Virginia City facts
Virginia City is a mining boomtown in Nevada, located southeast of the bustling city of Reno. The distinctively picturesque city is lined with Victorian Buildings that were built during a 19th-century mining boom.
Comstock Lode, one of the first major silver deposit discoveries in the United States was established in 1859 and Virginia City built up from there.
Numerous mines opened up and the peak of the city’s population reached around 25,000 in the mid-1870s. After the decline of the mines’ output in 1878, the city’s population drastically declined and the 2010 census indicated the population of Virginia City was around 855.
This is what makes Virginia City Special, the abandonment left a wonderful collection of historical buildings and mines that are now popular tourist attractions. Virginia City gives a true feel of the Wild West and a unique mining city with a wonderful backdrop of the Nevada mountain ranges.
Virginia City is listed as a National Historic Landmark District, drawing in more than 2 million visitors per year. The city has a collection of historic properties that are separately listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Most of the attractions in Virginia City are located on or around ‘C Street’ which is the main area of tourism boasting a vast collection of Western-themed saloons and stores on a wooden walkway.
Some of the historic buildings in Virginia City that are open to the public and they make up some of our list of the best things to do in Virginia City.
Go Saloon hopping
One of the top things to do in Virginia City is to hop around the Wild Western saloons. ‘C Street’ is home to a collection of the typical and historical saloons, all of which host live music, served food and drink and offer incredible displays of historical memorabilia and pictures on the walls. The Virginia City Saloon list includes the Bucket of Blood Saloon, the Delta Saloon with the Old Globe and the Suicide table, the Silver Queen, and the Red Dog Saloon, originally the 1875 Comstock House.
The Red Dog Saloon hosted many infamous San Francisco rock musicians during the summer of 1965, such as the Charlatans. Janis Joplin also joined the ranks of musical acts playing on the Comstock’s new rock scene back in the late 60s.
One of the modern twists to the historical saloons is the inclusion of modern gastronomy including a pizzeria thrown into the traditional ambiance of the Red Dog Saloon.
Since the 1850s, miners built a network of underground tunnels in a quest for gold and silver. Despite extensive efforts, the Best & Belcher mine wasn’t profitable for around 120 years so the owners of the Ponderosa Saloon decided to dig a shaft from the saloon to the defunct mine and have since opened it as an attraction.
Tours of the mine can be taken inside the Ponderosa Saloon, guides supply hard hats and wonderful stories as visitors are taken through the dark and cramped tunnels.
Vistors can also experience a walk-in 1864 bank vault.
The Bucket of Blood Saloon in Virginia City has been serving up beverages to punters of the Wild West since 1876. The building was constructed shortly after the Great Fire of 1875. The building used to be the historical Boston Saloon and is marked as a National Landmark. Most saloons host house bands with regular residence and at the Bucket of Blood Saloon, you will find live music from David John and the Comstock Cowboys.
The 1876 Silver Queen Hotel, Saloon, and Wedding Chapel have been open since the mining boom, the Hotel and Chapel were made famous for its picture of a woman whose dress is made entirely of silver dollars.
Have fun browsing the Souvenir shops
With over 2 million tourists per year, Virginia City is inevitably packed with souvenir shops selling weird, whacky and wonderful Western memorabilia.
Wander in and out of the stores and enjoy the incredible displays of gifts from plastic guns, old fashioned bottles and cowboy hats to historical sweets, framed pictures and handcrafted woodwork.
Take home a handcrafted piece of art from the Rainbow Wooden Art store, or pop inside and admire to increible creativity of the artists who run the store.
We spent around an hour inside the Virginia City Mercentile Souvenir shop, purely because of the vast colllection of everything and anything.
Never before have we seen a collection of historical glass bottles of soda, candy collections including every flavor of Taffy possible and quirky signs.
Check out their website for more.
Ride the Truckee Steam Train
The Virginia and Truckee Railroad is a historical heritage railway that stretches for 14.1 miles (22.7 km) running up to seven trains per day. Most of the trains are run in steam behind locomotive #29, a 2-8-0 Consolidation, or an ex-US Army GE 80-ton diesel from Virginia City from Memorial Day until the end of October each year.
The Virginia and Truckee Railroad’s northern terminus is located in Virginia City and the route of the once crooked track goes from Carson City and through Gold Hill.
The route provides tourist excursions between Carson City and Virginia City on weekends taking a total of a 35-minute round trip. Hop on board and experience a scenic ride and a comfortable view of the historical area.
For more information, visit the Virginia and Truckee Railroad website.
Find iconic signs
Virginia City is full of iconic and picturesque signs that can be found nowhere else in the world. Stand beside a beaufiul 1950s cadilac on ‘C Street’ for an iconic photograph during your visit.
Admire directional signeage in the style of the 1870s
Realize your elevation with informative signs across the city!
And act like a wild westerner with the many face out signs outside the souvenir shops.
Take a Trolley Tour
The $5 Trolley Tour in Virginia City is so much fun! You’ll find the train trolley waiting by the Bucket of Blood Saloon parking lot, all you need to do is pay the driver and hop on board.
The tour lasts around 20 minutes and the driver guides visitors through the landmarks of the city.
Be educated on iconic sites such as the Red Light District in Virginia City, now marked with a distinctive block.
This is one of the best things to do in Virginia City as the tour allows you to find out where everything is and is a good place to start to plan your day of exploration.
See historical mines that the city developed around from the mid-late 1800s.
Be taken through the process of mining and see carts used to shift the tons of gold and silver.
The guide will provide an audio tour of the history of Virginia City.
See the famous V in the mountains of Virginia City…
Admire the randomness of mining parts plonked all across the city in a bid to maintain and appreciate the rich history.
For more information on Stage Coach tours, Walking tours and Mine tours in Virginia City, see the Visit Virginina City Tourist Board.
See Historical Schools
Virginia City has many historical buildings and notably, a couple of schools that make up some of the must-see items in Virginia City.
The Fourth Ward School is one of them, a historic 4-story mansard-roofed former public school that graduated its last class in 1936, after being open since 1876.
The school building now hosts the Fourth Ward School Museum offering visitors a chance to see a 1876 classroom and history displays.
The fully functioning Virginia City Middle School hosts students from the area and their sports teams are named after the historical Comsocks!
For more information, see the Fouth Ward School’s website.
Admire St Mary’s in the Mountain
Originally built in 1868 by Father Patrick Manogue, the St Mary’s in the Mountain Catholic Church has stood facing a wonderful backdrop at the edge of Virginia City. In 1875, the church burned in a city fire and was rebuilt in 1876.
It’s free to enter the St Mary’s in the Mountain church and you can find a museum about its history and a gift shop inside.
For more, see the St Mary’s in the Mountain Facebook page.
See how life used to be
Wandering around Virginia City will allow you to see how life used to be in the town with the addition of modernization. Most of the buildings and artefacts on C Street have been restored. If you pop inside ‘The Way it Was’ Museum, you’ll see untouched artifacts and images of the historic Virginia City. The museum has an incredible collection of historical mining equipment and items from everyday life in an old western boom town
The Nevada State Firemen’s Museum is free to enter and it is a great place to admire firefighting apparatus and artifacts and the rich history and heritage of firefighting in Storey County with primary emphasis on Virginia City and Gold Hill, and the impact on life and culture in those communities and the state.
For more, visit the Nevada State Firemen’s Museum and the Visit Virginia City website.
Watch a Gun Show
No Wild West boomtown would be complete without a live gun show, and Virginia City has a few to offer. The gun shows are completely harmless and are comedy-driven to entertain the millions of tourists that pass through the city.
The Virginia City Outlaws offer an award winning comedy show, see their Facebook page for more information.
Pop inside one of the Souvenir stores for a shooting session at one of the city’s Shooting Galleries!
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