17 Fantastic Things to Do in Historic Carson

Ready for an adventure? Discover Carson City, Nevada! This bustling capital is filled with history and packed with activities and attractions to keep you busy during your visit. Carson City has something for everyone, from its well-preserved downtown to its stunning mountain scenery. Plus, with its proximity to Lake Tahoe and other amazing natural areas, you’ll never run out of things to see and do.

On a recent trip around Lake Tahoe, Carson City was our home base for most of our adventures in the area. Here are some must-see attractions and things to do in the charming town of Carson.

Visit Carson City and its partners hosted our stay and activities in Carson City. All opinions are mine.

Battle Born Hall in the Nevada State Capitol

Battle Born Hall in the Nevada State Capitol

Photo credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

1. Nevada Capitol

Take a walking tour of the historic Nevada Capitol. It is one of Carson City’s most iconic buildings. Completed in 1871, the Capitol houses the Nevada State Legislature, as well as the offices of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

The tour will take you through the different floors of the building and give you the opportunity to see the legislative chambers and the governor’s press office. Battle Born Hall is also in the Nevada State Capitol and is an interesting tour full of state history.

Stroll through the mesmerizing gardens of the Nevada State Capitol. Beautiful gardens, century-old trees and monuments are found on a picturesque campus.

Pro Tip: There are plenty of great spots for outdoor photos on the grounds.

2. Nevada State Museum

Carson City is full of history, and the fascinating Nevada State Museum does a great job of preserving and sharing it. The Nevada State Museum is a great place to learn about the history and culture of Carson City and the state of Nevada. The museum houses various exhibits and artifacts on topics such as the state’s mining and railroad history, Native American heritage, and the life of Mark Twain.

It was interesting to learn about the construction of the transcontinental railroad and the Comstock Lode, a major silver deposit discovered in the area in 1859.

Pro Tip: Enter through the addition of the glass structure.

Engine outside the Nevada State Railroad Museum

Engine outside the Nevada State Railroad Museum

Photo credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

3. Nevada State Railroad Museum

The Nevada State Railroad Museum is located in the historic Virginia & Truckee Railroad Depot in Carson City. The museum has a variety of exhibits on the history of the state railroad and the development of the railroad to the west. There are many locomotives and other cars to see. If you are a train lover, this is a must.

Pro Tip: In the field near the visitor center is a locomotive that provides a great photo opportunity.

Former Governor's Mansion on the Kit Carson Trail

Former Governor’s Mansion on the Kit Carson Trail

Photo credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

4. Kit Carson Trail

Explore the Kit Carson Trail which runs through Carson City. It is named after Kit Carson, a famous explorer and pioneer living in Carson City in the 19th century. Historic District walking tour takes you to approximately 50 landmarks, including former governors’ mansions, Victorian architecture, period churches, other historic buildings and a house that was part of a movie lifelong Christmas.

Pro Tip: This tour involves a lot of walking. Wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated.

5. Downtown Carson City

Stroll the charming streets of downtown Carson City, where you’ll find shops, restaurants, casinos and historic buildings dating back to the 1800s.

6. Virginia and Truckee Railroad

Hop aboard the world famous Virginia & Truckee Railroad. This attraction offers 24-mile rides on vintage steam locomotives from Carson City to Virginia City. The scenic ride takes you through canyons, mining towns and tunnels. You then have time to explore historic Virginia City before returning to Carson City.

7. Stewart Indian School

Learn about the native peoples of Nevada at the Stewart Indian School. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Stewart Indian School is dedicated to preserving the history of what was once the largest off-reserve Indian residential school in the United States.

Robin and his friends ride a railbike in Carson City

Robin and his friends ride a railbike in Carson City

Photo credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

8. Railbike excursions

Pedal through Carson City’s history aboard a bike-rail that takes you along the historic tracks of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. The draisines are motorized but require constant pedaling uphill. Carson Canyon Railbike Tours guides you through the beautiful Carson River Canyon and beyond. This one-of-a-kind adventure lasts about an hour and a half.

Pro Tip: Passengers must be able to pedal during the trip for an extended period.

Carson Hot Springs

Carson Hot Springs

Photo credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

9. Carson Hot Springs

After a hike or a bike ride, a bath in the hot springs is exactly what the doctor ordered. Carson Hot Springs includes a large cool water pool and three relaxing hot spring pools, each at a different temperature.

10. Carson City Triathlon

Drink, dine and dive to compete in the Carson City Triathlon. Visit Carson City challenges visitors to visit Shoe Tree Brewing Company, grab a drink, have lunch or dinner at Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint, and swim at Carson Hot Springs. (All three share parking.) You can download the Triathlon Pass and check in at all three locations within 24 hours to win a t-shirt.

11. Brewery Arts Center

The Brewery Arts Center is a non-profit arts organization that provides year-round entertainment. Past events have included concerts, plays, stand-up comedies, and more. Check their online calendar to see what might be happening during your visit. The center is located in an old brewery building, which adds to its charm.

12. Kings Canyon Waterfall

Located west of downtown, Kings Canyon is a 30-foot cascading waterfall. Two trails lead to the magnificent waterfall. The main trail along the lower loop is a short, easy hike. The upper path is longer and considered moderate to difficult with the elevation. The best time to visit is in spring and early summer when melting snow and rain ensure a steady flow of water. The water is cold, but you can snorkel under the falls if you wish.

Pro Tip: If you plan to hike, it is recommended to do it early, before 9:00 am, due to the intense heat and sun.

Old fashioned restaurant in Virginia City

Old fashioned restaurant in Virginia City

Photo credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

13. Virginia City

Take a day trip to Virginia City. Once a booming mining town during the days of Comstock Lode, Virginia City now offers historic tours, restaurants, shopping, museums, saloons, mines, and more.

You can take the train to Virginia City or drive by car. The train was not running when we visited. It was a nice drive, although the road was full of curves and constant elevation. Along the way we saw wild horses.

Wild Horses in Virginia City

Wild Horses in Virginia City

Photo credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

Another train runs from Virginia City to Gold Hill. We took this train ride and learned the history of Virginia City.

On our next visit we plan to take the tour of the mine.

14. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a beautiful lake just a half hour drive from Carson City and is one of Nevada’s most popular tourist destinations. The lake is known for its clear blue water and beautiful beaches. It has one of the best views in all of Nevada.

There are also many activities to enjoy at Lake Tahoe, such as hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming.

We visited in the summer and enjoyed cooling off in the lake.

Pro Tip: For a scenic afternoon ride, hike the entire 72-mile Lake Tahoe Loop. Be sure to stop and take photos at Emerald Bay.

15. Special Events in Carson City

Carson City hosts many special events throughout the year. Events include the Mark Twain Days Festival, the Carson City Turkey Trot and the Silver & Snowflake Festival of Lights.

Pro Tip: If you’re visiting in July, catch Nevada Days, Carson City’s annual statewide celebration, with a parade, carnival rides, live music and more!

BBQ ribs at Red's Old 395 Grill

BBQ ribs at Red’s Old 395 Grill

Photo credit: Robin O’Neal Smith

16. Restaurants in Carson City

Grab a bite to eat at one of the city’s many delicious restaurants. Here are some of the best places to eat, drink and have fun in Carson City.

Pro Tip: Be sure to visit Nevada’s oldest bar. Head 20 minutes towards Genoa to Genoa Bar & Saloon. The walls of the building have been there since 1851.

17. Staybridge Suites

If you want to stay where you can stretch out and feel at home, consider the Staybridge Suites in Carson City. We enjoyed our stay in a two bedroom suite and found it to be the perfect place for two couples traveling together. Each couple had a large bedroom and bathroom with a common space in the middle that included a kitchen and living room.

The breakfasts were plentiful and delicious each morning. I loved that they had different items on the menu every day.

The Staybridge also had a lovely outdoor area with fire pits, pool, hot tub, and plush seating. One of our favorite things was the large laundry room. They had plenty of washers and dryers available to guests, free of charge. With another week of travel ahead, we did the laundry before the next leg of our trip.

The best thing about Staybridge was the staff. They went out of their way to be accommodating and give advice on where to eat, where to see a great view, etc. We felt very comfortable and comfortable during our stay.

Carson City is a great place to visit if you’re looking for culture, history, outdoor recreation, or just a good time! With its rich history and abundance of outdoor activities, there’s something for everyone in this charming little town. Whether you’re visiting for a day or staying for a week, check out these great things to do in Carson City!

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