Between Stateline and Carson City, a delightful little back-door route takes you through Genoa, the oldest city in Nevada. Founded by Mormon farmers way back in 1851, Genoa still retains its rural frontier feel, especially since most of the 20th-century development was focused elsewhere, leaving Genoa pleasantly far behind the times—for the time being, at least, though new faux-Victorian houses for Carson City commuters have been springing up around the historic downtown.
At the center of town is Mormon Station State Historic Park (775/782-2590, park daily, museum daily 10am-4pm, May-Sept., 11am-3pm Thurs.-Mon. Oct.-Apr., $1), which has a small museum and a stockade dating back to the 1850s. Across the way, at Main and 5th Streets, the Genoa Courthouse Museum (775/782-4325, daily May-Oct., $3) has more comprehensive displays of historical items—everything from Native American baskets to the keys of the old jail, with an especially interesting exhibition on Wild West legend John A. “Snowshoe” Thompson, who carried the mail over the mountains between Genoa and Placerville. There’s also a little tidbit on mining engineer George Ferris, who designed and built the first of his namesake Ferris wheels for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Much of old Genoa has burned down over the years, but the Genoa Bar (2282 Main St., 775/782-3870) is full of character and fairly claims to be the oldest bar in the state.
To get to Genoa from Stateline and Lake Tahoe, go east on Hwy-207, down the steep Kingsbury Grade, then turn north on Hwy-206. From Carson City, turn off US-395 south of the US-50 junction onto Jacks Valley Road (Hwy-206), and follow that for 10 mi (16.1 km).
Nevada’s state capital and 10th largest city, Carson City (pop. 55,916) was named in honor of Wild West explorer Kit Carson. Nestled at the base of the sheer eastern scarp of the Sierra Nevada, the city was founded in 1858—just a year before the discovery of the Comstock Lode riches, and six years before Nevada became a state.
Carson City is a hard place to characterize. Considering it’s the capital, life is slow, with the main buzz being the Carson Nugget (507 N. Carson St., 775/882-1626) on the main US-50/395 route through town. It features roulette, craps, and blackjack tables, and an army of senior citizens feeding banks of slot machines.
Gambling aside, the one place to stop in Carson City is the excellent Nevada State Museum (600 N. Carson St., Tues.-Sun., $8), which stands four blocks north of the state capitol—and catercorner from the Nugget. The solid old U.S. Mint, built in 1870 to make coins from Comstock silver, houses displays on mining (including a full-scale mock-up of a working mine), features a Native American gallery called Under One Sky, and gives an overview of Great Basin natural history. Also worth a look: the old Virginia & Truckee steam engines at Nevada State Railroad Museum (2180 S. Carson St., 9am-4:30pm Wed.-Mon., $8), south of town along US-50/395, where vintage trains run on warm-weather weekends and some holidays.
Good Mexican meals are the order of the day at El Charro Avitia (4389 S. Carson St., 775/883-6261), south of town, while the best and most expensive fare is served at Adele’s (1112 N. Carson St., 775/882-3353), where power brokers broker their power.
Motels line Carson Street north and south of the capitol; try the classic 1950s-style Frontier Motel (1718 N. Carson St., 775/882-1377).