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Leave Casinos for Nature in Carson City, Nevada's Capital

Forget Las Vegas. Viva Carson City!

Drive half an hour south of Reno to find one of the most enchanting destinations the Silver State has to offer. Whether you're just driving from Salt Lake City to San Francisco, or you're in the Lake Tahoe area on vacation, you should definitely consider dropping in on this historic Western city.

But you knew there were casinos in Nevada. You're not here for that! In fact, you might be worried there's nothing else in Nevada, if you've never been. We're here to reassure you with a list of the best things to do in the capital of Nevada.

What to Do In The Capital of Nevada

Carson City Culture (Sans Casinos)

You can't toss a poker chip in Carson City without hitting a performing arts center. And the best of them is the Brewery Arts Center in the heart of downtown.

Born from the old home of the Carson Brewing Company, Nevada's oldest business, Brewery Arts hosts a plethora of arts events throughout the year. We're talking everything from live concerts & plays to hosting new public art.

And it's huge! The center spans two whole city blocks! They've got workshops, stores, classes and artist services to boot. Brewery is turning into the beating heart of Carson City, and you absolutely should pay a visit.

But Brewery isn't the only performance venue in Crason City. Fans of broadway shows will love the Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company or the Proscenium Players.

This is Nevada we're talking, so of course there's going to be some gambling. Casinos within the city limits include more frequented establishments like Gold Dust West and the Carson Nugget, in addition to many others.

Of course, you can always pop over to the Hardrock in Tahoe, or any of the many resorts in Reno.

Get Outdoors in Carson City

Aerial of the beautiful Chimney Beach on Labor Day, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA

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RELATED: How to Prepare for the Ultimate Lake Tahoe Camping Trip

With one of the country's most majestic lakes only 15 miles away, there's no reason not to dip in. Watch how far you swim down, however, as Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the U.S. following Crater Lake in Oregon.

Even worse, legend has it that Jacques Cousteau and his independent film making companion discovered a disturbing amount of preserved human bodies in the lake's depths. (It should be noted that this claim is disputed, and most say that Cousteau never even visited Lake Tahoe.)

To make things even creepier, people claim there's a vortex that connects this body of water with nearby Pyramid Lake in western Nevada.

Wild Mustang Horses in near a lake in the Nevada desert.

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You'll find Washoe Lake State Park just north of the capital of Nevada. This is truly one of the most scenic & serene experiences you can have out west.

In this valley, you can enjoy hiking, camping, and all types of water recreation. Whatever your activity, you'll have a front-row seat to the Sierra Nevada, Carson and Virginia mountains. As you can guess from that amazing photo above, Washoe Lake is home to all kinds of wildlife. The diversity of birds and waterfowl is worth the price of admission.

It's open all hours of the day and has a vehicle fee.

ski resort sign at lake tahoe

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When winter comes, the mountains just west of town become some of the most popular skiing, sledding, and snowboarding areas in the United States.

Yes, most of them are on the CA side of the state line. But in and around Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevadas are plenty of slopes just a short drive away from Carson City.

Day Trips Around Carson City

Nevada Railroad Museum Engine 25

Bill Ward, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Have kids and don't want to push it too much with outdoor trips? Don't worry; Carson City offers a lot that will keep your young ones entertained.

A big draw is the Nevada Railroad Museum. Located on the southwest side of town, this fun and educational destination is open Thursday to Monday. The museum's featured exhibits focus on points of history like the completion of the transcontinental railroad and classic modes of Western communication.

To be sure, it's also full of historic railroad cars and engines. And yes, kids, you can ride in some of them.

Speaking of museums, be sure to check out the Nevada State Museum. This repository of cultural memory occupies the former Carson City Mint, which was once a branch of the United States Mint.

Its exhibits include everything from dinosaur fossils to classic automobiles, not to mention coin pressing with old mint machinery. It is open Wednesday through Saturday.

Aerial shot of the state capitol building dome in Carson City, Nevada on a sunny day in summer.

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The Nevada State Capitol was constructed in a neoclassic Italian style and is now on the National Historic Register. The founder of the city, Abraham Curry, set aside several blocks for this specific purpose in the mid 19th century. Back then, this part of the state was still included in the Utah Territory.

After the Comstock Lode was discovered, Nevadans used their wealth and clout to break away from Utah and form the Nevada Territory. Nevada finally gained its statehood in 1864, in the midst of the Civil War.

Although the building has been added on to over the years, it is still where every Nevada governor and the state government get business done. It now has a small, free museum dedicated to Nevada state history that's open from Monday to Friday.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on 04-29-2021.

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