Nevada's capital has evolved from a wild frontier outpost in the 1850s to a modern city with a relaxed, easy-going vibe. Nowadays, there aren't many better places to get wrapped up in the thrill of the casino, urban attractions, and outdoor activities.
Nevada's political center offers places to gamble and take in a show, and with casinos like Fandango, SlotWorld, and the Nugget, Carson City won't let you down. But there's more to enjoy than slots.
Visitors can ski, hike, boat, fish, or just laze around on the beach at Lake Tahoe. You can golf at superb local courses, dine on great Mexican food, and get back to nature. It's all possible in this wonderful city.
Carson City is the political heart of Nevada, and visitors can tour the State Capitol and the Governor's Mansion to see where the big decisions are made. The Nevada State Museum gives great insight into the development of the state, as well as the wild frontier origins of the city itself.
Lake Tahoe is one of North America's leading skiing destinations, and some of the best resorts are less than 20 miles from the center of Carson City. Rent a car and skis and you can be at Diamond Peak, Mount Rose, or Heavenly Mountain in minutes, and be back at a luxury city center hotel in the evening.
Lake Tahoe is just as appealing in the summer months, when it becomes a hive of boating, fishing, water sports, and cultural activities. With your base in Carson City, you can sunbathe at Kings Beach, visit the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival or rent a craft and spend the day relaxing on the water.
Nevada has the perfect weather for golfing, and Carson City is close to some of the state's best courses. The Championship Course at Incline Village or courses in the city itself like Empire Ranch or Silver Oak are the perfect place to test your swing in the sun.
Carson City also plays host to a cluster of casinos, where the frontier spirit lives on, but this time with a family-friendly slant. At venues like Casino Fandango you can try your luck at the slots or table games, eat at gourmet restaurants, drink cocktails or watch stage shows.
If you want to blend a trip to Carson City with some skiing, visit during the season from late November to April. For outdoor sports around Lake Tahoe and the best sightseeing weather, try early summer (June and early July) or September. High summer can be a little hot for some, although others will find the constant sunshine is exactly what they need.
Travelers arriving in Carson City by plane will almost certainly touch down at Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO), which is only 30 miles away. The cheapest way to get from there to Carson City is via the RTC Intercity bus, which runs between Reno and Carson City and costs $5. You'll also have to take the RTC Ride bus into Reno from the airport, which costs $2. However, there may be shuttle buses to your hotel, and taxis are always available; expect to pay around $100 for the journey though.
Carson City itself isn't on the national Amtrak network, but Reno is, and provides connections to California and Chicago. From there, it's a short bus ride to Carson City.
Driving is an easy way to get to Carson City and there are a number of potential routes. Take Highway 395 from southern California or 50 from Sacramento and San Francisco. Those coming from Reno can take 395 as well, while Highway 50 runs from the east into the center of town.
Carson City is also on the Greyhound network, so there are bus connections to all major regional cities, including Las Vegas, Reno, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The city is also served by the local RTC network, which runs to towns around Lake Tahoe and to Reno.
As you would expect from a state capital, Carson City has some excellent accommodation options. Some of the best mid-range to high-end places to sleep include the Wyndham Garden and the Hardman House Inn (both Downtown). However, many people choose to stay outside the city in resorts around Lake Tahoe like the Hyatt Regency or North Lake Tahoe Ski, Snowboard and Sup Club. Choosing accommodation can depend on whether you want to focus on outdoor activities or urban attractions.
Downtown - Carson City is a relaxed place to be and, even though it's Nevada's political center, it's not a busy, hectic place. The Downtown neighborhood is studded with 19th-century mansions and historical sights (which you can follow on the Blue Line Trail). It's set aside from the casino areas, so you can also count on a good night's sleep.
Stewart - a couple of miles to the south of Downtown, you'll find most of Carson City's famous casinos. Popular establishments like Casino Fandango, Bodines, and Dotty's Casino are all within walking distance in the Stewart neighborhood - the place to go if you're feeling lucky.
East Carson City - the eastern half of Carson City is less about gambling and politics than relaxing in the great outdoors. It's home to the stunning Empire Ranch Golf Course, along with Riverview Park, where you can follow trails along the Carson River and easily get away from it all.
Carson City's buses are provided by JAC (Jump Around Carson), and they are a handy, cheap way to see the sights. Coverage of most areas is excellent and with basic fares of just $1, the service is extremely cost effective (even more so if you buy 10-ride passes for $8).
Taxis are sometimes the only way to get from casinos on the outskirts to city center hotels, and they aren't too expensive in Carson City. Expect to pay around $3 for the meter drop, then $2 per mile. Alternatively, UberX services are available for as little as $2, then $1.10 per mile.
If you want to see the scenery around Lake Tahoe or transport golf clubs or skis, having your own car is a must. You'll find rental outlets like Dollar, Hertz, and Enterprise in the city, and rates can be as little as $20 per day.
If you want to shop for essentials or souvenirs, Carson Street is the place to go, where you'll find affordable boutiques like It's a Girl Thang, bike stores like Bike Smith (useful if you are heading out onto the trails), and places to buy antiques like White Cat. There are also a number of convenient malls in the city. Carson Mall is probably the biggest, hosting regular craft fairs and department stores like Bealls.
If you need to shop for food and drink in Carson City, good options include chains like Trader Joe's, Walmart, and Save Mart, alongside smaller delis like Hacienda Market and Grill and the LA Bakery Cafe. Expect costs to be fairly low, with a gallon of milk priced at around $4.50 and 12 eggs $3.
Mexican food and barbecue are where it's at in Carson City, and visitors have plenty of options to choose from. If you want a plate full of enchiladas or a warming bowl of chili, go for El Charro Avitia or the San Marcos Grill. The Grille is a great place to get simple meat and seafood dishes, and the brisket is superb at Red's Old 395 Grill. There's also gourmet French cooking on display at Adele's and excellent Spanish dishes at Villa Basque Deli and Cafe, so there should be something for all tastes. Mains should cost between $10 and $15 at most places, with burgers and other snacks costing around $5-7.