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Reno, Nevada

Reno/Sparks

Living large in the world’s “Biggest Little City”

While Las Vegas can claim to be the undisputed gambling center of the world, Reno, 437 miles to the north, boasts a flair of its own. Nestled just north of Lake Tahoe amid the rugged forests and mountains of western Nevada, Reno serves up a mix of lavish casinos, exciting culture and ample outdoor recreation opportunities. So put on your best duds for a night out or lace up the hiking boots for outdoor adventure. The choice is yours in the “Biggest Little City in the World.”

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Culture on the Truckee

Before hitting the casinos, get a taste of Reno’s cultural offerings. Running along the banks of the Truckee River in downtown Reno, the Truckee River Arts District forms the city’s cultural crossroads. It was here, alongside the first-ever bridge to cross the Truckee River, that Reno was founded in the late 1800s. As Reno nurtured its celebrity status as a mecca for gaming and ritzy nightlife in the mid-1900s, the river was sidelined in favor of downtown’s more iniquitous pursuits.

The best place to begin a tour of the district is Wingfield Park, which leads to West Street Plaza, where the city’s musical verve finds expression in a robust lineup of concerts, festivals and events. First Street satisfies the itch for conspicuous consumption, entertainment and conversation, with a broadly themed clutch of art galleries, eclectic boutiques, cinemas and coffeehouses.

If you are in town on the third Saturday afternoon of the month (between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.), it’s worth checking out the district’s Wine Walk. The Riverwalk Merchant Association hosts a refined gathering of oenophiles for wine tastings at the district’s art galleries, specialty shops, restaurants and theaters. At the southern fringes of the district, CalAve is the latest hot spot for Reno’s hipsters, a buzzing enclave of eclectic boutiques, innovative restaurants, lively bars and the stellar Nevada Museum of Art.

If you’re visiting in September, make sure to catch the Great Reno Balloon Race, in which scores of colorfully designed hot air balloons ride the currents for the win. On nearby Lake Tahoe, colorful watercraft sail on beautiful emerald waters. Make reservations for a ride on the Tahoe Queen or M.S. Dixie II paddle boats, which traverse the scenic lake in high style. High rollers can charter a cruise on the Thunderbird Yacht, perhaps America’s most recognizable wooden speedboat.

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The Girl Jez/TravelNevada

Making Sparks

Just four miles east of downtown Reno lies Sparks, a fun-filled spot for folks who want outdoor recreation without traveling too far outside of the city.

Rock Park, located along the Truckee River in Sparks, features premier white-water rafting, kayaking and tubing adventures. And Sparks Marina Park, with its 80-acre lake, is the go-to spot for swimming, boating, fishing and even scuba diving.

Visit Sparks in summer for the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off. Watch top barbecue chefs cook up mouth-watering cuts of meat, then sample the results of their labor.

Travel back in time and experience railroad history at the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center. Here, you’ll find a vintage steam locomotive, a cupola caboose and Pullman executive car. Also on display is a one-room Glendale Schoolhouse and a monument to the Chinese rail workers who helped build the American West.

Head for the Hills

If you prefer mountainous wilderness to watery recreation, then Peavine Peak might just be the answer. The region’s most striking geographical feature, Peavine Peak was named by the area’s early prospectors after its profuse wild pea vines. Circa 1862, one early prospector named John Poe (allegedly a cousin of Edgar Allan Poe) left his imprint on the area when he established the Poe Mining Company.

At first glance, Peavine Peak sprawls like a vast and rugged desert wasteland. However, in reality, it’s a vibrant ecosystem with a surprising diversity of insects, plants, animals and birds. Hikers, mountain bikers, runners, speed walkers, dog walkers and equestrians cruise the trails that crisscross the slopes of the peak. Any ascent of Peavine, on foot or mountain bike, is certainly not for novice hikers. The challenging 5-mile trail, which begins in high-desert sagebrush, requires an ascent of 3,000 feet, but there’s instant gratification in the awe-inspiring panoramic views afforded at Peavine’s 8,266-foot summit.

For more rugged majesty, visit Mount Rose, located a mere 20 minutes from downtown Reno and boasting skiing during the winter and mountain biking and hiking during the summer.

Get your Motor Running

With its trailblazing design and broad collection, the National Automobile Museum is reported to have set the standard for auto museums worldwide. Most of the 200 historic vehicles displayed originate from the collection of late casino owner William F. Harrah and include rare, vintage and classic automobiles as well as race cars, and even one of the world’s finest collections of “horseless carriages.”

Galleries are arranged chronologically (from the late 19th through 20th centuries) and linked thematically via artfully designed “street” exhibits that contextualize the vehicles through engaging scenes of faux shop fronts, diners and movie theaters.

Celebrity vehicles include John Wayne’s 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, Elvis Presley’s 1973 Cadillac Eldorado, Frank Sinatra’s 1961 Ghia L.6.4 Hardtop and JFK’s 1962 Lincoln Continental. Also on display is the 1949 Mercury Series 9CM driven by James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” in addition to one of three 24-karat gold-plated DeLorean DMC-12s built for American Express.

And yes, there are more than enough casinos throughout Reno. Cruise down Virginia Strip to visit Circus Circus, Silver Legacy, Eldorado, Fitzgerald’s, Harrah’s and Club Cal Nevada. But don’t spend all of your time on the strip—Reno’s eclectic attractions beckon.

For More Information

Visit Reno Tahoe

800-367-7366

www.visitrenotahoe.com

 

Nevada Commission on Tourism

800-638-2328

www.travelnevada.com