Step back in time in Virginia City!! I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Virginia City. If you’re like me, you want to go back in time and have a great experience whether it’s dining, entertainment or lodging. You certainly don’t want to leave too early. Three days is perfect to get away to this famous historical western town where you walk the streets with buildings dating back to the 1800’s; some refurbished. There is great shopping! Find yourself a dynamite western hat, or leather boots, or a beautiful victorian blouse, or get some candy and memorabilia at the Virginia City Mercantile Shop. Some of the best food you will ever eat is at the Sawdust Corner or the Bonanza Cafe.
Here are some hard facts about Virginia City: At 6200 feet on Mount Davidson, historic Virginia City is 25 miles from Reno and 45 miles from Lake Tahoe. Like many cities in Nevada, Virginia City was a mining “boomtown” with more than $400 million in gold and silver mined. In today’s prices, that’s more than $20 billion dollars. The 19th century mining bonanza turned Virginia City into the most important industrial city between Denver and San Francisco. Mansions, hospitals, churches opera houses and schools were built and imported furniture, fashions and entertainment from Europe and the Orient were brought in. The riches helped finance the Civil War and went on to build empires around the world, including San Francisco which was built with Comstock silver. Virginia City museums~ more than 15 in all, featuring Mark Twain’s writings, the Silver Kings, one of the best collections of police memorabilia, and many more! Mines and mine tours~tour authentic mines. The Chollar Mine with its riches first located in 1859, was one of the leading producers on the Comstock. Active mine tours are available at the Comstock Mine.
Nationally renowned and internationally known, annual events are another claim to fame! Events include: Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry, Chili on the Comstock, Virginia City Fourth of July Parade & Fireworks Spectacular, Hot August Nights Virginia City Kickoff, Virginia City International Camel & Ostrich Races, Taste of the Comstock, Street Vibrations Fall Rally, Virginia City World Championship Outhouse Races, Christmas on the Comstock & Parade of Lights.
I had the distinct pleasure of attending the 56th Annual Virginia City International Camel and Ostrich Races on Sunday, Sept. 13. There is some history regarding Camels, per my conversation with Deny Dotson, Tourism Director for the Virgina City Tourism Commission. Back in the mining days, the first camels appeared in 1861; of which their appearance was nothing short of sensational. For a brief time, the camel pack trains hauled salt for use in the mills for reduction of ore, hauled wood for the mines (where it was used in prodigious quantities), and bore massive loads of merchandise. Horses actually were afraid of them with their tall stature and almost prehistoric body design, that the miners decided to run their camel trains at night, so as not to bother the horses. As time went, on, casually they started camel races in town. This hilarious event is a must see for all! This event was held in the new venue, with new seating. As Deny Dotson described, “The new venue at the Virginia City Arena and Fairgrounds is flat and that allows for more space including an all bleacher seating venue, something that was limited in the other location. Everyone who purchases a ticket will have a seat and there’s really not a bad spot in the house. No more are we asking folks to bring their own lawn chairs or sit in the dirt. Parking and the event take place at one location.” There was a VIP Hospitality Tent with plenty of shade, seating and BBQ buffet. Sit on the bleachers as an option, or another choice is the In-Arena where tables with seats, had umbrella’s for your enjoyment.
The next day, I toured the V&T Railroad and took the 35 minute train ride through the Comstock mines and then passed the famous Gold Hill Hotel where you can be dropped off to dine. There are many other train routes to take on the V&T Railroad. Visit the website for train schedules and pricing.
Tickets available online: Historic Route – Virginia City to Gold Hill 35-Minute Round trip • Virginia City – Gold Hill 7 departures Daily May 23 through October 31. Travel back to the bonanza days on the historic and scenic original Virginia & Truckee Railroad route. This 35-minute tour stars in Virginia City, runs to Gold Hill and then returns to Virginia City. The V&T conductor tells the story of Nevada’s late 19th century mining boom, when the V&T was built and Virginia City was the richest city on earth, with more millionaires than anywhere else.Watch for exposed veins of silver ore and more, including:
• Board from the original 1870 V & T passenger depot and museum – Virginia City station, three blocks from downtown’s fascinating C Street, with free parking.
• Tunnel No. 4 – the last tunnel before Virginia City, one of seven built for the 1600-ft. descent to the valley floor.
• Comstock mines – During the ride, you’ll pass by many mine sites including the Gould & Curry, Savage, Hale & Norcross, Potosi, Chollar, Julia, Ward Bullion, East Yellow Jacket, Crown Point, Kentuck, Yellow Jacket, Combination and the Foreman.
• Gold Hill – rich in American history, where the Comstock Era gold and silver strikes began in 1859. See the train depot, the Liberty Engine fire company monument, dine at the 1859 Gold Hill Hotel and see the early Bank of California building and the Maynard Block.
My next tour was the Historic Fourth Ward School & Museum. I highly recommend this tour as well. Follow students’ footsteps through the authentically preserved 1876 Victorian school building. Sit in the same wooden desks as the children and teachers did from 1876 to 1936. Explore Virginia City history, education in a 19th century western city, Mark Twain’s life, letter press printing, alumni’s lives, Comstock mining, abandoned mine issues, and new exhibits in the other classrooms. Research family genealogy in the archives. Ask in the museum store if you can pull the rope to hear the original school bell. Learn why the Fourth Ward School is the only Second Empire style four- storied, wooden school building still standing in the U.S.
Lodging is always an experience upon entering a new town or city, and you probably make your choice based on reviews, amenities, etc. I was referred to the Virginia City Inn. Upon entering the Front Office, I was warmly greeted by David and Linda, the Managers & Owners. They are excellent hosts and have done a wonderful job of remodeling the rooms. It was so quiet and there’s a lovely yard in the back which welcomes you with the view of the hills. The rooms are spacious and have air conditioning; a real treat, especially since Virginia City is usually in the 80’s. The Virginia City Inn has 14 rooms and one apartment with 3 beds, a kitchen and living area called the Cowboy Hideaway. Other themed rooms are available – The Pony Express, Paiute Room, Silver Screen Cowboys, Immigrant Room, Pioneer Room, Civil War Room, Mark Twain Room, Retro-Psychedelic Room, Wild Horse Room, Some Like It Hot Room (with Marilyn Monroe), Anniversary Suite, Bonanza Room, V&T Railroad Room and Mining Room. All the room themes are tied to the history of Virginia City. Located one block south of the Fourth Ward School, provides a lovely view of the surrounding area. Please visit their website, virginiacityinn.com to make your reservations! IPA Magazine highly recommends!