We visited Virginia City with our 2 1/2 year old in October (or as she calls it Jimminnie City), and it was a fantastic day with our little one! With 2 million visitors a year, Virginia City is the United State’s largest National Historic Landmark. Most remember Virginia City from the iconic film series “Bonanza.” Virginia City was founded in 1859 with the discovery of the Comstock Lode which produced over 400 million (equivalent to billions today) in silver and gold. Mark Twain got his start here as a reporter for the newspaper. San Francisco was built from Comstock silver, and this city helped finance the Civil War. To say this city is steeped in rich American history is an understatement, this city IS US History. The town is built into the side of a mountain with wooden sidewalks, sprawling views, and an underground network of tunnels and shafts remaining from this authentic Wild West Town during the mining glory days! This town is a must see, and a great destination with children!
Travel: Virginia City is located in Western Nevada, and can accessed via car or train. From Reno, the drive is appx 40 mins. From Lake Tahoe, the drive will take you appx 1 hour. Carson City is an appx 30 minute drive, or can be accessed via the train from May thru October via the V & T (Virginia and Truckee) Railroad. http://www.vtrailway.com This train ride takes you along the original route thru old towns, tunnels, mines, and alongside beautiful scenery. This is a 3.5 hour trip with a stop over in Virginia City available on Fridays – Sundays from May thru October. The best time to visit with kiddies in tow really is from May – October as after this period many attractions close due to the weather.
Hotel: We chose to visit Virginia City as a day trip from Lake Tahoe. However, if you wish to spend more time in the area there are a few local inns/ hotels to choose from. A great list of accommodations can be found here: http://visitvirginiacitynv.com/lodging-dining-aamp-entertainment/virginia-city-hotels-a-motels.html
Comstock Train: This is a steam powered train with century old, wooden open air and closed passenger cars that operates from May thru October. You can take a 35 minute/ 4 mile roundtrip ride from the original V & T 1870’s depot located on “F” Street to Gold Hill. As many as 45 trains a day used to depart from Virginia City for Gold Hill. Today, 7 trains run daily on the hour between 10:30 am – 4:00 pm. The tour is fully narrated (and quite funny) and will take you thru old tunnels and Comstock mines and mills. This is a beautiful ride, and our 2 year old daughter loved the train. This is a great adventure for old and young children alike. There is also a cute little general store beside the train departure where we bought ice cream! The price is $12 per person, and children under 5 are free. ($5 for children 5-12 yrs.)
Barrels O Candy: A candy store filled with huge barrels of old fashioned candies, ice cream and a truffles and nut bar. What’s not to love? Our 2 year old daughter enjoyed getting her basket, and filling it with a few candies from all of the different barrels. This is a great shop to visit! There is so much candy in this store it is amazing. Some of these candies I never even knew existed!
Bernadine the Donkey: Outside the Virginia City Antique Mall was Bernadine the donkey and her owner, “Stinky”. Our daughter enjoyed meeting Bernadine, and feeding Bernadine carrots which we donated funds for! 🙂
Virginia City Mining Company: Pan for Gold!!! Allow your kids to find their own fortune. Located in the center of town next to the Territorial Enterprise Building (seasonal) you can pan for gold.
Dancin Crystals Mining Company: This is a neat little shop on “C” Street where you can pan for precious gems.
Virginia City Antique Mall – This is a great store full of treasures. They sell mystery goodie bags for $1 which was a big hit with our 2 year old.
Fourth Ward School: Located on “C” Street, this is an iconic historical landmark. This school was ahead of its time with indoor plumbing and heating, and was home to 1000 students. You can visit the vintage classrooms, and ring the school bell!
Territorial Enterprise Building: Mark Twain got his start by working as a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City from 1862 – 1864. It was during this time that Samuel Clemens began to use the penmanship name, Mark Twain which he had dreamt up from his previous work on river boats where he would mark twain when measuring 2 fathoms. There isn’t much to see at the Enterprise Building, but it is still standing in the center of Virginia City. You can view Twain’s old desk, and view the commemorative placards street side.
Miner’s Park: Located on “E” Street this little park is cute with picnic tables and a playground to enjoy!
Chollar Mine: Older children will certainly enjoy the Chollar Mine tour. Chollar Mine is one of the original Comstock mines. The tour takes about 30 mins. The tunnel is narrow and low, and you will experience total darkness once they extinguish the light so prepare younger kids for this beforehand.
Ponderosa Mine Tour: Another mine tour located in the back of the Ponderosa Saloon. Guided 25 minute tour of the Best & Belcher Mine.
Old Time Photos: If you want old timey western photos which would certainly be a kick for kids then visit this store on “C” Street.
Comstock Adventure Pass: Of note, is the Comstock Adventure Pass which can be purchased from May – October. This pass allows you to enjoy several local attractions at a discounted price. This pass can be purchased at the Visitor Center on “C” Street. The “Silver and Gold Adventure Pass” includes V & T Truckee Railroad, Virginia City Trolley Tour, and Ponderosa Mine Tour. The “Wild West Adventure Pass” includes the Wild West Comedy Show, Comstock Gold Mill, and Shooting Gallery. There are several other pass options including a combination of various attractions.
Virginia City Jerky Co: This place really is just very good. They make homemade jerky in house, and serve up tasty BBQ. We had the pulled pork and mac & cheese which was fantastic! I ended up eating my toddler’s mac & cheese because it was really that good. I also purchased all types of jerky for tasting, and it was great. The spicy chili jerky was very hot! Be advised they DO NOT serve fries. This is mentioned about 10 times inside the restaurant on their signage! 🙂 Obviously many have asked which I find very humorous. 🙂