Adventure awaits

Virginia City museums and fun

For more information, visit

Quality family time can often be trumped by other priorities and fall into the abyss of the everyday balancing act. It can be difficult finding activities everyone is interested in, especially ones that work with your budget and schedule. Make this spring your best season for family time yet. Like the Disney favorite Up claims, Adventure awaits!

Virginia City—just a 35-minute hop, skip and jump away from Reno—is a local treasure. In just over three-quarters of a square mile, Virginia City offers a plethora of unique, family-friendly activities. From ghost stories to shopping, candy cravings, museums and authentic stagecoach rides, there is something that will appeal to almost everyone in the family.

As the road up to Virginia City twists and turns, it's hard to ignore nature's beautiful colors. The mountain's rocks reveal vibrant reds and blues. Wild horses rest in pastures along the way.

“Virginia City is the perfect family getaway,” said Deny Dotson, director of the Virginia City Tourism Commission. “It's not too far of a drive, but just far enough that you feel like you're getting out of town.”

Spring is a great time to take advantage of what's in Reno's backyard. With no snow and breezy, warm temperatures, it is easy to plan for, and Virginia City's main street, with shops and restaurants, is an enjoyable walk in the spring sun.

There is a new series of events in Virginia City called “Flashback Friday Free Museum Days.” On the first Friday of each month, all 17 museums in Virginia City are free. This special event opportunity runs May through October, excluding July.

Plus, when you stop at the Virginia City Visitors Center and pick up a map, you're able to get it stamped at each museum. Once the entire map is full with stamps from each museum, you can journey back to the visitor's center to receive a free 11-by-17 historic photo of Virginia City.

“There's something here for everyone. Kids love the candy shops and panning for gems while parents enjoy the unique shops, museums and learning about the rich history of the Comstock,” Dotson said. “Everyone loves feeling like they've stepped back in time to another era, and that's what we have here in Virginia City.”

Museums in Virginia City

The Virginia City Tourism Commission's website has a lot of great information about attractions in Virginia City, including about the many museums:

• Comstock History Center: The Comstock Historical District Commission and the Comstock Cemetary Foundation are both found here. You can also see the Virginia & Truckee Railroad steam locomotive.

• Historic Fourth Ward School & Museum: An 1876 four-story wooden school depicting life in a mining town.

• LEC No. 1 Comstock/Nevada State Firemen's Museum: LEC No. 1, or the Liberty Engine Company No. 1, is a volunteer firefighting unit that is still in existence today. This museum features 19th-century firefighting equipment.

• Mackay Mansion: This was originally the Gould & Curry Mining Company Office, until it was bought by John Mackay. You can now see original furnishings, mining artifacts and Tiffany silver among other things on the tour.

• Mark Twain Museum at the Territorial Enterprise: Mark Twain wrote for the Enterprise in the 1860s and many of his belongings can be seen on this tour.

• Piper's Opera House: Prior to being rebuilt in 1885, both Mark Twain and President Grant were on stage at this opera house. This tour features ghost tales about those who are said to still attend performances.

• St. Mary's Art Center: The center was once a hospital for Comstock miners, but is now an art and retreat center. It was dedicated as such in 1964.

• Saint Mary in the Mountains Catholic Church: This is Nevada's oldest Catholic church and is still open for mass on Saturday and Sunday. The museum runs tours seven days a week, though, that feature church artifacts and photos.

• Silver State National Peace Officers Museum: Here, you'll find the Nevada Peace Officers Memorial Room, an interactive room for children and other exhibits that focuses on law enforcement in Virginia City and the rest of the state for the last couple of hundred years.

• Storey County Courthouse: This is Nevada's oldest continuously operating courthouse, although it was rebuilt in 1876 after a fire.

• The Way It Was Museum: This museum shows its patrons how it was back in the historic mining days. It features a large collection of various Comstock mining items and photographs.

• The Washoe Club Haunted Museum: You may have seen this one on various ghost-hunting shows. The museum boasts access to the crypt and “infamous Spiral Staircase.”

• Comstock Gold Mill: See a functional two-stamp gold mill and learn about mining in Virginia City.

• Julia Bulette Red Light Museum: Learn about Nevada's prostitution history during the silver rush era of Nevada.

• Gold Hill Hotel: Check out Nevada's oldest hotel. It opened in 1861.

• Silver Terrace Cemetery: Discover the both historical and eerie cemetery, memorable and identifiable with Virginia City.

• Marshall Mint Museum: Come to see Hugh Roy Marshall's collection of gems and minerals.