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Desert Companion

Travel: Ghost towns, haunted hotels and children of the corn

Lone Mountain

You don’t have to travel far in Las Vegas to find a ghost. From Bugsy Siegel to Elvis, they’re lurking in dozens of places around the valley, and spirit-spotting tours are available. October, however, is a great time to venture beyond the city — combine an autumnal road trip with a specter hunt.

Head out toward Death Valley to the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel (amargosa-opera-house.com) for a day or weekend jaunt. Well-known for its resident (and now retired) ballerina Marta Becket, this cluster of historic buildings has also long been a favorite destination for seekers of the paranormal. A spirit or two reportedly haunt the hotel, and you might hear stories about the ghost cat that interrupted performances at the Opera House.

Several other historic Nevada hotels boast colorful spirits and haunted guestrooms. One of the nicest is the Mizpah in Tonopah. Built in 1907, the Mizpah (mizpahhotel.net) was recently restored to its former glory and reopened. Keep an eye out for the Mizpah’s best-known ghost: “The Lady in Red” was a call girl who was murdered in the 1920s up on the fifth floor. Even if you don’t catch sight of her, you can enjoy a glass of excellent Lady in Red Zinfandel at the bar.

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For a weekend jaunt, head up to the Hotel Nevada in Ely (hotelnevada.com). While a number of ghosts reportedly call this great old hotel home, one of the friendliest haunts the Mickey Rooney Room. Not a screamer, this old wraith just likes to sit on the bed. Much closer to home, the Boulder Dam Hotel in Boulder City (boulderdamhotel.com) is reported to be home to a whole squadron of ghosts, from a former owner and several criminals to a child and something creepy in the basement.

For more corporeal frights, head out on I-15 to the Stagecoach Depot’s Haunted Cornfield Maze (glendalehauntedcornmaze.com) near Moapa. Kick off your evening with an outdoor barbecue dinner, and then climb aboard a big farm trailer for a ride out to the corn field. You’ll have plenty of excuses to scream as you meet local teenagers dressed up as chainsaw murderers and zombies around every corner. The Haunted Cornfield Maze ($10) is open every weekend in October. (For a maze without menace, an “unhaunted” corn maze is open weekdays.)

Nighttime is also the only time you can enjoy some local fauna dressed up for Halloween. Okay, scorpions fluoresce under black light every day of the year, but what better time to carry a black-light flashlight in your car than October? If you’re driving in the desert at night (or even around town) do a little exploring with your UV beam. Glowing scorpions are way cool — and they’re a lot easier to find and photograph than ghosts. — Mark Sedenquist

Lone Mountain

Lone Mountain is just the right size for an after-work hike, with a motivating view to keep folks climbing. The hike starts at Lone Mountain Park and meanders around the mountain to the west side. Then the trail gets steep. Really steep. In less than half a mile, hikers ascend 600 feet to the limestone peak with panoramic views of the Las Vegas valley. Rest easy at benches halfway up if you get tuckered out. — Alan Gegax

Zion National ParkA brush with greatness

You’re bound to see some jaw-dropping beauty this November at Zion National Park — and we’re not just talking about the soaring red cliffs and angelic blue skies. There’ll be lots of beauty popping off the countless canvases at the “In The Footsteps of Thomas Moran” Fourth Annual Plein Air Invitational. Basically, an army of acclaimed landscape artists are set loose in Zion, where they’ll capture the park at the same spots where landscape painting icon Thomas Moran did some of his finest work. Feeling inspired? The 25 painters will also give free talks, tips and demos on technique, plus offer a few paid, in-depth workshops if you really want to get your Monet on. Proceeds support the artists’ muse: Zion National Park itself. — Andrew Kiraly

The “In The Footsteps of Thomas Moran” Fourth Annual Plein Air Invitational takes place Nov. 4-12 at Zion National Park. Info: zionpark.org/artinvitational2012

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