An Italian tour operator described what the Corona Virus has done to the travel industry; it’s put everyone in a period of hibernation. Defined as an extended period of remaining inactive or indoors, hibernation describes our collective situation perfectly. It also means that we will emerge from our hibernation, healthier, stronger and more than ready to travel again.
Speaking of travel, I had the most interesting travel experience last week. I took a virtual tour of downtown Virginia City, Nevada. Its high elevation makes for some great mountain views. Located thirty minutes from both Reno and Carson City and an hour from Lake Tahoe, this small town is a historian’s dream.
On an invite from the PR rep for Virginia City’s Tourism Commission, I joined Deny Dotson, Executive Director of the Virginia City’s Tourism Commission and Joe, a docent and local jeweler via Zoom for a virtual downtown tour of the mid-1870’s town.
It was a magnificent day for the tour with bright blue skies and quiet streets. Deny, and Joe walked this small group of travel writers virtually through the 1870s era downtown. We learned about the history of the town, the sites, tours, accommodations, and restaurants that the town offers.
Mining was the chief industry in the 1870s in Virginia City. The Visitor’s Center in the heart of downtown is just across the street from the Ponderosa Bar. In the 1860s, the Ponderosa housed the Bank of California. There you can still see the original bank vault.
The bar also hosts an underground mine tour. Oddly, much of the mining took place just beneath the streets of the town.
Two authentic mines are available to tour, the Ponderosa and Chollar. The technology for reclaiming precious metals from ore was developed in Virginia City and is still in use today.
The height of the mining industry in the Comstock region occurred in the 1870s. If you are interested in exploring other of the region’s mining towns, plan a side trip to both Silver City and Gold Hill.
Virginia City was one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the mid-1800s. Today, it boasts a population of around one thousand full-time residents.
Many of the sites in the city have small museums. Entrance fees are reasonably priced, and some are even free. Virginia City is an attractive destination for families.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church is one of the most photographed venues in Nevada and was reconstructed after the fire of 1875. Today, the church still has an active congregation.
The Piper Opera House is an opulent entertainment venue. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1885. Today it hosts many forms of entertainment, including concerts, civic events, and you can even get married there.
Silver Queen Hotel in downtown and is known for its mural built into the building and covered with3000 silver dollars. Ghost hunting is a big attraction at the Silver Queen.
In its heyday, Virginia City boasted over 100 Saloons. Today, there are still several that survive.
Virginia City specializes in visitor experiences. With its history, ghost tours, trains, and gem finding, there is something for everyone here. From hotels, furnished as they were in the 1800s, to modern hotels as well as the half dozen B&Bs, you will find the right fit for your style. A three-day stay will provide visitors with an immersive visit.
There are two train experiences available. The short trip is just down the mountain and back. The more extended trip will take you to Carson City and back. All aboard!
1960s TV Connection
If you remember or have seen the 1960s TV show Bonanza, you will recall that the Virginia City was the home of the Ponderosa Ranch, run by the Cartwright’s clan. Although the show was never filmed in Virginia City, the town pays homage to the series in many locations.
With the global travel industry put on indefinite hold, virtual tours will be one way for the industry to keep visitors planning for travel in the future. While for travel writers, who need to get the ‘sense of or feel of a place,’ it may not be ideal, but it certainly whets your appetite with great information and leaves you clamoring for the experience.
I want to experience Virginia City, Nevada, in the future. It offers a rich history and culture of the West. Interested in visiting? Check out the immersive Virginia City website.
*all images provided by Virginia City’s Tourism Commission