During our recent trip to Southwest Montana, we visited a historical gem in the area, Virginia / Nevada City. This old pioneer mining camp along the Alder Gulch is a modern day ghost town, one that was actually never abandoned. This post is written in partnership with a sponsored trip from Southwest Montana.
Our family didn’t know quite what to expect from visiting a town prized for being a modern day ghost town, so here’s what we thought was the best of Virginia City and Nevada City, Montana.
Virginia City Historical Displays
Something that I wasn’t expecting and loved in Virginia City were the historical display rooms along main street. These are housed in the buildings along the boardwalk, and marked with sandwich board signs. You can walk up to the door to look in, and you’ll see a specially decorated themed shop.
Inside the displays are historical artifacts from the 19th century that give you insight into what life would have been like in the old west. We especially liked the grocery market and general store.
River of Gold
In Nevada City, there is a small attraction known as the River of Gold. While you won’t really find gold, or strike it rich, you will find garnet treasures that you can keep. Both of my girls enjoyed swirling and searching for little red and pink rocks in their tray of dirt.
You’re given a pan of dirt, a small glass vile, some tweezers, and a quick lesson, as part of you $8 fee. Our family spent about 45 minutes searching through our trays. On hot days it can be warm sitting still under the sun as you search, so pack a sun hat if you’d like to stay a bit cooler.
Alder Gulch Train
This train ride is a convenient way to get between Virginia City and Nevada City, plus it’s a small history lesson too. Here’s a tip — sit on the same side of the train for both directions. The train does a turn about and you’ll want to see both sides of the tracks.
Virginia City Creamery
The perfect stop for traveling families, the Virginia City Creamery makes authentic and delicious homemade ice cream. Their staff is also friendly and welcoming, so be sure to stop in!
Virginia City Arcade
When you’re ready for a little old-fashioned fun, make a stop into the Arcade along the main street in Virginia City. Be sure to pack some nickels so you can watch the old silent picture machines. They even have some adult content ones, they’d earn a G rating these days.
One of the town’s great artifact gems is housed inside the arcade. It’s the Gypsy Verbal Fortune Teller. Remember the movie BIG with Tom Hanks? This is like that fortune telling machine, and evidently it’s very rare.
Nevada City Hotel and The Fairweather Inn
Part of our step back into the Old West included a stay at the Nevada City Hotel. The room we stayed in acts as a showcase when not in use. From the furniture to the saloon downstairs, it was truly immersive.
Virginia City has the Fairweather Inn as a hotel option. I think it’s location in Virginia City would be a better pick for families.
Other popular attractions that we weren’t able to experience are:
- The Virginia City Players – a theater group that performs plays and vaudeville acts
- Fire Truck Tours – take a history tour around town aboard an old fire truck
- Nevada City Museum & Music Hall – great for history buffs that love looking at antiques
- Bale of Hay Saloon – would be great for lunch (a no-go for nut allergies)
- Wells Fargo Restaurant – historic sit down dining establishment
The experience of strolling around Virginia City is great for families. I would recommend a single night stay, and take advantage of the Stay and Play Packages. They include a night of accommodations and many of the attractions that have fees.
When you arrive, be sure to stop into the Chamber Visitor Center to get a map that helps explain the buildings and sites!