Reno, Nevada: Not just a smaller Vegas
Reno, Nevada: Much more than Gambling
In my experience, my hometown of Reno, Nevada, is known to many outside this state only as 1) A gaming paradise similar to Vegas, and 2) A sandy place with some cacti where ridiculous things happen as seen in the now-defunct show Reno 911! The first conception is only partially true, and the second is altogether false (sorry, no cacti or silly cops in booty shorts around here!). To any of you contemplating ever traveling to Reno either this summer or anytime in the future, please allow me the pleasure of being your virtual tour guide and telling you a little bit about the various but lesser known touristic aspects of this great vacation spot.
First, we do indeed have many casinos, each one offering their own blend of table and slot games, cheap lodgings, and equally reasonably priced in-house dining establishments (of these, casino buffets are my personal favorites, but most casinos also have upscale dining like sushi and steakhouses). Gaming is what historically has drawn many tourists to this area and thus the reason why my state’s economy has been largely dependent on it. This being said, the casinos do generally offer far more than 21-and-over entertainment such as alcohol and gambling. Of these casinos that offer a variety of activities, my personal favorites are the Circus Circus (offers a huge arcade area with video and carnival games for kids) and the Grand Sierra Resort (boasts a large arcade, mini golf course, golf driving range, racing go-carts, and even a 180-foot tall swing/bungee/coaster called the Ultimate Rush).
A slightly lesser known aspect of Reno is its amazing selection of outdoor entertainment. Travel just 30-60 minutes in most any direction outside downtown, and you’re in the midst of desert or forest wild land areas replete with hiking/biking/4-wheeling trails, rivers, lakes, and a host of natural beauty.
To the north, there is mystical Pyramid Lake, a salty lake located in the middle of the high desert wilderness. The spot offers fishing and boating, but it is just as perfect a place for picnickers and people looking for a spot to meditate. There are parts of the lake you can’t access because they are on Paiute Native American reservation lands, but to me this simply adds to the mystique of this lonesome, beautiful lake.
Travel southwest and you’ll come upon the world-famous Lake Tahoe, a place renowned for its skiing in the winter and its hiking/camping grounds in the summer. My personal favorite hike in this area is the Mt. Rose trail leading up to one of the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It offers a challenging 10-plus mile roundtrip hike for even veteran adventurers, as well as breath taking views of the surrounding valleys and Lake Tahoe (see picture below). Beyond Rose, there are honestly too many hiking, camping and other outdoor recreational grounds to list around the Tahoe area for this article to even go into. Books have literally been written on this subject, so you’re sure to find something for each taste and skill level in this area.
Finally, still lesser known attractions of the Reno area are its cultural events and locales. Over the years, Reno has evolved from its origins as a railroad town to a gambling mecca to a cultural hotspot. Throughout the whole month of July, Reno hosts the annual Artown. Numerous (mostly free) events happen in and around downtown, such as dances, world music concerts, movie nights, poetry readings, etc. It’s a joy to catch many of these events in downtown’s Wingfield Park, where you can be serenaded by an orchestral soundtrack as you enjoy the evening summer breeze and sit alongside the Truckee River. Additionally, we boast a full symphony orchestra (the Reno Philharmonic) with year-round concerts, numerous venues to catch small and big performing acts (Bill Maher, Incubus, and too many other bands and comedians to even list), and an ever-growing number of restaurants offering foods from all corners of the world (El Tumi Peruvian food and Zagol’s Ethiopian cuisine come to mind immediately). Once again, something for every taste!
These are only a few of the attractions and sites to see in and around Reno. With its vast selection of recreational and cultural activities, the city and the surrounding areas have something to offer for people of all tastes and ages. You will find even a weekend in Reno to be an entertaining and relaxing experience for singles, couples, and families alike.