From history tours to a lively restaurant scene, Nevada's capital—about 15 miles inland from Lake Tahoe—neatly juxtaposes the old and the new.
Carson City’s downtown resembles a stage set of historic buildings and homes sprinkled among newer restaurants, antique shops, and a few sizzling neon casino marquees. The city of 55,000 hosts the spirits of Mark Twain (who lived there occasionally from 1861 to 1864), John Wayne (who acted there in the 1976 film The Shootist), and a gifted early-1900s American Indian basket weaver known as Datsolalee. Today’s residents are opening coffeehouses, restaurants, and lounges, infusing the place with verve and creatively bridging the present and the past. Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau: 1900 S. Carson St., Ste. 100, (800) 638-2321, visitcarsoncity.com.
Area code is 775.
The Kit Carson Trail connects notable historic buildings along a 2.5-mile walking route. A podcast featuring actors speaking as historical characters can be downloaded online or at the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau website. visitcarsoncity.com. The Virginia & Truckee Railroad Sisters in History Tour travels an 1869 rail route used to transport silver ore from Virginia City mines to the U.S. Mint in Carson City. 370 F St., Virginia City, 847-0380, virginiatruckee.com. A stroll through Carson City’s shops proferring antiques and collectibles—including Hanifin’s Arts & Antiques (210 N. Carson St., 882-2880, hanifins.com) and Westwall Militaria (412 N. Curry St., 885-7643, westwallmilitaria.com)—could end pleasantly with a tasting at Bella Fiore Wines. 224 S. Carson St., Ste. 8 (corner of Third and Curry streets), 888-9463, bellafiorewinesbar.com. Masterpiece American Indian baskets are on view in the Nevada State Museum inside the old U.S. Mint building. Between 1870 and 1893, the Mint produced more than $50 million in silver and gold coins, most from Virginia City mines. 600 N. Carson St., 687-4810, museums.nevadaculture.org.
For light fare and Thai spices, dig in to one of the fresh salads, such as green papaya, at the Basil. 311 N. Carson St., 841-6100, thebasilrestaurant.com. Enjoy breakfasty nighttime eats such as egg-centric sandwiches accompanied by live music or poetry at Comma Coffee. 312 S. Carson St., 883-2662, commacoffee.com. In classic 1950s style, the Cracker Box serves up tasty flapjacks, bacon, and eggs in a traditional diner setting. 402 E. William St., 882-4556. A favorite meal at Red’s Old 395 Grill starts with an appetizer of Red’s Rolls (smoked chicken drizzled with a Thai chili sauce in Western-style egg rolls), follows with a personal pizza on house-made pizza dough, and finishes with deep-fried cheesecake. 1055 S. Carson St., 887-0395, reds395.com.
To find a place to stay, visit AAA.com/hotels. The comfortable, neatly appointed Best Western Carson Station has 91 rooms and a casino off Highways 50 and 395. 900 S. Carson St., 883-0900, bestwesternnevada.com. With three rooms, the Bliss Bungalow, originally a home built in 1914, is set on the Kit Carson Trail near historic downtown Carson City. 408 W. Robinson St., 883-6129, blissbungalow.com. The Courtyard by Marriot Carson City Nevada has 100 homey rooms, plus an indoor swimming pool and fitness center. 3870 S. Carson St., 887-9900, marriott.com.
Check out the rest of our Lake Tahoe Area package:
Incline Village and Crystal Bay: Twain meets Sinatra
Reno: A booming scene just 30 miles from the lake
South Lake Tahoe: Mountain recreation and lake access
Tahoe City: Squaw Valley skiing and the Truckee River
Truckee: Handsome historic buildings and tasty eats
Photography courtesy Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau
This article was first published in January 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.