The town of Genoa—the oldest permanent settlement in Nevada—is a quaint community rich in historical charm. The Genoa Historic District (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) is home to beautiful Victorian buildings that house businesses offering unique gifts, tasty take-away meals perfect for picnics at Mormon Station State Historic Park, and—perhaps most famously—the oldest saloon in the Silver State.
Nevada’s First Settlement
Where is Genoa NV, you wonder? This picturesque town is tucked against the spectacular Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada mountains, just 25 minutes over Kingsbury Grade from South Lake Tahoe and about an hour south of Reno, making it a popular après destination for skiers and beach bums. Genoa, Nevada oozes historic charm with its 1850s ambience, cute little shops, fascinating historical institutions, swanky accommodations, and top-notch food and drink offerings.
History of Genoa, Nevada
Genoa was established in 1851 by Mormon traders. The settlement started attracting newcomers after John Reese and his party built a permanent trading post on what had become the Carson Route of the California Trail, providing critical supplies to exhausted travelers before they crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains. Most of Reese’s men were Mormon, leading to the original name “Mormon Station.”
When Orson Hyde, an elder in the Mormon Church, was sent to Mormon Station (then located in Utah Territory) to set up a government and define the state line between California and Utah Territory, he renamed Mormon Station. He chose the name “Genoa” in 1855 after the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, Genoa, Italy, because he felt that the area had a similar vibe.
Be sure to pay homage to local legend Snowshoe Thompson, who carried mail—back and forth, year-round—over the Sierra Nevada between Placerville and Genoa. A statue of Snowshoe Thompson stands in Mormon Station State Historic Park. Famed American writer Mark Twain also spent time in Genoa in his early years, especially at the nearby hot springs, now David Walley’s Resort.
Although a devastating fire in 1910 wiped out some of the town’s original structures, you can still drink in the town’s rich history at the Genoa Courthouse Museum—home to fascinating displays that tell the story of the town, region, and state—or (more literally) at the 1853-established Genoa Bar & Saloon.
Things to Do in Genoa, NV
It’s easy to fill a day here. Shoppers can peruse the wares and collectibles at Dancing Deer. Golfers can play a round at Genoa Lakes Golf Club. Hikers can explore an 800-acre wetland ecosystem at River Fork Ranch Preserve (managed by the Nevada Nature Conservancy, or hit up the Genoa Trail System, where 16 miles of trails delight hikers and mountain bikers—including along the popular Sierra Canyon Trail, which connects to the famed Tahoe Rim Trail. All of these activities are good ways to earn a toast to the day’s adventures with cold drinks—and, occasionally, hot tunes—at Genoa Bar & Saloon.
History buffs enjoy hoofing it around Genoa’s historic buildings—like Genoa Town Hall, Genoa Community Church, and the Genoa Courthouse Museum—and strolling the grounds of Mormon Station State Historic Park. The park features a painstaking reconstruction of the 1851 trading post, the original stockade and wagon shed, a museum with pioneer-era artifacts, a beautiful grassy era with picnic tables and grills, and a reservable group pavilion.
At the end of the day, follow in the wet footprints of centuries worth of passers-through and treat yourself to a soak in one of David Walley’s Resort’s five mineral-rich, hot spring-fed pools — in the same place that Mark Twain once remarked, post-soak, “I now leave without crutch or cane, entirely well, not only relieved from pain but gained in spirit.”
Travel Nevada Pro Tip
Genoa, Nevada Food & Drink
Let’s start with the star of this show. Established in 1853, the famous Genoa Bar & Saloon has welcomed its fair share of celebrities, actors, musicians, and even presidents throughout its long history. The authentically old-school saloon is adorned, floor-to-ceiling, with original paintings, photos, and fascinating 19th-century ephemera. You can get just about anything you want from the full bar, but their famous Bloody Marys are always a hit—especially if you show up on a day when a live band is rocking out on the open-air patio.
The Genoa Country Store has delicious deli sandwiches and locally churned ice cream. Both joints offer great choices for a picnic at Mormon Station State Historic Park. Genoa Station Bar & Grille is a local favorite for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while the 1862 Restaurant & Saloon at David Walley’s Resort serves up fancier fare, like filet mignon and prime rib, along with plenty of hearty burgers and sandwiches.
Places to Stay in Genoa
If you’re looking to make a night of it, Genoa NV’s lodging options don’t disappoint. The Genoa Country Inn, situated in the heart of town, has 11 rooms and is a popular weekend getaway destination even for locals. About a block away, the White House Inn Genoa is a relaxing country home with four unique rooms and a resident herd of deer who seem to love posing for pics.
Meanwhile, just a few minutes south, David Walley’s Resort is an upscale retreat with studio suites to multi-room cabins, two-bedroom villas, and three-bedroom cottages—all on the same property where you’ll find the hearty 1862 Restaurant & Saloon and, of course, the on-site hot springs and pool facilities.
Genoa, Nevada Events
Swing through in late September for the town of Genoa, Nevada’s biggest bash, the Genoa Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire. The event started in 1919 when volunteers got together to raise money for streetlights by selling candy at a dance; the practice continued to pay the electric bills for generations. In 1970 a crafts fair was added, and now the Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire draws thousands, closing down the streets for an entire weekend.
Meanwhile, in January, Eagles & Agriculture celebrates Carson Valley’s rich farming and ranching history, while offering tours to spot bald eagles and other birds of prey who descend on the valley during the winter calving season.
And each April, hundreds of revelers flock to the historic district for three days of cowboy poetry, real-deal western music, and family entertainment during Genoa Western Heritage Days.
Whether you’re clinking cold ones at Nevada’s oldest “thirst parlor,” soaking in historic hot springs, or otherwise living it up in Genoa, tag your snaps with #TravelNevada so we can follow and share your adventure!