I get stir-crazy this time of year. The weather is warming up, school is almost out, and I want to hit the road. My family takes a lot of road trips because there is just so much to see and do that I can’t stomach staying home and watching reruns of “Phineas and Ferb” with the kiddos or spending all weekend in our own backyard. We pack up and explore, so I want to share some of our favorite haunts and hopefully learn new ones from all of you. Feel free to comment and let me know where you like to take the family on those warm summer weekends.
1. Virginia City – Maybe because I grew up watching “Bonanza” (sigh… I heart you, Little Joe) or maybe because sometime in the last decade I became
a history buff, but for whatever reason, I love Virginia City. The wooden sidewalks, the old-timey facades, the gunfighters and Victorian ladies strolling the street — whee! I love it! My daughters like to feed carrots to Stinky’s donkey that roams the main street, and they always beg to sit in the outdoor car on the V&T Railway ride. And I won’t lie, my husband and I enjoy the Bloody Marys at the Bucket of Blood and the Red Dog Saloon. (We still haven’t made up our minds which saloon makes a better Bloody, but we’ll keep doing our research!) Virginia City is only 40 minutes from Reno and we can easily kill an entire day there.
2. Grimes Point – Our goal is always a leisurely stroll along the ancient petroglyphs at Grimes Point, but more often than not we get distracted on our way through Fallon. I am absolutely in love with what Churchill Vineyards/Frey Ranch Distillery just outside Fallon is doing to produce estate wine and spirits, and I can easily spend a few hours sampling their wares and snapping pics of their Frederick Delongchamps-designed home. But with my family in tow, we cut the tastings short and usually detour through Lattin Farms (check out their corn maze in the fall!) or the Oats Park Art Center. Just past Grimes Point is Sand Mountain, which is cool if you’re into motoring up sand dunes, but the draw for me is the ruins of a Pony Express Station near Sand Mountain. Nevada has a ridiculous number of Pony Express stations in various stages of ruin, and this is a pretty cool one, with only the foundations and crumbling walls left.
3. Benton Hot Springs – I have several friends who are going to be mad that I’m putting this out there, because we don’t want any more competition for campsites at this amazing spot just north of Bishop, Calif. But it’s one of my annual destinations and I would feel dishonest if I left it out. Each of the 10 campsites has its own hot tub fed by a natural hot spring. Yes, you can soak all night long if you want! It’s a 3 1/2-hour drive from Reno, so definitely a weekend destination rather than a day trip, but so worth the drive!
4. Spencer Hot Springs – This is another one that could get me into trouble for sharing it, but I’ll risk it. This collection of rustic tubs is a total DYI hot spring experience. There are no signs for it (but it’s really easy to get to) and there are no comforts of home, just you, a hot tub of water, and the vast landscape of Nevada. It’s not exactly a hidden gem, so you might end up waiting for a tub to free up, and remember that clothing is optional when you’re that far out of town. (The good thing is that there’s a lot to distract the kids while bathers gather their clothes… look, kids! Wild burros! A jackrabbit! Is that an antelope I see?)
5. Ely – This is the longest haul we’ve made with kids for just a quick weekend excursion, but it’s one of the best. It’s at the end of a five-hour drive across the state, but the drive east on Highway 50, aka “The Loneliest Road in America,” is an adventure in itself. If you take the time to stop at the little roadside diners (Middlegate Station is must!) or historic buildings (Stokes Castle, the International Cafe in Austin, the Eureka Opera House), what looks like a long, desolate drive will come to life like you’ve never imagined. I love Ely for its funky old hotels, color downtown murals, and the Nevada Northern Railway. You do not have to be a train-freak to freak out over riding a steam-engine train through the mountains. Something we haven’t done in Ely yet, but hope to this summer, is to stop by Garnet Hill and comb the hillside for garnets.
So there are our favorites summer getaways. Perhaps I should add Lake Tahoe, but there’s no single place at Lake Tahoe we like best. I’d love to hear your favorite Tahoe beaches, as well as where your family road trips take you.