino, attracts a steady stream of classic rock bands, country musicians, and comedians. Nostalgia is a big draw, with the artist lineup featuring an impressive number of big-name rockers from decades gone by. Tickets generally go on sale about three months in advance.

Racing events

Land speed racing at Bonneville Speedway.

  Bonneville Speedway, the most famous section of the Bonneville Salt Flats, made a name for itself throughout the 20th century as the home of several consecutive broken land speed records. Two of the most popular events held there today are:

These are very similar events, just run by different organizations. Both feature a wide range of vehicle types racing against the land speed record in specific categories: everything from motorcycles to vintage cars to specialty streamliners built specifically for Bonneville. Passes can be purchased upon arrival at the Speedway, and while the hotels in Wendover often fill up in advance, there's no danger of the Salt Flats themselves running out of room for more spectators. (If hotel space does fill up, camping is allowed a few miles west of the Speedway in one designated area.) Viewing areas for all races are generally about a quarter mile from the Speedway for safety reasons, but visitors can get up close to the action and even mingle with the drivers and technicians by visiting the pits near the starting line.

Food, souvenirs, and supplies can be purchased from vendors at major events, but there are a handful of things you should bring with you just to be safe: sunscreen, sunglasses, drinking water, extra drinking water, any sort of shade structure...there's no such thing as too much protection from the sun when you're visiting a large reflective surface in the summer.

Other events

The salt flats are also used for other events besides auto racing, usually in the speedway area, and usually during the summer when the flats are most likely to be dry.

The Bureau of Land Management publishes a full schedule of sanctioned events with permits to use the flats.

Buy

Shopping isn't high on the list of attractions on Wendover; perhaps the only unique local buys you might find are the souvenirs at the town's plentiful gift shops, celebrating Wendover's racing heritage, wartime industry, and rowdy gambling culture.

There are a handful of buildings in Wendover that call themselves malls or mini-malls, but don't get your hopes up: their tenants are more likely to be tax filers and manicurists than retailers. The most prominent of these is the   Plaza Shopping Center strip mall between Wendover Boulevard and Plateau Street on the far west side of town. Actual shops here include a furniture store and a charity thrift shop, but the "mall" is still more frequently visited for the strip club than anything.

Eat

Casino restaurants

Drink

Bars and clubs in Wendover are generally on the Nevada side of the border due to the looser alcohol restrictions.

Sleep

Hotel space on the Nevada side of the border is provided by the casinos listed above. There are also a handful of places to stay on the Utah side:

Campgrounds

RV parking with hookups can also be found at the Wendover Nugget casino.

Connect

Cope

Medical care

Emergency paramedic service is provided by Wendover Ambulance and should be reached by dialing 911. If you need a full hospital with an emergency room, you will most likely find yourself in a helicopter to Salt Lake City.

Go next

Routes through Wendover

Reno Wells  W  E  Salt Lake City Rock Springs
Twin Falls Jackpot  N  S  Ely Las Vegas


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, May 13, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.