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    Virginia City,

    Nevada

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    Virginia City is a census-designated place (CDP) that is the county seat of Storey County, Nevada, and the largest community in the county. The city is a part of the Reno–Sparks Metropolitan Statistical Area.Virginia City developed as a boomtown with the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, the first major silver deposit discovery in the United States, with numerous mines opening. The population peaked in the mid-1870s, with an estimated 25,000 residents. The mines' output declined after 1878, and the population declined as a result. As of the 2010 Census, the population of Virginia City was about 855, and that of Storey County was 4,000.
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    Inspiration

    We Dare You to Visit These Hauntingly Beautiful Montana Ghost Towns

    Sure, you know Montana as the home of two of America's most famous national parks. But there's another side to Big Sky Country that's decidedly, well, haunting. Montana's history is largely based on the gold and silver deposits that lured miners here in the 1860s, hoping to strike it rich. Boomtowns sprang up providing the services they needed--lodging, saloons, schools, general stores, livery stables, and churches. And, for the troublemakers who couldn’t behave by the code of the West, there was a jail or two. This history remains frozen in time at many of Montana’s ghost towns where, thanks to preservation efforts, you can wander through the settlements. Some of the towns are still occupied, while others are abandoned, and, according to locals, ghosts of the past can occasionally be seen and felt moving about.  Bannack (Donnie Sexton) When gold was discovered in Grasshopper Creek in 1862, the town of Bannack got its start as miners arrived hoping to strike it rich. Today, with over 50 buildings still standing, it is one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the US as well as a State Park. Town tours, living history weekends, ghost walks in October, and ice skating in winter make Bannack a year-round destination. Bannack Days, the third weekend in July, is a lively celebration of a bygone era, with demonstrations of pioneer life, reenactments, gold panning, music, wagon rides, and candle-making. Also, be on high alert: there's a likelihood of a stagecoach holdup by would-be robbers looking for the loot. Elkhorn (Donnie Sexton) Peter Wyes, a Swiss immigrant, discovered a vein of silver back in 1870 at what is now Elkhorn Ghost Town State Park. In its heyday, the town of Elkhorn was home to 2,500 people, many of them immigrant families. While there are many ramshackle buildings scattered about, Gillian Hall and Fraternity Hall are the town's showpieces. These wooden structures were the heart of the community where the locals gathered for dances, prize fights, graduations, and theater productions. Various fraternal groups, such as the Masons and Oddfellows, used the second floor of Fraternity Hall for their meetings. A cemetery tucked into the mountains is the resting place of many children who died from the diphtheria epidemic that ravaged the town between 1884 and 1889. Garnet (Donnie Sexton) Named for the semi-precious ruby stone found in the area, the town of Garnet sprung up in 1898, a year after gold was discovered in the Garnet Range by miner Sam Ritchey. The town haphazardly grew to 1,000 strong with four hotels, four general stores, two barber shops, a union hall, a school, a butcher shop, and 13 saloons, and numerous other businesses. Today, Garnet, which is located about 30 miles east of Missoula off Highway 200, is open year-round. Just keep in mind that winter access is only possible via snowmobiling or cross-country skiing.  Granite (Donnie Sexton) The skeletal remains of Granite Ghost Town, at one time home to over 3,000 miners and their families, and business owners, sit above the delightful town of Philipsburg. The town got its start in 1872 when a prospector named Holland discovered silver. In its heyday, the Granite yielded $40 million worth of silver, making it the richest silver mine on earth. Bi-Metallic, a second mine in the area, yielded about $12 million worth of silver. But the town had its challenges. The soil was decomposed granite, which made it impossible to dig wells, so water had to be transported in. The mining came to a halt in 1893 when the demand for silver plunged. Nevada City (Donnie Sexton) With news of gold being found in Alder Gulch in 1863, the sister towns of Nevada City and Virginia City sprung up and would eventually swell to a population of 10,000 people. By the end of the first three seasons, about $30 million worth of gold was removed from the Gulch within the first three seasons. Throughout the 18th and 19th century, it is estimated that this area in Southwest Montana yielded $100 million worth of gold.  Today Nevada City is an outdoor museum with over 100 buildings, and thousands of artifacts which tell the story of Montana’s early mining days. Entrance into the Nevada City Museum takes visitors through the Nevada City Music Hall, a colorful antique collection of automated music machines, many of which are still in working order. Virginia City (Donnie Sexton) Virginia City is both a ghost town and a lively summer destination, complete with historical accommodations, eateries, stagecoach tours, and theater productions. Every August, the Grand Victorian Ball is an occasion to dress up in period costume and parade across the boardwalks of Virginia City before heading to the dance hall to two step with the Virginia Reel, Spanish Waltz, and other period dances. Boot Hill Cemetery, overlooking the town of Virginia City, is the final resting place of five road agents, who were hanged by the Vigilantes on January 14, 1864. The criminals' notorious leader, Sheriff Henry Plummer, was both lawman and outlaw famously responsible for orchestrating the robberies of stage coaches.   Pony (Donnie Sexton) Pony, set against the mountain backdrop of the Tobacco Root Mountains, is unique in that it's a ghost town as well as home to about 100 residents and the Pony Bar, the only place for miles to get a cold one. Like many of the ghost towns in southwest Montana, the discovery of gold led to its creation. From 1860 to 1870, it was home to over 5,000 people who settled in to strike it rich or provide the services to miners. The town’s name comes from one of these miners, Tecumseh Smith, who was nicknamed "Pony" because of his small stature. The most notable building in Pony is the twenty stamp mill constructed in stone. Virgelle (Donnie Sexton) The homestead-era town of Virgelle is located a short distance from the Missouri River in Central Montana. Two buildings remain, the Virgelle Mercantile and the Bank Building, owned by the town’s two residents. The Mercantile was built in 1912 by Virgil and Ella Blankenbaker, who had moved to Montana and settled in the area. The Mercantile was originally a general store serving the needs of local settlers, with upstairs used as boarding rooms for those working the spur line railroad that followed along the river. Today, the restored Mercantile is an antiques store on the first floor, with guest rooms upstairs. Six homesteader cabins, all from within a 40-mile radius of Virgelle, have been brought in for additional cozy accommodations.  

    Inspiration

    Gaming in Nevada: Time to Think Reno

    What comes to mind when you think about a casino vacation? If it's 3,000-room megaresorts, celebrity chefs, and pirate battles, then you may have been among the almost 34 million people who visited Las Vegas last year. Thirty-four million! Now for some, that's just dandy - the bigger the party, the better. But lately, even dyed-in-the-felt Vegasphiles have been grousing that their beloved casino haunt is being overrun now that the last of the several new 4,000-room hotels has opened. Time to think about an alternative? Time to think Reno. Think Reno and you won't conjure images of fire spewing and waters spouting from man-made volcanoes and lakes. You'll first entertain more modest associations, such as three-digit room counts, employees who smile, and a great oyster bar at John Ascuaga's Nugget in the neighboring city of Sparks. But these are just warm-ups to the Reno area's main event, which is anything but man-made: an outdoor wonderland of golf, skiing, and sightseeing, compliments of two dozen links, a score of downhill resorts, snow-capped mountains, and an alpine lake without peer. Dubbed the "Biggest Little City in the World" in 1927, Reno is no Las Vegas, but it doesn't try to be. The city has developed its own style based on its most marketable attributes: outdoor beauty, recreational opportunities, a come-as-you-are casualness, and affordability. And is it ever affordable! The area's large number of casinos ensures a high level of competition, which sets Reno's bargain quotient at a level second only to its big-sister city to the south. Two ways to win The key to enjoying Reno is knowing what to expect. If you're used to Las Vegas, you have to be prepared for the differences. For example, Las Vegas boasts 18 of the world's largest hotels. Reno has none; its largest hotel is the 2,000-room Hilton (not even in the Las Vegas top 20). Remember that lofty 34-million visitor count? Reno turnstiles admitted a mere 5.1 million last year. In almost every manner, the pace is slower and the glitz factor is lower. As one wise soul put it: If Las Vegas is a sparkling diamond, then Reno is a partially polished peridot. Still reading? Then you're a candidate to honestly love Reno. There are two ways. The first and most reliable is to use the city as a home base for day trips. Reno is the perfect gateway, not only to the Sierra Nevadas, Lake Tahoe, and the ski areas, but for a sightseeing excursion to Virginia City, or even an extended trip to San Francisco or Northern California's wine country, both about 200 miles away. The second way is to simply go to Reno for Reno, taking advantage of the best that the 30 or so casinos in the area have to offer, perhaps coordinating a visit with one of the city's nonstop summer events. Whatever your base strategy, planning in advance will pay big dividends. The first move is to obtain the "Reno, Sparks, Lake Tahoe Visitor Planner." No casino locale has an informational guide in the same league as this one. And it's free. A toll-free call to 800/FOR-RENO will secure it in quick order. The planner provides extensive hotel descriptions and vitals, RV parks, special-events listings, suggested sightseeing itineraries, maps (both city and area), a list of travel wholesalers you can query for package-rate savings, and some stunning photos that will fire you up about your trip. You can also log on to the tourism authority's very good Web site at www.renolaketahoe.com. High-end rooms at bargain rates Upscale or downtown-and-dirty? Unless you want to go the ultra-bargain route, the best combo of price and quality is captured by going for the gusto. The good news is that upscale prices in Reno still qualify as bargain-rate lodging. In a random (mid-summer) check of hotel rates for this article, the most expensive we could come up with for standard rooms was $119 on the weekend and $65 on a weekday, both at Harrah's (800/ HARRAHS). Those were the highest! Weekday/weekend rates of $49/$79 at John Ascuaga's Nugget (800/648-1177), $49/$89 at the Reno Hilton (800/648-5080), $49/$99 at the Atlantis (800/723-6500), and $59/$109 at the Peppermill (800/648-6992) qualify as downright steals. Now is as good a time as any to mention that these latter four hotel-casinos are the cream of the Reno crop. All are perimeter joints, two situated to the east (Nugget and Hilton) and two to the south (Atlantis and Peppermill) of downtown, which contains the primary casino concentration. Downtown Reno has had a tough go of it in the recent past, during which many of the older Reno casinos have closed for good. Gone are the Mapes, Nevada Club, Riverside, Virginian, Riverboat, Holiday, even the famous Harolds Club. Using its huge Bowling Stadium as an anchor, downtown hopes to mount a comeback with the dozen casinos that remain, but for now, there's not much to recommend it. Of course, the financial inducement to take the downtown-and-dirty route can be mighty. Our survey found weekday rates of $49 at the Eldorado (800/648-5966), $32 at both the Sundowner (800/648-5490) and Pioneer (800/879-8879), and $24 at Fitzgeralds (800/535-LUCK). If you're using Reno as a home base, there's a great case to be made for spending $24 a night simply to store your gear and crash at the end of the day. Truth is, Reno is an easy town to rate-shop, so all you really need is a general idea of what's where to evaluate the prices you encounter. The core of downtown contains Harrah's, the Flamingo Hilton (800/648-4882), Cal-Neva Virginian (877/777-7303), Fitzgeralds, Circus Circus (800/648-5010), Eldorado, and the relatively new Silver Legacy (800/687-7733). The latter three are linked via elaborate skywalks housing restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and shops; together they constitute the focal point of downtown. Located away from the core, on the downtown's outskirts are the Comstock (800/266-7862), Pioneer, Ramada (888/RENO-777), Sands Regency (800/648-3553), and Sundowner. You'll find lower prices here because the locations are less convenient. To the east and south perimeter casinos already mentioned, add the Silver Club (800/905-7774) and Western Village (800/648-1170) in Sparks, and way out some ten miles west of town, the burgeoning Boomtown (800/648-3790), and you've got the whole roster of Reno-Sparks hotels. Upscale meals, moderately priced Filling up a dining card in Reno isn't difficult. Excluding the rock-bottom plays detailed later (see our section called "Bargains on Parade," further along in the article), there are two must-dos. The first is John's Oyster Bar at John Ascuaga's Nugget. Open since 1959 and operating out of the same location since 1979, John's recipe for awesome seafood soups hasn't changed in four decades. The restaurant's inspiration was New York City's Oyster Bar at Grand Central, but try getting an oyster pan roast, overflowing with the little critters, at Grand Central for $9.95! Chowders, cocktails, Louies, and oysters on the half-shell are served with half-loaves of fresh bread and an update of the day's events compliments of the in-house-produced Today's Noon News. Dine early and there's a good chance you'll see John himself sampling the wares; on rare occasions, you might even spot him doing a bit of cooking. Must-do number two is a trip to Louis' Basque Corner. Northern Nevada has a rich Basque heritage, and the area is peppered with restaurants serving the region's unique cuisine-lamb, tongue, oxtails, rabbit, paella - at long tables in the traditional all-you-can-eat family style. But Louis' is the top choice: It has the formula down, the price is right (about $16 for dinner), and it's only a two-block stroll from the center of town. Reno's buffet scene has taken a little longer than Las Vegas's to catch fire, but the creativity gap is beginning to close. The best spreads in town, ordered by price (from $10 to $15 for dinner), are at the Peppermill, Ascuaga's Nugget, Atlantis, and Eldorado. Also recommended is the incredible Baldini's (800/845-7911) value buffet discussed below, and the famous steak buffet at the Silver Club. Though pedestrian in general, the Silver Club's $6.99-er comes with all the sirloin steak you can stomach. And these aren't skinny shoe-leather jobs, mind you, but slabs thick enough to get them cooked, according to the grill chef, "exactly the way you want, if you're lucky." Moving up to the low high-end, there are the good value-priced steak houses, such as those at the Sundowner, Cal-Neva Virginian, and Western Village. Many of these offer neat little early-bird menus that chop an already puny tab in half. Recommended mid-rangers include La Strada (Italian) at the Eldorado, Art Gecko (Southwestern) at Circus Circus, Orozko (Mediterranean) at Ascuaga's Nugget, and the venerable Steakhouse Grill, also at the Nugget, where a toteboard tells you that 3,186,576 steaks (whoops, make that 3,186,577..., 578..., 579) have been served since 1956. Two gorgeous Italian restaurants, MonteVigna at Atlantis and Romanza at the Peppermill, take it to the next level. And for the biggest dent Reno can levy on your wallet, head to the Peppermill's highly rated White Orchid. But a scanty club scene Whereas Reno holds its own in the food department, its entertainment situation is significantly less developed. This is not a place to find the latest in touring musicals, high-tech production shows, top-flight impressionists, or cutting-edge magic. In fact, there's barely even a star presence. Only the Celebrity Showroom at Ascuaga's Nugget maintains a regular schedule of headliners, even if the likes of Robert Goulet, David Brenner, and Tony Orlando seem about ten years removed from their showroom heydays. Reno showrooms are "intimate," and tend to house small-scale production shows that seem to mark time between the appearances of the occasional second-tier headliner. In a pinch, you can always count on the tried-and-true comedy clubs, of which there's usually more than one to choose from on any given night. Taking up some of the slack is a vigorous nightclub and bar scene. Finally, if you really want the Vegas-style show up north, you can take the ride to Lake Tahoe, where the stars still come out. Bargains on parade One universal trait of bona fide casino destinations is the availability of the super bargain. Since the goal is to hook you on the fishline of one of the negative-expectation casino games, it's necessary to throw out some bait. Reno's got the tactic down cold. With only about a third of the Las Vegas casino count, Reno deals aren't as numerous, but in a head-to-head comparison of each city's best, David may actually beat Goliath. The first place that comes to mind when discussing Reno food specials is the Cal-Neva Virginian, where the granddad of local breakfasts, the 99[cent] bacon-and-eggs special, is still available daily from 10 p.m. till 8 a.m. in the Top Deck restaurant. This breakfast is such a standard in Reno that it constituted legitimate big news when 24-hour availability was rescinded earlier this year, replaced during prime time with a $1.74 version ("with more bacon"). You can also treat yourself to a big hot dog and bottle of Heineken at the Gridiron Grill for $1.50; Cal-Neva claims to be the largest seller of one-bottle-at-a-time Heineken in the entire country. The Cal-Neva's trump card, though, is another Top Deck special that even Las Vegas couldn't sustain: A complete steak dinner for $1.99, available from 10 p.m. till 6 a.m. It's an eight-ounce sirloin steak, rolls, vegetable, choice of potato (including baked), and one trip to the salad bar. You'll want to save the check, displaying a tab of $2.13 after tax, as a souvenir. Stiff competition comes from Baldini's, a quirky locals' casino located halfway between downtown and Sparks, where Pepsi is so prevalent (a la Cal-Neva's Heineken) that it all but doubles as currency. Baldini's has 49[cents] hot dogs, 89[cent] burgers, a dozen chicken wings for $2, and a whole rotisserie chicken for $4.99. But its claim to fame is a buffet with a taco bar, a baked potato bar, and a working Mongolian grill, where cooks stir-fry beef, chicken, and pork with a vegetable mix of your choosing. A few other casino buffets have Mongolian grills, but not with prices like $3.99 for breakfast, $5.99 for lunch, and $6.99 for dinner. It gets better. Kids are half-price, you get a card good for a 25 percent discount on unlimited visits just for signing up for the slot club, and you can get half off the price of your first buffet with a coupon from Baldini's "Super Bonus" funbook (you'll need out-of-state ID and a voucher available at the tourist center in the Bowling Stadium). The diner at the back of the little Nugget slot joint in downtown Reno hasn't changed in nearly 45 years. Eighteen red stools face the counter and another eighteen face the back wall. Try the "Awful Awful" burger for $3.50, or the chef's special dinner, which changes daily, for $3.95. The Sundowner's $1.99 plate of spaghetti with garlic toast, available 24 hours a day, is another that's been around forever. Back to Plan A It would take another article of this size to thoroughly explore all the possibilities in the Reno-as-gateway scenario. The key trip you should take, if only to look around, is the 40-mile jaunt (plus another 20 to the casinos on the south shore) to Lake Tahoe. The payoff for the steep climb up and over majestic Mt. Rose is a view of the lake suitable for memory framing. This sight is surpassed only by the breathtaking visage of Tahoe's Emerald Bay. To call the Lake Tahoe recreational area an outdoorsman's paradise doesn't begin to do it justice. Golf in summer and skiing in winter? Duh! Try 10 golf courses and 13 alpine ski resorts, a number of them world-class. Now add bicycling, hiking, swimming, speedboating, sailing, rafting, waterskiing, windsurfing, jet skiing, scuba diving, sport fishing, bungee jumping, skydiving, horseback-riding, tennis, bowling, ballooning, paragliding, rock-climbing, cross-country skiing, sleigh riding, snowboarding, ice skating, and snowmobiling. Do one, do all - possibly in overlapping seasons. If you expend a little effort, you can find all sorts of ways to package these activities for big cost savings. Last May, for example, Fitzgeralds advertised $49 and $59 ski packages to Mt. Rose, Alpine Meadows, or Squaw Valley that included a room at the casino, all-day lift ticket, and transportation. The tourism authority produces several planning guides to specific activities. You can track them down via the main planner and Web site referenced earlier. Advantage play "Advantage play" is a gambling term that describes any method for getting an edge at a casino game. The concept can also be applied to a trip to a casino destination. Advantage play for Reno begins the moment you book your flight. Try to get a seat on the left side of the airplane. Depending on your approach path, you'll be rewarded with a great aerial view of either Lake Tahoe or the city. And don't run straight for a cab at the airport. Unlike Las Vegas, almost all the Reno casinos provide airport shuttles (plus, Tahoe Express shuttles travelers from the airport to Lake Tahoe's south shore about a dozen times a day). Right off the bat, pick up one of the freebie magazines (e.g. Best Bets or Fun & Gaming) and page through it immediately. They're great sources for entertainment leads and discount coupons for shows and meals. Also, visit the tourist center at the Bowling Stadium for more of the same. If you come with kids, the best arcades are at Atlantis, Reno Hilton, and Boomtown. The best book to read before you come is the Nevada Handbook by Deke Castleman. The best place to get a book once you get there is Ron Teston's Gambler's Book Store at First and Virginia. The biggest special events are the Reno Rodeo in June, Hot August Nights in August, and the Best-in-the-West Rib Cook-off, Great Reno Balloon Race, and the National Championship Air Races in September. For a cool diversion, have lunch, dinner, or a drink at the Liberty Belle Saloon and Restaurant, which is named after the first slot machine, developed in 1898 by Charles Fey. The bar's owned by two of Fey's grandsons, and on display are some of the inventor's machines, including his Liberty Belle. And finally, whatever you do, check out the great bathrooms next to the Romanza restaurant at the Peppermill. Trust us.

    Road Trips

    7 Most Amazing Under-the-Radar Road Trips in the U.S.

    This article was written by Jimmy Im and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel. According to AAA, one in four Americans take a road trip every year, and with good reason. It's cost effective (especially with falling gas prices), enriching, and utterly nostalgic, and just plain fun. While plenty of iconic routes snake across our nation (like the Pacific Coast Highway and Route 66) we rounded up under-the-radar routes that should definitely be on your bucket list. They're just that amazing. So get your favorite driving playlists ready and check out these hidden-gem road-tripping adventures. 1. The Route: Boston to Rockport, Massachusetts The Vibe: The Massachusetts coast is alluring, dotted with historic fishing towns. Along the Way: Start by taking in Boston's best sights, from shopping on Newbury Street, to a Red Sox game in Fenway Park, to The Freedom Trail, to Faneuil Hall Market Place, to eating in the North End. Then head to Salem on MA-1A North. Salem is steeped with history: It's home to the infamous Salem witch hunts but it's also quaint and beautiful. Be sure to check out the Peabody Essex Museum, The House of the Seven Gables, and Old Burying Point Cemetery. Just outside of Salem, you'll also want to visit Marblehead, a charming, coastal village with roads and buildings dating back to the 18th century and a harbor filled with yachts. Wander the streets and visit Old Burial Hill, Castle Rock Park, and the Marblehead Lighthouse to stretch your legs. Drive north on I-127 to Gloucester, a fishing town home of the book and movie The Perfect Storm about the doomed Andrea Gale (and, incidentally, where the concept of frozen food was born; it was developed there in America's oldest working fishing port!). Good Harbor Beach and the Fisherman's Memorial are worth seeing, and you can also go whale-watching. End up in Rockport, a boho art colony where artists are inspired by, Motif #1, a 150-year-old red fishing shack on Bradley Wharf. Or check out Halibut Point State Park. Related: Smackdown: Boston vs. Seattle 2. The Route: Kohala Coast to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii The Vibe: Think of it as an alternative to Maui's Road to Hana ride, except on this one is on the Big Island, known for its exciting outdoor adventures. Perfect for nature lovers. Along the way: Start at Kohala Coast, home to the island's best resorts like Four Seasons Hualalai and The Fairmont Orchid. First, take a dip at Maniniowali Beach, known to locals as Kua Bay, one of the most pristine beaches on the island. People also love to bodyboard there, but be careful and check to see that the waves are small enough to be manageable. Next head south on Highway 19, taking in the natural environments, from the coast to rain forests (there are actually 11 of the world's 13 climate zones on this one island). At Highway 11, after mile marker 108, stop at Coffee Shack, a beatnik cafe on the edge of a cliff, sporting breathtaking views of the coast. Have a strong cup of locally produced Kona coffee, then continue on to the 180-acre Puuhonua O Honaunau National Park, home to a well-preserved, ancient Hawaiian royal residence. It's a beautiful drive along old lava fields and tropical forestry for about 40 miles. Stop in the town of Naalehu for Punalu'u Bake Shop, the southernmost bakery in the United States, famous for their doughnuts. Hop back in to the car until you reach Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which made headlines last year with several eruptions. There are lava caves to explore, and visit the Kilauea Visitor Center and learn how to safely view the active lava flows in the park. 3. The Route: Reno Loop, Nevada The Vibe: If you've conquered Route 66 or just want something a little different, try the Reno Loop, with tons of activities for sporty and adventurous types. Along the way: Kick off the drive with rock climbing at Whitney Peak Hotel, a new property sporting the largest artificial rock-climbing wall in the world. You can't miss it - the wall is on the side of the hotel. Next, take Nevada State Route 431 to Incline Village on the shore of Lake Tahoe. Stop and get in a hike (or go skiing in the winter), play some tennis, or go sailing. For those feeling more frisky, there's an unofficial nude beach just south of the area. Jump back in the car and take Nevada State Route 28 to Stateline, where Heavenly Mountain Resort's activity center at the top of the gondola includes a zipline and rope courses. From there, head to the town of Genoa from State Route 207 to Route 206. The tiny town is home to Genoa Bar, one of the oldest in the state, where an iron safe is filled with a collection of decades-old bras. Continuing to U.S. 395 through Carson City until U.S. 50, take State Route 341 (which turns into 342) to Virginia City. Mark Twain once lived here as a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper. The 19th-century mining town still retains wooden boardwalks and Victorian-era buildings - hop on a rail tour to get the full retro effect. Virginia City is also chockfull of ghosts, so check out haunted sites like The Washoe Club Haunted Museum, Piper's Opera House, or the Silver Queen Hotel. 4. The Route: Napa Valley to Mendocino, California The Vibe: The famed Pacific Coast Highway is the most visited route for road trippers (from families to honeymooners), but Northern California touts an amazing drive, too. Just sober up before you get back in the car after all the wine tasting! Along the way: Hit a few wine tastings and tours in Napa Valley, like Beaulieu Vineyard, one of the oldest in the area; family-owned Buehler Vineyards for great value; or Cade Estate for especially awe-inspiring views. From Napa, take the 101 to 128. During the drive you'll stop in several towns with breathtaking landscapes, like Sonoma and Healdsburg. In Sonoma, of course there are more wine tastings, and Francis Ford Coppola's winery is equipped with an outdoor pool and exciting gift shop with film memorabilia. You can also check out the Boyes Hot Springs at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. In hipster-laden Healdsburg, you can stop to soak up some of the wine with fresh, crafted cupcakes at Moustache Baked Goods, which uses simple, organic ingredients for their sweet treats. But make sure you're sober for the drive, because this part of the trips is all about embracing the beauty of the region, and take the windy, two-street roads slow and easy. Through small towns, tree-lined streets, and plenty of open sky, you'll end up on Highway 1 along the rugged coast, until you reach the rustic town of Mendocino. It's embellished with Cyprus forests and scenic cliff sides, many that overlook blowholes and sea caves. Check into Elk Cove Inn, a hidden gem that's just as rustic as the region. There are only 16 rooms, all of which tout breathtaking views of the coast. Related: Making the Most of a Wine-Soaked Weekend in Sonoma 5. The Route: From Austin to Marfa, Texas The Vibe: While we love the classic Texas BBQ and Hill Country Hideaways, a new emerging route is a hipster favorite: the road to Marfa. Along the Way: From Austin, take U.S. 290 to I-10. This stretch is more of a meditative drive; there's not much along the way. But about an hour and a half from Austin, the small town of Fredericksburg woos tourists for its quaint, small-town feel with family-run shops on Main Street. It's also known for Enchanted Rock, a former spiritual holy ground for Native Americans favored by hikers. After six hours, travelers will arrive at Marfa, a quirky, trippy town run by an artist colony. It's wildly famous for it's stand-alone Prada store that's more of an art concept. Famous movies like Giant in 1956 were filmed in Marfa, and retro legends Liz Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson all stayed at the famed El Paisano Hotel. Keep your eyes out for mysterious lights in the town, floating glowing balls of white, yellow, and red light, spotted since 1883 and, to this day, remain a mystery. There's even a viewing area located nine miles east of town on Highway 90. 6. The Route: Denver to Telluride, Colorado The Vibe: There's nothing like slope hopping out west, but spring/summer is the best time to see the small towns of Southwest Colorado; they're culturists' dream destinations. Along the way: The drive from Denver to Ouray on I-70 West is through some breathtaking landscape in the mountains and national forests. Ouray is a famous ghost town that's quirky and well preserved - it looks like a film set for a Western. If you're driving during cold weather, the claim-to-fame in Ouray is the ice climbing at Ouray Ice Park. As the largest ice park in the world with 200 climbing routes, it's one of the best places in the U.S. for this recreation. Take US-550 South to Durango, a charming town that's home to cute cafes and old-school saloons. You can also take in the great views with an old-timey train ride from Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum or at San Jaun National Forest. From here, via CO-145 North, it's only two hours to Telluride, which is home to Butch Cassidy's first bank robbery. Travelers can visit the original safe in what's now a sunglass store. Nearby highlights also include Ridgway, where True Grit was filmed; Sawpit, the smallest town in Colorado with a gas station and one street lamp (Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise own homes here), and the protrusion of Wilson Peak, the iconic mountain on every Coors Light beer can. 7. The Route: Zion National Park Loop, Utah The Vibe: Most discerning travelers/road trippers have seen the Grand Canyon. In the same region, Southwest Utah is getting more interest with its scenic drives embellished with red rocks, unspoiled landscapes, and a whole 'lotta sky. It's like landscape porn. Along the way: Start at Zion National Park, Utah's oldest national park with 69 types of wild animals living here (including mountain lions). A two-hour scenic drive takes road trippers to Lake Powell, a manmade reservoir surrounded by sandstone walls (water sports, like paddleboard yoga, are offered here). Lake Powell is a stone's throw from Amangiri, one of the most luxurious resorts in the U.S. Have lunch on the outdoor terrace and you may spot a celebrity or two. Go onward to the beautiful Highway 12 (Utah's "All American Road") to Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, home to million-year-old canyons for canyoneering, then Bryce Canyon National Park where you can pitch a tent for some major overnight stargazing. Nearby Boulder is known for Hell's Backbone Grill's pumpkin enchiladas and other farm fresh produce in the middle of scenic nowhere. From here, you can take on a three-hour drive to Canyonlands National Park to experience more surreal, natural scenery. Related: This Amazing Utah Canyon Hike Comes With a Rescue Dog

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