A few weeks ago, as we journeyed from Stockton, California to Salt Lake City, Utah, my boyfriend recalled visiting some old timey town in the middle of nowhere Nevada outside of Reno. A little Googling brought us to Virginia City, Nevada and I can’t tell you how happy I am it did.
This city was once a bustling mining community at the height of the gold rush. Since then it’s fallen deeper and deeper into disrepair until the citizens really grabbed hold of making it a tourist destination. Despite that, everything is reasonably priced and I really think there’s something for everyone here.
We started our afternoon in Virginia City at the old Silver Terrace Cemetery. The price of admission was my favorite amount – free – and you could pick up a little pamphlet that gave you the story of the cemetery (as well as the fate of some of the inhabitants). Their pamphlet had this to say for the area:
Turn your “clocks” back to 1867 during the first burial here. What would you see? The ground was covered in purple and white clover and the site was described as the most beautiful burial ground in the state of Nevada, a tiny garden.
Those days are clearly gone, but it is a giant cemetery, full of old and interesting graves. If you’re interested, you can inquire about the Living Tour – Funtime Theater, which is a walking tour through the cemetery where the residents “come to life” and tell you about Virginia City in the 19th century. And if you’re really, really, really interested in the cemetery, you can get married there. You must give them 6 months advance notice (because this is such a popular spot???!?).
After leaving the cemetery, we strolled along the main strip for a while and took in some of the sights. We then went into the Way It Way museum for a whopping $3.00. This is one of those roadside-type of museums that always makes the true roadside roadtripper smile. An old lady took our $3.00 and reminded us not to miss the movie, which was a PBS-ish special straight out of the early 80’s, playing on a massive TV, probably from the same decade, in the corner. The exhibits all have computer print out descriptions (although they may have been typed on a typewriter actually) on them. On the grounds around the museum are several cool photo ops – including hopping into an old mine cart, standing next to a plastic donkey (which you are asked not to sit on or touch) and poke your head through a cutout of a miner. A nice way to while away 30-45 minutes (depending on how much of the movie you really want to watch). There is also a lovely wax couple in a surrey (with the fringe on top) that might give you nightmares. I loved it.
We poked our heads in several of the saloons after that, as most boasted something interesting to look at. The two main exhibits of interest were the Silver Lady over at the Silver Queen Hotel & Saloon, which was a large painting of a woman outfitted in silver dollars and The Delta Saloon and Casino, which houses the “famous” suicide table. Apparently several of the owners have committed suicide – making it more infamous than famous, I suppose. We also stopped by the Ponderosa Saloon to hit up their ATM and found a Bank of California walk in vault next to the ATM in the bar, which was robbed once in 1927.
My favorite stop of the day was the Washoe Club, where we went on an $8.00 ghost tour. We had a great tour guide, one who actually believed in ghosts and then enthusiasm in her voice for her stories showed it. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, I feel like there are two types of “good” ghost tour guides – excellent story tellers who can wrap you up in the stories and true believer who are just so enthusiastic that you wind up engaging their enthusiasm yourself. This chick was definitely the latter, and the rooms she walked us through were sufficiently creepy, even in the middle of the afternoon. The root cellar that was once used as a make-shift morgue really gave me the creeps. We also had the benefit of having a real crazy lady in the tour group with us, who was pretty entertaining to encounter as well.
My one regret is that I didn’t try the Gorilla Milk at The Palace Restaurant & Saloon. I just loved the name, but when I found out what was in it (tons and tons of alcohol), the middle of the afternoon before driving on to Reno did not seem like the time to drink it. Should’ve done it anyway.
And one little tip, if, like me, you’re always on the lookout for some kind of collectible during your travels (I’ve switched from pens to shot glasses), make sure to check out a few of those trinket stores on the midway. The shot glass I wound up buying varied in price from $4-$10 in different stores, for no apparent reason. Also, if you like old school candy and weird sodas, there are several stores offering both. We ended the day with an ice cream float at Comstock Creamery and it was delicious. Highly recommended.
So, if you’re traveling through northern Nevada, I highly recommend hitting up Virginia City. I’d go as far as to call it one of the spots I’d go a few hours out of the way to check out.
For more information about Virginia City, you can check out their website here. They even have an app you can download… am I the only one who thinks that a little weird for an old fashioned gold-mining town?