How Safe Is Virginia City for Travel?

Updated On May 1, 2023
Virginia City, United States
Safety Index:
79
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Take a “Step Back in Time” to Virginia City, Nevada.

This former mining town was founded in 1859 during the Comstock Lode, one of the largest silver strikes in history.

The town became a hub of activity and wealth during the mid-1800s, producing millions of dollars in gold and silver.

Virginia City attracted people from all over the world, including miners, merchants, and gamblers.

The town was known for its “Wild West” reputation with a booming economy, rowdy nightlife, and infamous characters, such as Mark Twain, who lived and worked in Virginia City for a time.

Virginia City almost burned off the map in the Great Fire of 1875 when a rowdy night turned into an inferno that leveled 2,000 buildings at the peak of Virginia City’s boom.

While the town played hard, it worked harder, and the mines were opened the next day.

Even with miles of devastation, optimism reigned, and the town was rebuilt into the treasure we know today.

VC is known for several major events each year, including:

  • International Camel & Ostrich Races
  • Virginia City Grand Prix
  • Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry
  • Chili on the Comstock
  • Hot August Nights
  • Street Vibrations
  • World Championship Outhouse Races
  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade
  • Victorian Christmas

That’s on top of many pub crawls and other historic events held throughout the year.

Virginia City seems to perfectly blend a tourist trap with an authentic sense of life in the 1800s in a rich mining town.

It’s worth the visit and the white-knuckled drive to get there.

Warnings & Dangers in Virginia City

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk here. Virginia City thrives on its tourism, so everyone is invested in keeping the town safe, family-friendly, and fun. Even though law enforcement is from the county, you'll still notice a strong presence in this tourism destination.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

A seasonal trolley runs through town, but you'll need a car to get there unless you charter a bus or take a taxi/rideshare from Reno (the latter expensive option is not recommended). There's a low risk, provided you keep your car locked and remove all belongings from plain sight.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM

A town like this is always going to have a medium risk, but over the past ten years, there have been just 13 pickpockets or purse snatchings. You still need to use extra caution, especially when it's crowded or during major events.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

You need to expect a medium risk here to stay weather aware. Winter weather can be extreme, wildfires can be devastating, and there's a looming risk of earthquakes as Nevada is the third most active seismic state. Flash flooding, drought, and extreme temperatures are other risks. You can read the full list of risks and safety steps on the Storey County Emergency Management website.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

Between 2000 and 2020, Storey County didn't have more than three robberies in a year, and all but one saw two or fewer. It's a very low risk but never low enough to let your guard down.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is the one risk you shouldn't have to worry about since it's a remote region of Nevada. While random acts of domestic terrorism are always possible, and gun violence is on the rise in America, you can learn more about that risk through the Department of Homeland Security.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Let me assure you that nobody has taken a "hit" out on you, so if you get a text saying you'll be killed unless you pay money, it's a scam. That's the latest scam in Storey County, and you can find more on the sheriff's department's website. There's a low risk, but in a tourist community, you should always keep your guard up. Always buy tickets directly from the vendor or visitor's center. Use a credit card to get great fraud protection.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

There's a low risk here. It's a family-friendly destination and even safe for solo female travelers. You end up becoming part of the "family" with a tour group anyway. This is one of the nicest tourist spots I've ever visited, and I've been a dozen times.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The latest Water Quality Report is from 2020, but there were no violations, and full compliance was achieved. If you want to get a more recent report, contact Storey County Public Works at (775)847-0958. I can tell you the county recently added more storage tanks to keep fresh water available for the growing residential areas and tourists.

Safest Places to Visit in Virginia City

VirginiaCitynv.com is the official tourism site for the city.

You can find links to all of their social media links at the bottom.

I strongly recommend checking out the YouTube channel to see some great videos of the different attractions.

The website also offers a virtual tour and live cameras.

Stop by the visitor’s center first to get a Comstock Adventure Pass.

You can get discounts on multiple purchases for mines, museums, or historic sites.

Options include:

  • History Pass
  • Silver & Gold Pass
  • Mucker Pass
  • Haunted Pass
  • Winter Pass

Of course, you can also pay as you go, but all the brochures and experts are waiting here (dressed in Western gear, no less).

Some attractions require advance purchase, but all that information is on the tourism website.

C Street is the “Main Street” of Virginia City, and it’s worth walking the length of it first.

You’ll find old-time shops, restaurants, and bars with characters along the way to answer questions.

This is a great place to buy unique jewelry from the nearby mines.

There are more than a dozen museums here, and some aren’t that big and won’t take much time.

The Way It Was Museum should be one of the first things to get a quick history lesson about all the places you’re about to see.

The Marshall Mint Museum is about as close as you’ll get to strike it rich here, but you can see the gems, minerals, and metals found in the mountains.

The Fourth Ward School Museum is an intimidating four-story brick building that once served the children of the town’s miners.

Today, it has been beautifully restored and offers a fascinating look at education in the 1800s.

Firefighting has always been a critical part of life in Comstock, and the Comstock Fire Museum is a living legacy and current pivot point for firefighters.

You can also learn more about the Great Fire of 1875.

Piper’s Opera House is an elegant contrast to the dusty roads of Virginia City.

It has been recently renovated, but we’re told the ghosts are still there.

One thing that stands out on the Virginia City skyline is the steeples.

St Mary’s in the Mountains Catholic Church is the oldest one in Nevada and is just stunning outside and inside.

There’s a museum and wine cellar too.

There are also several mine tours, ghost tours at places like the once private and affluent Washoe Club, and a lively Virginia City Outlaws Wild West Comedy Show.

The Virginia & Truckee Railroad offers train rides seasonally.

I haven’t even gotten to some of the major attractions, but you can see there’s a lot to do.

Don’t let it be overwhelming because some things, like Shoaf’s Ghost Town, offer a great experience but take just 10 minutes to explore.

Places to Avoid in Virginia City

Virginia City takes a little bit of strategizing, but not because of crime concerns.

It’s a very hilly town, and every hill you walk down, you’ll have to climb up to get back to C Street.

You’ll know clearly when you are at the end of the tourism area, and it can feel a little sketchy at best.

There are some homes and residential areas, but there are also abandoned structures that could be dangerous inside or, at worst, have squatters or drug dealers.

That’s not a common problem, but always assume the worst to make the safest choices.

Avoid going up Geiger Grade in the winter without the proper winter car accessories, like tire chains.

If you don’t know how to install them, you can pay people to do so.

I would also caution against one common first-time tourist mistake.

If you have the time, explore the entire route of Highway 341.

If you come up from the Virginia Highlands and only go to Virginia City, you’ll miss Silver City and Mound House.

On the southern route, you’ll pass through a place called Devil’s Gate.

It’s nothing more than an ominous outcropping of dark rocks from prehistoric days, but the ominous name is only that.

It was once where thieves hid to rob people heading to the mines, but now it’s just rocks rising above a narrow road.

I couldn’t help but laugh at this “Captain Obvious” quote from 1860, “As I passed through the Devil’s Gate, it struck me that there was something ominous in the name.” — J. Ross Browne

Safety Tips for Traveling to Virginia City

  1. Virginia City has people who dress like law enforcement, but the real policing comes from the Storey County Sheriff’s Office. You can find them on Facebook, but be sure to look for “Storey County Sheriff’s Office – Nevada.”
  2. There is an emergency alert system in Storey County, but it’s just for residents and businesses. You can follow Storey County on Facebook @StoreyCounty to get updates. You should also follow @StoreyCountyCommunications.
  3. Use the Nevada Department of Transportation website to check for road conditions and closures. There’s a live camera list and color-coded road information. You want to look for alerts on Geiger Grade, which is the winding, steep road that leads to Virginia City. It’s also known as Highway 341 or the Comstock Highway.
  4. The roads, highways, and trails in this area are home to wild horses. The overpopulation of these fierce animals is causing more accidents with motorists and too many people trying to feed or approach the horses. I once had a wild burrow follow me during a hike. It was not aggressive or anything, but if I stopped, it stopped. If I went faster, it went faster. If you see wild horses, leave them alone. If they are crossing the road, wait. If you aren’t watching the road at all times, you could end up in an accident.
  5. The mine tours could be a little suffocating for those with claustrophobia. I’m 6′ tall and had to walk hunched down for about three minutes to get to the open area of the mine, and I still managed to hit my head on a pipe. There can also be moments of total darkness. The tours are 100% safe, but you should know your limits and fears before going in. All mine have waiting areas outside where you can rest while your party explores.
  6. Check for local events before you go. Every event here is a blast, but it’s going to impact what roads are open, where you can park, and how close that parking is depending on what time you arrive.
  7. The drive up to Virginia City comes with stunning and distracting views. If you want to soak in the sights, please pull over when it is safe to do so at a scenic turnout. There are also short hiking trails along the way to get better views. The highway also has hairpin turns and extreme elevation changes. Don’t tailgate slower drivers, and don’t take a slope with too much speed.
  8. If you’re taking one of the train tours or enjoying a gun battle re-enactment, I want to warn those with sensory sensitivities that it is loud. My nephew actually had to be taken out of one show because the noise was hurting his ears so badly. It can’t hurt to bring earplugs, just in case.
  9. You must check for wildfires before you go. There is not a “wildfire season,” as they can happen any time of year. The Storey County Emergency Management website has all the information you need.
  10. For those who visit the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry, you should know that those are bull’s testicles being served. They are *not oysters.

So... How Safe Is Virginia City Really?

It’s certainly nowhere near as lawless as the Comstock Lode days, that’s for sure.

In fact, since 2018, Storey County has been violent crime numbers cut in half.

Between 2020 and 2022, thefts were also cut in half, even as more tourists started coming back when COVID restrictions were lifted.

I know this likely will sound like a silly thing to mention, but as someone who “fell” victim to it (and watched several others do it), I’ll bring it up.

The walkway on Main Street under the awning is a wooden boardwalk.

The boards aren’t always even and might be warped in some places.

Just watch your step as you walk since there’s a visual sensory overload around you.

On busy days and during events, you should find the smallest purse and most concealed wallet possible.

Sometimes it’s shoulder-to-shoulder people.

The crime data is worth exploring if you’d like, but it ends up a bit skewed when you just consider the raw crime numbers vs the Storey County population to get the “per 100,000” FBI numbers.

The FBI math comes out to a violent crime rate 9% higher than the national average but only takes into account the 4,000 people who live there, not the two million people who visit each year.

I’ve walked around Virginia City many times in various states of intoxication (from tipsy to stone-cold sober), and I’ve never once felt unsafe.

I also couldn’t get enough of it, which is why I returned so many times.

You have so much waiting for you in a small town, it’s hard to fit it into one weekend.

I hope we’ve helped you plan the trip a little better.

How Does Virginia City Compare?

CitySafety Index
Virginia City79
New York City67
Detroit56
San Diego67
Miami55
Honolulu65
Chicago65
Cordoba (Argentina)61
Toronto (Canada)81
Melbourne (Australia)80
Montreal (Canada)81
Sydney (Australia)80
Santiago de Chile (Chile)71

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

International visitors will need a passport and visa or visa waiver, and it's wise to start this process as soon as possible. Some visa versions require a personal interview that can be backlogged for months. You'll need the ID to get through Customs and Border Patrol at the airport.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here. Exchange currency at your home bank to get the best value, but if you wait until you're here, take care of that in a large city like Reno. You'll need cash to play the slot machines, but most tours and attractions will take credit cards.

Weather

Weather

You'll need to pack for the season since winters can be cold and snowy. Bring layers for spring and fall, but summers will be warm. Wear comfortable shoes because there's a lot of walking here (and a lot of hills), plus you'll need a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Airports

Airports

Reno Tahoe International Airport is about 40 minutes from Virginia City if the roads are clear and traffic is smooth. Plan for an hour to be safe.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important because even if your flight isn't canceled, winter weather can close the roads to get to Virginia City. You want to be covered for your backup plan, baggage, and any healthcare costs.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Virginia City Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 1° C
Feb 2° C
Mar 5° C
Apr 8° C
May 12° C
Jun 18° C
Jul 22° C
Aug 22° C
Sep 17° C
Oct 11° C
Nov 4° C
Dec 1° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
56101318242928231695
Low
°C
-4-3-126111515105-1-4
High
°F
414350556475848273614841
Low
°F
252730364352595950413025

Nevada - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Baker74
Battle Mountain79
Beatty76
Blue Diamond76
Boulder City74
Burning Man in Black Rock City70
Caliente82
Carson City77
Elko72
Fallon77
Fernley77
Henderson68
Incline Village78
Jackpot72
Las Vegas62
Laughlin75
Lovelock76
Minden82
Moapa Valley78
Mount Charleston77
North Las Vegas54
Pahrump74
Rachel78
Reno70
Searchlight76
Sparks77
Stateline76
Tonopah81
Virginia City79
West Wendover72
Winnemucca73

Where to Next?

Share Your Experience

Share
Facebook Pinterest