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Carson City, Nevada: 10 Reasons to Visit the Silver State’s Capital

Lake Tahoe just outside Carson City, the capital of Nevada.

Forget Las Vegas ? Viva Carson City!

Only about a half hour south of Reno you’ll find one of the most enchanting destinations the Silver State has to offer. Whether you’re just driving from Salt Lake City to San Francisco, or you’re in the Lake Tahoe area on vacation, you should definitely consider dropping in on this historic Western city.

What is the Capital of Nevada?

If you guessed Carson City, NV, is the state capital, congratulations! What gave it away? Located on the banks of the Carson River, this former trading post was once a major stop for folks making their way West. Although it was once the seat of Ormsby County, the capital city eventually merged with the area to become the Consolidated Municipality of Carson City.

Today, the city’s boundaries extend pretty far west, claiming a bit of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and the shores of Lake Tahoe. At a grand total of 146 square miles, Carson City is now the 10th largest state by area in the U.S.

10 Reasons to Visit Carson City, Nevada

1. Nevada State Capitol Building

The state of Nevada’s capitol building was constructed in a neoclassic Italian style and is now on the National Historic Register. The founder of the city, Abraham Curry, set aside several blocks for this specific purpose in the mid 19th century. Back then, this part of the state was still included in the Utah Territory. After the Comstock Lode was discovered, Nevadans used their wealth and clout to break away from Utah and form the Nevada Territory. Nevada finally gained its statehood in 1864, in the midst of the Civil War.

Although the building has been added on to over the years, it is still where every Nevada governor and the state government get business done. It now has a small, free museum dedicated to Nevada state history that’s open from Monday to Friday.

2. Historic Places

The capital of Nevada is full of historic places beside the capitol building, like the Nevada Governor’s Mansion and the Nevada State Prison. Unfortunately, the mansion is only open once in a while for tours, and the prison is completely shut to the public. For the time being, you’ll just have to enjoy these historic beauties from the outside, as well as the handful of others sprinkled about town.

Of course, if these aren’t enough, you can always take a quick drive up to Virginia City and cram in more historical scenery there.

3. Lake Tahoe

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With one of the country’s most majestic lakes only 15 miles away, there’s no reason not to dip in. Watch how far you swim down, however, as Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the U.S. following Crater Lake in Oregon. Even worse, legend has it that Jacques Cousteau and his independent film making companion discovered a disturbing amount of preserved human bodies in the lake’s depths. (It should be noted that this claim is disputed, and most say that Cousteau never even visited Lake Tahoe.) To make things even creepier, people claim there’s a vortex that connects this body of water with nearby Pyramid Lake in western Nevada.

4. Nevada State Museum

This repository of cultural memory occupies the former Carson City Mint, which was once a branch of the United States Mint. Its exhibits include everything from dinosaur fossils to classic automobiles, not to mention coin pressing with old mint machinery. It is open Wednesday through Saturday.

5. Nevada State Railroad Museum

Located on the southwest side of town, this fun and educational destination is open Thursday to Monday. The museum’s featured exhibits focus on points of history like the completion of the transcontinental railroad and classic modes of Western communication. To be sure, it’s also full of historic railroad cars and engines.

6. Casinos

This is Nevada we’re talking, so of course there’s going to be some gambling. Casinos within the city limits include more frequented establishments like Gold Dust West and the Carson Nugget, in addition to many others. Of course, you can always pop over to the Hardrock in Tahoe, or any of the many resorts in Reno.

7. Washoe Lake State Park

Just north of the capital of Nevada, you’ll find this serene scenic gem. Here you can enjoy hiking, camping, and all types of water recreation. It’s open all hours of the day and has a vehicle fee.

8. Hit the Slopes

When winter comes, the mountains just west of town become some of the most popular ski, sled, and snowboard areas the state has access to. While most of them are on the CA side of the state line, in and around the Lake Tahoe are of the Sierra Nevadas, they’re still just a short drive away.

9. Straddle the State Line

Since Nevada’s state line with California is only about a half hour drive from Carson, you should definitely take the opportunity to stand in both states at once while you’re in the area. Of course, if you want to save some time and you’re really brave, you can just swim out and cross that imaginary boundary in the middle of Lake Tahoe!

10. Go Outdoors

In addition to the many nearby lakes and state parks, the Carson City area has other outdoor offerings that nature lovers are sure to appreciate. Whether you’re interested in tackling one of the many nearby trails, or scaling any of the surrounding mountain peaks, you’re sure to get your fill. Just do a quick Google search of “hiking trails near Carson City” and you’ll see what we mean.

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