Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Carson City, NV

  • Published 2023/03/08

Many believe that Nevada’s capital is Las Vegas.

However, Nevada’s capital is the gorgeous Carson City, seven hours north of Las Vegas.

Carson City, Nevada’s state capital, is home to over 60,000 inhabitants.

Besides being the state capital, this city in Ormsby County is also the sixth-largest in Nevada.

Named after famous American frontiersman Kit Carson, this city is renowned for its tourist attractions, including the majestic Lake Tahoe.

Carson City has gorgeous parks, epic trails, rich history, and plenty of outdoor recreation.

Moreover, many of these destinations are free.

Here’s a curated list of the free things to do in Carson City, Nevada.

Roam the Nevada State Capitol

Exterior of the Nevada State Capitol

Nagel Photography /

Start your Carson City travel adventure by touring the Nevada State Capitol.

You can join guided and self-guided tours at this capitol situated along N. Carson Street.

This state capitol, constructed in 1870, is the seat of power in the State of Nevada.

It’s renowned for its breathtaking campus-like architecture, which contrasts with the usual American Beaux-Art style architecture.

Entrance door of the Nevada State Capitol

Aneta Waberska /

Upon entering this state capitol, you’ll be warmly greeted by the employees and security, who gamely answer your questions and provide tips on how to enjoy your tour.

At the same time, you’re free to wander the capitol’s unrestricted areas, such as various offices, halls, exhibits, and the Governor’s office.

Also, drop by the famous Battle Born Hall for more historical artifacts and information about Nevada’s deep and rich history.

It’s pretty hard to miss the Nevada State Capitol tour since it’s one of the most recommended activities to enjoy in Carson City.

Interior of the Nevada State Capitol

Nagel Photography /

Wander through the Picturesque Ash to Kings Canyon

Carson City’s famous Ash to Kings Canyon allows you to explore the region’s natural beauty.

You can visit this famous attraction west of Carson City near Ash Canyon Road.

This attraction is known for its 13.5-mile out-and-back trail.

This trail is a famous destination for outdoor enthusiasts who want to explore Carson City’s unspoiled terrains.

Hiking is also the best activity to enjoy at this canyon.

It allows you to see various natural areas with breathtaking scenery.

Ash to Kings Canyon is a recommended outdoor attraction you mustn’t miss visiting for a worthwhile hike in Carson City.

Celebrate the Mark Twain Days Festival

The Mark Twain Days Festival happens every third week of April in the heart of Carson City.

Mark Twain influenced the people of Carson City by mentioning Nevada and Carson City many times in his writings back in the day.

With that in mind, the people of Carson City never forget to celebrate this annual festival happening in the city’s downtown area.

During the festival, locals exhibit the true Western Spirit, which Twain was known for, which includes music, food, drinks, and plenty of fun activities.

Celebrating the Mark Twain Days Festival is a great chance to rub elbows and make friends with locals at the end of the day.

Learn History at the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum

Chapel of the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum

Barbmathers, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum is a fascinating place to explore history, culture, and heritage.

You can visit this cultural center and museum along Jacobsen Way.

This historic place was once a boarding school for Native American children from the 1800s to the 1980s.

The boarding school, similar to other schools for Native Americans, became controversial for the maltreatment of its students.

Today, the museum showcases the troubling chapter of these boarding schools.

Visiting this museum immerses you in the first-hand accounts of former students who survived their ordeal during their time at the school.

So, spend time roaming inside the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center & Museum for a one-of-a-kind historical experience.

Get Wet at the Kings Canyon Waterfall

The Kings Canyon Waterfall is a famous place locals love to cool down, especially during summer.

This waterfall is a five-minute drive west of Carson City’s downtown area, particularly along King Street.

A short hike from Kings Canyon Trail takes you to this gorgeous 25-foot cascading waterfall which runs during spring.

Visiting this waterfall allows you to immerse yourself in nature and appreciate its beauty.

At the same time, you’re guaranteed to enjoy cooling down while showering on the waterfalls with your fellow visitors or loved ones.

Add Kings Canyon Waterfall to your itinerary for an incredible time with nature.

Catch an Event at the Brewery Arts Center

Exterior of the Brewery Arts Center

Jeffrey Beall, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Brewery Arts Center is a famous events venue where most concerts and activities in the city happen.

You can visit this place along W. King Street.

This place mainly hosts concerts and art-related events regularly, offering everyone a fantastic entertainment and cultural experience.

This place can accommodate as many as 30,000 spectators and attendees during major events, mostly free to spectate or join.

This includes the annual free concert series organized by the City of Carson, which everyone can enjoy.

Besides concerts, the Brewery Arts Center hosts art workshops, exhibits, and comedy shows which you can catch up on during your visit to the city.

Pass the Time at Fuji Park

Fuji Park is a gorgeous community park loved by locals.

You can visit this park along Old Clear Creek Road.

The park is a major venue for state and county fairs events.

At the same time, it’s also a perfect place to relax and enjoy outdoor activities when it’s not used during events.

It has a gorgeous natural setting with well-maintained gardens, tree lines, and a creek, a famous fishing spot.

Visiting Fuji Park allows you to relax, unwind, and pass the time while enjoying its gorgeous surrounding.

See Outer Space at Jack C. Davis Observatory

Head to the Jack C. Davis Observatory for a fantastic time watching stars and galaxies.

You can visit this observatory inside the Western Nevada College along Vanpatten Avenue.

It’s home to three telescopes used by the college’s in-house astronomists and students.

At the same time, it’s open to the public for viewing, making it a great place to visit and see these rare telescopes up close.

During its free viewing sessions, you’ll see the stars, the solar system, galaxies, and constellations.

Besides its stargazing activity, plenty of worthwhile interactive programs await you at Jack C. Davis Observatory.

Catch Fish at Carson River

The waters of Carson River

Victoria Ditkovsky /

Carson River flows through Carson City, ending in Lake Tahoe.

You can visit this river in multiple locations throughout the city.

This river is particularly popular for local anglers who want to catch more quickly than fishing in the vast Lake Tahoe.

Many anglers love to cast their line at this river because of the abundance of fish.

Local anglers usually catch brown trout, rainbow trout, mackinaw, and kokanee salmon.

With that in mind, you’ll have more reasons to bring your fishing gear during your trip to Carson City for some fishing sessions at Carson River.

Have a Lovely Picnic at Mills Park

Mills Park is one of Carson City’s most gorgeous community parks.

You can visit this park along E. Williams Street.

The park offers well-maintained greenery and amenities, perfect for a picnic with your loved ones.

Visiting this park is probably one of the best free things you can enjoy in Carson City.

It has a lovely picnic area canopied by towering trees, an excellent playground for kids, sports facilities, paved trails, and spacious greeneries.

Pack your picnic basket and blanket for a worthwhile picnic at Mills Park.

Take a Dip at Chimney Beach

Daytime view of Chimney Beach

Andy Konieczny /

Chimney Beach is one of the numerous public beach areas in Carson City along Lake Tahoe’s shores.

You can visit this beach near Marlette Lake through Chimney Beach Trail.

This beach is named after an old wooden cabin with a chimney that stands alone along Lake Tahoe’s shore in the area.

The beach is a popular summer destination for Carson City’s locals to cool down.

Boulders near Chimney Beach shore

Andy Konieczny /

Many people love to swim and enjoy plenty of water activities at this beach, especially during summer.

Swim on the famous Lake Tahoe at Chimney Beach, especially with your loved ones.

Remember to list this beach in your trip to Carson City itinerary.

Enjoy the Breathtaking Skunk Harbor

Carson City traces the shores of the beautiful Lake Tahoe.

To witness the lake’s beauty, head to Skunk Harbor, west of Carson City, on the shores of Lake Tahoe.

This harbor is renowned for one of the hidden beaches in North Lake Tahoe.

You can only access this harbor by hiking through a 1.6-mile-long trail once an old road in the late 1800s.

Your hike is guaranteed to be worth it when you arrive at this harbor, as you’ll witness Lake Tahoe’s crystal-clear waters and scenic views.

Swimming, fishing, and sightseeing are the favorite activities you’ll enjoy at Skunk Harbor.

In addition, you can explore the lake on a boat or hike through its trails along the shore.

Hike the Ash Canyon Creek Trailhead

Ash Canyon Creek Trailhead is a short but grueling trail you can hike just west of Carson City.

This trail provides access to the Ash Canyon watershed with steep and highly erodible soils, which is quite challenging for newbie hikers.

Nonetheless, your hike through this trail is worth the challenge since you’ll see some of Carson City’s most scenic views.

The trail stretches for about 2.2 miles, taking you to various natural places such as wooded areas, hills, and overlooks, adding more excitement to your hike.

Head to the Ash Canyon Creek Trailhead for a worthwhile hike.

Embrace the Peaceful Ambiance of Marlette Lake

Snow-covered shore of Marlette Lake

Dominic Gentilcore PhD /

Head to Marlette Lake for some peaceful time outdoors.

You can visit this lake west of Carson City along Marlette Lake Road.

This lake is excellent for locals to picnic, swim, boat, and fish.

It features a gorgeous natural setting that isn’t overcrowded compared to other outdoor attractions in the city.

View of the partially frozen Marlette Lake

Dominic Gentilcore PhD /

Historically, the lake was constructed in the late 1800s as a dam that drains Lake Tahoe.

Today, it’s a gorgeous and secluded lake that is perfect for rest and recreation.

Stop by Marlette Lake before returning home for worthwhile outdoor activities.

See Some Action at the Edmonds Sports Complex

Edmonds Sports Complex is the best place to catch local games in Carson City.

You can visit this place along Livermore Lane.

This place is known for having multiple top-notch sports facilities that regularly host local tournaments.

It has nine soccer fields, four softball fields, a BMX track, and park amenities for everyone to enjoy.

Besides watching sports, you can enjoy picnicking and other outdoor activities at the Edmonds Sports Complex.

Final Thoughts

Visiting Carson City should be on your travel bucket list if you want to experience the best of the Silver State.

You’ll be surprised how excellent your visit to this city will be.

Start planning your itinerary with this list of the best things to do in Carson City, Nevada!

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