This City With Many Unique Activities Was Rated One Of The Best 'True Western Towns'

When True West Magazine picks the top "true Western towns" across America every year, you'll see some of the same famous names listed. Cities like Tombstone, Arizona, Deadwood, South Dakota, and Dodge City, Kansas, are all legendary in Old West lore. Hollywood has kept their image alive in classic Westerns like "Tombstone," the Emmy-winning HBO series "Deadwood," and the long-running CBS series "Gunsmoke." Yet these places aren't the only travel options for fans of Westerns and actual Western towns. If you're looking to get the heck out of Dodge, as the saying goes, one place that has also made True West's list in years past is Nevada's capital, Carson City.

The city last appeared in the Top 10 in 2020, when the Bank Saloon reopened downtown. Previously known as Jack's Bar, the saloon first opened in 1899 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. For almost two decades, however, it had sat derelict in Carson City until the Nevada Builders Alliance restored it from the ground up.

Alliance CEO Aaron White told The Reno Gazette-Journal, "We wanted to reimagine it as a modern take on classic styling." So, don't expect to walk in a pair of batwing doors and find gunslingers reenacting the Wild West. The Bank Saloon is more of a classy cocktail joint now, with plenty of Blue Ice Huckleberry Vodka to go around for all you Doc Hollidays out there. Outside its 125-year-old walls, however, there's still much to do in Carson City.

History comes alive in Carson City

Another historic drinking establishment near Carson City is the Genoa Bar and Saloon, which bills itself as "Nevada's oldest thirst parlor." While it's gone through various ownership and name changes through the decades, the place has been in business since before Nevada became a state in 1864. It opened in 1853 and has attracted some VIP patrons, including John Wayne and President Theodore Roosevelt. The late Raquel Welch even left her bra hanging above the bar as a token of her visit. This saloon can be your Huckleberry, too, since none other than Mark Twain, author of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," once drank there.

Carson City isn't entirely without reenactments, as it hosts an annual Pony Express re-ride every June. This event is a throwback to the days when horseback riders delivered the mail along the Pony Express National Historic Trail. Elsewhere, the silver-domed Nevada State Capitol Building — which offers Saturday walk-in tours — serves as a visual reminder of the mining rush in nearby Virginia City. That's where the discovery of America's first silver ore in the Comstock Lode helped earn Nevada its "Silver State" nickname. On weekends from April to October, the V&T Railway Commission offers seasonal rides between Carson City and Virginia City aboard a restored coach and steam locomotive from the mid-1910s. One exhibit at the Nevada State Museum is also the Carson City Mint, where silver coins were issued in the late 1880s.

Other things to do in and around Nevada's capital

On the road to Reno, just 13 miles from Carson City, is Bowers Mansion, another site in the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion was owned by a couple who made it rich during the silver boom, and it's open for weekend and holiday tours from Memorial Day to Nevada Day. Meanwhile, Virginia Range, located about 55 miles from the capital, is one of the top U.S. destinations to spot wild horses. There's also an opportunity to see wild mustangs on the 24-mile roundtrip by rail from Carson City to Virginia City.

If you don't have a chance to ride the steam locomotive, you can still see some late 19th and early 20th-century trains on permanent display at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Virginia & Truckee Locomotives No. 18 and 25 appeared in several Western movies and TV shows, as did No. 22, which showed up in "McClintock" and "The Wild Wild West," and which is one of North America's oldest steam locomotives.

In the past, V&T Railway offered railbike tours in Carson City, so you can always check back to see if it starts those up again after pausing them in 2023. Or try a slot machine to work your arm instead of your legs; like Lake Tahoe, Carson City is another Nevada locale with casinos beyond Las Vegas. While it's not quite the same as playing cards in the Old West, Casino Fandango does offer poker and blackjack.