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Style Magazine

Virginia City, Nevada

Oct 30, 2009 07:08AM ● By Wendy Sipple

Photo courtesy of C.L. Marshall Images.

Journey to the past and visit the mining boomtown of Virginia City, Nevada.

The 19th century’s cosmopolitan city of the West, Virginia City is the site of the Comstock Lode, where silver and gold were discovered in 1859. Virginia City lured thousands in search of fortune, boasted a booming population in its heyday, and today draws over two million worldwide visitors each year. This historical nugget offers visitors a view into the lives of miners in the 1800s and of those who struck it rich. Famed as the locale in which literary great Samuel Clemens first used the pen name Mark Twain, Virginia City is an ideal destination for bibliophiles and history buffs alike. Charming bed & breakfasts and historic hotels are scattered throughout the city’s alphabet-named streets. This notable landmark is also home to renowned Virginia & Truckee steam locomotives...all aboard!

Prepare for a ride through the 150-year history of this charming mining town. First stop, the Virginia City Visitor’s Center. There you’ll find friendly folks with everything you need to make your way around town, discounted tickets to attractions, and the ever-important restroom for inevitable pit stops. With an abundance of activities in Virginia City, visitors that purchase “Silver Line Express Tickets” will definitely save some silver on attractions and shopping, and discover much of what this picturesque town has to offer.

Stroll along the boardwalks of C Street (preferably not in heels, something this city gal learned the hard way), which houses numerous gift shops, antiques stores, and of course, saloons. Quaint storefronts offer glimpses into the mining past of an old Western town. Curb cowboy cravings and splurge on an authentic pair of cowboy boots at The Old Red Garter. Have a beaver felt hat custom-made while you shop, by the Virginia City Hatmaker in the Pioneer Emporium. Classic homemade treats and delicious ice cream abound at Grandma’s Fudge Factory. And Pick up something for everyone at Comstock Bandido.

In between shopping excursions, carve out time to discover the town’s past. Some of Style’s favorite attractions include the Mark Twain Museum, a genuine stagecoach ride, the Chollar Mine Tour and Guided Ghost Walk. A surreal encounter, viewing the desk where Mark Twain himself sat and the journals he penned, was truly extraordinary. Adventurous visitors, who also appreciate 19th century transportation, should catch a stagecoach ride. As the only operating stagecoach still running horses in the U.S., patrons are in for an authentically bumpy ride. For the daring, a guided ghost walk is in order. I braved an hour-long tour through town on a Friday night, with nine other fearless folks and one fearful foe. After touring town, replenish with a pizza slice at The Red Dog Parlor, then drop by the original Bucket of Blood Saloon. Filled with period paraphernalia and antiques, it’s one of the city’s most celebrated watering holes.

A wealth of information, and this writer’s go-to guy for local history (and delicious breakfasts), Paul Yandre, owner of the Cobb Mansion, not only knows Virginia City, but guests at his B&B receive a guided tour through town in a convertible, complete with two adorable canine companions.

Whether you’re exploring town, catching a show, or touring historical cemeteries or gold mines in Virginia City, you’ll notice that this town is franchise-free, so the only chains you’ll find are that of the precious metal element that makes this town truly rare.

See our Online Exclusive for more to do in Virginia City!