Journey to Genoa: Spend a day full of fun and history in Nevada’s oldest settlement

Nevada’s oldest “thirst parlor” — the Genoa Bar and Saloon — was built in 1853. Photo: Claire McArthur

Less than 20 miles from Lake Tahoe’s South Shore, over Kingsbury Grade and in the valley, sits Nevada’ oldest settlement — a small town of roughly 1,000 people steeped in history and the perfect spot for a relaxing day trip off the hill.

Genoa, first called Mormon Station, was founded in 1851 as a trading post in Utah Territory. A community of permanent settlers began to build up around the post, and in 1855 it was renamed Genoa by a Mormon elder who was thought to have admired Christopher Columbus and his birthplace of Genoa, Italy.

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READ MORE IN TAHOE MAGAZINE: This story is included in the 2019 Summer edition of Tahoe Magazine, a specialty publication of the Sierra Nevada Media Group. The magazine is on newsstands now across Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Reno. Or, go here to read the digital version!

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In 1864, when an act of Congress created the Nevada Territory, Genoa became its first settlement as more people moved to the valley to start farms, ranches and other businesses.

Herds of mule deer can be found wandering the streets and yards of Genoa. Photo: Claire McArthur

Today, the quaint town is arguably best known for its annual Genoa Candy Dance Arts & Crafts Faire that draws in hundreds of visitors from around the region every September. Or maybe it’s the herds of adorable mule deer that casually walk through town. Or perhaps it might be the fact it’s home to the oldest drinking establishment in the Silver State.

From historic buildings and cheese boards to antiques and natural hot springs, Genoa has a little something for everyone. C’mon — spend a day there with us.

The Pink House

The Pink House is a cheese and charcuterie shop located inside a refurbished historic home. Photo: Claire McArthur

The Pink House is a cheese and charcuterie shop located inside a Gothic Revival-style home built in 1855. Restored by owners Dan and Lois Wray in the style and décor of the late 19th century, the shop carries gourmet food products and a wide variety of European and American cheeses and cured meats. Enjoy a glass of wine and a cheeseboard on the wrap-around porch or dive into dishes from the cafe menu, featuring delicacies like a mushroom tart or gnocchi short rib ragu.

1862 David Walley’s Hot Springs

1862 David Walley’s Hot Springs also has a spa with a range of treatments available. Contributed Photo: 1862 David Walley’s Hot Springs

Soak in five naturally fed mineral hot springs with views of the Sierra Nevada and access dry saunas and Eucalyptus steam rooms with a $55 day pass to 1862 David Walley’s Hot Springs. For a little extra pampering, book a facial or massage at the spa.

Genoa Bar and Saloon

Genoa Bar and Saloon is full of old West memorabilia. Photo: Claire McArthur

Nevada’s oldest “thirst parlor,” as the sign outside declares, was built in 1853 and has been serving up drinks ever since. Filled with old West memorabilia, the historic bar has welcomed the likes of presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt. A number of movies have been filmed there, including “The Shootist” with John Wayne and “Honky Tonk Man” with Clint Eastwood. Musicians Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and John Denver have even enjoyed cold ones there. So, too, did actress/singer Raquel Welch. And, as legend has it, she might have even left something behind — ask the bartender for the story. After you do, wet your whistle with a Peg’s Bloody Mary made from scratch with “10 secret ingredients” for the last 20 years, or a Stiff Dill Pickle — a shot of Jameson Whiskey with a fresh dill pickle juice back.

Antique Shopping

Petersunn Antiques is located at 2292 Main St. #7, in Genoa. Contributed photo: Carson Valley Visitors Authority

Antiques Plus and Petersunn Antiques are great spots to peruse antiques in Downtown Genoa. For a real experience, ring the bell at Genoa Museum and Archives — the old storefront next to the Genoa Bar with an “antiques” sign — and wait for proprietor and lifelong antique collector Ron Bommarito to walk down from his house. The small store was built in 1866 and is stacked floor to ceiling — quite literally — with treasures found around Nevada by Bommarito.  

Soak in History

Genoa is just a short drive into the valley from Lake Tahoe. Photo: Claire McArthur

Pop into the Mormon State Historic Park Museum and the Genoa Courthouse Museum to discover more about Genoa’s unique history and the settlers who traveled out West to make the town home.

Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire

Genoa’s Candy Dance started in 1919 as a way to raise money to purchase street lights for the small community. The idea was to draw in more couples to the fundraising dance with the incentive of handmade candy. The lights were purchased thanks to the dance, and every year after the event was put on to pay for a year’s worth of electricity. Today the faire has grown to two days with live music; food, arts and crafts vendors; and a dinner and dance on the final evening. With over 700 tickets purchased every year, the event still raises money to fund a substantial portion of Genoa’s annual budget.

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