Western U. S. Historic Sights Star in Non-Neon Vacation Spot
Nevada’s first settlement, historical attractions, Basque dinners, movies and concerts in city parks, small-town celebrations provide elements for relaxing vacations.
The Carson Valley begins just south of Carson City, Nevada’s state capital. It’s an ideal destination for people who want to experience non-neon in the Silver State.
To the west of the valley, the Sierra Nevada range rises against the high desert sky, while the Pinenut range shelters the valley on the east. Fed by the east and west forks of the Carson River, the land is carpeted by green pastureland and shaded by poplar, locust, elm, and cottonwood.
When German immigrants came to the valley in the 1860s, they decided it was a perfect place to raise their dairy herds. Today, as you travel the back roads angling off Highway 395, you’ll pass mile after mile of pastureland dotted with black and white Holsteins as well as beef cattle.
Nevada’s Oldest Settlement
The most important road off the highway leads to a delightful little town called Genoa. The oldest permanent settlement in the state, Genoa — pronounced Je-NO-uh — was established as a trading post in 1851 by Mormons who had come west from Utah. One of the only Nevada towns that can rival California’s Mother Lode for charm, its early-day structures include the state’s oldest bar, an old mercantile store that now houses the Masonic Lodge, and three small buildings that have become antique shops.
The original Mormon trading post/fort was wiped out by a 1910 fire, but a log replica, picnic tables, and barbecue facilities are part of Mormon Station State Park. It’s a great place to picnic while you feast your eyes on the panoramic view of the valley.
Across the street from the park, a two-story Court House now houses the Douglas County Historical Museum. Exhibits reflect everyday pioneer life, with artifacts such as plows, kerosene lamps, and butter churns. There’s also a photo gallery of desperados, community leaders, and Pony Express riders.
While you’re strolling around town, you’ll want to visit The Country Store, where everything from headache remedies to homemade cookies is for sale. There’s also the Genoa Candy Cookbook, which contains residents’ recipes for the candies they make each year for the Genoa Candy Dance. Held at the end of September, the fundraiser centers around an arts and crafts show, dinner at the firehouse, and dance in the town hall.
Minden and Gardnerville
A few miles southeast of Genoa is the Valley’s main population centers, Minden and Gardnerville. Although both communities have participated in the state’s population growth and have become the location for the light industry, they remain quintessential small-town Nevada.
Minden’s main tourist attraction is the Carson Valley Inn and Casino, where there are live entertainment and gambling excitement. Gardnerville is famous for its Basque dinners (served family-style, with soup, two kinds of meat (usually a lamb dish and steak), potatoes, vegetables, bread, dessert, and a glass of red wine included in the fixed price). Since 1902, these dinners have been served at the Overland Hotel (1451 Highway 395 N.), and they’re also available at the Carson Valley Country Club just south of town.
Carson Valley Days feature a parade, arts and crafts show, a tractor pull, greased pole climb, and other events that were popular in the past. The Douglas County Fair focuses on events common to county fairs around the U. S.
International soaring competitions are also held at the Douglas County Airport during summer. The best time for spectators to view the competition is in the early morning hours when the gliders take-off and at about noon when they return to the airfield.