Virginia City

Overview

Introduction

This Victorian mining town was once considered the richest city in the world, the result of the Comstock Lode's enormous yields of gold and silver. Among the figures who passed through during its heyday was Mark Twain, who worked as a reporter (and first used his pseudonym) at the Territorial Enterprise.

The town later received a big boost when television's Bonanza was set in the area around Virginia City. (Those parts of the series that were filmed in the region were shot near Lake Tahoe, however, some distance from the real Virginia City.) Virginia City was quick to realize what Bonanza buffs wanted, and it has worked hard to refurbish its vintage buildings and play up its frontier history.

Take time to visit the saloons along C Street (our favorite name: the Bucket of Blood). Then allot some time to the town's many museums (expect entertainment more than scholarly analysis). The Nevada Gambling Museum looks at the history of gaming in the Wild West: One exhibit examines the evolution of the slot machine. The Julia C. Bulette Red Light Museum examines a different form of expensive entertainment—prostitution. It has photographs, medical equipment and other exhibits detailing the life of Ms. Bulette and her Virginia City brothel.

Among the buildings you should see are the lovely St. Mary's in the Mountains Church, the courthouse, Piper's Opera House and two mansions—the Castle (check out the silver doorknobs) and the Mackay Mansion (http://www.mackaymansion.com). To get a better idea of the town's past, take a tour of an underground mine and, in the summer, take a ride on the Virginia-Truckee Railroad to Gold Hill.

The International Camel Races take place in Virginia City in September, drawing competitors from Australia, Africa and Saudi Arabia. In October, the World Outhouse Races take place in Virginia City. Teams construct outhouses meeting certain requirements and then race them. 320 mi/515 km northwest of Las Vegas.

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