The state capital since territorial days, Carson City was named after the infamous Indian fighter Kit Carson and strategically located near the old Comstock Lode mining territory. Today, its proximity to the Lake Tahoe/Reno area makes Carson City an appealing step back in time and an easy day trip from the nearby lake and ski resorts. (Carson City lies 325 mi/525 km northwest of Las Vegas.)
While you're there, be sure to visit the governor's mansion and the state capitol (it has a silver dome). The Nevada State Museum, housed in a former U.S. mint, displays machines once used to make millions of dollars' worth of gold and silver coins. You'll also find exhibits about Nevada's history, geography, archaeology and culture, as well as replicas of an underground mine and a ghost town. Don't miss the museum's collection of baskets made by Dat-So-Lat-Lee, a Washo Indian woman who died in 1925. Using only her hands, teeth and a sharp rock, she created masterpieces of basket-weaving that have been valued at US$250,000.
The Children's Museum of Northern Nevada has 19 hands-on exhibits relating to fine arts, sciences and humanities (http://www.cmnn.org). Kids also will like the Nevada State Railroad Museum, with restored railroad cars and equipment, railroad history exhibits and train rides. Call ahead at 775-687-6953 to inquire about departures—the trains only run on certain days (http://www.nsrm-friends.org). The Stewart Indian Museum, on the site of the old Stewart Indian Boarding School, has traveling exhibits about Native American culture, as well as displays of artifacts and a trading-post gift shop.
If you have time and like old houses, stroll the Kit Carson Trail, a walking path through the city's landmarks and Victorian houses. Pick up a map at the visitors center. In October, there is a ghost tour with actors performing historic and haunting scenes.
If you would rather see a mansion, drive out to the Bowers Mansion Park (10 mi/16 km north of town), where you can tour a lavish home built by a mining millionaire.
For good views of the Sierra Nevadas and the Carson Range, take a drive, hike, bike, horseback or boat ride through Washoe Lake State Recreation Area. And don't miss a stop at nearby Genoa, Nevada's oldest non-Native American community, originally settled by Mormons. Mormon Station State Historic Park maintains a replica of the trading post that was built there in 1851 (it contains a small museum). Visit http://www.parks.nv.gov.
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