Amazing Kids! Magazine

Virginia City, Nevada – A Trip Back to the Old West

By Ryan Traynor, age 12, California

At the start of the summer my family decided to take some relaxing time at Lake Tahoe, California. After a day in the sun we decided to take a 50 minute drive to see an old Western town, Virginia City, located across the state border in Nevada. I was surprised what Virginia City had in store for us – mines, gunfights, and even panning for gold.

You can enter Virginia City in a few ways – the original Virginia & Truckee Railroad line between Virginia City and Gold Hill, by car, or even by trolley or horseback as they did during the older days. We drove into Virginia City and parked on the outskirts of town so we could take in the true feel of the town. Glancing down the wide main street, we felt as if we had been transported back to the old western days.

The storefronts display signs advertising sarsaparilla drinks and fresh-pulled taffy or show displays of antique guns or gems and minerals.

After exploring several of the shops, we decided to take in the Ponderosa Mine Tour. The Best and Belcher Mine is a 25-minute guided tour that had over 300 pieces of antique mining equipment on display. We saw the complete underground mine workings including the tunnels, crosscuts, drifts, stopes, raises, winzes and shafts. The mine entrance was through the Ponderosa Saloon. We felt like old miners when we wore our hardhats and worked our way down deeper into the mine. We experienced the dangers of low lighting as miners were only allowed to work with the light of a small candle. We were told of the dangers of the equipment that had nicknames such as “The Widowmaker” because of the high chance of a fatal accident or malfunction.  We understood the sacrifices these workers made to support their family and reach for the chance of riches.

We passed through the historic Fourth Ward School and Museum which was built in 1876. It includes the same wooden desks used from 1876 to 1936.  The other classrooms include displays about the history of Virginia City, Mark Twain’s life (this is where Mark Twain spent his Virginia City days writing for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper), mining issues and other displays.

The town has several historic displays of actual pieces of buildings from the past. We stepped inside a jail from 1877 to experience the old West from the other side of a locked enclosure.

Feeling as if we were in the old West, we just had to experience the Wild West Show. We laughed and gasped as we watched gun spinning, whip cracking and imitation gun fights set to a hilarious comedy routine.  This show is good for all ages.

There is also the Silver Terrace Cemetery, established in 1867, which was the main burial ground for the city. Of the 6000 burials, only less than 1300 are marked.

We also visited an actual bank vault from the Bank of California from the old West days. Sitting in the back of a saloon, we felt funny seeing the small vault with all of its safe deposit boxes. We expected to hear the clap of hooves from the street to make the picture complete.

For a step back in time, Virginia City offers you a place to experience the old West. I loved it and I think you will too.