If you’ve ever wanted to make a visit into the past to see what it was like in America in the 1800s, Virginia City, NV is the perfect place. Located just 30 mins drive from Reno-Tahoe Airport, as you drive around the last bend you suddenly feel like you’ve traveled back in time with the road lined with wooden buildings and a wooden sidewalk! This small town is a perfect place for a day trip from Reno or Tahoe (hour drive from South Lake Tahoe) or a fun weekend getaway. Below was our itinerary for our weekend trip we took this summer!
We flew from SJC (San Jose, CA) into Reno-Tahoe Airport and drove 30 mins to check into Sugarloaf Mountain Motel. This cozy motel was built in 1878 and fits right in with the local historical charm with all the modern day amenities such as cable TV, microwave, and refrigerator. They also have a marketplace on site that was perfect for grabbing a cold beer or ice cream after dinner!
The next day we grabbed a quick breakfast and headed to the Visitor Center to pick up some passes. The Visitor Center is a perfect place to start your visit since they are prepared to answer all your questions and you can purchase many of the attractions tickets there ahead of time.
We then headed to catch the 10:30am ride on the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. The 35 minute trip to Gold Hill is filled with nature and historical scenes along the way. The railroad company is the most famous of all American Short Line railroads and was used to haul millions of dollars in gold and silver ore over 74 years. During it’s busiest years, as many as 45 trains a day would depart from Virginia City to Gold Hill, Silver City, Carson City, and Reno. The ride is comfortable and fun with a narrator pointing out important buildings and landmarks.
Next door to the railroad depot is the Comstock Gold Mill. This mill is the last fully operational stamp mill that dates back to the 1860s. The mill is a two stamp gold mill which helped break down (stamping) gold and silver ore so that the precious materials could be removed. The tour gives you a lot of history of the day to day life of a miner with a demonstration of how the mill works at the end!
We ended our day with a delicious dinner at the Cider Factory. The restaurant is located at Edith Palmer’s Country Inn and use to be an old Cider Factory. It has a beautiful courtyard leading into the dining room with live music many nights. The food was delicious and the ambiance was perfect to relax and unwind.
After checking out of our room, we headed to the Red Dog Saloon & Pizza for an early lunch. During Virginia City’s peak, the town had more than 100 saloons lining the street. These days many of the buildings are still standing and some still exist as restaurants and bars. They hold open mics and live performances and have a rich music history. Grab some pizza and a beer to enjoy while listening to new and seasoned artists.
Before heading to the airport, we stopped by the Ponderosa Saloon and Mine for a quick tour and a peak inside an underground mine. The quick tour takes you into the mountain from the backdoor of the saloon. In the musty tunnels you can see antique mining tools and a glimpse of how mining tunnels were built back in the day. Learn about the poor conditions many miners had to endure and the dangers they often encountered.
Virgina City was once a thriving city of 25,000 residents where many famous (and rich!) frequented. The millions of dollars that were made here have helped build cities such as Reno and San Francisco to what they are today. The historical charm and educational history can be found throughout the city which makes it a unique and worthwhile stop!