Few can deny that Reno is in the midst of a major cultural and economic revival, buoyed by new tech start-ups and an urban arts renaissance featuring colorful murals dotted throughout its downtown and Midtown districts. While largely known as an outdoor destination thanks to its proximity to the gorgeous Lake Tahoe and its high concentration of ski resorts, the Reno Tahoe region also doubles as a culture seeker’s paradise. Here’s a guide of things to do in the ‘Biggest Little City in the World’.
Visit the Nevada Museum of Art
The Nevada Museum of Art | Courtesy of the Nevada Museum of Art
With its distinguished building design inspired by Nevada’s Black Rock Desert (where the annual counterculture event Burning Man is held, two hours north of Reno), the Nevada Museum of Art is the only American Alliance of Museums-accredited museum in Nevada and one of the state’s oldest cultural institutions. The four-level, 70,000-square-foot (6,500-square-meter) museum – founded in 1931 and occupying its current space since 2003 – houses collections focusing on the intersection of art and the environment including landscape photography, contemporary art and pieces dedicated to the American West.
Midtown features more than 80 murals | Courtesy of VisitRenoTahoe.com
Reno’s Midtown District is now easily one of the coolest, most arts-centric neighborhoods in town. Packed with lively bars, chic restaurants and unique shops, it’s got an eye-popping assemblage of more than 80 large-scale murals. Explore them on your own or via volunteer-led tours every second Saturday – and make sure you stop to admire the Burning Man art at the Reno Playa Art Park along the main drag of Virginia Street. You can also hop aboard the Reno Brew Bike to navigate the city’s buzzing bar and craft beer scene via pedal power, or embark on a two-footed exploration of the culinarily rich downtown and Midtown districts with a Reno Food Tour.
Futurism from the past at the National Automobile Museum | Courtesy of the National Automobile Museum
Americans’ love for cars is firmly on display at Reno’s National Automobile Museum, widely regarded as one of the top automotive museums in the country. It may not exactly be considered high art by most, but historic cars once owned by celebrities like John F Kennedy and Frank Sinatra (both of whom were known to frequent the Reno Tahoe region during its 1950s-era heyday) offer a true taste of local culture.
Louis’ Basque Corner has been serving ‘American West Basque cuisine’ since 1967 | Courtesy of Matador Network for VisitRenoTahoe.com
One of the more surprising aspects of Reno to newcomers is its strong Basque influence, a derivative of the early days when Basque immigrants started coming to the area in search of fortune during the California Gold Rush era, but soon found a better life in raising sheep and selling the meat to the local mines. These days local Basque culture is alive and well at area restaurants like Louis’ Basque Corner, a popular spot for authentic Basque dishes served in a family-style setting. Don’t miss out on the famous Picon Punch cocktail – but beware, these babies are strong.
The Shore Room at Reno Renaissance overlooks the Truckee River | Courtesy of VisitRenoTahoe.com
One of the best things to do in Reno is to stroll along the Truckee River Walk from City Plaza to Idlewild Park, taking in gorgeous park and waterfront views along the way. This experience is enhanced immeasurably by the large concentration of bars and restaurants in the Riverwalk District. You can enjoy waterfront dining at a wealth of local hotspots including Campo, Wild River Grille and The Shore Room inside Renaissance Reno Downtown Hotel. Grab a coffee at Hub or keep the night going with drinks at an assortment of waterfront bars including Sierra Tap House, Old Bridge Pub and The Eddy.
Reno draws top musical acts from around the world | Courtesy of Paradise for VisitRenoTahoe.com
With a population of around 250,000, Reno punches well above its weight in the field of music with a thriving live-music scene rivaling those of many bigger cities. The newly renovated Grand Theatre at Grand Sierra Resort boasts one of the largest stages in the world with plush seating and state-of-the-art sound, while the hipster-friendly music hall at The Saint is your go-to for live music paired with an expertly curated assortment of award-winning brews. Cargo Concert Hall at Whitney Peak Hotel unfurls a high-octane line-up of national and international touring acts, while late-night dance club 1up keeps the party going until 5am. (Click here for complete listings of upcoming concerts in Reno.)
Dive into Reno’s booming craft beer and distillery scene
Seven Troughs Speakeasy serves craft cocktails in The Basement | Courtesy of VisitRenoTahoe.com
With 19 breweries scattered throughout Reno and the surrounding area, you’re never far from a cold beverage in the Biggest Little City. The Reno brewery map will help you navigate between heavy hitters such as Great Basin Brewing (home to the popular “Icky” IPA and standout pub grub) or Brasserie Saint James, a more upscale outpost for craft-beer aficionados offering A-list ales often paired with dinner. Be sure to stop by the delightfully homey Brewer’s Cabinet for a Dirty Wookie imperial brown ale before investigating Reno’s budding craft distilling scene at popular hang-outs like The Depot Craft Brewery Distillery. Located in a historic train station, it’s Nevada’s first brewery/distillery. Round out your spirits sampling with stops at the Seven Troughs Speakeasy in The Basement for small-batches or local favorite Branded Hearts Distillery.