In the heart of Carson Valley, with the Sierra Nevada as its stunning backdrop, this easygoing town’s flowery streets were designed for strolling. Amble among century-old buildings to window shop for local art, crafts, and antiques, or to hop between hearty restaurants, lively saloons, and the iconic JT Basque dinner house—then ask yourself why all towns can’t be as idyllic as this one.
A Legendary Place
Gardnerville Nevada holds down the southern half Carson Valley’s bustling business corridor alongside the adjoining town of Minden. Gardnerville still exudes the historic charm that has drawn countless people to the region since the mid-1800s. Neighboring Genoa at the foot of the Sierra Nevada may have been the first settlement in the state, but it was Gardnerville that became Nevada’s first hub for agriculture and mining supplies during the late 19th century.
Gardnerville is located in Douglas County about 25 minutes south of the state capital of Carson City. Visitors often come to the town of Gardnerville for a leisurely stroll along its flower-lined streets and to see the many historic buildings on and around Main Street. Gardnerville is home to many unique stores, saloons and eateries, all of which are set against the beautiful backdrop of the often snow-capped Sierras. Gardnerville also was home to many early Basque settlers whose presence remains to this day — the J.T. Basque Restaurant has served Gardnerville residents since Hans Nelson relocated the Victorian-era building from Virginia City in 1896.
History of Gardnerville, NV
Gardnerville was born in 1879 when businessman Lawrence Gillman bought the Kent House in Genoa and moved it to the east fork of the Carson River. The building was converted into Gardnerville’s first hotel, and services such as a blacksmith shop and saloon soon followed. This new town became an important re-supply route and feed stop for travelers headed through the valley on their way to the mining camp at Bodie and others in the Esmeralda Mining District, and played a critical role in (literally) feeding the exploding silver mining scene in Virginia City’s Comstock Lode era.
As Gardnerville grew, it became a destination for Basque and Danish immigrants who spurred agricultural and ranching development in the agricultural heart of Douglas County. Remnants of these early settlers are still found throughout the town’s many historic buildings. Visit the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center to learn more about Gardnerville’s rich history.
Travel Nevada Pro Tip
Things to Do in Gardnerville
There’s definitely no shortage of fun to be had in and around Gardnerville. Gardnerville has long been a base camp or day trip destination for visitors recreating in nearby Lake Tahoe. Pick up a map and spend a day exploring the Carson Valley Arts & Antiques Trail, a treasure trove of antique shops, fascinating museums and art galleries around Gardnerville, as well as in neighboring Minden and Genoa.
Outdoors enthusiasts often stop into the Angler’s Edge fly fishing shop to stock their tackle boxes and gain insider’s knowledge on the region’s world-class waterways, like the Carson River, Walker River, and Topaz Lake. Other adventures include hiking nearby Freel, Jobs, and Jobs Sister peaks—the unmissable peaks overlooking the town—each of which top out at over 10,000 feet in elevation.
Restaurants in Gardnerville
There are many restaurants in Gardnerville NV that truly offer something for everyone. Dig into locally raised grass-fed beef and huge family-style meals at historic JT Basque Bar & Dining Room, such as lamb chops and juicy steaks washed down by a Picon Punch or three, Nevada’s officially unofficial state cocktail.
The Overland Restaurant & Pub, meanwhile, also boasts more than a century of Basque heritage, and serves up classic fare with modern foodie flair. Prime rib at the Jackpot Cafe in Sharkey’s Casino café has long been a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
Just above: Pony up to the historic bar counter at J.T. Basque for a steak sandwich and Picon Punch with the locals. See if you can get a dollar bill to stick on the ceiling, using only a silver dollar and tack, and be sure to ask about the hats lining the walls. Chances are, one of them came from one of the Bascos you’re sitting next to.
Start your morning with a fresh cup of motivation from DST Coffee in the heart of downtown, or complete a wonderful locally sourced dinner with a sweet treat from the Chocolate Shoppe. Or take a short drive south to Iggy & Squiggy’s Junction Bar and enjoy a burger and a classic “Nevada Martini”—an ice-cold American beer served with gourmet olives.
The Historian Inn
No visit to Gardnerville is complete without spending a night at the Historian Inn. Don’t let the name fool you—built in 2000, the Historian Inn is actually among the newest (and loveliest) Gardnerville NV hotels. Despite being a relative newcomer to the Gardnerville hotel scene, the Historian was built with distinctive classic architecture, reminding guests that, in Gardnerville, Nevada’s Old Western past remains pleasantly present.
Gardnerville is home to Eagles & Agriculture, one of the state’s most unique special events. Each year in late January, bald eagles and other birds of prey flock to the Carson Valley during cattle birthing season, a natural phenomenon celebrated with daytime birdwatching tours and evening soirees featuring the freshest of local fare.
Carson Valley Days, meanwhile, has been honoring the town’s heritage since 1910 and is now held at Lampe Park. The annual event, held the second week of June, celebrates Carson Valley’s deep agricultural roots and pioneer spirit with carnival rides, live bands, an old-fashioned grease pole and tug-of-war, horseshoe tournaments, eating contests, the annual Carson Valley Days Duck Derby, and more.
Whether you’re strolling the flower-lined streets, hunting for a piece of Nevada history at an antique shop, or digging into farm-to-fork fare, tag your pics #TravelNevada so we can follow (and share) your Gardnerville vacay.