Carson City, Nevada
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- When seeking statehood, Nevada telegraphed its constitution (16,543 words) to D.C. for $4,313.27 in 1861 dollars.
- The nearby Comstock Lode was the world’s largest silver find.
- John Wayne’s last movie, “The Shootist” (1976), was filmed in Carson City’s historic district.
- The architect’s fee for the Nevada State Capitol was $250.
- Coins worth more than $49 million were made at the U.S. Mint in Carson City.
In Kit Carson’s wake
Carson City is one of America’s smaller state capitals, with fewer than 60,000 residents, and is sometimes overshadowed by a couple of other cities, Las Vegas and Reno. However, Carson City boasts a historic center where sightseeing on foot, or by bike if preferred, is a practical option.
Besides, it doesn’t hurt that the city was close to the world’s richest silver find (and a lot of gold, too). Carson City hosted a U.S. Mint in the late 19th century, a building that now serves as the Nevada State Museum. And the little town that got really, really rich — Virginia City — is 17 miles away; it is somewhat polished up for tourists, but undoubtedly a more satisfying place for a day trip as a result.
It doesn’t hurt either that the great Lake Tahoe is in commuting distance of Carson City, offering water-based activities (being mindful the water is cold), pleasure cruises and shoreside casinos and entertainment. Also, Reno, with an alternate take on gaming and entertainment, is roughly 30 miles north.
Finally, the Sierra Nevada form a scenic backdrop, not to mention a playground for the active traveler who likes to climb, hike, hop on a mountain bike, ski or otherwise find diversions is the craggy outdoors.
But back to the capital and walkable sightseeing: Carson City has created the Kit Carson Trail, recalling the famous explorer’s arrival in the area. The trail is a comprehensive introduction to Nevada’s capital. It highlights around 60 landmarks, including 19th century and turn-of-the century homes and mansions, a brewery, churches, courthouses, a depot and museums.
Visitors can pick and choose where to linger, which museums to visit and then, for the final touch in a Carson City-as-Old-West destination, ride the historic Virginia and Truckee Railroad between Carson City and Virginia City. The railroad carried ore from Virginia City to Nevada’s capital but eventually ceased operations. After a 2007 restoration, the V&T relaunched as a tourist train, available seasonally.
History here can be fun, but local amenities are modern and satisfy other requirements — they include casinos, varied dining choices, galleries, golf courses and shopping.
Things to do for Venturers
- Create a team and compete in the World Outhouse Races in nearby Virginia City in October. Or, in September, attend the International Camel Races there. In either case, get a load of the town most obviously affected by the Comstock Lode’s enormous wealth.
- Raft the 12.6-mile Carson River Aquatic Trail for Class I to Class III white waters.
- Compete in the Tour de Nez-Vada bike race, a four-day event that starts in front of the Nevada State Capitol, ultimately ending in Reno. Or, for a more leisurely alternative, cycle the Sierra Foothills touring route for scenery and wildlife viewing.
- Show up at the Eagle Valley Muzzleloaders Spring Rendezvous (April) to see real mountain men while they spend a few days in camp recapturing the ways and lifestyle of mountain men of times past.
- If a car lover, you’ve got choices, beginning with the June Legends of the West Bike and Car Fest, with lots of great motorcycles as well as cars on view. Or, bring your own car for one of the city’s Silver Dollar Car Classic Cruise Nights, happening every Thursday June through August. It’s free, and any car will do.
- Climb in the Pine Nut Mountains south of Carson City. This is for advanced and long-range climbers, where altitudes max out at 7,465 feet.
Things to do for Centrics
- Depending on season, make day trips to Reno for its ski resorts or to play on the water.
- Ride horseback through the Washoe Lake State Recreation Area for spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada.
- Pursuing area history, include on your itinerary the nearby Genoa, Nevada’s oldest European community. It was first settled by Mormons.
- Take a ghost tour in Carson City or in Genoa.
- Bike alongside the Carson River into Brunswick Canyon. This calls for skills at the intermediate or higher levels.
- Come to the region to fish the Carson or Truckee River. Also, the lakes, Pyramid, Topaz or Washoe.
Things to do for Authentics
- Visit the governor’s mansion and the silver-domed Nevada State Capitol.
- Look for masterpieces of basket weaving (made by Dat-So-Lat-Lee, an Indian woman who died in 1925), as well as memorabilia associated with minting coins, at the Nevada State Museum. This is the former U.S. Mint.
- Pick up the map and walk or cycle the 2.5-mile Kit Carson Trail, which highlights the city’s key landmarks and Victorian houses.
- Play golf. There are several choices for courses.
- Conduct a self-guided tour of the Stewart Indian School, a boarding school for Native Americans from 1890 through 1980. The school is the site of a Father’s Day Powwow each June.
- Ride a historic steam train over the Virginia and Truckee Railroad’s rails from Carson City to Virginia City and back (with sightseeing time in the latter). The rides are available seasonally.
For more information, consult the Carson City Visitors Bureau at http://visitcarsoncity.com