Virginia and Nevada City, Montana Western Towns

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CLAIM TO FAME – More than $90 million worth of gold was pulled out of 14-mile-long Alder Gulch from 1863-75, catapulting Montana into territorial status. Preservation — not revitalization — began in the 1960s, and is now managed by the Montana Heritage Commission, which keeps these twin towns (three miles apart) refreshingly free of tacky commercialism.

ACTIVITIES -Check out the re-created village (but with all original buildings) at the Nevada City Open Air Museum; ride the Alder Gulch Shortline Railroad; catch the Virginia City Players (family melodrama) at the Opera House or the Brewery Follies (cabaret) at the H.S. Gilbert Brewery; check out Robber’s Roost, alleged hideout of highwayman sheriff Henry Plummer.

BELLY UP  -At the Bale of Hay Saloon (344 Wallace St.) or the Pioneer Bar (210 Wallace St.)

BED DOWN – Enjoy authentic (read: few frills) accommodations at the Fairweather Inn ($70-85) or Nevada City Hotel ($85-100 hotel, cabins $90), both 800-829-2969.

LOCATION 75 miles southeast of Butte, Montana. Convenient to Yellowstone National Park

INFOVirginia City Chamber of Commerce, 800-829-2969.