Heading to the historic Virginia City with kids? You’re in the right place. We just got back from Virginia City with our kids who are 10 and 2 years old, and we had an amazing time there. Virginia City was truly one of the coolest placed I’ve seen. The historic town centre, and the scenic landscape, nestled in the mountains of Nevada – all of it was very picturesque and exciting. There’s a lot family-friendly things to do there.
Part of what makes Virginia City unique is that it looks almost the same today, as it did in the 1800s when it was one an up and coming city. Eventually it ran out of money and people stopped moving there for work. It now only exists for tourism, but there are about 900 people living in Virginia City as well (there’s a school, a doctor, post office, etc.)
In Virginia City, you could spend as little as a few hours or a full day – it depends on maybe how old your kids are (how many activities they can handle) and how many of the attractions there you’re interested in. The best part? You could do almost the whole thing on foot. Virginia City is so small, that you don’t need a car for the most part, except to get there.
We’re going to outline all the family-friendly things to do in Virginia City below, so you can have an idea of what there is to do there, and if its worth it to spend the night.
Things to Do in Virginia City with Kids
Here are all the things you could do in Virginia City with your family
1. Historic Forth Ward School Museum
This is a chance to show your kids what elementary school once looked like! All the original desks and furniture is still there, and there’s even still some writing on the walls.
The school is about a 15 minute walk from the centre of town. You can book a tour by showing up, they’re typically open from 10am-5pm from spring through fall.
2. Do a Mine Tour
We did a Mine tour with Chollar Mine, which is the only historic silver mine in the area still in tact. It’s child friendly, but only for older children I’d say. My 10 year old loved the mine tour, the tour guide engaged her and she learned some interesting things.
It costs $20 per adult, and $10 per kid for the Mine Tour. As I said, this probably is not an appropriate activity for toddlers or very young kids. My 2 year old was screaming at the beginning of the tour, and the guide said that if it continued, then we would have to leave the tour. (I don’t blame them for this at all, as they’re trying to be fair to their other guests.) I decided to just hang out with her outside – there was a bunch by a tree with some shade. We also saw the train go by.
Be aware that the mine tour lasts 45 minutes, there is quite a bit of talking, and its also dark in the mine. After doing the mine tour, my husband and 10 year old agreed that the mine tour would probably suitable for children ages 7+, but you know your child best and what they can handle.
Pro Tip: I want to add that the staff at Chollar Mine was very kind. André, who works there, sat and talked with me and my toddler while my family was on the mine tour, and told me all about living in Virginia City and the mine. He also refunded me the money I paid for my tour, and said my toddler and I could still try to go in if we wanted to, and he wouldn’t charge me. Nice staff, and good experience all around!
PS. Wear good shoes if you enter the Chollar Mine – its muddy and wet inside the tunnels!
3. The Way it Was Museum
The Way it Was Museum features artifacts from Virginia City’s rich history as a mining town. You can point out things to your kids that aren’t common anymore. There’s also an impressive visual of how deep the mines are (its amazing how deep they actually dug for silver.)
Its only $5 to get in to The Way it Was Museum, and its fun to look around at all the old artifacts. It’s quite small, and you could probably get a good look at everything in under an hour.
4. Walk Along the Main street
Be sure to allot some time to just walking up and down the main street of Virginia City. You might want to give your family a good hour or two where there’s nothing planned and you can just walk around and take in the atmosphere. There’s so much to look at, so many restaurants and cafés and cute shops to go into.
5. Comstock Fireman’s Museum
If you have a son or daughter interested in firefighting, then this is a small museum to look through. It has old firefighter engines and the history of firefighting. Its a small museum, so you won’t be in here for very long – could easily be under 20 minutes. Entrance is by donation, so head in and support them.
6. Visit an old-fashioned candy store
There are a few candy stores in Virginia City, and this will be probably be one of your kid’s favourite activities! It sure was for our’s. There is a lot of taffy. I’m not usually a taffy person, and neither is my husband – but give it a try, its actually exceptionally good here. Its soft, and not sticky. They do a good job, and there are dozens and dozens of different flavours.
You’ll find a number of candy stores on the main street – the picture above was taken at Barrels O Candy, but there’s also Red’s Old Fashioned Candies, Grandma’s Fudge Factory, and Virginia City Mercantile which sells other items and souvenirs as well. Head to Virginia City Kettle Corn Depot for old-fashioned popcorn. When it comes to sweets in Virginia City, you definitely have your pick!
7. Ride the old fashioned steam train
What better way to feel like you’re travelling back in time than to ride a historic steam train? Its a great way to see the gorgeous landscape in between (and trust me, it is very beautiful – be sure to have the space on your phone for a lot of pictures) and relax in the carrier with your kids.
The steam train from Virginia City heads to Gold Mill. It leaves and returns 7 times per day, and a one-way trip is 35 minutes.
8. Do an escape room
The escape room is a popular activity in Virginia City, and is offered through VC escape rooms. There is no minimum age to do the escape rooms, as long as children are accompanied by an adult. Children are welcome on the tour, but VC Escape room just asks that you don’t allow them to run loose and destroy things (which sadly, they told me has happened before.)
You can book it in advance on VC Escape Room’s website – they are also very responsive on their chat function if you want to ask any questions.
9. St. Mary in the Mountains Museum
This church is the largest in Nevada, what most people don’t know is that its also a museum. We didn’t go into the museum (they recommend calling ahead for hours and tours) but we took plenty of photos of the outside because its so gorgeous.
The museum features artifacts and relics about the history of churches in Nevada. Admission is FREE, but donations are appreciated as the church survives on donations. For information, or to book, visit their website.
10. Take a 20-minute tour on the Virginia City Trolley
The Virginia City trolley is a historic tram that takes you through the main street of Virginia City. It includes a guide that will tell you interesting facts about the area.
11. Mackay Mansion Museum
The Mackay Mansion is the oldest building in Virginia City, and there are accounts of paranormal activity at the mansion. The mansion’s stories were featured on Dead Files and The Ghost Adventures, and Johnny Depp had to stay here during his filming of Dead Man in 1985 – ever since that, he believes in ghosts.
You can book a tour to learn about the mansion’s history, including the paranormal activity. The tour is child friendly, and the hosts are kind to children. Like most activities in Virginia City, you book the tour simply by walking in.
12. Virginia City Outlaws Theatre
The Outlaws Theatre show is a comedy, old Western theatre production, and family-friendly. Its been running for over 20 years in Virginia City.
The only thing to be aware of as a parent is that the gunshots can be pretty loud, so if you have younger kids, you may be covering their ears. You could also bring earplugs. The show is about an hour long. The Outlaws show is one of the few things in town that can be booked online in advance, so visit their website for showtime information and to book a time.
Where to Stay in Virginia City with Kids
Planning to stay overnight to take advantage of all the unique things to do? Here are the best places to stay as a family, according to budget
- Budget: Sugarloaf Mountain Motel – Right on the main street, with a minimart downstairs and some amenities you need in the room
- Mid-Range: Virginia City Inn – Historic themed rooms like Mark Twain room and the Pioneer room, located right in the centre of town
- Luxury: B Streethouse Inn – Very family-friendly bed and breakfast, providing guests with small kids with a baby safety gate. Fruit and chocolate delivered to your room
Virginia City with Kids
Here are the most commonly asked questions about Virginia City, and visiting there with kids
Is Virginia City worth the trip?
Virginia City is definitely worth the trip. I’ve never seen a town quite like it. It primarily exists because of tourism, but its also a home to 900 people. Aside from the cars, the town otherwise looks the way it would have in as a Western town in 1800s, and you can feel that as you walk through it. There are a lot of activities there that appeal to both adults and kids. For these reasons, Virginia City deserves to be on your bucket list.
Why did Virginia City became a ghost town?
Believe it or not, Virginia City once had a population of about 25,000 in the mid 1800s. The value of silver decreased and it wasn’t worth it to extract the silver anymore. Also, when WWI rolled around, they closed the mines because they needed the soldiers for the war. As a result of these two things, people started leaving down. Today, there are less than 1,000 people living in Virginia City, and primarily for the tourism.
What is Virginia City Nevada known for?
Virginia City is a 1800s style Western town known as the “city of silver,” because of its history in silver mining. Today, it is known as being a tourist town in Nevada, about an hour from Lake Tahoe.
Virginia City with Kids: Conclusion
Virginia City was an exciting place to visit with our kids, and we’re so glad that we carved out time for it during our trip to the area. There’s a lot of opportunities to do unique things with them that wouldn’t be possible or common anywhere else. The town is unlike many others and surrounded by a lot of natural beauty, with the rolling dessert mountains.
Many tourists who visit Virginia City come from the Reno Airport, which is only 15 minutes away. From North Lake Tahoe, it would take about an hour to get to Virginia City. If you’re looking for other places to visit in the area, then I would recommend Lake Tahoe (north or south) which is great for outdoor activities as a family with kids as well as babies and toddlers. You could also consider Truckee, California and Carson City, Nevada.
There are a lot of gems in the Reno area that are well worth your time as a family.