A five-minute drive from one end of downtown to the other, seven with traffic, Virginia City isn’t at the top of everyone’s bucket list. But, any good traveler knows that there’s no such thing as a flyover city and everyone who’s ventured, knows to keep it on the radar.
Perfect for those who feel nostalgic reminiscing over their fifth-grade gold rush field trip, prefer a saloon to a cocktail bar, or simply appreciate a genuine slice of the old wild west, Virginia City is most certainly worth a visit. The following is your field guide to 1855.
Before you pass the Virginia City welcome sign, you’re going to want to know a little about the town’s history. Back in its day, the most important town between Denver and San Francisco, Virginia City was a boomtown after silver was accidentally discovered in the gold mines.
As the story of the secret fortune leaked, miners rushed to Virginia City looking to strike it rich and the town’s population swole to 30,000. It attracted the likes of Mark Twain and a number of other names you might recognize if you stroll through the tombstone littered cemetery. On a lighter note it, also became home to millionaires and harbored some of the finest food, drink, and entertainment in the country.
Being a town full of miners, it's safe to say they had a bit of fun - outfitted with over 150 saloons and a bustling nightlife, there was rarely a dull moment. But while alcohol and debauchery hold a special place in Virginia city’s history, anyone with a sense of adventure will discover much more.
The Chollar Mine Tour
For the brave soul, your first stop is the Chollar Mine -- a 400-foot walk down an almost certainly haunted mine shaft. The stop includes a breakdown of the authentic day-in-the-life of an 1800’s miner. Lots of history and tons of context for the rest of the day. By the time you’re back in daylight, you’ll be more than ready to hit the saloons.
The Virginia City Ostrich Races
Chances are you’ve never ridden an ostrich...or a camel. And while it's up to you to pursue those dreams, we’ll definitely be encouraging it from the bleachers at the Virginia City Ostrich Races. It’s exactly what it sounds like and there’s nothing else like it on earth. Mid-September marks race season - get your ticket here.
Tunes & Saloons
Walking through the doors of the Red Dog Saloon means standing inside of the same four walls where Janis Joplin played her first show and Grateful Dead had their second performance ever. Nestled in the origins of the psychedelic music scene with walls covered in vintage band art, it’s the spot to sit back and enjoy the spiritual presence of legends.
Thrift & Vintage
There’s no shortage of antique stores on the main strip, but everyone has a shortage of patience for sifting through what may or may not be junk. Here’s the real deal - Jan at Primrose Lane Antiques keeps it local with jewelry and records, Pop’s is loaded with tin signs that are so vibrant you’d think Baz Luhrmann made them, and Things, Things, and Things is your best bet for stocking your closet with vintage threads. If you’re in the market for some finger bling, most stores carry local art with stones from the surrounding mines. The white turquoise and vintage designs caught our eye.
Sports teams, bands, classic movies, TV shows, tragically deceased actors - Whatever your vice, The Barefoot Boy has a giant picture of it that belongs on your mantle. Most prints are $8, but the classic jokes from the guy at the register are free of charge.
Food & Drink
When you’re ready for a bite to eat, take a seat at the Firehouse Grill and thank us later. You’ll feel more like you’re stopping by a buddy’s house for a BBQ than sitting down at a formal restaurant. Special Bonus - there’s a full bar.
No longer rich with gold and silver, but rich with strangers who call you “darling”, shop owners who introduce you to their family, and bartenders who turn casual banter into meaningful conversations, you’ll come to Virginia City seeking your own fortune and leave knowing you found it.
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