Many people see Reno as a sort of mini Las Vegas, but America’s Biggest Little City, complemented by the neighboring town of Sparks, has an ambience that sets it apart. Sure, there are plenty of casinos and nighttime entertainment — that’s no surprise, given that Reno was originally the place to go gambling in the U.S. before Vegas took over — but the Reno/Sparks area distinguishes itself with a vibrant art scene and a mountainous backyard that’s chock-full of outdoor adventure.
Art and Bowling
While many people come to Reno specifically to spend time in casino resorts like the Atlantis, Peppermill Reno and Grand Sierra Resort, there’s plenty more to do here than just roll die or lounge poolside. For starters, the National Bowling Stadium, with 79 lanes and a 440-foot-long video screen, draws fans from across the globe who seek 10-pin action among pros and amateurs alike. For art lovers, the MidTown District exhibits 100-plus murals that showcase bold talent. The Nevada Museum of Art and Wilbur D. May Center boast large art collections, with pieces from all over the world. Budding brainiacs should hit the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum, with hands-on science exhibits for visitors of all ages.
Water sports abound in the Reno/Sparks area. Lake Tahoe is a 45-minute drive and offers ample opportunities for boating, parasailing, water skiing, stand-up paddleboarding and even pedal boating. Closer to town, Reno’s Truckee River Whitewater Park encompasses a 2,600-foot stretch of river with 11 drop pools for kayaking recreation. The riverbanks of the Class II to Class III park are lined with 7,000 tons of smooth, flat-top rocks and boulders for easy public access and enhancement of kayaking maneuvers.
In Reno’s sister city, the Sparks Marina Park boasts a 77-acre lake in which visitors can swim, fish and even scuba dive. A bit north of the city, surrounded by desert, Pyramid Lake is a fishing spot that teems with Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui-ui fish. This uncrowded spot is a worthwhile gem for anglers willing to go out of their way for a big catch.
For trail buffs, Reno and Sparks serve as great jumping-off points for hiking and mountain biking, and the climate remains relatively mild (by Nevada standards), making it suitable for outdoor recreation throughout the year. Part of the urban trail system, the Tom Cooke Trail runs along the Truckee River and includes a paved path for cycling and walking. Other hiking trails include the easy Huffaker Hills Trail, a 1.8-mile loop offering great views, and the more challenging Hunter Creek Trail, a 5.7-mile path leading to Hunter Creek Falls. Mountain bikers won’t want to miss the Marlette Flume Trail in the Lake Tahoe area, which offers gorgeous views out over the lake.
Reno Knows Partying
Reno/Sparks serves up a heady concoction of culture, nature, casinos and forward-looking business. Set in a beautiful part of Nevada, near desert, lakes and forest, it’s a popular destination for outdoorsy types. However, it also has enough casinos to give it a bit of a Vegas-lite feel. Reno is also artsy, with plenty of galleries and lots of public art around town, and a growing number of start-ups in the city are lending a youthful, techy vibe to the area.
From late spring through early fall, Reno parties with a lively slew of festivals and events. These include the Reno River Festival, with whitewater rafting competitions in the Truckee Whitewater Park and plenty of live entertainment, as well as the Reno Rodeo in June. The Reno Jazz Festival brings top artists to town, while Artown rolls out hundreds of events and exhibitions related to visual and performing arts. Other highlights include the Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival (the name says it all) and Hot August Nights, a huge vintage car show. And, of course, there’s Burning Man, held outside of Reno in the Black Rock Desert during the week leading up to Labor Day.
From Fort to Fabulous
Once a fort occupying a strategic location on the Truckee River, Reno overlooked key crossing points during the California Gold Rush. The town was established in 1868 as a stop on the Transcontinental Railroad, and the University of Nevada was established here a few years later. When gambling was made legal in Nevada in 1931, the city blossomed as a hub for tourism and entertainment, a status it enjoys to this day (albeit to a lesser extent than Las Vegas).
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