The Silver State is peppered with towns that celebrate Nevada history and its rich stories, legends, lore, and ore. Luckily, many of these sites are a short (or at least reasonable) drive from Reno-Tahoe. Here are eight to check out soon!
NEVADA HISTORY: JUST AROUND THE CORNER
With its proximity to Reno-Tahoe and variety of activities, Virginia City is a great day trip to take to explore Nevada history. Once the most important industrial city between Denver and San Francisco, this 19th-century mining town celebrates the role of the Comstock Lode and more.
- Distance from Reno-Tahoe: 30 miles, depending on your route and starting point
- Time to drive there: 45 minutes
- What to see: Explore Virginia City’s history with a self-guided walking tour that will take you through some of the town’s most noteworthy sights and structures. Download this mobile app to discover the most in-depth history, stories, and facts. Virginia City also hosts a myriad of seasonal events, so if you can plan your trip around one, do it.
Just south of Carson City lies Genoa, the first settlement in what became the Nevada Territory. Genoa was a commercial center during Territorial days and settled down to a quiet existence as the county seat and a trading center for Douglas County. About 250 people live in the small town now.
- Distance from Reno-Tahoe: 50 miles, depending on your route and starting point
- Time to drive there: One hour
- What to see: Stop by Mormon Station State Park to see a reconstructed version of the original 1851 trading post that burned down in 1910 and a museum with original pioneer-era artifacts. For a bite to eat, visit the aptly named Pink House for sandwiches, salads, cheese plates, and other light fare. Or, for a cocktail mixed with history, go to the Genoa Bar and Saloon, the oldest drinking parlor in Nevada.
NEVADA HISTORY: GET PREHISTORIC
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park
At Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, you can see Nevada history from the 19th century and from 225 million years ago. The site includes some of the original buildings of Berlin, a town built in the 1890s. A true Nevada ghost town, Berlin is preserved in a state of arrested decay. The park is also home to the most abundant concentration, and largest known remains, of Ichthyosaurs, an ancient marine reptile that swam in a warm ocean that covered central Nevada 225 million years ago.
- Distance from Reno-Tahoe: 160 miles, depending on your route and starting point
- Time to drive there: Less than three hours (with no bathroom breaks or sightseeing, so, four hours)
- What to see: Explore the history of Berlin and nearby mining camp of Union with a self-guided tour on trails throughout the town. Take a tour of the Fossil House to see the remains of nine Ichthyosaurs, with backbones, jawbones, skulls, and other parts clearly visible. Learn about Nevada’s rich history in mining on the Diana Mine Tour, which is available May through September.
NEVADA HISTORY: HEADING SOUTH
From 1903 to 1910, Goldfield was the largest city in Nevada. In its heyday, the town boasted town boasted three saloons, a boarding house, a general store, brewery, blacksmith shop, butcher shop, and a school.
- Distance from Reno-Tahoe: 250+ miles, depending on your route and starting point
- Time to drive there: Four hours (with no bathroom breaks or sightseeing, so, five hours)
- What to see: Imagine the splendor that was the Goldfield hotel, which, at the time of its opening, cost between $300,000 and $400,000 to construct. Reported to be the most spectacular hotel in Nevada at the time of its completion in 1908, the four-story building featured 150 rooms with pile carpets and some private baths. The lobby was trimmed in mahogany, with black leather upholstery and gilded columns. It also featured an elevator and crystal chandeliers.
The tremendous value in Rhyolite’s ore samples made this town, just south of Tonopah, boom in the early 1900s. What originally started as a two-tent mining camp ballooned to an estimated 5,000 people within six months. At its peak, Rhyolite already had 50 saloons, 35 gambling tables, 19 lodging houses, 16 restaurants, several barbers, a public bathhouse, and the Rhyolite Herald—a weekly newspaper. Also, four daily stagecoaches connected Goldfield and Rhyolite.
- Distance from Reno-Tahoe: 325+ miles, depending on your route and starting point
- Time to drive there: Five to six hours (with no bathroom breaks or sightseeing, so, six to seven hours)
- What to see: The Kelly bottle house, built from medicine, beer, and whiskey bottles, is the oldest and largest bottle house in the United States. Built in 1905, It was restored for a Paramount Pictures movie in 1926 and still stands today. The Goldwell Open Air Museum features Albert Szukalski’s “The Last Supper” and other large, open-air sculptures by a variety of artists.
NEVADA HISTORY: ON HIGHWAY 50
Deemed the “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine in 1986, this highway stretches the width of Nevada and includes some of its most historic towns along the way.
Another Nevada town built on mining, by the summer of 1863 Austin and the surrounding Reese River Mining District had a population of more than 10,000 people. Today, Austin is a living ghost town and a well-preserved example of an early Nevada mining town.
- Distance from Reno-Tahoe: 175 miles on Highway 50, depending on your route and starting point
- Time to drive there: Less than three hours (with no bathroom breaks, so, four hours)
- What to see: Austin has 11 historic sites and buildings listed on the National Registry. These old and historic buildings are all easy to find and located in town, and nearby Stokes Castle is within walking distance. You can also see petroglyphs created by prehistoric aborigines and ancient Shoshone Native Americans nearby.
Close to Austin in Eureka, another Nevada mining town with a rich history. In 1878 this town was the second largest in the state and had dozens of saloons and gambling houses, three opera houses, two breweries, five volunteer firefighting companies, and two militia companies. Fifty mines produced lead, silver, gold, and zinc for the smelters, which could process more than 700 tons of ore a day.
- Distance from Reno-Tahoe: 240+ miles, on Highway 50, depending on your route and starting point
- Time to drive there: Four hours (with no sightseeing or bathroom breaks, so, five hours)
- What to see: Visit the Eureka Sentinel Museum, housed in the 879 Eureka Sentinel Newspaper Building. On the ground floor, you can see a complete press room from the 1800s complete with posters printed by the Eureka Sentinel and then plastered on the press room walls. Don’t miss exploring the Eureka Opera House, which was restored in 1993.
Close to the border of Nevada and Utah is Ely, Nevada, founded in the 1870s as a trading post called Murry Station. By the early 1900s, the town became one of the country’s major copper mining regions. Now, Ely is the regional center for commerce and business for much of Eastern Nevada.
- Distance from Reno-Tahoe: 322 miles, on Highway 50, depending on your route and starting point
- Time to drive there: More than five hours (with no sightseeing or bathroom breaks, so, more than six hours)
- What to see: Take a ride on a train departing the Nevada Northern Railway, the best-preserved, least altered, and most complete main yard complex remaining from the steam railroad era. Trips lasting 90 minutes depart Ely and ride up toward the Ruth Mine, traveling through two tunnels and up real mountain grades.
So, get that motor running and explore Nevada history on the road! For more for Nevada road trips, check out these ideas and itineraries from our friends at Travel Nevada.