Ready for an adventure? Check out Carson City, Nevada! This vibrant capital city is filled with history and packed with plenty of activities and attractions to keep you busy during your visit. Carson City has something for everyone, from its well-preserved downtown district to its stunning mountain scenery. Plus, with its close proximity to Lake Tahoe and other amazing natural areas, you’ll never run out of things to see and do.
During 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 delightful Carson City.
Visit Carson City and partners hosted our stay and activities in Carson City. All opinions are my own.
1. Nevada Capitol Building
Take a walking tour of the historic Nevada Capitol Building. It is one of the most iconic buildings in Carson City. 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 a chance 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 visit full of state history.
Take a stroll through the mesmerizing Nevada State Capitol grounds. Beautiful gardens, century-old trees, and monuments are found on a picturesque campus.
Pro Tip: There are many 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 an excellent 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 transcontinental railroad construction and the Comstock Lode, a major silver deposit found in the area in 1859.
Pro Tip: Enter through the glass structure addition.
3. Nevada State Railroad Museum
The Nevada State Railroad Museum is located in Carson City’s historic Virginia & Truckee Railroad Depot. The museum offers a variety of exhibits on the state’s railroad history and the development of the railroad to the west. There are many locomotives and other cars available to view. If you are a train lover, this is a must-see.
Pro Tip: On the grounds near the visitor center is a locomotive that provides an excellent photo opportunity.
4. Kit Carson Trail
Explore the Kit Carson Trail that runs through Carson City. It is named after Kit Carson, a famous explorer and frontiersman living in Carson City during the 19th century. The walking tour of the historic district takes you by approximately 50 landmarks, including former governors’ mansions, Victorian architecture, vintage churches, other historic buildings, and a house that was part of a Lifetime Christmas movie.
Pro Tip: This tour involves lots of walking. Wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated.
5. Downtown Carson City
Wander the charming streets of downtown Carson City, where you’ll find shops, restaurants, casinos, and historic buildings dating back to the 1800s.
6. Virginia & Truckee Railway
Ride the world-renowned Virginia & Truckee Railway. This attraction offers 24-mile rides on antique 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 Nevada’s Indigenous People at Stewart Indian School. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Stewart Indian School is dedicated to preserving the history of what was once the largest off-reservation Indian boarding school in the United States.
8. Railbike Tours
Pedal yourself through Carson City history aboard a railbike that takes you along the historic tracks of the Virginia & Truckee Railway. The railbikes are motor-assisted but require constant pedaling when going uphill. Carson Canyon Railbike Tours guides you into the beautiful Carson River Canyon and beyond. This one-of-a-kind adventure takes approximately an hour and a half.
Pro Tip: Passengers must be able to pedal during the trip for an extended time.
9. Carson Hot Springs
After hiking or riding railbikes, a soak in the hot springs is exactly what the doctor ordered. The Carson Hot Springs includes a large cool-water pool and three relaxing hot-spring-soaking pools, each at a different temperature.
10. Carson City Triathlon
Drink, dine, and dip to participate in the Carson City Triathlon. Visit Carson City challenges visitors to visit Shoe Tree Brewing Company, grab a beverage, eat lunch or dinner at Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint, and take a dip at Carson Hot Springs. (All three share a parking lot.) You can download the Triathlon Pass and check in at all three locations within 24 hours to earn a T-shirt.
11. The Brewery Arts Center
The Brewery Arts Center is a nonprofit arts organization that offers entertainment throughout the year. Past events have included concerts, plays, stand-up comedy, and more. Check out their online schedule for 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 stunning waterfall. The main trail along the lower loop is a short and easy hike. The upper path is longer and considered moderate-to-difficult with elevation. The best time to visit is in the spring and early summer when snow melt and rain provide a steady water flow. The water is cold, but you can dip under the falls if you wish.
Pro Tip: If you plan on hiking, it is recommended to do it early, before 9 a.m., due to the intense heat and sun.
13. Virginia City
Take a day trip to Virginia City. Once a booming mining town during the Comstock Lode days, Virginia City now offers historic tours, restaurants, shops, museums, saloons, mines, and more.
You can ride the train to Virginia City or drive by car. The train was not running when we visited. It was a beautiful drive, although, the road was full of curves and steady elevation. Along the way, we saw some wild horses.
Another train runs from Virginia City to Gold Hill. We took that train ride and learned about Virginia City’s history.
The next time we visit, we plan to take the mining tour.
14. Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous lake only 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 most beautiful views in all of Nevada.
There are also plenty of activities to enjoy in Lake Tahoe, such as hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming.
We visited in the summer and enjoyed cooling off in the lake.
Pro Tip: For a scenic afternoon drive, ride around 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 is home to numerous special events throughout the year. Events include the Mark Twain Days Festival, Carson City Turkey Trot, and Silver & Snowflake Festival of Lights.
Pro Tip: If you’re visiting in July, attend Nevada Days, Carson City’s annual celebration of statehood, complete with a parade, carnival rides, live music, and more!
16. Restaurants In Carson City
Grab a bite at one of the many delicious eateries in town. Here are a few of the great places to eat, drink, and be merry in Carson City.
- Sassafras Eclectic Food Joint: A fun menu and great food
- Red’s Old 395 Grill: They have a huge menu with stellar barbecue and a fun old-west atmosphere.
- Nashville Social Club: One of the newest places in town offering live music and southern-style food
- Great Basin Brewing Co: Excellent for food and a brew
Pro Tip: Be sure to visit the oldest bar in Nevada. Head 20 minutes to Genoa to the Genoa Bar & Saloon. The walls of the building have been there since 1851.
17. Staybridge Suites
If you want to stay where you can spread 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 bath with a common area in the middle that included a kitchen and living room.
Breakfasts were abundant and delicious each morning. I loved that they had different items on the menu daily.
The Staybridge also had a lovely outdoor area with fire pits, a pool, a hot tub, and luxurious seating. One of the things we liked best was the large laundry area. They had numerous washers and dryers for guests to use, free of charge. With another week of travel ahead, we did 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 provide tips on where to eat, where to see a great view, etc. We felt very welcome 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 city. Whether you’re visiting for a day or staying for a week, check out these fantastic things to do in Carson City!