Virginia City is a rarity – an 1860s boomtown fueled by a massive gold strike in nearby Alder Gulch, commandeered by vigilantes, abandoned, and then most importantly – rescued by history buffs.
Now, it's a Wild West moment frozen in time, right down to the creaking boardwalks, rickety wooden buildings, antique furnishings and (okay, staged) gun-slinging duels and hoopskirt galas.
2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the gold strike in Alder Gulch. Among the many festivities are the Victorian Ball (June 21-23), Brothel Days at the Bale of Hay (June 29 and 30), Virginia City Kid's Day (July 6), Virginia City Treaty Days (July 19 to 21) and another Victorian Ball (August 16 to 18). The National Stagecoach and Freight Wagon Association Conference is from July 10 to 14.
Wake up to banana bread French toast at the Star Bakery Restaurant, then pick your time machine: the Overland Stagecoach, which tours around Virginia City, or the Alder Gulch Short Line, which will chug you between Virginia City and Nevada City, a ghost-town refuge for over 100 historic buildings from across the state. Or, take a little walk up to Boot Hill Cemetery, the final resting place for those done in by Vigilante justice.
Hit Nevada City (minutes from Virginia City) on a summer Living History Weekend, when the town swells with "locals" re-enacting chapters of Wild West history – hangings, trials, flour riots – as well as daily life (like blacksmithing and quilting), circa 1864. Afterwards, poke around the largest automated music museum in the world (think player pianos, organs, and mechanical orchestras) at Nevada City's Music Hall.
For a big-city gourmet dinner out (sans big city), scoot over to Ennis' Continental Divide, then double back to Virginia City for a 19th-century melodrama with the Virginia City Players.
For details of this summer's 150th Anniversary events and festivities in Virginia and Nevada City, Montana visit Virginia City Events.
For more information about top events in Montana take a look at the Top Events USA selection of the annual main festivals and events in Montana.