Tree-lined streets, shops, local eateries and unique activities are the hallmarks of main streets across the U.S.. They’re the heart of any downtown area. Three of the most photographic and enjoyable main street experiences are less than an hour from Reno and Lake Tahoe: Gardnerville, Minden and Carson City. Set your GPS for Highway 395. It’s a beautiful drive and a great experience.
Although time and history has reeled Gardnerville in from the party town it was in the 1800s, this place is never short on fun and a little oddity. The Fantastic Museum features over 1,000 peculiar items with many interesting treasures that make this museum a veritable freak show of memorabilia. roadsideamerica.com
Park your car and try your luck at Sharkey’s Casino, a historic landmark from the 1890s. Step inside and enjoy a wide array of video gaming as well as The Jackpot Café, which serves classic fare. Grab a bite and check out the tables, which have original old Vegas casino coins embedded inside. @nvsharkeyscasino
Continue your trip down 395 on foot. Since no one likes to shop on an empty stomach, stop at Café Girasole for lunch or Overland Restaurant for dinner. Café Girasole serves fresh sandwiches, soups made from scratch, and melt-in-your mouth desserts in a relaxed bistro setting. Try the Iron Mike sandwich for a vegetarian, protein-packed energy boost. Overland Restaurant serves a variety of culinary delights, sourced and delivered each week. The menu changes regularly and features the freshest meat, seafood and game used in unique appetizers, special burgers and elegant entrees. cafegirasole.com; overlandrestaurant.com
But don’t fill up too much, because you will want to sample take-home delights at Battle Born Wine, Fresh Ideas and Polka Dots. These three shops are distinctive, with surprises in every nook and corner. The walls of Battle Born Wine are lined with vintages of every variety. Most Fridays they host tastings. After you select your bottle, cross the street to visit Fresh Ideas and Polka Dots. These stores feature fun gifts such as boot toppers and Voluspa candles, alongside delicious food items including teas, jams and bloody mary fixings. Polka Dots even has a truffle bar! battlebornwine.com; freshideasgiftshop.com
Don’t forget to stop at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center on your way to Minden. Learn about Nevada history, grab a map and plan the next leg of your Carson Valley trip. Savor Francisco’s, a locally owned, authentic to the bone, Mexican food heaven. Our favorite is the carne asada. If you miss it in Minden, there’s one in Carson City too. Grab a margarita and head next door to C.O.D. Casino, located inside a converted garage. You will love the classic decor, non-smoking gaming area and mini museum. Try your luck and then kick back at The Corner Bar across the street. The sign above says BANK because the building was a bank in 1909. You can even see the liquor vault. Browse Tumblewind Antiques before heading to 5th Street Salon and Nails. Drop ins are welcome. Relax in the town square gazebo before strolling back across 395 to Minden Deli. Here you’ll find craft beer, hand-sliced meats and cheeses, and deli delight for later. historicnv.org; mindenmeat.com
Along the long loop back to Kingsbury Grade, you’ll pass Bently Heritage Distillery. Construction is expected to be complete by the time you read this article. If it’s not, you can still stop by Bently Farm for your barbeque fix. bentlyranch.com
Experience Carson City
Carson City is the capitol of Nevada. The legislature is in session right now and their main street recently went under huge renovations, so it’s bustling with energy. Sink your teeth into some serious barbeque at Red’s Old 395 or test your luck at Max Casino. Park downtown on Curry Street, just behind Bob McFadden Plaza, to experience the city on foot. Slip in and have a sip at Bella Fiore Wine. Or, enjoy some lunch, coffee or a power-packed smoothie at nearby Comma Coffee, a large coffee shop with comfy couches and inspiring wall-to-wall art. Continue south to the heart of downtown to shop at Carson Jewelry and Loan. Or, just sit back and enjoy a cigar from the humidor at Jimmy G’s. reds395.com; maxcasinocc.com; bellafiorewinesbar.com; commacoffee.com
Carson City is home to the Nevada State Museum where you can see the skeleton of a real mammoth! Take a tour of the underground mine and learn about gold and silver. Then, pick some precious metal up across the street at Northern Nevada Coin. Before you leave, be sure to stop by the Carson City Visitor’s Bureau and download their app so you don’t miss a thing! nvdtca.org/nevadastatemuseumcarsoncity; brokencc.com; visitcarsoncity.com
When you look at all there is to do, you could have three days filled with fun. You may want to schedule a trip back!
By: Diane Dye Hansen