Last updated: 12:00 AM ET, Tue January 01 2013
Aerial Photography of Carson City and Lake Tahoe (Photo via OwensImaging / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Carson City

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Named after frontiersman Kit Carson, historic Carson City, Nevada, is the state’s capital. While its beginnings were humble (it started as a trading post and stopover for gold prospectors in the mid-1800s), it boomed when the Comstock Lode — largest silver find in world history — was discovered in the hills to the east. Today, Carson City offers casinos, dining, shopping, museums and nightlife, while retaining its old-time charm.

Most of Carson City’s attractions are in the downtown area, including the State Capitol; the Nevada State Railroad Museum, where visitors can take a ride on a train; and the Nevada State Museum (a former U.S. Mint), which focuses on the state’s ancient history. With more than two dozen antique shops, Carson City is a treasure trove for vintage clothing, furniture and art. On the first Saturday of every month, the Downtown Wine Walk features wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres, as visitors and locals browse galleries and shops. On the last Saturday of the month, the Ghost Walking Tour is a guided walking tour of the city’s historic homes, with stories about spirits who still lurk in them. And the Blue Line Trail is a self-guided walk featuring some of the most historic spots in the city.

Carson City is nestled in the eastern Sierra Nevada foothills, and outdoor recreation abounds. Besides nearly 20 ski and snowboard resorts within 35 miles of the city, activities like hiking, biking, boating, golf and fishing are not far away. For a real Old West experience, Virginia City, located 15 miles from Carson City, is Nevada’s most famous ghost town. With its original buildings intact, the town is the country’s largest National Historic Landmark, welcoming 2 million visitors annually, who dine in its saloons, browse its shops and enjoy its Old West entertainment. Virginia City can be reached by car or via the Silver Line Express train from Carson City. And if you want to sample what “The Biggest Little City in the World” has to offer, Reno is only 30 miles away.

Carson City offers a variety of cuisines at low prices compared with larger destinations. Nearly every casino offers affordable fine dining. Along Carson Street and Highway 50 to the east are restaurants serving every type of ethnic food, including Basque. There are plenty of American steakhouses and barbecue joints, as well.

Reno-Tahoe International Airportoffers service from seven scheduled carriers and one charter airline. The best way to reach Carson City from the airport is by renting a car. Carson City is located approximately 30 miles south of the airport off of Highway 395.

Carson City has four seasons, with high temperatures reaching the mid 40s during winter and the high 80s during summer, a prime time to visit. For skies and snowboarders, winter is the time to visit, with Lake Tahoe less than a half an hour away by car.