NOTE: My Photo ‘Shoot the Moon’ took first place in the 2011 Montana State Fair Photography Exhibition an the ‘Action’ Category. Take a look in the Gallery!
This year, Spring in Great Falls, Montana started out at -4° and snowing. For me, that meant it was time to be inside thinking about warm weather road trips. I may have to wait for the flooding to end, as things warmed up rather quickly, but going down memory lane always gets me in travel mode.
During the summer of 2010, Bill and I took a fantastic road trip through parts of Southwestern Montana. We had reservations that evening for a night of comedy with “The Brewery Follies” playing inside Virginia City’s Gilbert Brewery. We headed South on Hwy. 287, with rolling plains to the East and the Tobacco Root Mountains to our West. The color splashes surrounding the entire drive were amazing!
Getting closer to our destination, we passed through the towns of Harrison and Norris (home of the unique “Norris Hot Springs”). As evening drew closer we stopped in the town of Ennis, where we had reservations at the Fan Mountain Inn, only 14 miles shy of Virginia City. Rooms fill up quickly in this vacation hot spot, so reservations are recommended. The rooms at the Fan Mountain Inn are invitingly clean and comfortable. The owners and operators are very friendly and attentive. At the office, look for a welcoming tail wag from the loving family dog peeking over the half-door behind the counter. Some of these quaint towns offer rental cabins, motels and campgrounds. If you travel via RV, there are several choices including a KOA Campground in Alder, which is only 9 miles from Virginia City.
We arrived at the Gilbert Brewery early enough to watch as the staff opened the doors, worked the Will Call window, took tickets at the door, ushered guests to seats, took drink orders, and bar-tended. Then, the lights flickered and we realized that “the staff” and the Brewery Follies actors were one and the same. They shut the doors and the bar, removed their aprons and effortlessly went from serving us to entertaining us. The show was edgy, free from political correctness and hilarious! This is definitely a show for the adults, surprisingly void of a night of ‘F bombs’ and other cursing, yet full of naughtiness! Every seat lets you enjoy the show, but I warn you, sitting front row center may get you more attention that you planned for… you may become part of the show!
At intermission, the performers are once again the ‘Staff’ taking orders and serving up drinks. After the finale, the cast mingles with the guests, encouraging everyone to continue the fun at one or more of the local nightlife spots such as The Bale of Hay Saloon.
Entering Virginia City by day compared to night felt like we were in two different places. The nightlife was a very modern 21 and over crowd. Daylight created a time warp, and we found ourselves in a place where the 186o’s are alive and well. It is home to over 100 historic buildings, taking you back in time with their authentic furnishings and artifacts. Many have posted information and photos of their establishments dating back to when they were built, and what businesses have passed through them over time. The stories are fascinating. If only those buildings could talk! Many of the town’s residents believe that they can. Many say that the living are not the only residents. Outlaw Café and Antiques believes matter-of-factly that the playful spirit of a little girl resides there. Decide for your self by stopping by. For more possible ghostly encounters Virginia City offers a guided Ghost Walk.
Like many families, we spent the day playing tourists, going through all of Virginia City’s shops. Cousin’s Candy Shop is a favorite by kids of all ages. Baskets and jars of taffy’s, chocolate, licorices and hard candies surround you. The shops centerpiece is the glassed-in section of hand-dipped chocolate candies and homemade fudge. They make a delicious honeycomb candy that is a favorite of mine. It is a crunchy sweet honey flavored bar, thickly dipped in dark or milk chocolate. Each chocolate covered crunchy bite dissolves in your mouth! For me it is Heavenly decadence.
There are a couple of places offering Old Time Photos. We were drawn to Wallace Street Photographic Emporium, located at 208 Wallace Street, where we had a blast posing for pictures.
Another way for the family to jump back in time is to take a 25 minute ride on the Virginia City Overland Stagecoach, starting at the West end of Wallace Street, directly across from the Fairweather Inn.
Many of the employees throughout town set the mood by working in period costumes. If you want to purchase a piece from the past, Ranks Mercantile will have it. They carry a large variety of sizes in men’s, women’s and children’s old west frontier clothing and Victorian clothing and accessories. On an earlier trip Bill purchased a chocolate brown Bowler hat there that went well with his brown duster. Per Wikipedia, it is a hard felt hat with a rounded crown originally created in 1849, for the British soldier and politician Edward Coke. Per me, it’s a sexy hat that makes me turn my head for a second look. It is such a classic look.
In Spring of 1863, Gold Fever broke out. This caused a need for trade and a desire for adventure. Virginia City is the only survivor of those main “Cities” created during the beginning of the 1863 Gold Rush in Montana.
Currently, Virginia City is the largest and first of three towns strung together along Alder Gulch, also called Alder Creek. It is followed by Nevada City, and Alder.
During season, Nevada City becomes a restored outdoor museum. It is complete with numerous refurbished buildings and allows you to get close and personal with trains at the Alder Gulch Short Line Railroad, and at the train museum. Behind the dusty antique glass windows of the museum, are several re-furbishing projects underway. The wood and iron works of the old trains are very intricate. The photo I took of Bill in his new bowler looks like he stepped back in time and is waiting to board. The railroad wasn’t running while we were there, so that is something we have to look forward to on a future visit.
If you are looking for a fun-filled trip, the close communities of Virginia City, Nevada City, and Alder have something for everyone! When you visit the fun places I’ve mentioned, make sure to tell them that Karen, from Because I Can In Montana, suggested the trip!
Here are links for some of the places we visited on our trip.
Jul 28 2011