Day Trip: Dog-friendly historic Virginia City, Nevada, off Highway 395

Date Visited: June 22, 2010
Check current conditions: Visitor Center 775-847-4FUN (4386).
  • Site Hours: Business Hours, 7 days/week (hours vary by establishment)
  • Admission: No charge.
  • Parking: free (lot)
  • Location: Virginia City, NV
  • Nearest City: Carson City, NV
  • Kid-Friendly: Yes
  • Dog-Friendly: Yes

Virginia City, Nevada is one of my favorite side trips any time I visit the Lake Tahoe area.  It is a historic district and a National Historic Landmark located about 15 miles off Highway 395.  This unincorporated community is the county seat of Storey County and was a silver mining boom town that sprang up after the Comstock Lode was found in 1859.  However, unlike its fellow mining boom town, Bodie (located 116 miles south, also a short way off Highway 395), Virginia City is not an abandoned ghost town — it remains a small viable community with residents and businesses.

Virginia City was also the town nearest to the Cartwright family over at the fictitious Ponderosa ranch (set along the north bank of Lake Tahoe) in the televistion series Bonanza.

View of Virginia City, Nev. , from a nearby hillside, 1867--68

View of Virginia City, Nev. , from a nearby hillside, 1867--68. Image courtesy of the US National Archives and Records Administration.

When Jeff and I started planning our historic Highway 395 road trip from southern California to Oregon last summer, I discovered that none of them had ever visited Virginia City.  So, we added it to our agenda as a stop along the way from our stay in Mammoth to our next layover in Klamath Falls, Oregon — particularly since the community touts itself as dog-friendly.  The kids and Jeff were quite impressed with the historic mining town.

Virginia City is accessible from Tahoe, Reno or Carson City, Nevada. If heading north on Highway 395, take the Carson City Exit (Highway 50) and head northeast until you reach Highway 341, which runs into Highway 342 and turns into Virginia City’s main street. If you are heading south on Highway 395, go past Reno and look for the Highway 341 exit (Geiger Grade Road), which takes you right into Virginia City. I’ve done this as a scenic loop every time I have visited Virginia City. Parking is available on the street or in several public lots.

Historic Virginia City

The Fourth Ward School Cultural Center.


Historic Virginia City

Definitely spend the $5 (for adults, $3 for kids) admission to tour the inside of the old school house and museum.


Historic Virginia City

I just love this old desk and typewriters.


Historic Virginia City

And old telephone switchboard.

Our first stop (mainly to use what I correctly assumed to be clean public bathrooms) was the Fourth Ward School Cultural Center located at the south end of town.  In operation between 1876 and 1936 as a school, the center now houses a museum that provides an excellent introduction to the history of Virginia City.  Since dogs are not allowed inside the building, the four of us took turns visiting the museum.

We left our truck parked at the public lot next to the museum, and spent the next few hours wandering up and back along both sides of the town’s main street — shopping, checking out the historic buildings and enjoying  tri tip sandwiches at an outdoor barbecue spot.

Many of the shops allowed our dog Holly inside, and had water bowls out on the wooden boardwalk.

Historic Virginia City

Some of the old buildings along C Street, the town's main street.


Historic Virginia City

Recognize the third editor? Yep, Virginia City is where news reporter Samuel Clemens adopted his pen name of Mark Twain.


Historic Virginia City

The fun famous Bucket of Blood Saloon -- a favorite stop on my previous visits to Virginia City (not this time, with kids).


Historic Virginia City

Previously, one of the main cultural centers in the the Comstock and the West.


Historic Virginia City

A look at the landscape surrounding Virginia City.

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  1. says

    Yay! I love Virginia City! Such a cool place. We went there about 6 years ago and I have always wanted to go back and explore some more. I love the architecture! Nice write up and pics.

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