Best Things To Do in Reno
The bright neon lights of Reno's casino district have beckoned to gamblers for decades; the Eldorado, with its noisy slots and green-felt table games, is one of the most popular places to challenge Lady Luck. But there's more to Reno than poker chips. The Biggest Little City is also home to several excellent museums, including like the National Automobile Museum and the Nevada Museum of Art. And Reno makes for a great getaway for outdoorsy travelers thanks to its easy access to the ski slopes of nearby Mount Rose and Lake Tahoe. But if you want to enjoy the fresh Nevada air without leaving the city, take a stroll along the Truckee Riverwalk.
Updated February 1, 2016
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Sitting only about 40 miles south of "The Biggest Little City" on the border of Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the country, boasting soaring mountains and crystal-clear waters. It's best known as a skiing destination, where visitors will find top-notch facilities like Squaw Valley (which hosted the 1960s Olympic Winter Games) and the massive Heavenly Ski Resort. But Lake Tahoe also makes for an excellent summer getaway thanks to its sprawling beaches, ample boating and fishing opportunities and well-maintained hiking trails.
For the best views (no matter the season), recent visitors recommend a stop at Emerald Bay State Park on the California side of the lake. According to one TripAdvisor user: "It was breathtaking! I now consider it my new favorite place … I got several great shots from Emerald Bay. Very picturesque!!"
- #2View all PhotosfreeRiverwalk#2 in RenoSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Downtown Reno's updated Riverwalk area – located along the Truckee River between Arlington Avenue and Lake Street – draws art lovers and gourmands alike with its collection of galleries and restaurants. You'll find most of these up-and-coming establishments lining the southern end, which residents have come to refer to as CalAve. And if you're not sure where to begin, tag along on a Wine Walk. This event – hosted by the Riverwalk Merchants Association for $20 per person — takes place the third Saturday of the month from 2 to 5 p.m. and includes wine tastings at more than a dozen galleries and specialty stores.
Recent visitors frequently described this area as a clean, pleasant reprieve from the casinos (especially during the fall and spring) and highly recommend it for those traveling with kids.
- #3View all Photos#3 in RenoFestivals, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFestivals, FreeTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Every September, more than 120,000 spectators grab their lawn chairs and head north of downtown Reno to Rancho San Rafael Regional Park for the annual Great Reno Balloon Race. During this three-day event, more than 100 brightly colored hot air balloons fill the northern Nevada sky, making this the largest event of its kind in the nation. The balloon's pilots race against each other; the first balloon to make it to Truckee Meadows (several miles south of downtown) wins.
The race starts at 6:45 a.m. on opening day, and the balloons land as the sun sets on the third day. During the day, other competitions — including kid-friendly activities — take place at Rancho San Rafael and around the city. For the coolest photo ops, consider waking up early for the Glow Patrol (5 a.m.) and the Dawn Patrol (5:30 a.m.). During these early morning hours, balloons that have been certified for flying in the dark (thanks to their onboard lights) take to the skies, glowing against the dark landscape.
- #4View all Photos#4 in RenoMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Even if you don't consider yourself an automobile aficionado, you'll want to make a stop at this museum, according to recent visitors. Home to more than 200 vehicles ranging from horseless carriages to race cars to celebrity rides, the National Automobile Museum covers a lot of ground. Most of the vehicles on display are from Bill Harrah's personal estate (one of Nevada's casino gaming pioneers), which is why the museum is often referred to as the Harrah Collection. Some of the museum's most notable pieces include the Thomas Flyer (winner of the 1908 around-the-world race) and the 1949 Mercury Series 9CM driven by James Dean in the film, "Rebel Without a Cause."
Car enthusiasts who visited raved about the museum's carefully restored pieces and said they were pleasantly surprised by its range of exhibits and educational value. Many were also quick to comment that the museum appeals to more than just automobile junkies and highly recommended taking a break from the casino to peruse the informative and entertaining displays.
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Founded in 1931, the Nevada Museum of Art is the oldest established cultural center in the state. But you wouldn't know that by looking at it. In 2001, the museum underwent a $22 million move and renovation; the building that now stands at the southern end of the Truckee Riverwalk is a fantastic example of modern architecture inspired by the landscape and the geological formations of the Black Rock Desert.
The interior is just as fascinating with permanent collections that are divided into four thematic areas featuring a variety of media: "Altered Landscape Photography," "Art of the Greater West," "Contemporary Art" and the "Work Ethic." Aside from its permanent collections and temporary exhibits, the museum also boasts two outdoor sculpture gardens, not to mention its Center for Art + Environment, which is a research center that studies the creative interactions between people and their environments. Aside from the art, the building itself is a sight to see: its torqued exterior wall, suspended atrium staircase, and stunning views of the Reno skyline and the Sierra Nevada impressed recent visitors.
- #6View all Photos#6 in RenoCasinos, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDCasinos, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Though a few recent visitors said this landmark casino has begun to show some wear, travelers still rate the Eldorado as one of the best places to gamble in Reno. Spanning 81,000 square feet, the Eldorado offers everything you need to test Lady Luck, including table games, slots, poker and sports betting. Plus, it also boasts 13 restaurants and bars — a point of major praise for visitors who appreciated not having to leave the casino to dine (they especially loved the buffet). Reviewers also offered compliments for the staff, who travelers found to be professional and friendly. If you're not up for gambling, the Eldorado Resort features several on-site nightlife venues and hosts regular concerts.
The Casino at the Eldorado is open 24 hours a day. You don't have to pay to get in, but you should expect to spend money here. For more information, check out the Eldorado's website.
- #7View all Photos#7 in RenoRecreation, SkiingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRecreation, SkiingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
If you're itching to get on the slopes, but don't want to make the trek to Lake Tahoe, consider heading to Mount Rose. Situated a little more than 20 miles southwest of downtown, Mount Rose is the closest ski area to Reno. And at 8,260 feet, it's also Tahoe's highest base resort, making for optimal ski conditions.
According to recent visitors, this is a great family-friendly ski area with varied terrain and a friendly, knowledgeable staff. Though reviewers were satisfied with the conditions, more than a few warned of brutal wind at the top of the mountain. Because of its convenient location, the mountain can get crowded on the weekends, according to travelers. Travelers can avoid some of the congestion by visiting on a weekday.
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Looking for another opportunity to break away from the casino and enjoy some fresh Reno air? Consider paying a visit to Greater Nevada Field, home to the city's minor league team – the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Reno Aces. While the park doesn't offer skyline views, it does boast a stellar vantage point of the surrounding mountain range. Aside from its location along the Truckee River, the ballpark received praise from recent visitors for its cleanliness and variety of concession food. During the offseason, the city offers ice skating from November through February at a skating rink set up in the plaza in front of the ballpark.
Game tickets vary in price, depending on where you choose to sit and the opponent. The ballpark doesn't have its own parking garage, but there are 20 downtown nearby lots within walking distance of the park. To view a season schedule and read more about the ballpark, visit the Greater Nevada Field's website.
- #9View all Photos#9 in RenoMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Billed as a hands-on science center, the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum provides further proof that there's more to do in Reno than sit at a blackjack table. Exploring everything from science and technology to engineering, art and math, the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum (or "The Discovery" for short) offers a bevy of interactive permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions across its 67,000 square feet. Some of the highlights include a three-story-tall jungle gym that allows visitors to learn about the water cycle and an 80-foot-long interactive replica of the Truckee River.
Recent visitors provided favorable reviews of the museum and especially recommend stopping here if you've got children in tow. Though, travelers were also quick to mention that the museum deserves praise for its ability to engage parents and adults as well. Plus, the museum regularly offers adults-only evening events, such as its annual Chemistry of the Cocktail fundraiser and its Social Science series.
- #10View all Photos#10 in RenoParks and Gardens, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Not all wild animals are found in Reno's nightclubs; some are found in Animal Ark. Sitting on 38 acres 25 miles north of Reno, this facility is not a zoo, but rather a "safe haven for nonreleasable wildlife," according to its website. Animals from all over the world have taken shelter within the ark's enclosures because they lack the necessary skills to live in the wild, often because they were injured or abandoned. Visitors have the opportunity to watch the ark's residents – which include several species of North American predators and some exotic species from other geographic areas – interact and play.
Though visitors admit the sanctuary is a bit of a drive from downtown Reno, reviewers said it was worth the extra effort, especially if you're traveling with young kids. If you can, plan to get there in the morning when it's still cool; recent visitors said that's when the animals are most active, especially the bears (they're fed at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. – a highlight for many travelers). Aside from seeing the animals interact in their constructed habitats, you'll also have the chance to learn how each creature came to be at Animal Ark – another aspect visitors appreciated. Another tip from travelers: bring a picnic lunch to take advantage of the facility's many outdoor tables and play areas.
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