Happy Hoofers Service trundles history buffs and nostalgia lovers through Virginia City on a half-hour horse-drawn carriage tour of the famed silver and gold mining town. Cart along your three roommates or the rest of your barbershop quartet as you clip-clop through the Victorian-era burg renowned for its mansions, opera house, and red-light district identifiable by the crimson-hued sun perched directly in the middle of the street.
To Action Whitewater Adventures' guides, setting is everything. During their full-day excursions, guides and groups mounted in rafts battle Class III and IV rapids just to make their way to a gourmet deli lunch set against the backdrop of the lush Lotus River Valley. Of course, they might argue the fun part is getting there.
They lead excursions down both the South and Middle Forks of the American River, some of the most popular rafting waters in the nation. On the South Fork, they conduct the "Chili Bar" run, a trip that covers up to 21 miles favored for its rough-and-tumble class III rapids and stellar countryside. The Middle Fork provides even rougher-and-tumbler Class IV rapids, the 18-mile journey punctuated by clear-flowing stretches populated by trout and adorable baby Poseidons.
Breezes swirl down a corridor made by trees standing up to 100 feet and perched atop levees, which form the banks of the 200-year-old Bear River. Above rustling branches and the calls of nearby eagles, the hum of an engine cuts through the tranquil air. Dave Jewell of Blue Sky Powered Paragliding takes thrill-seekers—some as old as 80 years of age—soaring up to 500 feet above rolling, farm-dappled country and between Bear River's banks on propeller-powered parachutes. Though currently surveying Californian skies, Dave has led flights and organized clubs in Japan, Nigeria, Mexico, Germany, and France, and he continues to draw on knowledge of flight mechanics from extensive Air Force parachute training. Today, Dave takes off from 24 acres of campground, where a paragliding club meets occasionally to heckle poorly shaped clouds.
A sweeping bonfire pit, rustic picnic tables, and grassy swathes for RVs welcome campers waiting their turn to fly. Dave also mans a parachute and equipment shop where he conducts repairs and reanimates the corpses of dead kites. Dave insists that he never tires of his sport, as the weather and surrounding terrain are always changing, making his higher-altitude experiences "terrifying without being terrifying.” With a small wingspan, the motorized parachutes can also approach wildlife more closely than other aircraft; on one flight Dave found himself flanked by two bald eagles, beating their powerful wings just 20 feet away.
Engineered by a television broadcast specialist, Grimes Castle enlists a cast of more than 30 undead volunteers to skulk through the 6,000 square feet of its haunted house, where intricate presentation and lighting effects elicit chopper chattering. Plucky visitors embark on a 20-minute tour through the corridors of the castle's dungeon, where condemned spirit hosts regale them with a series of petrifying performances and an adventure as twisted and chilling as the abominable snowman's DNA. Some proceeds from the house are donated to the ROTC to alleviate ghosts of the guilt they feel over haunting so many residences without ever contributing to cable bills.
A chill travels down Virginia City's streets, where it meets a group of unsuspecting men and women on the sidewalk. Maybe it's just the wind. Maybe it's a sudden drop in temperature. Or maybe it's something else?something from another time. After all, the group had followed their tour guide's advice and dressed warm for the Comstock's cool nights. When the guide and group arrive at the Silver Queen Hotel, something else seems a bit off. A large painting of a woman stands before them, her evening gown made of thousands of silver dollars. The group stares into her eyes, and they seem to stare back, as if she knows they're there and that they need more change for the parking meter.
The guides at Bats in the Belfry Ghost Tours specialize in this sort of paranormal activity. Several nights a week, they lead tours up and down Virginia City's streets, stopping to tell spooky stories at old 19th-century buildings, including Mackay Mansion and the Washoe Club Haunted Museum. They also host the occasional special event, such as investigations with ghost hunters.
Staff Size: 1 person
Average Duration of Services: 30 Minutes or Less
Parking: Parking lot
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Closed Tuesdays
Though Comstock Gold Mill no longer produces real currency, the mill itself is still operating. Built in San Francisco in the 1860s, the two-stamp mill still tells the tale of how gold was once processed from ore to recovery, assisted by narrating tour guides. The guides also show off other pieces of historical mining equipment that contributed to the process, explaining the use of now arcane machines like the human hand.