Reno, Nevada has come a long way from its days as “just” a premier casino town. Don’t get us wrong; top-notch Reno casinos still serve up the world-class entertainment, grand buffets, spa pamperings, and 24-hour gaming that put it on the map. But today’s visitors also come Reno’s public art obsession, bohemian shops, dynamic music scene, unbeatable outdoor action, all-the-time events lineup, and local-centric foodie landscape—spread across several distinct, walkable neighborhoods. Get in the know with our guide to the Biggest Little City in the World.
Reno, Nevada: All-the-Time Action, Inside & Out
The Biggest Little City has come a long way from its Wild West origins. And seemingly just as far from its days as “just” a premier casino town in northern Nevada. Don’t get us wrong; top-notch Reno casinos still serve up the world-class entertainment, grand buffets, spa pamperings, and 24-hour gaming that put Reno and Washoe County on the map (long before Vegas, we might add). It’s just that, today, they are but one thread of a town that’s now equally as known for its public art obsession, bohemian shops, dynamic music scene, all-the-time events lineup, and local-centric foodie landscape—spread across several distinct, walkable neighborhoods.
For decades, millions of visitors each year have flocked to Downtown Reno, home to the famous Reno Arch, the iconic Reno casinos rising from Virginia Street, and street-closing events that draw crowds by the thousands. It remains the tourist epicenter of a flourishing city that has only gotten more vibrant with time.
The Downtown Reno Riverwalk, along the picturesque Truckee River, is a green, sculpture-studded thoroughfare lined with restaurants, coffee shops, craft beer halls, and anchored by island-like Wingfield Park, the site of live music and exciting events, and a harbor for summertime swimmers, river tubers, and kayakers tackling the holes and drop pools of the Truckee River Whitewater Park, , especially during the annual Reno River Festival.
Surrounding blocks reveal local theaters, the chic boutiques housed in The Basement of the recently restored Old Post Office Building, the cool cafés and trendy taverns of California Street, the lively Freight House District around Greater Nevada Field (AKA the Reno Aces Ballpark, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate), the hands-on art and maker studios and markets down Dickerson Road, and cultural institutions like the National Automobile Museum, Discovery Museum, and Nevada Museum of Art.
And then there’s the Midtown District. Here, in Reno’s hippest neighborhood, the pulse of this town’s revivalist spirit beats good and loud. Full of funky boutiques, score-filled vintage shops, Burning Man costume emporiums, swanky bistros, art galleries, and cocktail havens, but also plenty of rockin’ music venues, tap houses, tattoo parlors, and ever-changing murals adorning nearly every brick… this formerly—shall we say—grittier, mid-century district feels at once fresh and alive, yet also carefully intent on preserving just enough spunky edge to hold onto its street cred.
Some of our faves? Junkee for vintage duds. Piñon Bottle Co. for dozens of craft brews. Midtown Wine Bar for vino by the glass. Chapel Tavern and Reno Public House for schmancy cocktails. Brasserie Saint James for elevated eats. Beefy’s for bodacious burgers. Noble Pie Parlor for hipster pizza. Reno Coffee Co. for fancy joe. And Natural Selection for succulents, antique taxidermy, and other awesomely odd items. But really, just hit the sidewalk and follow your curiosity. If you somehow manage not to find something you love, we’ll be seriously impressed.
As one of the West’s premier recreation hubs, Reno’s always got the inside scoop on getting outside. Whether visitors are driving gear-packed adventure mobiles or carrying conspicuously ski-shaped luggage through the Reno airport, outdoor recreationalists of all stripes know Reno is their gateway to adventure. Located an hour from world-famous Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Nevada beckons powderhounds to 18 area ski resorts, mountain bikers and hikers to thousands of trails, golfers to PGA-class courses, and beach bums to dozens of pristine stretches of shoreline.
Nevada’s nearby high-desert backcountry astounds, with gigantic, trophy Lahontan cutthroat trout in Pyramid Lake, wild fish and untamed rapids in the Truckee River, rockhounding in the Black Rock Desert, and off-road action at Sand Mountain Recreation Area and endless tracks in the surrounding mountains.
Meanwhile, rock climbers don’t even need to leave town, thanks to the largest artificial climbing wall on Earth, rising right above the Reno Arch, at BaseCamp Reno, located inside the Whitney Peak Hotel. And with HQs, major stores, and outlets for retailers like Patagonia, REI, Sierra Trading Post, Cabela’s, and Scheel’s, if you forget to pack a piece of gear, Reno’s got you covered.
Reno Events: This Town Knows How to Party
There are plenty of things to do in Reno at any given moment, far beyond that sports book or poker room, but the city really cranks things up with its packed schedule of annual Reno events. For generations, Reno Tahoe has been a mecca for motorheads, who flood in by the thousands from all over the country for Hot August Nights, a weeklong celebration of all things classic cars, and both the Spring and Fall Rallies of Street Vibrations, some of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the West.
Trading wheels for feels, every July Reno becomes Artown. Deemed by the National Endowment for the Arts as one of the most comprehensive arts events in the country, this month-long, city-wide, mostly free festival features daily doses of dance, film, theater, workshops, and dozens of musical performances by rock, jam, blues, jazz, latin, reggae, and world music artists from around the planet.
But the music doesn’t stop there. Each October, live music lovers crowd Midtown Reno for Off Beat Music Festival. Essentially the SXSW or Treefort of Reno, this “music discovery” fest packs more than a dozen venues with nearly 100 emerging local, regional, and festival-circuit artists, spanning everything from psych rock to honky-tonk to retro soul. Party animals get back in the spirit each December for the Reno Santa Pub Crawl, the largest and wildest gathering of Santas on Earth (usually 15,000+ of ‘em), eating, drinking and being exceptionally merry all over Downtown Reno.
And yet, as modern as Reno feels these days, it still proudly marches cattle up its main drag to the Livestock Events Center for ten days of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctioned bull riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and entertainment, as it has every June for over a century. Meanwhile, each September, two other time-honored Reno traditions take flight: the Great Reno Balloon Race, the world’s largest free hot-air ballooning event, and the high-octane Reno Air Races, one of the only places on Earth you can watch jets and classic planes race head-to-head, sometimes just 50 feet off the ground.
Reno restaurants have always lured hungry vacationers, thanks to classic steakhouses, famous Reno casino buffets, and the third most bars per capita in America, but the ever-expanding hip vibes of this town have turned Reno into something of a culinary capital, holding its own on the foodie-fanatical West Coast. It’s hard to stomach the idea of picking favorites, but here’s a small helping of tried-and-true Reno eats.
Embrace those retro casino town vibes with perfectly cooked ribeyes, prime ribs, and filet mignon—along with tableside salads, made-in-front-of-you cocktails, and royal treatment—at your choice of steakhouses, especially The Steakhouse at Western Village, Atlantis Steakhouse, Cactus Creek Prime Steakhouse at Bonanaza Casino, and Charlie Palmer Steak at Grand Sierra Resort. If it’s “surf” you crave, bring your appetite to one of Reno’s countless all-you-can-eat sushi joints (it’s a big thing here).
Go Basque in time at Louis’ Basque Corner, purveyors of family-style Basque feasts, killer chorizo burgers at the bar, and Nevada’s unofficial state drink, the Picon Punch since 1967. Dive into homestyle, Italian comfort food bliss at Casale’s Halfway Club, Nevada’s oldest restaurant, still run by the same lively, friendly family since 1937. For old-school breakfast faves with a Mexican zest, beeline it to Peg’s Glorified Ham & Eggs—and trust us, get the huevos rancheros.
See what’s brewin’ at internationally renowned Revision Brewing Co., or pint-hop your way around the Reno Brewery District, home to Record Street, Lead Dog, Pigeonhead, a few spirited distilleries, and Nevada’s first meadery—Black Rabbit Mead Co. For the AM kind of brews, hit up Hub Coffee Roasters, Old World Coffee Lab, and Bibo Coffee Co.
For a modern flavors and local flair, head for Midtown Reno’s Homegrown Gastropub (oh man, that MAC), riverfront ambience at Smith and River and Wild River Grille, or the pop-up haven at Downtown Reno’s West Street Market, home to Thali, Sabrina’s West Street Kitchen, The Pizza Collective, Nom Eats with Seats, and an expertly curated wine list at the Thali Lounge wine bar.
Travel Nevada Pro Tip
From classic Reno casinos to newer, gaming-free Reno hotels, Reno makes it easy to find the perfect place to stay, play, and recharge between the days’ adventures.
24-hour action stretches across Downtown Reno’s centerpiece, THE ROW Reno—three interconnected properties (Eldorado, Silver Legacy, and Circus Circus) with 25 restaurants, 23 bars and lounges, 11 nightspots, thousands of rooms, gaming galore, the brand-new Spa at Silver Legacy, and even hundreds of carnival and video games at the kiddo-approved Carnival Midway at Circus Circus Reno.
For that Vegas-esque, everything-under-one-roof resort experience away from Downtown Reno, head for Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, which keeps you occupied with ten restaurants, nightclubs, a movie theater, golf driving range, arcade, outdoor pools, wintertime ice rink, and more. The Tuscan-themed Peppermill Resort Spa Casino and Hotel delivers everything in its name, and is loved by locals for its outdoor pools and three-story spa complex, while the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa rewards visitors with its Forbes Four-Star spa, AAA Four Diamond steakhouse, and Bistro Napa, heralded by both Forbes and Wine Spectator.
Non-gamblers go gaga for the upscale, rock-and-roll-themed Whitney Peak Hotel, as well as for the Renaissance Reno, which offers riverfront dining at The Shore, a fabulous spa, and the massive Bundox Bocce facility (a prime draw for locals), a 22,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor competitive complex of bocce courts, shuffleboard tables, cornhole pitches, and other games, flanked by a full bar, huge TVs, and a DJ booth. For a stylishly lower-key taste of vintage-meets-modern, check into Kramer’s Midtown, a repurposed mid-century motel with plushy, totally reimagined boutique rooms, or one of the six beautifully restored rooms at recently restored The Jesse Hotel & Bar.
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Bar hoppin’, plate swappin’, trail cloppin’, window shoppin’, or simply living it up Reno-style, tag your biggest little adventure pics with #TravelNevada and you might just see them here.