The self-proclaimed "biggest little city in the world," Reno, on I-80 near the California border, is a somewhat downmarket version of Las Vegas, with miles of gleaming slot machines and poker tables, along with tacky wedding chapels and quickie divorce courts. While the town itself may not be much to look at, its setting – at the foot of the snowcapped Sierra Nevada, with the Truckee River winding through the center – is superb. The casinos are concentrated downtown, along Virginia Street on either side of the railroad tracks.
Nevada's legendary Burning Man Festival is celebrated in a temporary, vehicle-free community known as Black Rock City, way out in the Black Rock Desert, twelve miles north of tiny Gerlach, which is itself a hundred miles north of Reno. The festival takes on a different theme each year, always with a strong emphasis on spontaneity and mass participation. An exhilarating range of performances, happenings and art installations culminates in the burning of a giant human effigy on the final Saturday. After that, in theory at least, Black Rock City simply disappears without trace.
Northern Nevada is undergoing major changes to keep up with the steady growth of both the population and new business coming into the Truckee Meadows. Once known only for the bawdy lifestyle of gambling, “quickie” divorces and instant marriages, the area is emerging as a well-known cultural center, as well as host to some of the “hottest” special events in the United States.
The Virginia Street corridor is the center of activity for not only gambling, but special events as well. The bright lights of the casinos and the famous Reno Arch declaring “The Biggest Little City In The World,” greet visitors as they enter downtown.
The boisterous casinos have been the main attraction along the Truckee River for decades. The Club Cal-Neva Hotel Casino has been around since 1948, and is still going strong as one of the most popular gaming establishments in town. Harrah's Reno opened as a full casino the same year and the action has never ceased. The National Automobile Museum , located two blocks east on Mill and Lake Streets, houses some fascinating antique cars collected by William Harrah on his ride to fame and fortune. Harrah's Events Plaza is a center for downtown events and entertainment. The Circus Circus Hotel Casino is a favorite for family fun with high-flying acts and a great arcade for the youngsters. The Silver Legacy Resort Casino is the new kid on the block and already known for sponsoring major events and adding to the revitalization of downtown. The Automated Mining Machine towering 120-feet over the casino floor is a wonderful attraction for visitors. The Eldorado Hotel Casino and Fitzgeralds Hotel Casino are also hosts for special events, as well as popular gaming venues. A couple very popular nightspots downtown include BuBinga Lounge and Limerick's Pub and Grille .
“Reno-vation” is taking place in the downtown area to make more open and attractive spaces for visitors and Renoites to enjoy. The Truckee River Walk is one of the first efforts. The major casinos are also expanding and renovating in an effort to keep downtown alive and well. The whole city gets into the act to host one of the major cultural events in the nation, the Reno Summer Arts Festival featuring Artown . The Pioneer Centre for Performing Arts presents the Reno Philharmonic , the Nevada Opera and Nevada Festival Ballet . Marvelous museums are lavishly dispersed throughout the area including the Wilbur D. May Museum and Aboretum at Rancho San Rafael Park and the Nevada Museum of Art on Liberty Street downtown.
Some major hotel/casinos outside of the Virginia Street hub include the Peppermill Hotel Casino and Atlantis Casino Resort & Spa on South Virginia Street. East of downtown resides the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino , a high-rise city unto itself. Sparks
Although it looks like its part of Reno, this is a separate, thriving city. Founded in 1904, it served as maintenance facilities for the Central Pacific Railroad. Named for then-governor John Sparks, the city has come a long way in establishing itself as not only a great place to visit but to live. The Sparks Heritage Museum displays artifacts relating to the beginnings of the town that is sometimes known as the “Rail City.”
The hub of activity is centered in Victorian Square at Interstate 80 and Victorian Avenue. John Ascuaga's Nugget towers over the Square and the hotel sponsors many major events taking place there. Fine dining facilities in this establishment include Trader Dick's Restaurant and Aquarium Bar and Restaurante Orozko . Across the Square, you will find a great mid-sized hotel/casino, the Silver Club Hotel Casino . Smaller casinos are to be found as one strolls along the Square, one of the most popular being Rail City Casino . The casinos along Victorian Square host major events almost every month of the year. Sparks Hometowne Christmas is a favorite and Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off .
One look and you'll know why it is called the Jewel of the Sierras. The areas surrounding the largest alpine lake in the country offer year-round recreation and beauty. The Cal-Neva Resort Hotel Casino , the favorite haunt of the “rat pack,” is always popular for entertainment. The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino is perhaps one of the most elegant places to lodge and have fun. MontBleu Casino Resort & Spa and Harrah's Lake Tahoe are also well known for fine dining and top entertainers.
During the summer months, the Zephyr Cove Resort & Marina beckons visitors to cruise on the M.S. Dixie II . On the south shore of the lake, Lake Tahoe Cruises offer sailing on the Tahoe Queen. The beaches and parks are popular for sunbathing and hiking. Sand Harbor presents the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and Kings Beach hosts the Lake Tahoe Music Festival .
The ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada mountains are unmatched anywhere. Boreal Mountain Resort is usually the first of the season to open because of snow-making equipment. Granlibakken Resort & Conference Center offers fabulous lodging and conference facilities, as well as fine slopes. Heavenly Ski Resort and Northstar-at-Tahoe are first-rate for challenging ski areas. Cross-country ski enthusiasts will find the best trails in North America at Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort in Soda Springs. And, of course, there is Squaw Valley USA , famous for hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics and still a world-class venue for winter sports of all genres.
Reno runs the proverbial gamut when it comes to dining options. The "Biggest Little City" is one of diversity and choice; no matter what a diner's preference, it can be easily found. Couple all this with prices that are generally below those of comparable restaurants elsewhere and it is easy to see how Reno can quickly spoil diners. The low cost is due in part to the casinos and that well-known staple, the all-you-can-eat buffet. But today's savvy diners demand more than family friendly, easy on the pocketbook buffets that the casinos have long been noted for. In keeping with this trend, elegantly appointed rooms, first-class service, menus that pique the imagination, and substantial wine lists are being presented to patrons as the casinos scramble to stay on the cutting edge of dining excitement.
Downtown Reno has a lot of options for dining, usually with the best restaurants inside the hotels and casinos. At the White Orchid in the Peppermill Hotel Casino , wine connoisseurs have the opportunity to enjoy exquisite dining and wines in an elegant and romantic setting. Andreotti is a popular Italian restaurant located at Harrah's Reno . Carvings Buffet is also located inside Harrah's and provides a wide variety of food for the buffet. The Eldorado Hotel Casino has the acclaimed El Dorado giving diners an unsurpassed dining experience. The restaurant has received several prestigious awards including the DiRona Award for Excellence in fine dining and Best Gourmet Restaurant from Casino Player magazine. The award-winning wine list consists of 700 wines, and there are 102 different martinis offered.
At the Rapscallion , diners will discover a complete selection of seafood, pasta, and steak, all served up in a trendy West Coast atmosphere. Japanese cuisine is artistically prepared at the diners' table in Benihana Restaurant . Spiros Sports Bar & Grill is a sports and karaoke bar that serves American and Greek food.
The restaurants in the greater Reno area have a wide variety of dining. If you want elegant dining head to Tannenbaum Event Center on the Mt. Rose Highway and enjoy a spectacular view of the forest below. If you are in the mood for seafood Famous Murphy's Restaurant Grill and Oyster Bar features a selection of surf, turf, and pasta dishes. Bavarian World offers German-style family dining within quaint alpine-like settings. Texas Long Horn Bar & Grill serves up lip smacking barbecue ribs in a down home country atmosphere.
Viaggio is a fine Italian restaurant that features authentic Northern Italian cuisine and an extensive wine list. For the Italian food lovers who are watching their waistline, Zozo's is a neighborhood restaurant that serves low-fat Italian. Another neighborhood Italian restaurant that offers fresh pasta and sauces is the Skyline Cafe and offers diners delectable Italian food and a view of the city lights.
Anyone with a craving for south of the border cuisine is in luck in Reno. Authentic Mexican restaurants are commonplace. Within walking distance of downtown, Bertha Miranda's Mexican Restaurant offers its patrons authentic meals and entertainment. Los Compadres is located on historic Fourth Street, which was part of the old Lincoln Highway. They dish up some tasty fare with just a hint of fire. Fresh Tex-Mex style cuisine can be enjoyed at On The Border Mexican Cafe and Buenos Grill .
The steak, prime rib and fish crowd will discover several restaurants in the Sparks area to their liking. John Ascuaga's Steakhouse Grill in Sparks serves broiled steaks, prime rib and fresh seafood. The Nugget also offers diners Polynesian style dining with a South Sea atmosphere in its Trader Dick's Restaurant and Aquarium Bar restaurant. A 6,000-gallon aquarium filled with colorful and exotic tropical fish is the only entertainment necessary. True lovers of barbecue ribs cannot miss the Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-Off held in Sparks every September.
Lake Tahoe Llewellyn's offers diners impeccable service, a fine wine list, exotic dishes and a breathtaking view of Lake Tahoe . One of the oldest restaurants in the area is Pfeifer House in Tahoe City . It offers the patron an extensive menu of freshly prepared dishes.
Northern Nevada is a land of many faces. You can enjoy the glitter and noise of downtown Reno and Sparks as well as the serene isolation of Pyramid Lake .
Reno Arch Located in downtown Reno, the Circus Circus is a great place for adults and children to enjoy high-flying trapeze artists performing above the casino floor. The Silver Legacy features an Automated Mining Machine towering 120-feet over the gaming area. One of the most photographed landmarks in the world, the Reno Arch , is also within walking distance. Stop at Fitzgerald's Casino for a bit of Irish hospitality and try Limerick's Pub and Grille . The National Automobile Museum is also worthwhile for those interested in learning more about the history of classic cars.
Carson City Just 30 miles south of Reno is Carson City. Bowers Mansion is a marvelous place to learn the history of the Comstock. Nearby, the Nevada State Museum is located in the old Carson City Mint. The Children's Museum helps kids learn about the humanities, science and fine art. The majestic Nevada State Capitol Building can be found just three blocks away from the Governor's Mansion . Grab a bite at T.G.I. Friday's .
Virginia City Up the mountain from Carson City is Virginia City . You will see the Fourth Ward School , which was built in 1876. The historic Mackay Mansion , the Virginia and Truckee Railroad Depot and the inspiring St. Mary's Catholic Church are all located nearby. The Chinese cuisine at Mandarin Garden is top-notch. Also nearby, you will see the stately and elegant mansion called The Castle on Millionaire's Row.
Lake Tahoe Lake Tahoe is the second largest alpine lake in the world and the second deepest. The Granlibakken Resort and explore the beautiful Squaw Valley are close by. Dine at the upscale Edgewood Restaurant . The Emerald Bay State Park is at the south end of the lake, if you would like to go exploring. Zephyr Cove has many amenities, including the M.S. Dixie Paddlewheeler .
Sand Harbor The gorgeous beach at Sand Harbor is a draw for many visitors. The impeccable seafood at Wild Goose is not to be missed. The Cal-Neva is a nostalgic favorite along the lake. When you are ready to head back to Reno, you can take another picturesque route called the Mt. Rose Highway (341) to Highway 395. Going this way will take you past Diamond Peak and Mt.Rose Ski Resorts , where you can stop in for a quick trip down the slopes.
Most of Reno's tour companies focus on sports and recreation, while others will take you around to the city's main attractions.
Bus Tours Bayline Tours ( +1 775 847 4746/ http://www.baylinetours.com/ ) Canary Travel and Tour Company ( +1 775 356 6600 ) Tahoe Reno Experience ( +1 775 323 1550 )
Rafting Tours Tributary Whitewater Tours ( +1 530 550 2923 )
Trolley Tours Nifty 50 Trolley ( +1 530 541 7149 )
Adventure Tours Lake Tahoe Adventures ( +1 530 577 2940/ http://www.laketahoeadventures.com/ ) AAA Sierra Adventures ( +1 775 323 8928 ) Sierra Escapades (+1 530 587 2786 )
Horseback Tours Zephyr Cove Stables ( +1 775 588 5664/ http://www.zephyrcovestables.com/ )
Fishing Tours Reel Magic Sportfishing (+1 530 587 6027 )