With Labor Day and a three or four day weekend quickly approaching is the gypsy in you screaming to break free? There is a wonderful weekend adventure just waiting for your exploration.
Virginia City, NV is about a 7 hour drive from Mesquite if you’re a normal driver. If you’re me, it might take you about 8-9 hours there’s so much to see and take picture of along the way. If you’re like my friend Marie Sweet who just wants to get to where she’s going, it’ll only take you six; she can’t drive 55, if you know what I mean.
Either way, the full trip and your destination will be fascinating, educational and a memorable trip where you can get your fill of stories and photos, see/touch artifacts that will give you a true sense of life in the 1800’s and get your fill of Nevada’s rich history and discover just how Nevada became known as the Silver State.
On the way to your destination you’ll ride along the Extraterrestrial Highway (Highway 375) where you can watch for signs of alien life but you’d be better off watching for the cows on the open range; some of them were obviously never taught to look both ways before crossing.
Along the ET Highway, you might want to stop at the Alien Museum, it’s clearly marked by the 40 ft. tall alien on the front of the building, or grab a bite at the Little A’Le’Inn and see some ET photos from the days before Photoshop; some of them might even make you go, “Hmmm.”
At the end of the ET Highway is the abandoned town of Warm Springs where you’ll find a great photo opportunity, especially when the Long-Horns pass through.
Tonopah is your halfway point where there is plenty of history and the infamous, and slightly creepy Clown Motel, you might want to stop and peruse their large assortment of clown memorabilia; if you dare!
Walker Lake is another stop along the way you’ll want to make. When driving to Virginia City, if you stop this side of the lake you’ll be able to see a very large herd of wild Mustangs drinking and grazing along its shores.
When you hit Virginia City, it will be like taking a step back in time to the 1800’s; before Nevada was a state and this is where your history lesson begins. The town is complete with costumed characters in period clothing and original structures of the times; there’s even a resident miner and his donkey that visit Main St. each day. Nearly every shop you step into has its own story along with a shopkeeper who’s willing to tell them.
Museums, mines and tour guides will tell rich tales of the times when Virginia City was bustling with wealth from the Comstock Lode, discovered Jan. 20, 1859, which produced over 20 million tons of ore that put Virginia City on the map, contributed to Nevada’s Statehood and subsequently helped to build the city of San Francisco.
Some of the key places you might want to check out are:
- The Way it Was Museum where you’ll be able to see and touch centuries old equipment, view one of the most beautiful collections of period clothing, a priceless mineral collection and a scale model of hundreds of miles of the underground structures that will be lying beneath your feet as you explore the town and much more.
- The Chollar Mine was first located in 1859 and consolidated with the Potosi in 1865 to become one of the leading producers on the Comstock.
- Mary’s Church is simply beautiful and serene; stepping into the vestibule will simply take your breath away. The museum, located downstairs, has quite a collection of period pieces, pictures and church artifacts. Even if your religion isn’t Catholic, you will still appreciate the history.
- Cemeteries always tell a tale of any town and you are welcome to visit the final resting places of many of the town’s pioneers. One section in particular is the Exempt Firemen’s Cemetery. The Comstock has been protected by volunteer firemen since 1860. After 20 years of volunteer service, firefighters are able to “go exempt” or retire from active service. Burial in the Exempt Cemetery is a privilege reserved for those firefighters who faithfully served the Comstock.
- If you’re hungry, Red’s Candy shop serves up the best hot pastrami sandwiches this side of a New York Deli and they’ve got plenty of sweet treats to finish it off; try the jalapeno peanut brittle, the hubby says it’s really good.
- The Washoe Club is the oldest tavern in Virginia City and the former home of the Millionaire’s Club; you literally had to be a millionaire to join. The building is reputed to be haunted by four ghosts and has been on Ghost Adventures three times; each time the hunters had claimed activity. It is the oldest Saloon in Virginia City because it was spared from perishing in the Great fire of 1875 which destroyed over 300 businesses in Virginia City at the time. Escaping the fire didn’t mean escaping tragedy and for $8 per person/$5 for children, you can take your own ghost adventure. Tour guides such as Richard St. Clair are experts on the history of the building, the area and they’re pretty in touch with the spirits as well; each tour guide has their own ‘personal’ stories to tell that might even make you a believer. The Washoe Club also contains ‘the crypt’ named so because that is what the cold storage/liquor room was also used for. At any given time in the winter months, before machines, when the ground was too frozen to dig graves, bodies were stored in the crypt for ‘keeping’ until the winter thaw. There was only one occasion in history when the crypt held more than four or five people. In 1870 there was an outbreak of Influenza and the need to store 70 bodies in the crypt until they could be buried in the spring. If the $8 tour doesn’t make you a believer, perhaps you’d like to get a group of eight together for a night of ghost hunting. You can rent the place all night long for only $400. It’s an adventure I’ll be taking sometime in the spring…I’ll let you know how it goes.
This is just a few of the places you can visit and enjoy but not by any means all there is to see. Virginia City is the hub of how Nevada got started and the history of the town includes famous people such as Mark Twain, who ran one of 4 daily newspapers, former President John F. Kennedy and was even featured in T.V’s Bonanza; the Ponderosa Ranch is fairly close by, skirting South Lake Tahoe. If you want to know about the “Silver State” in which you live, see and touch history or even go on a ghost adventure Virginia City is a great place to begin getting acquainted with both the natural and supernatural; it’s only a seven hour drive; depending on who you are.