Look up “Virginia City” in any thesaurus and it will be synonymous with “tourist trap”. Something about that name, from Nevada to Montana, means overpriced sassparillas, olde tymey portraits, tedious demonstrations, cheap t-shirts and worse.
Virginia City, Montana and it’s redheaded stepsister, Nevada City, are technically ghost towns that are described as “two of the best-preserved examples of the many mining camps of the West.” During the gold rush days in Alder Gulch, Virginia City—population 10,000—was the largest town in the inland Northwest. Now, it’s teeming with nearly that many sightseers, but unlike the Nevada version, it manages to retain a modicum of authenticity.
It was a glorious day when we passed through and we were both in the mood to enjoy the packaged Americana. Old dry goods stores, stocked with products from the period and left to collect dust, are roped off for all to peek inside to see what Walgreens was like in 1865. There’s a terrific collection of fortune telling machines (remember Zoltar?) and vintage coin-operated arcade games. Even the corny player piano (in the cozy “saloon” serving local bottled Moose Drool) sounded cheery and appropriate.