A 30-minute drive from Reno, Carson City is its own best attraction, and a leisurely walk through its historic neighborhoods is the best way to get acquainted with this pleasant little city at the base of the Sierra Nevada.
In 1861, the writer Mark Twain added to the notoriety of Carson City by publishing the following description:
“It nestled in the edge of a great plain and was a sufficient number of miles away to look like an assemblage of mere white spots. The mountain summits overlooking it seemed lifted clear out of companionship and consciousness of earthly things.”
Although Mark Twain visited Carson City NV almost 150 years ago in 1861, the city is still considered a town that is dominated by its spectacular setting. The town maintains the charm of its 1860s gold and silver town roots.
By 1851, Eagle Valley had been settled by ranchers and farmers. A few years later a group of 4 well-connected attorneys whose names still decorate street signs (Proctor, Musser, Green and Curry) bought the richest part of the valley for $500 and a herd of horses. They planted a community on the land and named it in honor of John C. Fremont’s most celebrated scouting trip, where in 1844 he named the river flowing through the valley, the Carson River, after his scout, Kit Carson. In the spring of the next year, to their astonishment and delight, the discovery of the Comstock Lode brought their community to life as a freight and transportation center. The legislature established Carson City as the seat of Ormsby County (named for one of the dead “heroes” at the Battle of Pyramid Lake).
Carson City was confirmed as Nevada’s permanent capital with statehood in 1864, and development subsequently was no longer completely dependent on the health of the Comstock mines. Until they began to decline in the 1880s, these mines provided Carson City with most of its economic importance as a cargo and staging center, and as a gathering point for much of the timber harvest in the Lake Tahoe basin.
In addition to its historical significance, Carson City is a growing small-town hub of arts and culture with unique shopping and dining experiences. Shops like The Purple Avocado and Due Sorella are locally-owned gift shops that offer one-of-a-kind items for you or that special one in your life. If you are looking for something a little flashier, check out The Jewelry Bench or Fresh Ideas Shop.
Once you have shopped until you are about to drop, there are a variety of restaurants and breweries along North Carson Street and around downtown that highlight just how unique Carson City is. Some local dining favorites include The Union and Kei Sushi, but there is no shortage of restaurants to choose from.
Less than 30 minutes from Lake Tahoe, Carson City provides various outdoor opportunities including golfing, hiking and biking trails, and four-wheeling. You can experience our State Capitol in many ways. Perhaps by taking a walk along the Carson River or even hiking Kings Canyon Waterfall Trail.
From exploring Nevada State history in Carson’s various museums to enjoying one of the many galleries, arts and culture are abundant in the State Capitol. The Brewery Arts Center, The Artsy Fartsy Gallery and more showcase both local and national talent in many forms. In addition, the area’s many museums hold artifacts significant to both Nevadan and American history. Take a step back in time by checking out Carson City’s most popular and impressive collections:
The immense production of gold and silver from the Comstock mines prompted the establishment of a branch U.S. Mint in Carson City in 1866. The handsome structure on the northeast corner of Carson Street and Robinson was built of prison-quarried sandstone and produced nearly $50 million in coin of the realm until it closed down in 1933.
This solemn old sandstone monument to the 19th century has been earthquake-proofed and renovated throughout, but its Alaskan marbled halls are still decorated with elaborate friezes, and hung with the portraits of former governors, back to “Broadhorn” Bradley and James Nye, the New Yorker whose loyalty to the Union was rewarded with the governorship of the Nevada Territory in 1861. The present governor and other top state officials continue to do the state’s business here, but the original Senate, Assembly and Supreme Court Chambers upstairs are most often used for exhibit space and usually open to visitors.
This small but satisfying museum is a showplace for what remains of railroading in Carson City. The locomotives, coaches and cars inside the museum building are like jewelry, and the steamers that carry passengers back and forth across the grounds are the real thing.
This venerable building was once Carson City’s library, but there’s no shushing inside these days, as toddlers through pre-teens find their way through this agreeable environment. A friendly hands-on entertainment for kids.