Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Five reasons not to visit Virginia City

VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. – For an authentic historical experience providing a glimpse into a 19th Century gold rush town, Virginia City is the place so long as you avoid Main Street.

OK, that’s not true. Downtown Virginia City is chock full of historic buildings and a sagging boardwalk evoking every classic Western movie on film. This is especially true if you can overlook the kitschy stores, frozen yogurt shops, fake gun fights and general blatant commercialization of the place.

No, I’m not advocating preserving the place in amber or allowing only really gun fights. I just speak the truth; you decide. I’ll also be the first to say that a vastly more authentic experience awaits anyone who gets off the main drag, even by a block. One of the most fascinating perspectives is to walk downhill one block off the main thoroughfare and look at the backs of the buildings. You get a sense that the whole series of buildings is being held up by 2x8s.

So here, for the first time on the Internet, are five reasons not to visit Virginia City and one reason to do it:
1. Most of the bars are also casinos (this is Nevada, after all), so they are filled with cigarette smoke. (What?! Smoking in a bar!?)

2. Trinkets. There are trinkets everywhere.

3. It’s not exactly easy to get to, even though it’s essentially just between Carson City and Reno. To put it simply, gold was often discovered in places that don’t have modern-day Interstate access.

4. I looked everywhere – no Ben, no Hoss, no Little Joe, not even Hop Sing.

5. Did I mention the trinkets?
OK, I promised one reason to go:

It’s interesting – all of it. It does, indeed have lots of old buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s got some pretty cool bars and restaurants and there are some particularly interesting old buildings off the main drag that haven’t been turned into t-shirt shops. IF you adopt the right attitude and a penchant for people-watching, even the tourism aspect of the town becomes part of the entertainment.

Just south of Virginia City is Silver City, which hasn’t cashed in on the tourism wave. That’s a pretty interesting stop, but you might want to knock before entering any of the homes.

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