Culture, cuisine, and all kinds of ways to enjoy the great outdoors – the state capital of Nevada has it all (and then some). Located in northern Nevada, Carson City seamlessly blends bona fide Silver State history and old-fashioned charm with wow-worthy sights and attractions that’ll keep you coming back for more.
Where History Lives and Adventure Awaits
Welcome to Carson City, Nevada, home of your next great outdoors adventure. In the capital of Nevada, you can follow in the footsteps of those who made state-shaping history while charting your own path to endless adventure. Sightsee Silver State origin stories at the Nevada State Capitol and along the Kit Carson Trail in the West Side Historic District, or seek a cultural connection at Brewery Arts Center and Carson City’s two Nevada State Museums. Hikers, bikers, golfers, anglers, and both water and winter sports enthusiasts flock to this hub of outdoor recreation, too, and the Carson City Triathlon – consisting of an eclectic food joint, a laid back brewery, and a historic hot springs site – is arguably the most fun you’ll ever have completing this kind of “race.” And did we mention the giant parade thrown annually (that coincides with Halloween) to celebrate Nevada’s statehood? Stick with us to fully discover why you’ll soon be hightailing it to Nevada’s capital city.
History Around Carson City
When explorer John C. Fremont came to the future site of Carson City, Nevada – a region where the indigenous Washoe people have lived for 6,000 to 9,000 years – in the 1840s, he named the river flowing through the land after his hired scout, Kit Carson. About a decade later, Abraham Curry (considered the founding father of Carson City) and a group of influential settlers purchased 865 acres here, hoping to carve out a new territory from Utah. These efforts were greatly assisted by the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, which brought more residents to the area in search of gold and silver riches, including Mark Twain himself. The aptly-nicknamed Silver State officially gained statehood on October 31, 1864, and Carson City was officially named the capital of Nevada.
You can dive deeper into the history of Nevada at the still-standing structures where it originally took place. Inside the Nevada State Capitol building, constructed in 1871, you’ll find Battle Born Hall, a free-to-visit museum dedicated to the people and events that shaped our state. And housed in Carson City’s former United States Mint branch is the Nevada State Museum, which features a replicated mining town, a prehistoric mammoth whose bones were found in the Black Rock Desert, and a still-in-use historic coin press that dates back to the original minting operation. Over at the Nevada State Railroad Museum–Carson City, train lovers can peruse an extraordinary collection of railroad artifacts (like the built-in-1875 Inyo, one of the oldest operating steam locomotives in the country) and take a ride on the Virginia & Truckee’s storied rails.
Things to Do in Carson City
So, where is Carson City, NV? If you’re headed south from Reno, you’ll first drive through the idyllic surroundings of Washoe Valley, home to Bowers Mansion and Washoe Lake State Park. Both are well worth your time on the way to (or from) Carson City, and will get you all the way excited for the outdoor recreation waiting for you in the capital of Nevada.
Prison Hill Recreation Area is another local favorite that serves up quick and easy access to hiking, mountain biking, trail running, off-roading, and equestrian trails with unbelievable views. A historic ranch turned recreational paradise, Silver Saddle Ranch spans more than 700 acres along the Carson River, offering even more tranquil outdoor opportunities for hikers, bikers, and birders. And speaking of making a splash, whitewater rafting and kayaking adventures can be found on the East Fork Carson River. Golfers can tee off at numerous courses in and around Carson City, Nevada, or you can take a pedal-powered train track excursion with the V&T Railway’s Carson Canyon Railbike Tours. And last but nowhere near least, Carson City is only 20 miles from the “Jewel of the Sierra Nevada” – Lake Tahoe. Plan the most gorgeous beach day you’ll ever experience, ski and snowboard a true winter wonderland, or simply take in the jaw-dropping sapphire sights any time of year.
Carson City doesn’t skimp on arts and culture escapades either. The Brewery Arts Center hosts more than 100 events a year (ranging from theater and live music to art classes and childrens’ programs) on grounds full of public art and an interactive sculpture park. At the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum, you can walk a 110-acre campus and learn firsthand stories of a complex past that changed the course for generations of American Indian children. The Stewart Indian School’s museum serves as Carson City’s epicenter for cultural heritage as well, showcasing art, handicrafts, special events, and more. Don’t forget to pick up or download a map of the self-guided Kit Carson Trail walking tour, too. You’ll stroll 2.5 miles full of historic Victorian-era landmarks from the 1800s, including homes, museums, and churches.
Travel Nevada Pro Tip
Remember that Carson City Triathlon we mentioned? Three equally awesome businesses neighbor each other, making it almost too easy to fill an afternoon with sips, dips, and noshes. Pick your preferred order for visiting Carson Hot Springs, Shoe Tree Brewing Company, and Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint, then pat yourself on the back for living like a local.
Restaurants in Carson City
Sassafras’ fresh and far-out menu (we’re talking black and blue shrimp fondue, superfraggacheesalicious loaf, and a peanut butter and bacon burger) is only the beginning of amazing eats in Carson City. A bakery case full of mouthwatering pastries and desserts – plus tantalizing soups, salads, and sandwiches – awaits at LA Bakery Café & Eatery, which can cater to many kinds of dietary needs. Belly up for super tasty Basque at Villa Basque Café, where you can dig into dishes like paella, lamb stew, and chorizo omelets and sandwiches for breakfast and lunch.
At Great Basin Brewing Co., “local means fresh” and “fresh means better,” which means a meal here is a must. Pick from pastas, pizzas, and burgers made with locally sourced products while washing ‘em down with Nevada’s most famous brews. You can also keep the caffeine flowing with specialty coffees from Old World Coffee Lab, located at the back side of the very same building.
Carson City Hotels
The capital of Nevada has no shortage of places to stay. If you want to be in the heart of Carson City’s historic downtown, consider sleeping over at the Saint Charles Hotel (also home to The Fox Brewpub), Hardman House Hotel, or the Plaza Hotel & Events Center. Pets are welcome at The Federal Hotel, which is attached to Max Casino, and you can test your luck on the gaming floor or in the bowling alley at Gold Dust West Hotel Casino & RV Park. Loyal to your favorite lodging chain? You’ll find a Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, and Hampton Inn & Suites in Carson City, Nevada, all boasting the expected amenities.
Carson City-Area Events
Consider Carson City’s special events the icing on top of an already-awesome cake. Foodies flock to Taste of Downtown, a big ol’ block party featuring small plates from dozens of restaurants, boutique shopping, and live music. Likewise, Capital City Brewfest brings upwards of 30 local and regional breweries together with vendors and bands for fun in the summer sun.
Count the capital of Nevada in for big cultural celebrations, too. The Stewart Father’s Day Powwow is free to attend and an absolute blast, highlighting Nevada’s American Indian heritage and pride with hundreds of dancers, drum performances, food, and vendors.
Carson City’s Jazz & Beyond Music & Art Festival features free concerts, themed days, and specialty showcases, while you can see and shop (and make your own!) gourd art, woodworking, basketry, and all kinds of fine arts and crafts at the Silver State Art Festival.
And trust us – no other state celebrates their statehood like the Silver State. The Nevada Day Parade takes over Carson City at the end of every October, including hundreds of floats, Burning Man art cars, marching bands, and a variety of entertainment. A hot air balloon launch and pancake breakfast precede the parade, with beard, rock drilling, and chalk art contents keeping the fun going afterward. There may be other Nevada Day celebrations throughout the state, but nobody does it quite as big as Carson City, Nevada!
Care to share your Carson City adventures with us? Tag #TravelNevada so we can ooh and ahh over all the sights you’re seeing in our capital city.