You don't need a time machine to return to the Gold Rush days in and around Nevada's capital of Carson City — just a plane ticket to Reno and a rental car for the short, scenic drive south. Once in Carson (as the locals call it), ditch the car for an older form of transportation.
Carson City is short on lodging with much character. To step back in time, make the 14-mile drive to Gold Hill, where Nevada's oldest hotel still welcomes guests. The Gold Hill Hotel (Highway 342, Gold Hill;  847-0111, www,goldhillhotel.net) offers a variety of options from rooms in the original 1859 hotel to the two-bedroom Miner's Lodge with its corrugated metal roof. The room rates (starting at $45 on weekdays) appear frozen in time; prices on its website's 2008 rate card are still accurate.
Just across the street from the State Capitol, Comma Coffee (312 S. Carson St., Carson City;  883-2662, http://www.commacoffee.com) is a fave with locals and legislators. It's an eggs for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch kind of place, but the food is consistently good and the prices are reasonable. (The sourdough French toast with a hint of cinnamon costs just $4.75.) This coffee shop regularly hosts Celtic music sessions, Salsa dance lessons and a weekly demonstration for world peace.