Whether arts, culture and dining are your thing, or adventure in the great outdoors, Reno has you covered.
Reno, Nevada, is a funky, quirky, midsize mountain city in the northern part of the state. It looks almost nothing like its more famous sibling to the south, Las Vegas. In fact, it surprises many that Reno is much closer to Sacramento than it is to Sin City. (Don’t even get Reno natives started!)
An even better surprise: Reno is chock-full of unique adventures, outings and goings-on you won’t want to miss when you hit town. Seriously, you’ll want to check every item off this list of 10 things you must do in Reno.
1. Get your art on.
OK, so Reno doesn’t scream “world’s artsiest city!” just yet, but its art is worthy of a loud shout-out. Public art installations abound, including more than 80 murals (take the tour), Burning Man sculptures on the Playa Art Trail, and guided art walks in Downtown, Midtown and Sparks. (You can skip the walk and take a pedicab tour to mix things up.) And don’t forget the Nevada Museum of Art, the National Automobile Museum, or The Discovery, a children’s museum (it’s not just for kids!).
Reno’s month-long art festival, Artown, is approaching its 26th year this July, and brings in big-time artists like A Girl Named Tom, the winners of “The Voice 2021”; Rock ’n Roll Hall of Famer Elvin Bishop with Charlie Musselwhite, Blues Hall of Famer; The Manhattan Transfer; and dozens of dance, theatre, performance and other artists daily. Plus, there are art tours, exhibits and hands-on art-related workshops galore throughout the month.
2. Climb to the top.
Perhaps Whitney Peak Hotel owners were inspired by nearby Whitney Peak, the tallest mountain peak in the lower 48. Or perhaps they’re just adrenaline junkies. Either way, they were dead set on building the world’s tallest artificial climbing wall, and according to Guinness World Records, they did it. Aptly named BaseCamp, the 7,000-square-foot competition-level climbing facility has a novice-friendly side, and even has a separate kids’ climbing area. No worries, it’s safety first here.
3. Get festive at festivals.
With so many festivals, plus more than 500,000 area hotel and motel rooms, Reno feels like one giant rolling festival. Here’s just a taste of a few faves (besides Artown – see #1): the Reno River Festival (kayak competitions, etc.), the Best In The West Rib Cookoff, the Great Italian Festival, Street Vibrations (motorcycles – spring and fall events) and the Chalk Art Festival. Plus tons more.
4. Tip your vintage hat to the good ol’ days.
Three of Reno’s biggest events celebrate yesteryear in a grand style. Hot August Nights, one of the country’s favorite classic car shows, is a week and then some of sock hops, concerts, show ‘n shines and cruising.
The Reno Air Races, labeled the fastest motorsport on earth, features many vintage planes and speeds of more than 500 miles per hour as low as 50 feet off the ground. Feel the power from the stands, meet the pilots on the ground, see the planes up close. Yep, this event is uniquely Reno.
And The Reno Rodeo, established in 1919, is the wildest, richest rodeo in the west. Bulls, buckin’ broncs, barrel racing, cowboys and girls, mutton busting, rodeo clowns, carnival rides and fireworks will have you saying, “Yeehaw!”
5. Go blue at nearby Lake Tahoe.
A short 45-minute drive from Reno is what Mark Twain called the “fairest picture the whole world affords,” aka Lake Tahoe. It’s the biggest and second deepest alpine lake in the country. It’s crystal clear to the tune of 99.99% pure, and 100% something you must experience while in the area.
One of the locals’ favorite beaches is Sand Harbor. Not only does it offer long, sandy beaches, eye-catching boulders and beautiful mountain views, it is a veritable springboard into action. From paddleboard rentals to guided kayak and electric bike tours, from SCUBA diving and waterskiing to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival with the lake as its backdrop, this must-see attraction will inspire a standing “O”.
6. Savor the flavors from newfangled to Old World.
The Reno restaurant scene is a bit of a dichotomy — great news for mood eaters and food enthusiasts alike. Among the city’s most treasured, longstanding restaurants are Casale’s Halfway Club, an Old World Italian restaurant established in 1937, and Louis’ Basque Corner, serving authentic, family-style food and its signature Picon Punch since 1967.
In the past decade, Reno has complemented its rich food history with the trendier side of dining: fusion, locally sourced foods, world-famous executive chefs, local food prodigies and a host of worldly rock stars who are kind enough to share their homeland’s deliciousness. If you haven’t visited Reno recently, come back, and come hungry. And if you happen to be in The Biggest Little City between June and August, don’t miss Food Truck Friday, with more than 40 food and beverage trucks (and growing!), music and great people watching in the park.
7. Make a toast. Several, actually.
When it comes to the bar scene, Reno definitely lives up to its eclectic reputation. There are enough local craft breweries, wine bars, distilleries, nightclubs and even a rum and tropical cocktail bar to enjoy a different locale and libation every night of the year, if you’re so inclined.
But wait, there’s more! The Eddy, located downtown along the Truckee River, is an outdoor family-friendly, dog-friendly collaborative space with three bars in one. It features adult beverages (21 and over, of course), games like bocce ball and cornhole, live music, fire pits, Burning Man art, fitness classes and much more. So cool. So very Reno.
8. Root, root, root!
The Biggest Little City is home to the Reno Aces, a dynamic minor league baseball team and Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate. The home field is an intimate yet big-league stadium that was built in 2009 with an exceptional fan experience topping the list of must-haves. With gifted athletes, seating options from box seats to a grassy berm, good ballpark food, drinks including Aceball Ale, music and super reasonable ticket prices, not to mention fireworks at every Friday home game, going to an Aces game is definitely a winning proposition.
9. Gain altitude in the Sierras.
Just beyond city limits, you’ll find the Sierra Nevada mountains, and they’re begging you to hike them. They don’t care what skill level you are. Whether a leisurely, alpine half-day-hike is your speed, or a live-on-the-edge, multi-day hike above majestic Lake Tahoe, you definitely need to immerse yourself in Ma Nature’s handiwork while in Reno. Ahhhhh.
10. Float, cast or paddle the day away.
Spending time on the beautiful Truckee River, which flows through the city, is sure to float your boat — quite literally in the case of a leisurely drift on a raft or inner tube. You can start your journey in Reno or Tahoe City. And no worries, the rapids are tame. Translation: family- and adult-beverage-friendly. Looking for a tad more adventure? Then whitewater rafting is the name of the game. There are plenty of rivers and routes to choose from.
The Truckee River also boasts spectacular fly fishing. Whether you’ve always wanted to try your hand at angling, or just can’t get enough of it, no time like the present. Try a lesson or a guided tour.
This article was sponsored by EDAWN.