Reno, Nevada, offers a lot more to do than just gamble at casinos. (©Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock)
From Sparks to Riverwalk to Midtown, the Reno/Sparks area surprises with new restaurants and shopping and entertainment districts that add to its famous casino resorts and shows. Fill your days and nights with all of the options the "Biggest Little City" offers or make it your basecamp for exploring this diverse region of high deserts, lakes and streams and the magnificent Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Reno knows how to throw a party, too, so check the calendar for the myriad special events and festivals that happen here throughout the year.
The renovated heart of Reno, the Riverwalk District and Whitewater Park, provide something for everyone: shopping, dining, nature, sports, music and relaxation. The stretch of the Truckee River that splits around Winfield Park is now one of the top urban whitewater parks in the nation, playing host to world-class kayak competitions.
Walkways on both sides of the river stretch past restaurants with outdoor dining and more. Campo is one of the many popular restaurants and watering holes along the river bank. Or pack a picnic and enjoy one of the many free concerts scheduled in Winfield Park during the summer months.
The Reno Arch
The Biggest Little City Arch remains Reno's signature, historic image. Reno has fulfilled that promise in spades over the past few decades by adding more restaurants, breweries, shops and new entertainment and diversions. Towering over the arch is the world's tallest artificial climbing wall, attached to the outside of the Whitney Peak hotel, plus a huge indoor climbing gym. Free acts and performers also are nearby at Circus Circus.
Reno has three large malls, indoor Meadowood Mall and outdoor Summit and Outlets at Sparks malls. Between them, most every major retailer and major brand store is represented, plus IMAX movies and great restaurants.
For the sporty, there's Cabela's and Scheels. Midtown Reno has many fun, vintage and second-hand shops led by Junkee Clothing Exchange. Sippee's offers "gently used" children's clothing, and Recycled Records, just down the street, is a Reno institution.
Downtown Casino Core
Only steps separate numerous, popular gaming and entertainment complexes, including Circus Circus, Eldorado and Silver Legacy. Though the casinos have multiple dining choices, a more eclectic selection of ethnic and fine-dining restaurants are found along the side streets leading to the Truckee River.
Pop into the outdoor courtyard off West Street for a selection of eateries and bars, including popular Bowl. More than a dozen brew pubs—all within walking distance—are here, too, including The Depot and Silver Peak Brewery.
National Automobile Museum
This historic collection originally started by casino magnate Bill Harrah is a must-visit for car enthusiasts. Whether it's the Bat Mobile, Elvis's Cadillac, or the winner of the 1908 New York to Paris Auto Race, the multiple halls of this large museum hold an endless entertaining mix of wheeled treasures.
Nevada Museum of Art
An award-winning modern architecture landmark, NMA has excellent permanent collections, including 20th-century painting and photography. The inspired spaces created by architect Will Bruder regularly play host to top touring shows in addition to NMA-curated exhibitions. Be sure to stroll the roof-top sculpture gallery.
One of the West's great historic towns, created by the largest silver mining strike in American history, Virginia City has stood the test of time. Today, it's an entertaining mix of old saloons, museums and shopping, enjoyed while strolling wooden-plank sidewalks and streets straight out of the 1860s. About 20 miles from Reno, a visit to Virginia City can be extended to include a loop through Carson City or a ride on the V&T Railroad.
One of the world's natural wonders, Lake Tahoe, sits just behind the towering peaks of the Carson Range, the spur of mighty Sierra that holds in Lake Tahoe's 1,600-foot depths. In fact, the elevation in Reno is almost the same as the bottom of this huge "mountain sea," which contains more water than all the manmade reservoirs in America combined. South Tahoe has the large casinos, beaches and skiing; North Tahoe has lakefront resort towns, beaches and skiing.